by Martha Michael
A new book details one woman’s journey from “cat lady” to animal rescue owner. Siri Zwemke was simply trying to adopt another Siamese cat when she ended up taking ownership of dozens of pets and launching a nonprofit.
The reader’s experience when leafing through the pages of Zwemke’s memoir, “Rescue Meez,” sounds like a rollercoaster ride through a series of adventures.
“I shed blood, tears, and yes, even clothes in dealing with sad, loving and angry cats,” she said. “I rescue cats from drawers, rifles, bathtubs and hoarders. I find soulmates, both furry and human. I laugh at myself as I detail some of our misadventures over the years. Focusing on Siamese (known as meezers) but touching the hearts of all animal lovers, you will laugh, you will cry, and you will learn something as we catch flying ferals, diaper our soulmates, and swim with cats.”
Zwemke had no “official” rescue or nonprofit experience, so readers get to stumble along with her as she makes mistakes along the way.
She explains that the word “meezer” comes from “Siameezer,” with an affinity for their “intelligence, their quirkiness, their eccentricities, their dog-like quality and their intensity,” she says. “AND I’m highly allergic to cats, so you know I must really love what I do!”
She already owned five meezers when she started calling local shelters requesting a head’s up if they ever received a Siamese cat needing a home. The year was 1998 and searching the Internet was a new idea, but the Virginia native tried it and found a Kansas woman with a Siamese cat. Zwemke committed to adopt it – sight unseen.
As a mother with a young daughter and working as a teacher for the hearing-impaired, she was attempting to plot out a trip from Virginia to Kansas, when the local shelters began calling her with Siamese cats needing to be re-homed.
“Pretty soon I had 15 or so cats in my home and had still committed to the cat out in Kansas, and realized that I needed to do something other than collect cats,” Zwemke said. “So, gathering information from the lady in Kansas as to what she was doing, and finding out from the IRS how to start a nonprofit, I jumped in blindly.”
As this was new territory, her experiences were as wild as you might imagine.
“Initially it was crazy – I knew nothing about how to do anything,” she explained. “I tried to raise funds by standing at the end of the driveway selling brownies. … I didn’t have a facility, so I had cat cages in every room in the house. I had no way to isolate the cats, so everyone got sick, people and cats alike, and I had people showing up at all hours of the day in my driveway, and spending time laying on my bedroom floor, reaching under my bed to try to touch the scared kitty hiding there.”
Those capers are just the beginning. Her book details how she went up into the hills of the Shenandoah Mountains to help out a family that had six cats that needed rescuing – only to find “the cats were feral, were living in a 6-by-8-foot space that had about 6 inches of cat feces … being guarded by a rifle-wielding, tobacco-spitting gent,” she says.
Readers will also learn a few personal stories, such as despite her husband’s warnings, how she put a cat in his office, which got caught in a locked pencil drawer, so she had to take a crowbar to the desk. Then she explains how the two of them divorced and she met her current husband over the internet through the love of Siamese cats.
To learn what happens next, you can order “Rescue Meez” as an e-book or purchase the 246-page paperback.
“It’s okay to make mistakes as long as you learn from your mistakes,” Zwemke said, describing her overarching message. “We can take a step back, laugh at ourselves a little bit, pick ourselves up and move forward. It’s okay.”
You can find out more and contact author Siri Zwemke on Facebook; @SiriZwemkeAuthor or visit the website: SiameseRescue.org.
“Rescue Meez” is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other online book retailers.