Solutions is staffed with big-time pet lovers, so it gave us special pleasure to donate part of the proceeds from our last sample sale to PAWS, a no-kill animal shelter located in nearby West Linn, Oregon.
In 1999, interior designer Sharon Murphy got a call from a client cancelling her appointment. The client explained that she needed to seek treatment for a bite received while taking two stray cats to a local animal clinic to be euthanized.
“I just couldn’t get those cats out of my mind,” Sharon recalls, “so I called the clinic and said I’d take them.”
Sharon took the strays back to her shop. The next day, she arrived to find that, instead of two cats, she now had eight – one of the strays had given birth during the night! When the mother cat refused to accept the kittens, Sharon recruited some friends and began bottle-feeding them.
“I hadn’t planned on starting a shelter, but when my landlord told me the cats would have to go, I closed the shop and opened PAWS down the street,” she says. “Since then, we’ve placed over a thousand cats in loving, permanent homes.”
Until PAWS opened its doors, Sharon had no idea that so many cats were routinely abandoned.
“We currently have 150 cats in our care,” she says, “and we typically get 500-600 calls a month from people who want to place unwanted cats with us.”
With only 640 square feet of space, the shelter has been forced to limit the number of animals they accept, and the need for larger quarters has become urgent.
“Our lease is up next year, and I have my eye on a house across the street that would be perfect for us if we can raise the money,” Sharon says. “I’d love it if we never had to turn any animals away.”
Unlike other animal shelters, PAWS allows their cats to roam freely through the premises.
“It makes for a more stress-free, ‘homey’ atmosphere for both the cats and prospective owners,” Sharon says. “No sad faces peering at you from behind the bars of a cage…the cats romp and play as they like. And sleep, of course – there are beds for them everywhere!”
In addition, PAWS is one of the few shelters in Oregon that takes in orphaned newborn kittens, bottle-feeding them until they can eat on their own.
“Our Bottle Brigade is made up of a group of wonderful volunteers who give around-the-clock care to these ‘babies,’” Sharon says. “It’s an intensive but very rewarding experience.”
Cats above the age of ten become part of PAWS’s Elder Care Program. Instead of being adopted, these senior cats are placed in permanent foster homes where they become a part of their new family, but legally belong to PAWS, who pays the medical bills for these elderly animals.
Sharon smiles as she explains that the cats at PAWS are all named after famous people.
“People who’ve visited our shelter can honestly say they met ‘Oprah Winfrey’ – in fact, she sat on their laps! And we named one very opinionated little guy ‘Simon Cowell’ after the American Idol judge. Simon the cat appeared on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and was featured in the Oregonian newspaper.”
When talk show host Ellen deGeneres learned she had a cat named for her at a shelter in Oregon, she called PAWS in order to pass along a message to her namesake’s new owners.
“She wanted them to know that she likes to have cocktails promptly at five, and that lobster is her fish of choice!” Sharon says, laughing.
PAWS not only strives to place pets in a good home; they also work to inform people (particularly children) about properly caring for a pet.
“We want to educate the public on the responsibility that goes with adding a pet to their families,” Sharon explains.
With that end in mind, PAWS invites schoolchildren and extracurricular groups to visit the shelter. In turn, volunteers from PAWS visit schools, introducing cats to the kids and talking about the responsibilities of pet ownership.
While cats are currently their primary focus, PAWS also found homes for 56 dogs, 2 turtles, a rabbit, a pigeon and a miniature horse. Only cats spend nights at the shelter – the other animals are on-site during the day so they can “meet” potential adopters, then go home with foster families at night.
If you’re in the Portland, Oregon area, PAWS invites you to stop by and meet the animals available for adoption. You can also visit their web site at www.pawsanimalshelter.org. No matter where you live, PAWS encourages you to consider adopting a rescue pet over a pet store or breeder – you may just save a life!
Shop Pet Products at Solutions.