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Molly, the Navy dog

Serving in the Navy in 2008, I used to be a medic, while also tending to the strays of the large naval base. One of the most heartbreaking things that happened was an epidemic of Leishmaniasis, threatening the population of 40-50 dogs of the base. One morning I received a call from a sailor on guard duty in the most remote guard post, 6km away, on a mountain top. It regarded a pup in bad shape. Immediately I drove there, seeing an adult dog decomposing in the forest on the way there. It appeared to be the pup's mother. The pup itself was one month old, under-weight, infested with skin and intestine parasites and with a severe loss of fur, mostly on her little bald head.

After establishing that she was not sick with Kala Azar, I had to keep her locked in a small room and -depending on my duties for the day- alone for stretches of hours. Still, she recognized the sound of the motor of the ambulance and was jumping on the window to see her pal (me) coming. She had won me over, as well as the rest of the troops of the base who took their breaks and visited over. With the only choices being releasing her in the base or taking her home, there was no dilemma. These large ears needed a home.

Since then, she's grown up into a gracious lady, a family member and the proud owner of: all exterior areas of the house, the love sofa, the staircase, our hearts. She paid me back, of course, by protecting me from any bird, turtle frog or visitor that approaches. Visitors especially need to pet her first, before entering the house, or else...Well, not that anyone managed to say "no", yet.

Evan Tzimas
Thessaloniki, Greece

Tigger - thin no more!

Tigger showed up with her sister a few years back, thin, scared, and no fur on her tail. She was around 6 months old. I'm guessing she was dumped. She did not know how to find food, so she was slowly deteriorating. She had an allergy to fleas, so her tail was furless from her attempt to stop the fleas from biting her - she basically pulled all the fur out. We have a stray neuter program, so I took her in. The next day, we had to call the clinic because something had come loose and she had part of her intestines coming out at the surgery site. We got her back in and they took care of the issue and were very apologetic (I firmly believe she was the cause of the problem since she was biting at the area). I also believe these clinics do a great job, so I gave them some extra cash for taking her in so quickly - they never asked me for it, but I felt it was deserved.

She is now the beautiful indoor cat you see in the pic - long unusually fluffy tail which we didn't realize she had until we rid her of the fleas. She is happy, gets along with all the other rescues, and has vowed she will never be thin again! :-)

Lyndonville, NY

My Katrina Girl, Bridgit

She was part of a group of dogs brought here after Katrina and I met her while helping out at the shelter. She was cowering in the back of her run the first time I went to walk her. The second time that day I went to walk her she came to me and as we walked in the rain she stopped and looked up at me with the saddest look I have ever seen. I dropped to me knees and hugged her. After I put her away I asked the kennel manager if she had a foster home yet, the answer was "No, she is the only one we do not have a home set up for, are you interested?" I filled out the paper work before leaving that day. Three days later I met a driver from the shelter half way from my home. I gave her the name Bridgit, a Celtic Goddess represented by both fire and water.

The vet guessed her age at around 9 yrs old and she had a rough road ahead, over the 5 years we shared, with heartworm treatments and three different types of cancer; but she was always sweet, loving and grateful. She broke my heart the day I met her and filled it with so much love after that. On the day she officially became mine we had a party. The day she left me was sad but the gifts she left me with will stay with me always. My brave, sweet Katrina survivor.

Aileen D'Angelo
Northboro, MA

Axle's Furever Home

My husband and I already had two shelter kitties but I still felt like something was missing. I happened upon a craigslist ad for a husky/shep mix and attached was this pic of a very scared looking puppy against a kennel fence. I contacted the ad and found out he was in a high kill shelter in NC. The shelter informed me that if he was not pulled by Friday he would be put down. The rescue agency that posted the ad said they would work with me to get him out if no one claimed him by then. That Friday morning the rescue agent contacted me to tell me he was still there and I told her to pull him out. Sight unseen and no idea about his background I agreed to meet her at a halfway point in Suffolk. My friend and I met her at the Wal-mart and I could instantly tell he was neither Shepherd or Husky. At first sight he looked like a very thin Shiba Inu mix. We got him in the truck after thanking the rescue lady for helping us save his life and I assured her he was going to a loving furever home. He was terrified of my husband, cameras and phones. He didn't bark for the first 6 months and would only seek affection from me. I found out he was a stray for a while before they finally caught him and I have a strong feeling he was abused with a shock collar before I found him. Axle has now doubled in weight and knows all kinds of commands. He has warmed up to my husband and him and I share a very deep bond. He's gentle with my kids, not so much with my cats and we discovered he is a NC Dog aka an American Dingo. I love him to pieces and couldn't imagine my world without him XOXOXO

Newport News, VA

Recognizing love

If humans can have feline soulmates, Toby was mine. The apartment was too quiet, too lonely after he died, so I emailed a local shelter asking about adopting an adult cat. They had so many, so when I went to PetSmart to see them, I let myself consider only the three that were recommended. I chose CJ. She came right to the cage door to be petted -- I thought, here was a friendly, loving cat who would cuddle like my Toby. It was a quick meet-and-greet, and the shelter worker picked up CJ -- who cried out -- and put her in the carrier for me.

I should have listened to that crying. Or maybe it's a good thing I didn't, or I never would have taken CJ home with me. She objects to being picked up -- I've never yet, in more than a year, been able to hold her. I thought for a long time that she didn't purr. She would follow me around the apartment, but she never asked for affection. She didn't love me.

Or so I thought, until I started paying attention.

CJ purrs all the time, but so quietly that I have to put my ear right against her side to hear it, or feel it in her throat. She doesn't ask me for affection, but she craves it, and when I go to her and pet her, she can't rub her head against me hard enough to suit her. She won't lie on me, but she lies against me on the bed.

In other words, I have had to learn to recognize love the way CJ can give it and receive it. It isn't the way other cats have loved me, and not the way I have loved other cats. But it's CJ's way of loving.

I might never have taken her home, had I known she would be so aloof. But I'm glad she's here, and I'm glad I've learned to recognize the shy, reserved way she shows her love -- it's the real thing.

Ardis Parshall
Salt Lake City, UT

Sweet Lolly

When I lost the love-of-my-life cat, Bea, I was struggled with the idea of getting another cat (still had Bunnzola - who desperately missed Bea and Boo, who is a bit of a loner). After losing a pet, the focus is on the grief. But, after some months I felt as if I COULD provide a home for a kitty, I SHOULD provide a home.

Rescue cats are the only option and there are so many organizations and shelters here, choosing would be difficult. I cannot go into a shelter without being overwhelmed and upset I cannot adopt them all, so I barely scanned some listings...

I keep seeing the posting for this cute, tuxedo cat - formerly a feral - with a little crippled paw. I kept thinking about her and left my # for the foster mom to call me. I visited her place (she had many cats she was fostering - all ferals or abandoned, etc.) I never even saw my kitty but I told the foster I would definitely take her (I am sure this meeting was more about ME vs. me meeting kitty - which is fine, my cat devotion can appreciates the due diligence!).

She arrived on Christmas Eve - best gift! I named her Lolly vonBerger. She immediately hid and my other 2 cats saw her, but acted as if nothing was up and all was calm. Within 2 days she was carefully checking out her new home, shyly waiting for her dinner and, eventually hanging out with us. I was desperate to grab her and nestle my face in her neck and squeeze her, but I was very patient. And it paid off.

Lolly is now a bouncy, boingy, oh-so-happy kitty, with the tiniest squeak, who adores Bunnzola, likes to head butt me, appreciates a good snuggle, and is the best behaved, smartest kitty I have ever known. Sweet Lolly.

M. McClure
San Francisco, CA

She walked into my husband's lap - and our hearts.

In 2002, my husband and I were walking some friends of ours out, and he spotted this little calico cat. He tried to get her to come over but she would not go anywhere near our friends. So after they left, he sat on the sidewalk and coaxed her onto his lap - then grabbed her and brought her inside. We quarantined her in the bathroom and she was completely freaking out. She was absolutely filthy and it took weeks to get the dirt out of her fur (even bathing her). We named her Cinnamon Buttercup.

She had not been fixed and we're pretty sure she had been abused, as she was afraid of her own shadow. You so much as raised a hand near her and she would freak out and go hide. She finally would let us pet her and we kept her inside, but the turning point was when we got her fixed. She was obviously in pain after the surgery and for the first time, she came to me for comfort. I stayed up with her well past my bedtime and that was the beginning of her transformation.

She is possibly the most affectionate cat I've ever known, now. She is constantly begging to be petted and loved, and at 12 years old is still pretty playful. And yes, she does love almost everyone! She has learned to give "kisses" and when I come home she cries until I lean down so she can lick my cheek. She is VERY insistent when she wants something! Also, she has a fondness for pink toys (even though cats aren't supposed to be able to see pink!) She and our original kitty, Azehrei, were best friends until his death.

Despite her multiple health issues (asthma, allergies and multiple benign tumors) she is doing well. No more abuse or cold and hunger for this special girl!

Dover, OH

This polydactyl baby stole our hearts.

One drizzly, gray morning, around 5AM, my cousin and I had walked from her house to the parking lot next door to use the pay phone there. I saw this tiny, cream colored kitten with paws bigger than he was. As the rain came down and hit the puddle, he would pounce the little splashes the raindrops made. I immediately scooped him up and took him back to my cousin's, where my then-fiance (now husband) was sleeping peacefully. I crawled back into bed and the kitten immediately jumped up and curled up with us. After my husband sleepily called him the names of my cousin's two cats, I told him it was our new kitten. He shot bolt upright and scooped the kitten up to cuddle him. We named him Azehrei, a word meaning "Dragon King" from Melanie Rawn's Dragon Prince trilogy.

He was polydactyl - so much so he had toes between his toes. He was incredibly smart and friendly. Once, he even saved my life. I had bronchitis and had fallen asleep in a hot bath. I woke up with my nose less than an inch above the water, and Azzy pawing my face and meowing frantically. He was my husband's teddy bear and often slept on his back in his arms.

Sadly, when he was 7, he had a kidney blockage. We rushed him to the vet, and they were able to clear it once. He blocked again though and when they sedated him to put in the catheter, he took the choice away from us and crossed the rainbow bridge. We did everything we could to save him and it is suspected that he might have been inbred (since the family that may have had his parents would not fix any of their animals), which could have been a contributing factor.

This is one of the last pictures I took of him, and one of my favorites, as he is smiling. I know we gave him enough love to fill a thousand lifetimes.

Dover, OH

He filled a cat-shaped hole in our hearts.

In 2008, our beloved Maine coon mix Azehrei crossed the rainbow bridge after his kidneys failed. We were absolutely devastated, as was our other kitty. We decided we wanted a younger male Maine coon mix, since Cinnamon is an older, feisty female. We thought a younger male would help maintain the balance without threatening her "rule".

So I got on Petfinder and began looking. The first cat I saw was through a rescue an hour and a half away. His name was "Mango", and he was found as a kitten in a parking lot on Easter, with frostbitten ears. I called the rescue frantically to make an appointment to go see him at his foster's house, but it took them a couple of days to get back to me.

His picture did NOT do him justice. He was about 9-10 months old, and had a majestic plume of a tail. He was still on the thin side, and somewhat timid, but after a little while he let us pet him and hold him. We discovered later that he had been adopted twice and returned each time. One of the potential adopters took him home for a couple of days and returned him when he didn't get along with the cat he already had. The other returned him because he had issues with diarrhea and extremely stinky flatulence.

As it turned out, the gas and diarrhea were because he was never dewormed properly. He and Cinnamon get along. We renamed him Kazander and he answers to that name, and almost always comes when I call him. He's still a little shy, and runs from loud noises and sudden movements. But at the same time, he is so affectionate it's amazing given his rough start. He has a very sweet personality and loves to talk. He shows affection by doing what I call a "rolling headbutt", headbutting while rolling into your arm. The people who returned him had NO idea what they were missing out on - and while no cat could ever replace Azzy, Kazander has helped us heal.

Dover, OH

Coco Chanel

And here is Coco Chanel today, happy and playful, a long way from where she was a couple of months ago! <3

Linda Carpenter
Milton, ON, Canada
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