For my mom, the first animal advocate I ever knew

By on January 4, 2019 with 14 Comments

I lost my mother this week. She was 92 years old, and she packed most of those years with a remarkable compassion for animals – a compassion she cultivated in my sisters and me as well as in countless other people she encountered.

My mother taught me that it wasn’t enough to just love animals – she showed me how to get off the sidelines and advocate for them. And I’ve been doing as she taught me ever since. I’m involved in humane work today because of her, and I could not feel more grateful or blessed than I do by her influence in my life.

Both my parents loved and cared for animals, and took steps to include them in our family life. My two sisters and I grew up with a cat (who adopted us), a small pack of rescued dogs, a number of injured birds (including a large duck), and the occasional squirrel who would just stop by for food.

With Birdy and our dog, Dolly.

My mother, who named me after the daughter of a prominent humane advocate of the 1960s, often took me to anti-fur rallies and other events, sometimes even against my instinct and whim as a teenager with wishes of my own. Over time, it began to feel both natural and right to me, and we often spent weekends leafleting together. She also set an early example for me and my sisters by calling Members of Congress to demand stronger animal protection laws and other measures of social value.

Some of my favorite memories of her come from the time when I first moved to D.C. as a law student, when she would send me new clothes. On a tight budget, I couldn’t have been more thrilled when the packages arrived. Inevitably, every package of new clothes included a button on each item with an animal protection slogan of some kind.

I was very proud of her when, in 1996, my mother turned over her home in Boston to HSUS staff members and volunteers who came to town to gather signatures for the ballot measure to ban leg hold traps. I was told she left notes of encouragement around the house and bags of popcorn for all to enjoy. She also put in a lot of hours outside a popular mall collecting signatures, and she was persistent in her efforts to corral individuals who passed by without stopping to sign.

While my father was less vocal about his love of animals, at age 60, he became a vegetarian. As he explained it, the change happened one hot day in Florida when he stopped at a railroad crossing. My father was Jewish and a teenager during the Holocaust. As he watched that long, slow train pass he peered into the cars and was startled to see eyes staring back at him: they were cows being transported across state lines to slaughter. He never ate meat again.

Like every mother, mine took pride in the achievements of her children, but in my case it also extended to the entire HSUS family. She was an avid reader of our publications and stayed current with the issues, right to the end. She was incredibly proud of all we do at the HSUS, Humane Society International and our related organizations, and she never stopped telling me that. She told me just last week that she felt her own work for animals was done because she knew that a new generation of advocates at the Humane Society of the United States and its affiliates have it well in hand.

And she was right, we do.

The beautiful thing about our work is that it is founded upon an extraordinary legacy entrusted to us by past advocates, one that stretches back decades and one that encompasses the scope of our work worldwide. We’re all a part of something much larger than ourselves, and in our work to build a more humane society, we honor the spirit of my mom and hundreds of thousands of other good people who have carried the banner for animals, each and every day, throughout their lives. In a moment of deep personal loss and grief, that legacy comforts me, and it makes me all the more grateful to supporters past and present who have joined our fight to protect animals here and around the world.

Companion Animals, Farm Animals, Humane Society International, Wildlife/Marine Mammals

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  1. Sandy Weinstein says:

    i am so very sorry for your loss. she sounded like a wonderful mom.

  2. Laura Hagen says:

    This is beautiful. Thank you for sharing it.

  3. Sally Anne Hubbard says:

    Dear Ms. Block,
    What a wonderful and beautiful story, it brought tears to my eyes. I am very sorry for the lose of your Mother, she was a remarkable and compassionate person.

    This would be a great and compassionate world if all children had mothers like yours. I had to find my own path to animal welfare in my 20’s. I am vegan and protest at circuses, fur stores and other places as needed.

    Again, very sorry for your lose. Your Mother made this world a better place for all beings.
    Sally Anne Hubbard

  4. Stacey Armstrong says:

    My deepest condolences. Thank you for sharing such a lovely tribute and memories.

  5. Jennifer horsmon says:

    Thank you very much for sharing this.. It had me crying!! Your mother was a true hero.

  6. Barbara A Betts says:

    How wonderful the values she’s passed on. I too, also believe a humane nation starts with the children. Your mother was wise beyond here years. You have my deepest condolences. What a beautiful legacy she’s left.

  7. Thomas Lyon says:

    I am sorry for your loss, Kitty. What a beautiful, compassionate woman. Your mom’s spirit lives on through you and I’m honored to join you in advocating for compassion.

  8. Sari La Rue says:

    I am so sorry for your grief and pain; but what a beautiful tribute to your amazing mother! And the story about your father seeing the cattle trucks and ceasing to eat meat is also very special.
    Your mother inspired you, who in turn inspire US, and hopefully each of us reading this will (or already do) in some way big or small inspire others to keep the fight for care and compassion going.

  9. risa m mandell says:

    Dear Kitty, May your memories and your mourning bring you comfort –

  10. Mindy Tetreault says:

    I am making a contribution to HSUS , in your loving mothers name. I feel like I know her. Your tribute was so touching and beautiful. I believe that no good life is ever over. Her special love and compassion, works thru you, your sisters, and now thru us. Such a fine spirit will go on and on. Thank you for sharing her with us.
    Sincerely, Mindy T.

  11. Laura Umphenour says:

    So sorry for your loss. A wonderful 92 years to celebrate in the love of this planet and all of Gods creatures. May she Rest In Peace knowing her daughter continues to carry the torch.

  12. Kitty Block says:

    I am so moved by your thoughtful and supportive sentiments, and truly grateful for each and every comment here. Thank you for reaching out to me.

  13. Laurie says:

    Your mom is so proud of you.

    • Julie Nicolaisen says:

      Just read this blog, Kitty, and am glad to hear about your kind mom. My mother also taught me to be kind to animals. When I was a small child, we had cats; and Mother & I enjoyed watching the mom raise her kittens. Once Mother woke me from my nap so I could watch Cat Jane walking in our driveway w/her kittens behind her. Occasionally Jane would meow, & the kittens would stop following her. Then she’d meow again & they’d continue to follow. I learned a lot about life & death from them; and, think my mother’s death, when she was 66, was easier for me to get thru after I’d learned of the finality & all from my pets. // Also later had a Beagle & a guinea pig. I loved them & enjoyed caring for them. // My mom & I would sit in our yard & eat lunch, watching the wren go in & out of her house. Once, a little neighbor boy put his hand over the birdhouse opening, & my mom stopped him & taught him never to do it again. // Another time, 2 boys were actually throwing rocks at a kitten. My mom scolded them, & picked up the kitten & petted him. The boys then petted him & never did anything like throwing rocks at animals again. (Also stopped a child from chasing a rooster). All the neighborhood kids seemed to become more humane. // My mom was raised on a farm, and her parents loved animals too. Her dad farmed with 2 work horses, & would often stop for them to rest & sometimes have a snack. He would talk to them too & pat them. One time my uncle heard him say: “Thank you Josh & Pete. His horses lived quite a bit longer than those of neighboring farmers; but he was kind to them because he loved them & not to extend their life for his own purposes. //I THINK THE WORLD WOULD BE A BETTER PLACE IF EVERYONE HAD MOTHERS AS HUMANE AS OURS WERE! Saw a mother the other day watching while her kids threw rocks at a swan in a park. (Me & some others stopped that immediately.)

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