The following post is by Suzanna Schiefer, Red Paw volunteer and foster/adoptive parent
As a Red Paw volunteer I’ve branched into several areas of the organization. It was during the course of initially integrating into the mission I ended up having my second foster fail. It was inevitable that I would end up adopting the two precious boy cats who crossed paths with me a few times before becoming part of my family. My first introduction to them was also my first transport as a Red Paw volunteer. I picked up three cats that had been spayed/neutered at PAWS to give them a ride back to their foster home. That was the day I met Delilah, Tag, and Stewie. The three of them were displaced as a result of a fire in their house and their family was working toward re-establishing their home and getting their babies back – reuniting the family unit. As I drove, the youngest male, Tag, was alert and actively verbalizing and I could tell he was a character; the other two were very quiet as I expected all of them to be after having surgery. Not too long after their visit to PAWS, Red Paw got the disheartening phone call that the foster home I drove them to was no longer a good fit for the three of them and they were transported back to Philadelphia to await another foster home.
At that time I was discussing becoming a foster parent for Red Paw, the discussion being that I had a foster fail about five years ago, brought on by a rescue which had lost sight of its mission, become overwhelmed, and was not representing the fosters in my care toward successful adoptions. I intervened on behalf of those foster cats and adopted them. That one adoption raised the number of feline family members living with me to 14 and that was my very first fostering scenario. I’d been a cat advocate all of my life, even before I knew what that meant, and cats can sense that about a person’s soul so the cats living with me prior to my fostering experience came of their own free will – just showing up at the door one day – actually 3 different days over time – my oldest cat companion is 23 years old. That means I had 3 of my own, plus 1 that I met while volunteering at a cat shelter who was pulling his fur out from stress. Now I was actively advocating for the safety of 10 fosters by adopting all of them given they were losing opportunities to be adopted each passing day. The total number of fosters in my care was 14, and 4 did find homes through local personal networking with other cat caregivers and rescues in my area – that I was grateful for. The youngest 7 cats are approximately 6 years old now with the mother of 6 of them here also; she is approximately 15.
My Red Paw foster application discussion involved hashing out if a home as full as mine would be the best situation for cats who needed to keep their personalities predominantly intact for healthy and positive reunions with their caregivers. These families need to be able to recognize their pets as they knew them before the crisis and an extremely unique foster situation like mine could potentially influence the behavior of the temporary foster animal. The quality of care and the space I had available won out and I planned and set up to take Red Paw cats into my care. Tag, Stewie, and Delilah became my first Red Paw foster babies. They stayed with me for a couple of months until their family had to give in to the heartbreaking realization that they needed to surrender the cats since they could not find appropriate circumstances to take them back.
These sweeties were among the first occupants in the Red Paw Cat Room at Central Bark. Delilah found her forever home first but the 2 boys were so bonded we wanted to keep them together if at all possible. I then became a cat mate to Tag and Stewie to help them find a home. I would host sleep overs with them at my house when we needed to travel to events in Bucks County to meet potential adopters. After our second all day event I left them to be transported back to the Cat Room by another volunteer and, the next day looked in on them while attending a Cat Room volunteer meeting. They were exhibiting signs of depression and that caused an emotional discussion about their well-being with Jen, Lori, and me. We decided that I needed to bring them home with me for monitoring and I decided that mine should be their permanent home. Tag isn’t the only character as we have found out. Stewie (polydactyl) is quite active and comical as well and talk about a couple of love bugs!!! They still snuggle with each other and now with their other forever siblings. They join in at the “community feeding” bowls and platters, and they hang out on their cat tree in the screened in porch at the rear of the house. Everyone gets to sleep in my bed with me when I am alone and they don’t fuss when they have to spend the night in their own room. We enjoy group interactive play, spa grooming nights (both now love to be brushed and neither have taken to claw clipping yet); and they love group zoomies up and down the steps, although if the play becomes too rough they go off by themselves to watch without being too involved. Some decisions just feel right and deciding to be a Red Paw Volunteer and to adopt Tag and Stewie are two decisions I’m pleased I made.