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Caroline Inspires Pet Rescue
by Susan Easterly
Cat Fancy, March 2002
Age and chronic health problems diminished Caroline's once-stunning looks, but something special shined in the orange Persian's eyes. Thanks to excellent care, she thrived at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah, for 10 years.
Judie and Tom Brown of Cleveland, Ohio, longtime animal lovers with a passion for old and ill cats, crossed paths with Caroline during a trip to Best Friends in September 1999. The couple's membership in the organization spurred them to make the trip and spend time working at the sanctuary. The Browns met many animals during their volunteer stint but couldn't stop thinking about Caroline.
"Out of all the cats, Caroline stood out," Judie says. "There was a magnetism, something about her."
The Browns snapped a photo of Caroline and pondered adopting her, though they already lived with three senior cats. They realized, however, that Caroline already received the best possible care and Best Friends had long ago become her home. Instead, they made plans to revisit her soon. When they returned to Ohio, they enlarged her photo and placed it in their dining room.
Tom frequently looked at the photo and told Judie, "This is our incentive to do something for cats that are old and sick, the ones nobody wants that aren't the beautiful kitties of the world."
A few months later, Tom urged Judie to check on Caroline's progress. Best Friends told her Caroline passed away in October.
Inspiration Leads to Action
"There are no coincidences in life," says Judie, who believes Caroline briefly entered their lives for a reason. Shortly after learning the sad news, the Browns donated a headstone for Caroline. In August 2000, they founded the nonprofit Caroline's Kids Pet Rescue to honor her memory and provide compassionate care for other cats like her. Its mission: provide a safe, nurturing environment for old, sick or unwanted cats through foster care and adoption.
"This is a niche people don't want to address," says Judie, CKPR executive director. "Cats get older and come down with health problems, and the commitment [to care for them] is not always there.
"Because an animal is old or sick does not make them worthless," she continues. "They deserve every bit of dignity and respect as that healthy kitten."
Judie and her team of roughly 50 dedicated volunteers, foster-care providers and adoptive parents provide three categories of care:
Emergency care: CKPR provides immediate shelter for recently rescued cats that need a home while paperwork and veterinary tests are completed, or for cats who need a place to recuperate after spay or neuter surgery.
Ninety-day care: Cats in this category have been rescued by CKPR and received a veterinary evaluation. They are currently being processed for adoption and may require foster care for up the three months.
Long-term care: These cats need loving, nurturing homes for an unspecified amount of time.
"We pay everything for foster cats: the food, litter and veterinarian bills. All we ask is that the cats are taken to our veterinarian," Judie explains. Caroline's Kids has successfully placed more than 30 cats in permanent homes. The group's five-year plan calls for a free-roaming sanctuary in Northeastern Ohio where senior cats can peacefully live out their lives.
The fledgling group works hard to make its vision a reality through participation in community events, setting up presentations to service groups in the area and partnering with schools to sponsor senior cats. Radio, television and newspaper coverage, along with fundraising events and donations, round out the current efforts. In addition, a strategic-planning consultant currently assists Caroline's Kids with grant applications.
The process will be a lengthy one but Judie, who often works 18 hours a day, seven days a week, isn't worried. "Everything has fallen into place," she says.
Caroline's Kids Pet Rescue welcomes donations. For more information, write Caroline's Kids Pet Rescue, P.O. Box 24068, Mayfield Heights, Ohio 44124.
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