Town of Crossfield celebrates 74-year-old animal lover who's saved thousands of cats
Edna Jackson started the Tails to Tell animal rescue shelter in 2010
It all started more than a decade ago when Edna Jackson, now 74, arrived at her former pet supply shop in Crossfield, Alta., around 50 kilometres north of Calgary.
It was about 6 a.m. on a cold, September morning, and she says she saw a plastic bag tied to the door.
Inside was a small calico kitten.
"That kind of edged me on because I'd had fish dropped off, I'd had snakes dropped off. Dogs, cats, you name it," she said in an interview with the Calgary Eyeopener Monday.
"I said to my husband, 'Honey, I got to start something. I mean, these animals are not being taken care of.' And so…put a second mortgage on the farm and started up a shelter."
The Tails to Tell animal rescue shelter opened its doors in 2010. Its focus is on cats, Jackson said, as they don't have enough space to house more animals.
In all, Jackson — who has 10 cats herself — has helped find homes for more than 2,800 felines, volunteers estimate, and reunited hundreds more with their families.
"Beg, borrow, plead," Jackson said, referring to her sales tactics.
"We had two brothers who stayed with us for eight years. They were finally adopted and they had to go together, and they did."
The shelter is a no-kill facility and it's volunteer and donation run. Jackson has never taken home a salary, she said.
Volunteers with the facility decided to host a party for Jackson at the Crossfield Community Centre on Saturday to celebrate her contributions to the community.
Colleen Holden first met Jackson eight years ago when she found her cat, Cheddar, at the shelter. Shortly afterwards, Holden started volunteering.
"Edna, she just draws you in," she said. "She's an amazing lady."
About 150 people showed up Saturday to celebrate Jackson's work, Holden said. They had a small cat plaque made for her, and they brought in a massive cake, which read: "Thank you, Edna, for rescuing us."
Jackson said the sight made her heart swell.
"It was absolutely unbelievable."
A great teacher
Michele Jacobsen, another volunteer and board member with the shelter, gets emotional when she speaks about the impact Jackson has had on her life.
Not only did she connect Jacobsen with her cat, Potter, but she says Jackson also taught her about kindness, humour and compassion.
"We all feel that Edna saves us every day and helps us be better people. So that's why we're all so dedicated to her."
Jacobsen remembers when she first started volunteering at the shelter in 2019, feeding kittens, administering medications and cleaning litter boxes.
One particular day, she'd missed a warning on a cat's kennel saying it posed a flight risk. So, when she opened the door, the cat ran out.
Chaos ensued, Jacobsen said.
"[Edna] just picked it up, carefully cradled it in her arms, and inch by inch, took it towards the kennel. And in the meantime, the cat urinated all over Edna. She didn't skip a beat. Her first and primary concern was for that cat's welfare," she said.
"I learned something from Edna that day. You know, first of all, read the chart. But second of all, just her patience. She didn't reprimand me. She was just like, 'OK, well, what did you learn?'
"She's just a really special lady."
LISTEN | Edna Jackson reacts to having a party thrown in her honour:
'She's our hero'
And when help arrives, it doesn't matter who it says, Jacobsen said. Jackson greets them with open arms.
"People of every type, from young people to people more her age, people that are needing a place to be part of a team and to make new friends," she said. "Edna welcomes them all."
Jackson would like to welcome more animals in the future, too.
She'd like to find a bigger space so she can connect more animals with their forever homes.
But after so many years at the helm of the facility, Jackson is taking a small step back from her duties.
Rather than working 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day, she's working half days from Thursday to Sunday.
Providing a little break is the least the volunteers can do, Holden said, for a woman who's touched many hearts, and paws.
"From all the volunteers and the cats, she's our hero."
With files from Angela Knight