By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Gracie is one lucky cat. Actually, the lucky ones are her human ‘parents.’
My girlfriend and I will never know how or why Gracie wound up at the Mercer County Animal Shelter, but we are certainly glad she was there.
A little over two years ago, the search was on to replace my girlfriend’s cat, Maggie, who died far too young. My ‘assignment’ was to check the shelter, and the first cat I saw in a room full of lovable cats was Gracie.
I knew then Gracie was the one. I returned a few days later with my girlfriend and luckily Gracie was still there. It took some doing, but she left with us that day. I always felt bad that I couldn’t take them all.
Gracie was one lucky cat.
Too many other cats — and dogs — aren’t so lucky.
Kiffie Currence can relate. The son of former Bluefield Daily Telegraph sports editor Stubby Currence, has a pair of cats of his own. He is currently trying to find golfers to participate in the Mercer County Spay Association Golf Tournament, slated for June 15 at Wolf Creek Golf Course in Bastian.
“All proceeds will go to the Mercer County Spay Association for spaying and neutering programs,” Currence said. “We are actually now trying to concentrate on folks who can’t afford it. Spay and neutering has gotten to be an expensive proposition.
“We have deals worked out with four or five of the vets in Mercer County to do ours for about half price.”
Currence said the MCSA spayed and neutered 849 animals in 2011, and reached 1,202 last year, all of which is meant to limit the number of animals being born, many of which are often left homeless with no place to go.
“If we can pull off this tournament, we can get do a lot more than that,” he said.
That is at a reduced rate of $25-30 per cat, and just a little more for dogs, all performed on a strictly volunteer basis by the MCSA, a non-profit organization with an annual budget around $26,000 a year.
“We are concentrating on lower income folks because actually that is where most of your problem is anyway and you already know what kind of dog and cat problems we have in the county,” Currence said. “If we can pull this off and it looks like we are going to be able to, that will really help.”
Currence owns two cats, one of which came off the streets of Bluefield.
“Two cats adopted me several years ago,” Currence said. “I love cats, I just love cats. About a year and a half ago I fostered one and fostering one lasted about two weeks and he has been there ever since.
“I got him off of Union Street, he was a stray off of Union Street, we do a lot of that stuff. If stray cats are around or dogs, and if we know people are not taking care of them, we will get them and have them spayed and neutered.”
There is a well-publicized over-crowding issue for animals in Mercer County, and too many are left homeless or enthuasized without ever finding a place to call home.
Currence agrees with me. That just isn’t right, and local residents seem more determined than ever to help out this four-legged friends.
“Since this enthuasization of the animals out there I have seen a big turn in dealing with this stuff now,” Currence said. “I didn’t realize it before, but I have seen a big turnaround in the generosity of the people in our community who want to help, who are cognizant of what is going on and willing to help now more than they ever have before...
“Adoptions have gone up, people are really coming to the forefront.”
Currence would like to see that effort continue at Wolf Creek on June 15. He currently has 17 of the 18 holes sponsored for $100 apiece, but has just nine teams of four players apiece, and he would like many more than that.
“I would like to have 25 teams, but if I can get 20 I will be clicking my heels,” Currence said. “We need teams, we need teams bad.”
Currence said the Wolf Creek facility, which is now under the direction of Wayne Belcher, has undergone several renovations, and is in prime condition and ready for use.
“According to the people who played in the Coal Day tournament this past Saturday they liked the playing conditions, they really did,” Currence said. “That has been my biggest handicap trying to sell this thing...”
Such improvements as remodeled bathrooms, an enlarged picnic area and carpet in the clubhouse are nice, but Currence knows what matters most.
“Golfers don’t care about that stuff,” he said. “’What are the greens like’. All that has improved drastically, I will stand by that for them.”
In addition to 18 holes of golf, the $240 ($60 apiece) tax-deductible price tag per team includes numerous prizes, highlighted by a Chevy Cruze donated by Ramey Chevrolet in Princeton for a hole-in-one on hole 13.
There are also closest to the pin prizes, and other rewards, including rounds of free golf at Wolf Creek and Draper Valley golf courses, along with an eight-day, seven-day Hawaiian vacation sponsored by Currence’s family, along with other golf packages, and an ‘outstanding’ barbecue dinner for all participants.
“I am still proud of what we have got, I think it is pretty good, but the improved condition of the course is the key,” Currence said.
This is Currence’s first venture at organizing such an event, but making a difference in the life of a cat or dog makes it all worth the effort.
“I had no idea it would entail this much work, my house is falling down, my yard looks like Katrina came back through, but I am going to do this,” Currence said. “We hear the voices (of the animals), people here are not taking care of their animals and spay and neutering is the key.”
Mercer County isn’t the only area with animal issues, but the MCSA is trying to do what it can to make a difference where they can.
“We only operate in Mercer County, but that shows you how big the problem is,” Currence said. “What we eventually hope to do with our fundraising and everything, instead of those (spay and neutering) numbers going up each year, we want them to start going down, that is what we are shooting for.”
Who knows what fate awaited Gracie? Today, she is a beautiful multi-colored cat who brings a smile to all. She loves to run inside the house and out, chase bugs, sleep on my legs and enjoys a good rub and a treat.
That is all a cat or dog really wants. A good home, and a human to call their own.
“My cat I have now, the youngest cat that came off Union Street, the girl that took him in, she spent $700 on him before I got him,” Currence said. “He was in terrible shape, he didn’t have any fur on the side, he was about three pounds underweight.
“He was a little cat anyway, but I have got him back where his weight is good, he has got his fur, he is running the place.”
No wonder Currence wants to help out any way he can. Calling all golfers, assist Currence in helping our four-legged friends? Your efforts will be returned with the unconditional love that only a pet can offer.
What could be better than that?
“We want to raise money to fix these animals for people who can’t afford to have it done,” he said. “That is what it is all about.”
For more information on what will be an annual tournament, contact Currence at (304) 320-2604 or visit email@example.com.
—Brian Woodson is an animal lover and sports editor for the Daily Telegraph. He encourages feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org