Compassion, Care, Home, Repeat
Two Area Groups Strive to Improve the Lives of Animals
It takes compassion to care for animals in need. Some days, it takes restraint, a sense of purpose and an understanding of the whole picture, but for the individuals who care for homeless animals every day, this is the reality. This is the daily battle.
At The Nobody’s Cats Foundation, volunteers and professionals combine to care for feral and stray cats in Adams, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Lancaster, Lebanon, Perry and York counties. Taking care of these wayward cats is no easy task, many come in with upper-respiratory infections, cuts, ear mites and other conditions that require medical attention. Add in that these cats have had little-to-no human interaction in their lives, and it makes for a job that requires care, compassion and a lot of patience.
On Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, the dock door flies open, and volunteer trappers unload traps that number between 40 to 60 a day. Vet techs race to get the cats a numerical designation and settled under warm blankets before the day can begin.
Once all the cats have arrived, three vet techs begin the task of examining them one-by-one. The cats are given full evaluations to check their teeth, ears and eyes before receiving their vaccinations. All of the cats are sedated to prevent them from injuring themselves or their human helpers. After they receive a clean bill of health, Dr. Heather Lineaweaver takes over, spaying and neutering the cats before returning them to their outdoor homes. This helps control feral-cat populations and ensures that communicable diseases do not spread among other cats.
Citing an incident with a cat with an abscess, Vet Tech Brittany Nye points out, the job is not always as glamorous as spending your day with cats would seem.
It may not be glamorous, but the work she and all of the others do is crucial. Raised in feral colonies, many of these adult cats can never become a domesticated house pet. While it’s sad to think about, the best way to prevent other cats from the same situation is through an all-encompassing, spay-and-neuter program.
Once all of the cats have been seen, the volunteers roll in to pick up their brood. They are returned to their territories, and volunteers begin again. Cats that have already been spayed or neutered will have the tip of their ear clipped. This prevents cats from being seen more than once.
The Nobody’s Cats Foundation manages to do all of this at a modest price. For $30, cats are given all of their yearly vaccines, a comprehensive exam and the spay or neuter operation.
For much of the staff at The Nobody’s Cat Foundation, their work with the foundation is in addition to a full-time job or another part-time job. The long days don’t discourage the staff, instead they are happy to help.
Vet Tech Siri Skowronek says, “I love cats, and I love that I can help out.”
For more information on The Nobody’s Cats Foundation, visit nobodyscats.org.
In Boiling Springs, Robin Scherer sifts through paperwork. Overseeing the adoption of some 300 homeless pets is a daunting task. Started in 2001, Furry Friends Network (FFN) is a nonprofit specializing in finding homes for animals in need.
In addition to finding forever homes, FFN will also help dogs and cats find foster homes that can accommodate their needs. Easier said than done, potential foster parents go through the same interviews, evaluations and procedures as a potential adopter might.
FFN functions like a well-oiled machine. Robin oversees the dog side of things. Her sister-in-law, Shawna, oversees the cats in their care, and Melissa Flinn handles outreach and adoption events – an important part of the machine is finding permanent homes for the critters so that others can begin the process.
The dedication of both Scherers can’t be overstated. These ladies devote any and all free time to the organization and sometimes even the time they don’t have.
After spending a full-day with her students, Shawna begins the task of her FFN responsibilities. She stocks her SUV with food and supplies for the many cats that reside in local pet stores, like PetSmart and Pet Valu. With the help of volunteers, the cats get the care they need and the socialization they crave.
Some days, Shawna is busy teaching other advocates and veterinarians about the importance and execution of Trap, Neuter, Return (TNR) programs. Shawna calls her work a “labor of love.”
Pioneering a TNR clinic in Shippensburg, Shawna and a few concerned animal lovers meet with veterinarians at Shippensburg Animal Hospital to work out the details of an upcoming clinic – this hospital’s first. Providing her expertise, Shawna offers the group supplies for trapping and flea medications to treat the cats as they arrive. Her efforts here are independent of FFN but nonetheless important to the cause.
Shawna and Robin both have learned to become “thrifty” as a means of getting the supplies they need.
“We had to learn to think outside of the box,” she says.
To that end, the duo has developed relationships with local warehouses that share damaged and returned pet product and other goods to the organization in exchange for cleaning off their pallets. This relationship provides for the animals in temporary/foster homes.
Foster extraordinaire Stephanie Grossnickle is currently caring for a Blue Heeler mix and her 10 puppies at her home in Harrisburg. Grossnickle’s home has been completely adapted to caring for dogs. The backyard is no longer landscaped, but rather a fenced-in dog paradise. Inside, furniture is minimal, but dog crates and beds are abundant. Grossnickle has been fostering with FFN for 13 years. She has seen many dogs come and go, from many different backgrounds.
“I’ve had dogs that you can’t even approach, and they run away.” Speaking of her newest addition, “so this is a blessing. She’s very sweet,” says Grossnickle.
It’s hard for any animal lover to let go of an animal they have bonded with, but Grossnickle knows that they will be in touch.
“I keep in touch with my adopters. Every year, on the anniversary, I write them a letter,” she says.
The too-cute-for-words Blue Heeler puppies are the epitome of why Grossnickle and other fosters do what they do for FFN. Trying to identify the pups, Grossnickle’s eyes gleam with hope. It’s hard not to fall in love with the innocence of newborn animals and the trust they place in their human caretakers. The hope is that these puppies will not have to endure the struggles that their mother has.
Many dogs have come through her house, and Grossnickle says she has learned something new from all of them.
“Each one is different. I start to think I know things, and I don’t. It’s humbling,” she says.
Fellow foster mom Sharon Cree has been with FFN since 2002. If you’re counting, that’s 16 years of tail wagging, face-licking and unconditional love. Cree’s experiences spurred her to write a book, Louise on the Lam, explaining the minutiae of fostering and the life of one special beagle.
While donations of food and supplies are always welcome, monetary donations are needed to assist FFN with vet care, training and anything else the animals may need. Volunteers are also appreciated since FFN is strictly run on a volunteer basis.
To learn more about FFN and how you can help animals in need, visit furryfriendsnetwork.com.
Web Exclusive: Looking for a furry companion of your own? Visit harrisburgmagazine.com/photos to view snapshots of some of the loving animals up for adoption with Furry Friends Network.