Sheryl Rapée-Adams | Rutland, VT Tattoo artist: Chris Dingwell, Portland, Maine
“Chris created these collages based on photos of two of my cats, Bailey and Teazer.
I met Bailey in 1999. We adopted Bailey (then ten months old) and Jewel (then nine years old), from a household relinquishing its cats. When Bailey was two years old, we adopted Teazer, also then two years old. Bailey and Teazer are purebred Bengal cats, a breed I’d never heard of before we met Bailey. Bailey’s original human purchased him from a pet store, so he likely came from a kitten mill. Teazer had been a stud in a home-based Bengal cattery; Tee was retired because he was terrified of the queens he mated with. A couple of years after that, we brought home Sammy the Serpent from a shelter; that’s another story, and Sammy’s cattoo is still gestating.
It all started with Bailey. He awakened me. I still don’t know what happened. I’ve lived with rescued cats all my life. When I looked into Bailey’s eyes, I felt motivated to explore the condition of cats in our human-dominated world, then the condition of all nonhuman animals. It’s not as though Bailey cares about these things; he is cranky and contemptuous, and aggressive to other nonhuman animals. Still, soon I became vegan. I began volunteering with Best Friends Animal Society and local animal organizations. While participating in the Institute for Humane Education’s Sowing Seeds workshop, I realized that oppressing anyone of any species makes our world less humane for all species, including humans. I realized that every consumption choice we make affects others, near and far. I realized I had great power to make more compassionate choices, and support others in doing so, too.
So I could work professionally on these systemic issues, I completed a master’s degree (M.S.) in organizational leadership and management. Now I am a professional and volunteer activist. I was on the leadership team of the Vermont Freedom to Marry Task Force when Vermont passed its landmark marriage equality law in April 2009. I am a community outreach consultant with the ACLU of Vermont. In September 2011, I will join the Vermont Leadership Institute’s class of 2012 toward developing my abilities to create the kind of world I want to live in, and to serve Vermont’s human and nonhuman animals and natural systems.
“My tattoo is in memory of Akhenaten, our very best cat. We only had him for 6 months; we knew he was going to be short-term when we got him as his kidneys were already failing quickly. We loved him so much. I get white pawprint tattoos for each of my pets that pass, but Akhenaten was very special and deserved a special place on my skin. Here is a picture of him snuggling with one of our dogs. You can see how awesome he was. The amazing Craig at Mothers Tattoo drew for 2 hours before I was ready. I love the image so much, and hope you enjoy it.”