We spoke with Chris Glazier about maintaining community despite misanthropy, why helping animals doesn’t require specialized skill and how he maintains a balance between work, life and rescue.
Our goal is to demonstrate that anybody can make a little room to help cats. It’s not like it’s a specialized skill needing a crack team of cat extractors.
You rescued one of me and my fiancée’s cats, Nimbus, through the organization you volunteer for, Bushwick Street Cats. I can’t even wrap my head around the stray cat problem that New York City has, and the level of suffering that occurs when owners either dump their pets or there simply aren’t enough willing homes to go around. Beyond the obvious — spaying and neutering — do you see any systematic solution to this problem?
Oh, absolutely! Realistically, there’s only so much little orgs like ours can do. Even with all of us communicating with each other around the city, pooling resources, doing favors, we still miss lots of cats who need help. What we could use is more help at a city level. In recent years, NYC has stopped being totally indifferent about trap-neuter-return services and has taken a few tepid steps towards helping. The city shelter (AC&C) now provides TNR in some locations, though they’ve kept it pretty quiet. More than that, what they really need to do is improve AC&C and make it a truly safe place to bring animals. Instead, it’s kind of a bureaucratic nightmare, full of cross-contamination and needless killing.
I’m not sure if your position at Bushwick Street Cats is paid, but I’m curious as to how this wide-ranging, somewhat risky work fits into your overall schedule. Do you have a moment in your day where you shut off your phone and email, or do you essentially work 24/7 in one respect or another?
BSC is all-volunteer; nobody gets rich helping alley cats. We all work day jobs, then come home to deal with the cats. There are times when we get caught up in projects, but our goal is to demonstrate that anybody can make a little room to help cats. It’s not like it’s a specialized skill needing a crack team of cat extractors. That said, when I go to bed I put the phone in a different room.
I’m sure many, many friends and strangers have you pegged as “the cat volunteer” above many other things. What would you like people to know about your identity and personality outside of your work?
Well, I’m a homeowner. And a vegan. I guess a lot of people in animal rescue are vegans; it kind of goes hand-in-hand. I love cooking, when I have the time for it. My wife and I have been trying to fix up our dumpy house for years; not surprisingly, the more time you spent helping cats, the less time you have for refurnishing the floors. This year, we finally have the work/rescue/life balance enough to do it. We’re starting with the roof and working our way down.
What’s your history with cats in your life? Do you have attachments to other creatures just as much, or do felines (as I would imagine) occupy a primary space in your heart?
They do now, whether I like it or not. I grew up with a lot of pets, including cats. I had helped a couple of cats here and there, but when we moved to Bushwick, we realized the extent of the issue. We started taking in kittens and friendly moms to adopt out, but it was the ferals who really needed to be dealt with or we’d never see the end of it.
All of us have said “I hate humans” at one time or another. But it’s important to maintain community, even if it’s a bunch of misanthropes.
You recently posted something pretty funny on Facebook about people giving strangers your number every time they see a stray cat in Brooklyn. Do you think your position as a pretty approachable, charitable guy who helps animals can lead some to abuse your willingness to jump to aid?
Yeah. I try to remember that every new person who contacts us may not realize we’re just volunteers, that there’s no magic shelter with limitless space and money to help every cat, everywhere. But it bugs me when people we’ve helped before pass out my personal number like it’s the “Take My Cat Please” Hotline. I’m at my day job and people are calling trying to unload their cat because they can’t be bothered to care for them correctly. Email, people! So much less invasive.
Why are cats so innately trusting of us when humans are bigger, stronger and have few ways of communicating that we want to care for them, especially at first? I wonder about this with Nimbus, who seemed freaked by me specifically at first maybe because I’m a man. She’s great now, but I still wonder what kinds of experiences she had with male owners in the past. Thoughts on how you see cats processing what we call “trust”?
That’s interesting. I always think of cats as the ones having such a limited palate of communication methods, at least that humans can detect. It’s easy when you get them young; they literally think of us as their mothers. For instance, feral cats don’t meow; that’s a thing kittens do to get mom’s attention. Older cats, especially from the street, can be a lot tougher. Like Nimbus, a totally sweet cat, but something from her past freaked her out. Cats can often get past their traumas, though it usually takes time and positive reinforcement.
Finally, the pop-up where we met at Muddy Paws in Williamsburg seems to be a really holistic group of people with the same mission. Any given Sunday, you see folks socializing the cats, drinking wine, crocheting kitty hats and having some laughs. What do you gain from the human rescue community in Brooklyn?
We’re really lucky to have met the folks we work with at the events. Frankly, animal rescue attracts a lot of weirdos. And maybe we’re weirdos too, but our extended rescue family all work together really well. We’re essentially a collective and we’re all friends. It’s definitely good to have that human connection, too; it helps keep perspective. All of us have said “I hate humans” at one time or another in regard to some animal-related atrocity. That may be true, but it’s important to maintain community, even if it’s a bunch of misanthropes.
Curated by: Morgan Enos
Conducted by: Email
Published: June 1, 2018
Total questions: 7
Word count: 1004
Reading time: Four minutes
Brooklyn, bureaucracy, Bushwick Street Cats, cat, Chris Glazier, collective, community, connection, contact, contamination, cooking, extension, extractor, family, feline, feral, hotline, human, importance, misanthropy, mission, nightmare, ownership, reinforcement, schedule, socialization, specialization, team, tepid, trapper, trauma, treasurer, volunteer
About the curator
Morgan Enos is a songwriter and journalist originally from California. His curatorial work for North of the Internet aims to strike a deeper place in his conversation subjects — the dreamy subtext to the linear everyday. Morgan also frequently writes power pop records as Other Houses about joy, outer space, frustration, chess and spiritual light. He resides in New York, where he continues to creatively fire on all cylinders.
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