March 25 • 05:51 AM

Foreclosures freeze out pets

Couple sees heartbreak of countryside brimming with abundance of strays

September 23, 2009
TRI-CITY AREA — Tall grass and Queen Anne's lace aren't the only indicators of vacant homes. Wandering through the weeds are dozens of pets—left behind, victims of the economy just as sure as their owners likely were.

And the heartbreak grows for Nancy Lottie and her husband Eugene. The retired couple—both 70-something—have lived in their Conner Road home in Emmett's countryside for years. They raised their six kids and a variety of horses, cats and dogs and other animals on their 11 acres. As the kids moved on to have children of their own, the number of 'pets in residence' at the Lotties dwindled. Nancy says they were comfortable with the situation.

"We had six barn cats that more or less found us and four old indoor cats and we were dealing with it," she says. "Feeding them, taking them to the vet, whatever was necessary and that was okay."

But all that changed when two families who lived down the road abruptly moved out last fall—and left their cats behind.

"They lost their houses, I presume through no fault of their own and that's tragic," Nancy says. "But what's not tragic is to leave animals behind. That's just irresponsible. It's heartbreaking."

When the cats left behind began wandering over to Nancy and Gene's barn for food, she couldn't shoo them away.

"They were hungry and I thought 'that's fine,' I couldn't be mean," Nancy says.

When spring rolled around, however, what had been a handful of hungry strays turned into a couple dozen little kittens.

Eugene and Nancy Lottie hope others will have compassionate spirit for stray cats who fell victim to home foreclosures on their country road. photo by Catherine Minolli.

Nancy says she's called shelters across the area, and has found they're filled to capacity and simply euthanize the pets. She also learned that those who have adoption policies—like the Michigan Humane Society—also have requirements.

"It's about $100 to adopt a cat from the Humane Society," she says.

Nancy also contacted a woman who used to run an animal rescue in Riley Center only to learn that she'd given the shelter up. In an effort to help, however, the woman stopped by.

"She brought her grandkids and said 'oh these cats are so healthy and lovable," Nancy says.

Indeed, the cats are well fed and well behaved. Though they're outdoor cats, they're litter box trained—Eugene and Nancy have a litter box in their attached garage for those who wander in when the door's open.

When the former shelter owner passed the word through the grapevine of her contacts, the information she relayed back to Nancy was disheartening. If the Lotties could come up with the fees for testing all of the stray cats, the woman said she could help place some of them in shelters.

"It's just not feasible for us with 15 cats," Nancy says. "We can't afford that."

Though they've already given away about 17 stray cats, 15 still hang around their barn in hopes of finding a permanent home.

"The bill from the Petsmart was $52 and that will last for about two weeks," Nancy says. "We're in our 70s and we're not broke, but $100 a month is a lot to spend on stray animals."

Taking care of so many strays isn't easy for Nancy. She has rheumatoid arthritis and wears a leg brace that runs from hip to ankle. She says she feels bad that her husband is carrying most of the burden because it's difficult for her to get around.

"He's a fanatic about keeping things clean, especially the garage," she says. "He goes around the whole yard two or three times a day. People come over and can't believe there are that many cats hanging around."

Since winter is right around the corner, Nancy is hoping to find homes for the cats.

"Maybe there are some people out there who'd help out, she says. "And I hope people will realize how cruel it is to leave a pet behind."

Along with taking care of their property and the strays, Nancy and Gene have 19 grandchildren, four step-grandchildren, one great-grandchild and another on the way. Like their parents and grandparents, Nancy says they're all compassionate when it comes to animals.

"They cannot understand how anybody can be mean to an animal," Nancy says.

Anyone interested in helping out is urged to call Nancy Lottie at 810-395-7071.

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