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The purr-fect match 

Rescue groups find forever homes for abandoned animals

by Darcie Dearth



Misty the cat enjoys life these days, lounging around on a plush sofa, keeping an eye out for birds and squirrels, and happily receiving loving attention. More than a year ago, this was not her lot in life.


This brown and tan tabby cat had a friendly personality and a tolerance for other felines, children, and even dogs. Despite these ideal selling points, Misty was overlooked as the rest of her litter was adopted, one by one. Fifteen months had passed before she finally found a home to call her own.


“Too many people want only the cutest pet they can find, but they fail to consider personality,” explains Lisa Imhof, adoption center director for Second Chance Pet Adoptions in Raleigh, which rescued more than 700 animals in 2007.


Misty’s new family looked beyond the other, flashier cats and decided that the plain, chubby tabby with a big personality would be perfect for them.


“She’s doing so well, and the family just adores her,” Imhof says.


Finding a forever home

Success stories like Misty’s would not be possible without the help and dedication of local animal rescue and adoption organizations. These groups offer animals the time and resources necessary to find the ideal owner and lifestyle, often a luxury that public animal shelters cannot provide.


“Every animal and every person has a special nurturing ability with the right companion, if we can just hang on long enough to find them,” says Mary Dow, a volunteer with The Goathouse Refuge in Pittsboro.


The name might imply otherwise, but The Goathouse Refuge offers a three-acre home to more than 100 cats, roughly half of which are ready for adoption and many of which arrived from area public shelters due to limited space there. The refuge is run by founder Siglinda Scarpa, a local sculptor and painter, with a dedicated 30-person crew of volunteers who care for the cats until they’re adopted. While the refuge aims to find loving homes for each feline, if needed a cat can spend its entire lifetime there, roaming the grounds cage-free.


Snowflake Animal Rescue in Raleigh is an organized network of foster homes for abandoned cats and dogs, operating solely on a volunteer basis.


“Our organization is very animal-centered,” says Lynn Jernigan, a board member and volunteer.

“When you adopt an animal, you make a commitment to give this animal a forever home,” she adds.


“It’s not only about what you give to them; it’s what they give back to you, too.”


Paws4Ever — formerly the Animal Protection Society of Orange County — also is committed to guaranteeing the time, training and shelter that animals need until their forever homes are found.


“Because we are a guaranteed adoption center, we can take the time that the animal and people need to find a good fit,” says Sarah Washburn, development director of the Mebane-based agency.


The shelter also offers life-skills classes to adopters and their dogs so that the bond and communication between them can be enhanced and strengthened.


Volunteers for A New Leash on Life Dog Rescue teach their foster dogs manners, housetraining, leash training and socialization.


“All of our rescued dogs are cared for in loving foster homes, where they learn to live as companion animals,” says Tammy Brundage, president of the Wake Forest-based organization.


The group is run entirely by volunteers and hosts adoption events twice each month. Since 2002, more than 1,350 dogs have found permanent homes through A New Leash on Life’s rescue efforts.


Education and outreach

According to The Humane Society of the United States, almost 10 million dogs and cats end up in shelters each year. Reports also reveal that in 2007, more than 70 percent of dogs and cats held in North Carolina county or city animal shelters were euthanized. In light of these alarming statistics, area rescue groups offer a simple solution to the problem: one adoption at a time.


“Every single adoption is a success story,” says Simon Woodrup, director of community outreach for the Animal Protection Society (APS) of Durham.


“It is an animal that otherwise might have no home, and for every animal adopted, it frees up space for another worthy animal.”


APS of Durham also works to educate the public on the humane care, treatment and well-being of all animals, as well as the importance of spay-and-neuter programs.


Volunteers at The Goathouse Refuge continue a shared mission to create a delicate balance.


“We feel we have been successful in saving many cats, but there are just too many cats for the number of homes available,” Dow admits.


She hopes the organization can effectively spread the message that responsible ownership requires all pets to be spayed or neutered and properly vaccinated.


“We owe it to them,” she says. “They give so much back to us.”  


Darcie Dearth is a freelance writer based in Apex.


How you can help

Here are some ways to aid area rescue organizations:


• Donate money or goods. You don’t have to donate a large amount to make a difference. Needed items often include canned cat and dog food, cleaning supplies, towels, and bedding.


• Volunteer. Volunteers are the heart of each animal rescue organization. Whether it’s playing and socializing with animals, doing laundry once a week, helping to clean a shelter, or distributing flyers for adoption events, there are a variety of ways to pitch in.


• Sponsor a pet. Some rescue organizations offer programs wherein donors can send a monthly amount to a specific animal until they’re placed in a forever home. As a donor, you’d have an opportunity to see exactly where your money is going.


• Provide a foster home. Many animal rescue groups could not operate without volunteers who offer a temporary home to the hundreds of abandoned animals in the Triangle.


• Adopt an animal. When considering a new pet, visit a local animal shelter or contact a rescue group. By adopting a pet, you save more than one animal; you help free up the space and resources to care for another animal. Also, keep in mind that sometimes the best things come in pairs. According to Siglinda Scarpa of The Goathouse Refuge in Pittsboro, cats often enjoy the companionship of another cat.