Revision Street: Abby Smith (II)

Revision Street: Abby Smith (II)

Chicago Old Navy Shooting(Photo Source: AP)

The day I spoke with Abby, a man walked into a well-populated clothing store on State Street, shot his estranged girlfriend, and then killed himself. It was a sudden incursion of violence into the otherwise fairly safe and friendly downtown shopping atmosphere, and business people, art-school students, and retail salespeople expressed shock, fear, and confusion on the evening news. Abby’s Edgewater cat shelter, and its 130 feline residents, felt safe enough, but the minor trauma had reminded her of the drastic shifts reportedly undertaken in the name of public safety in the days following September 11, 2001.

Abby Smith—Kumbaya

I don’t feel much safer. I mean there’re still so many crazy things that are happening, and there’s so much hatred in the United States for the United States by its citizens, so I’m not even sure that we are any smarter or any more safe and secure than on September 10th, 2001.

For me the change had to come within. I wanted to live the rest of my life not only doing something that was more fulfilling, but feeling that I was bettering the world a little bit through my actions. How could I stop or how could I affect the euthanasia rate of cats? I’m not a big fancy organization with a lot of money. We have 7 people that work here, so what could I possibly do? The only thing that made any sense at all was to take cats directly out of the euthanasia rooms and that’s how I stop euthanasia as a small shelter in Chicago. That is incredibly meaningful to me, and to our adopters who take these cats home. I couldn’t stop what happened in New York and I can’t stop what’s happening with some people. But I can do the best I can to touch people around me and hopefully it will trickle out and hopefully the world’s a better place, Kumbaya. This is when we sing Kumbaya. I’m not like that [laughs]—definitely, D-Y-K-E. not lesbian. No Kumbaya. Anyway…

I grew up in Des Plains and came to Chicago in my early 20s. I’m a little bit older than that right now, maybe 24. [Laughs.] I have gray hair that’s older than that [Laughs.] There were no decent bars out in the ‘burbs and back then I was quite the party animal and there were a lot of fun bars that we got into a lot of trouble in. I just came out here because it was the place to be and just to be in more of a community.

We own a house in a really great neighborhood. A couple of years ago we wound up finding a single-family home that was in foreclosure. We got a really great house for a really small amount of money. I have eight cats at home and an adopted baby in Bowmanville.

Our son is 19 months old. When you adopt everything else, you know, kids are next on the list. Adopted dogs, adopted cats. It’s amazing, it’s the most amazing thing in the world. Dahlia and I have been together eleven years and about ten and a half years ago I said, I would love to raise a child, and she said, I would love to have one, but I don’t want to raise one, and I’m like, Oh, end of conversation. [Laughs.] I can’t very well say, Well, you can have it and I’ll do everything else and I’ll raise it. Ten years later, we’re sitting in Mexico on the beach and this little boy skipped off naked into the water, and I just kind of looked at him and I said, You know, there’s not anything we do in our life right now that we couldn’t do with a baby. Much to my shock and surprise, she said, You know, you’re right. And eleven months later, we had our child.