I received a call last week from Peggy, my surrogate mother and childhood ballet teacher, moments after Governor Hogan issued a sweeping executive order temporarily closing restaurants, bars, and gyms to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus. As it turned out, Peggy’s 94-year old friend Shirley had died of an aneurysm, leaving 2 adult cats stranded in her apartment. Shirley had no family in the area, but thankfully, her neighbor Jim had a key and could feed the cats temporarily.
Peggy was understandably upset and panicked. “Can you help the cats find a new home?” I assured her we would do all that we could, but cautioned that the request could NOT have come at a more challenging time. Kitten season had commenced with a vengeance, many rescue organizations were at capacity, and shelters were bracing for even greater restrictions to contain the spread of a pandemic that was wreaking havoc across the globe.
I immediately reached out to friends in the animal world, Cindy Wright of the gold star rescue organization AARF, Dawn Marie Cannella, a guardian angel to over 40 cats in Shirley’s neighborhood, and Christine Sandberg of Rescue Well. Each responded within the hour and offered to help.
Although AARF had already closed its intake, and had been caring for a critically burned cat in the ICU, Cindy texted, “Can u get their combo test status? If clean, we’ll commit. Pics and descriptions please.” The problem was, I had no descriptions, no photographs, and no medical records.
Dawn rose to the occasion and visited the cats that evening after work.
A known cat whisperer, she assessed and photographed Mitsy and Fluffy, who were scared and traumatized, and devised a plan to get them vetted. Two days later, I met Dawn on a Saturday morning at Carney Animal Hospital, where Dr. Shelley Howard agreed to examine the cats on her day off.
The parking lot was full when Dawn and I arrived at Carney, as vet techs shuttled pets to and from their owners’ cars to limit risk of exposure to the virus. Within 45 minutes, Dr. Howard had examined, vaccinated, and microchipped Mitsy and Fluffy and given them clean bills of health. Dawn also sacrificed her Sunday to transport the cats to the home of a caring and experienced AARF volunteer in Annapolis.
I never met Shirley, who regrettably passed away alone last week at Johns Hopkins Hospital, as her beloved sister Barbara was unable to fly from Atlanta during the pandemic. Shirley had adopted countless cats during her 40 years at the apartment complex and was likely similar to the extraordinary and selfless women who banded together to rehome the last two cats who graced her life.
We have no context for this crisis, and if this were a novel, we would call it Love in the Time of Coronavirus. All of us are lucky to be surrounded by such compassionate people who, during a frightening pandemic, converged to turn a Mission Impossible into a Mission Accomplished. We will get through this, together.
Please help in any way you can. If you are interested in adopting Mitsy or Fluffy (who are not bonded), please submit an application to Animal Allies Rescue Foundation (AARF) at https://animalalliesrescue.org/adopt/cats-available-for-adoption/.
If you can’t adopt, please consider a donation of food from the Peninsula Colony Amazon Wish List, so that Dawn may continue her life-saving work in Shirley’s neighborhood: https://smile.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/ZXX1MG4LN2YR/ref=cm_go_nav_hz.
If you would like to donate to our Medical Fund for Baltimore Kitties, which has helped many cats in Shirley’s neighborhood, please visit https://showyoursoftside.org/donate/ and designate the Medical Fund.