I take a breath. How am I going to write this email without seeming overly upset?
After a few minutes, I begin:
I just want to thank you all, on behalf of myself and my brother (and Hermes) for all your help in spreading the word about Hermes!
I've just received a link to a Craigslist ad that I think one of you might have posted on our behalf. Thank you very much, but if you post anywhere else besides personal emails to people you know and trust, I'd very much appreciate your not giving my full name or email details. On Craigslist and many other sites that are similar, you can choose to mask the email address. This means, any replies to an ad would come to my email address but the sender wouldn't see the address.
If in doubt, please feel free to contact us first.
I have since edited the Hermes Craigslist ad so that these details are hidden (but, again, I will still be receiving all replies via email).
Thank you again for all of your help. We really appreciate it.
I hit “send” and heave a sigh. Our desperate attempts to get my brother’s cat Hermes adopted have resulted in meeting some very interesting people. All of them are passionate about animals, but some seem very disconnected from the ways of the world. Maybe being around cats and dogs who need help all day, makes human concerns seem petty to them. But most people I know would probably freak out as much as I did if their personal information was boldly posted on Craigslist for the world to see.
The funny thing is, I don’t have any particular reasons to mistrust the site as much as most people. In fact, without Craigslist, my life would be very different.
I first heard about Craigslist.org when I was in college. I think it’s where I ended up finding a job posting that was right up my alley: a start-up website was looking for a movie critic. I emailed my resume without a second thought, hoping against hope that even in the competitive world of Manhattan internships and job hunting, I’d be taken on.
Amazingly, I was, and so began several years of free movies, and participating in round-table interviews with stars like Ben Affleck and, glory be, several “Harry Potter” cast members.
In the meantime, I’d graduated from college and was looking for somewhere to live. I went onto Craigslist, and checked out rooms for rent. Never did I think that the ads could be a set-up to lure me to someone’s place so that I could be sexually assaulted or killed or robbed or anything. Thanks to Craigslist, I met a roommate who turned out to be a true kindred spirit. We sat down at her kitchen table and her cat, a dead ringer for a real-life Garfield, jumped onto my lap. “He likes you,” my prospective roommate said, “you can stay.” I’m still in touch with my former roommate today. Her cat passed away a few years ago. When I came to visit, she showed me his ashes, and we sat there at that same kitchen table, crying.
But the biggest way Craigslist changed my life, is that it’s how I met my boyfriend. No, I didn’t post a racy ad in “Casual Encounters”. I didn’t even write that I was looking for romance. After a horrible break-up, I came back to Paris and planned to distract myself as much as possible from feeling lonely. So I posted an ad looking for people to go to the movies with, since most of my Parisian friends aren’t huge movie buffs.
By chance, the boyfriend had recently received some free movie passes from the company he was working for, and had also broken up with someone and wanted a change. A friend of his mentioned that if he was looking to practice English or meet new people, there was this site called Craigslist that was very popular with ex-pats. Just a day after hearing that, the boyfriend went onto the site and saw my ad.
Our first movie together was Sofia Coppola’s “Marie-Antoinette”. I liked it, and he hated it – but, as the French say, peu importe- what made me realize this was someone I wanted in my life was the fact that, after the film, he suggested we walk up to the nearby Conciergerie, where Marie-Antoinette was imprisoned before being sent to the guillotine.
Six years later, while planning our apartment remodeling and renovations, we needed to sell some furniture. Guess what site we used?
I’ve never had a bad experience with Craigslist, and yet, I can’t ignore the horror stories. Rumors of ad responders attacked or assaulted. Scams. Unsolicited dick picks. The Craigslist Killer. People who raise fighting dogs or do experiments on animals are the latest threat. Many of the animal adoption places we’ve been in touch with have told us not to post anything on Craigslist about my brother’s cat. After the email I sent about not posting my personal information there, one response I got back was this:
Wow, that stinks that someone posted it on Craigslist. I would have to guess that it was someone who received the email blast who isn’t very savvy
– I stopped reading to shake my head in emphatic agreement. But reading on, I realized we hadn’t formed that opinion for the same reason –
b/c everyone familiar with rescue knows never to post on Craigslist. Is there any way to get Craigslist to remove it? Since I never use CL, I don’t know their policies.
I’d never tell these people that, a few years ago when I was helping a family friend find new homes for some animals, we posted on Craigslist…and successfully adopted out several of her cats.
It’s like a lot of things: you have to be careful. When you meet someone for the first time, try to do it in a public place. If that’s not possible, talk to them first – on the phone or, even better, via Skype or Facetime, so that you can see them, as well. If you’re trying to adopt out an animal, ask these people for references, and ask plenty of questions about their experience with animals, why they want a pet, their living situation, etc. I also tell them to call me if they ever have a problem and can’t keep the pet in question and I’ll help them find it a new home.
The sad thing is, of all the places and individuals my brother and I have contacted in order to find Hermes a new home, only Craigslist has given us three promising candidates. Nowadays, no-kill shelters and animal sanctuaries are full to capacity. Services like Petfinder.com work exclusively with groups and shelters. Craigslist, with its free ads and household-name status, is a great way to spread the word about something – or in this case – someone.
When I think about it, I’m amazed at the myriad ways that Craigslist has changed my life. And yet, I’m now feeling what I’ll call the Craigslist paradox, more than ever: much as I’m grateful for the site’s existence, I’m sort of worried about the fact that my personal information was posted there for so long. Who knows what might happen? Probably nothing. Hopefully nothing. So far, nothing has happened, except for being contacted by these three interested people. No dick picks, no identity theft (that I know of).
I guess it’s like life – you have to take risks or else you’ll never get anywhere. Maybe you could look at using Craigslist as an electronic equivalent of doing a trust fall. Would you expect a random crowd of people to catch you? For now, I’m glad for all the times I’ve done those figurative trust falls…but I have to admit that these days, before I do one, I try to glance into the group to see if anyone’s naked or hiding a weapon…..
Hermes the cat is still up for adoption. My brother lives in the Atlanta area, but it may be possible to get Hermes somewhere between there and NY, where he's moving to. If you're interested or if you know someone who might be, please contact me.
Thank you so much to those of you who've offered your help and support here and elsewhere, including on Open Salon, where blogger Gabby Abby very kindly contacted fellow blogger Bellwether Vance, and asked her to write the fabulous ad for Hermes that I've pasted below. Here's hoping Hermes finds a home soon!
SWC (Single White Cat) seeks SL (Special Lady). Anderson Cooper look-alike in the market for a permanent cuddle situation. Men frighten me so I'd prefer a LOH (Ladies Only Household). I'm up to date on shots and my front paws are declawed. I'm neutered but I've got a LLTG (Lotta Love To Give). Contact my human helpers if you'd like to adopt TBCOYL (The Best Cat Of Your Life).
UPDATE: I am thrilled beyond words to write that Hermes has found a new home! Amazingly, it's with a fellow blogger on the site Our Salon. My brother and I are forever grateful to her and her family for taking in Hermes - and I'm so happy to say that he seems to love his new life and family, and they love him, too! To read more about what happened, feel free to click here.