This is a thank you letter

Two years ago today, Jen’s phone rang at 5:30 in the morning and so many lives have changed for the better since that moment. Because that’s the moment this organization was born and since that moment, Jen’s phone hasn’t stopped ringing, many people’s lives continue to improve and we haven’t stopped responding to the call for action. These have been the most rewarding (and exhausting) two years of our lives. Every single call has been a new and awesome experience because every single call gives us the opportunity to give a little love to another kitten, cat or dog, cats or dogs, snakes, parrots, ferrets, and sometimes, even a few turtles. lolaThey are all afraid and usually covered in soot when Jen or Kat or Dan or another responder brings them to our doorstep. Once inside and in the light, we often notice that they have fleas or are wheezing or sneezing just a bit because they’ve been hiding in a basement or under the porch for days, or exposed to smoke and water from the fire. Most often, their eyes are wide and swollen and they are always panting and really very scared and the most heart-breaking part is that you can see in their eyes that they are sad and that for this moment, their spirit has been broken.

It is our job to replenish that spirit, to make them comfortable, to try to comfort them, at least in the interim, and until their person can take them back home. Typically, their person and comfort zone is left behind at the scene, often torn because they do not want to lose their pet. As the hours pass and we can bathe and feed them, they usually let us love them a bit and that helps make us feel better, really, it helps us to reassure their people that they are going to be okay and that they are safe and warm. When it’s 3:30 in the morning and you just really want to sleep, or cry, or scream, it’s always during those moments, when it’s still dark outside that you can manage to get a little hug from a kitty and they begin to purr, or a tiny kiss from a dog. And truly, those are the moments that make this all worthwhile!

Our life, mine and Jen’s, has forever changed because of Red Paw. We are two people who have made a commitment to save animals and relieve some of the stress from a displaced person that has just lost nearly everything in the world. loriAnd you know, as often as we feel exhausted and like this is never going to work- mostly, we feel alive.

We feel extremely fortunate, as well, because of the animals and volunteers and our supporters who have become our family and make this commitment theirs, too. We are extremely fortunate to be surrounded by a network of amazing human beings! We are extremely fortunate to live in this amazing city, where good things happen every day because of the network of pet loving friends and families and businesses that support our life’s work. In addition, this city and the residents in the surrounding counties are also extremely fortunate to have Jen Leary. It is precisely due to her persistence and foresight that we have reunited and rehomed so many animals. It is precisely due to the dedication of our families and friends, our old friends and new friends that we can say, Red Paw has responded and fostered, rehomed, reunited and helped more than 500 animals.

During Hurricane Sandy, we experienced the generosity of people around the world, Australia, the UK and Germany to name a few! Here, at home, a classroom of five and six year old children from California made doggie biscuits to sell and donated $100.00 to help Red Paw. Another class at Francis Key Scott raised close to $500.00 for us and an eight year old and his cousins from Michigan collected donations and close to $2000.00. The family drove them to Maryland to meet with his Aunt and her son, Shane, an 8 year old who decided that all he wanted for his Birthday was to help those pets and their people that had been displaced in NJ and NY. They contacted us and then drove the kids and two minivans full of supplies here, to Philly, to give to us, we then delivered to different shelters in NY & NJ! jen and loriThese are just a few stories, there are so many more, which serve to create memories that remind me of the impact of what Red Paw’s volunteers are doing, how many people are supporting us and again, of how fortunate we have been during these past two-years!

It is nearly impossible to calculate the number of people to whom we owe thanks and praise! We can only hope that we can touch their lives in the same ways that they have touched ours. Together, we are helping create an even better next-generation of kids who will achieve even more amazing things than we can imagine, kids who get to grow-up with a pet as their best-friend, people who feel lonely that get to live out their lives with their beloved pets.

My name is Lori Albright and I am the Chief Operations Officer and the Chair of Red Paw. During the first year, following that first call, I remained very much in the background of this organization. Although I loved and took care of every animal that came into our care, I was extremely resistant to the whole idea. Today, I cannot imagine our life any other way.

The hundreds of supporters and volunteers that have helped us along the way have truly changed my way of ‘being’ in this world. So, on our second anniversary, I want to say thank you to every single animal and person that has touched my life during the past two years! Every family that has been reunited and every new family created out of this organization can collectively breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that Red Paw is here, that our support network just keeps getting stronger and that we have many, many more stories to share!

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Happy together

The following post is by Suzanna Schiefer, Red Paw volunteer and foster/adoptive parent

Tag and Stewie

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. StewieThe 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. GroupI 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.

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All you need is love

Written by Red Paw foster, C. YarnallUntitled-2

Bee Bee, a senior girl, came into Red Paw in January 2013 due to a fire in her home in North Philly. Right away, her owner, who was a senior himself, stated that he wasn’t sure he would be able to take her back. He had her since she was young but wasn’t sure he’d be able to care for her any longer. Red Paw worked with him for a while, hoping to be able to reunite them, but eventually she was surrendered to Red Paw’s care.

While she was with Red Paw fosters, Janet and Micah, her bloodwork was run. It showed a high level of BUN/Urea (43 mg/dL), and was indicative of advanced kidney disease. She also had a seizure (for which the vet prescribed Valium) and bladder issues (prescription of Proin). With so much care needed, and her prognosis not good, Red Paw decided to adopt her as a hospice dog…and after meeting with Janet and Micah, my fiance and I decided to adopt her! A few days later, i saw her seizure and it was not typical, so I switched her to a diet that was low in phosphorus; non-prescription brand Hills Active Maturity was a good start. In June, my vet called with BeeBee’s new bloodwork results – the BUN/Urea reading had dropped to half of what it was four months before, and is now in the normal/healthy range of 28 mg/dL. Not bad for a senior girl!

Untitled-1 Her coat will always be dull due to previous kidney disease. As for her bladder, it is felt that her pre-existing UTI might have caused the appearance of bladder issues. Since stopping bladder control meds, she has not had a seizure. She comfortably maintains a schedule of 4 walks per day. So while BeeBee is an old gal, all signs point to a retirement that is a little longer, happier, and spunkier. I’m glad because she is super-spectacularly-awesome. Thank you Red Paws, and thank goodness for you wonderful fosters, Janet and Micah.

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Worlds colliding

The following post is by Melanie Cardell, Red Paw volunteer and cat foster parent


I use Quakertown Vet Clinic as my regular vet. I love them dearly and follow them on Facebook. One day nearly two years ago they started posting about dogs that needed foster care after they had lost their homes to a fire. As a volunteer firefighter myself for 14 years their story was particularly interesting to me. One of the dogs, Dee Dee was very sick and I wanted to see how she made out, so I started following a group called Red Paw Emergency Relief Team.

I read up on them and found out that they basically came to be because of a big apartment fire in West Philly. I remember the fire clearly as I was working at West Philly High School at the time. I had seen on the news about all the cats that needed help. I have always had a love for animals, even smuggling a kitten into my dorm room at Temple. deedeeMy cat had passed away a few months earlier. He was the first pet I had gotten when I moved out on my own. I had another cat and even she seemed to be sad about his passing. He was a large black and white lover of a cat.

After following Red Paw for a little while and considering fostering a couple of times the day came when they had a super busy day and really needed fosters to step up. I filled out the foster application and had several phone calls with different people to get set up. Turns out I wasn’t needed for the first foster cat. The next post about a cat I was all over it. I coordinated with Kat to meet at my job and pick up Mickey there. When I peeked in the cage and saw a black and white cat I knew it was a perfect fit.

I brought Mickey home and kept him separated from my cat because I wanted to see how everyone would do. After a couple of days I actually cried because he seemed so sad and upset being kept apart. I thought how cat1I would feel if my babies were away from me. I hugged him and decided that if he wanted to be part of the family he could be. To my surprise he fit in perfectly. Delivering Mickey back to his owner was an awesome day! She was so excited to see him. It made all the trials we went through worth it. Around the same time a branch of the Bucks County SPCA opened here in Quakertown. I immediately started volunteering there. I had contacted Red Paw and said the next cat that needs a foster I will do it. AJ was the next cat that I got. What an awesome cat! My foster kittens were in love!


I had to take a break from Red Paw due to being diagnosed with a brain tumor and needed to have surgery immediately. It took me a little while to get the green light to start running fire calls again. When I did one of the very first calls was a house fire that had two dogs and two cats. Despite the fire company, the police, and Quakertown Vet’s best efforts we still lost one of the dogs. I told the chief that Red Paw could help the family. By the next day Red Paw was placed on stand-by for the dog and cats. I was in awe of how my worlds were colliding. A few days later we had another fire and again Red Paw was placed on stand-by for a cat.

I thought it over and decided to volunteer to take the cat if needed. That foster situation did not pan out, but a new opportunity presented itself. There were two cats that were too scared to be in the cat room and need somewhere that they could calm down and show their true colors. They came here and I could not be happier. I love fosters that need some extra attention. I picked them up from Jen and have loved them as my own ever since. About a week or so later I go to a training class put on by Animal Lifeline at the SPCA and a lot of Red Paw people were there! cat3So excited to have my Red Paw world and SPCA world collide.

Over the course of the past year and a half I have been able to do a bunch of transports, including the famous cat Princess and some of her kittens. I have also been able to visit and take goodies to a dog named Diamond who was staying at a kennel near me. I have had several opportunities to meet the Red Paw ambassador, Dee Dee, and my current fosters even got to have a sleepover with her. I love that dog! Plus if it wasn’t for her ending up at Quakertown Vet Clinic I never would have found Red Paw. I just love how important things in my life, the firehouse, the SPCA, and Quakertown Vet all have a connection to Red Paw and are intertwined.

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“Paw” at first sight

The following post is by Esther Alarcón-Arana, Red Paw volunteer


I am not sure how exactly I got to Red Paw’s Facebook page a year ago but today I am very happy I did. I like pages with cute animals but then I realized this one had something special: it was about animals rescued from fires here in Philadelphia and its surroundings. After I liked the page, I saw more and more of Red Paw’s entries and I noticed that they needed volunteers’ help for fostering, transporting, etc. I wanted to help but I didn’t know how to, because my cat won’t allow another animal in the apartment and I have restrictive availability to a car. Moreover, I was preparing for my PhD exam and felt I had no time for anything else besides studying. I was wrong.

dogMy first volunteer duty was transporting Lola and her brother Limp Limp from Paws to their home. I had my boyfriend (now husband), Norman, drive me for my first time because I was a little scared but I wanted Red Paw to “know” I could do this. It was a fun drive. When I brought the pets to the car, the kitten was in his cage quiet, but Lola no, she came right to the front and sat on my legs (she is a big “Pittie Mix”) and started licking Norman’s arm. We made it to their home and, although I had just met these animals, I didn’t want to part with them. So, all the way back home I was crying. Oh, I forgot to tell you that I cry every time I see or read about an animal in distress, anywhere! So you might think I wasn’t cut out for this.


Since then I have transported one or two more animals to foster homes, I have been at a couple of adoption events, I have given some administrative help and I have done my favorite job: I have become a cat mate for our adoptable felines. I have been visiting our cats since the Cat Room was first opened, so I’ve known all our “adoptables” that have passed through there from Tabitha and her kittens to our wonderful Knoxie (still strangely up for adoption). And I say “ours” because I feel they are ours; they are our babies, too, and we care for and want the best for them. When I visit them, I feel very relaxed. It’s my alone time, when I don’t think about school, about whatever issues I may have… I only think of these kitties, and I enjoy my time with them. I also clean up their space and organize a little, but I learned to relax, too, and give them what they need the most: love and games…. and food!


So I have proven myself wrong about needing so much time to volunteer for Red Paw. I guess it’s precisely because I have never felt pressured or judged about what I did or didn’t do that I slowly have become more involved. Moreover, I have met some wonderful people who also find meaning in helping these animals as well as helping other people; and that makes me very happy. I consider myself very lucky to have found Red Paw and the animals they rescue, and I hope I can continue to be honored to do these things for them.

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Sometimes the best laid plans…

Written by Christopher Moraff, Red Paw foster.

My wife and I have a funny way of attracting animals in need. And in a city like Philadelphia, it’s not hard to find them. In fact, most of the time they find us. We are both prone to melt at the knowledge that an animal needs our help, so we often have to serve as checks for one another. A sort of animal rescuer’s voice of reason. This policy extends to our fostering; we make every effort to avoid getting too attached to our temporary charges.


It usually works out. But every once in a while a furry creature enters our lives that tugs so forcefully at our heartstrings that no amount of reasoning can possibly keep us from making them part of our family. That’s what happened when we brought the Tillies into our home. That’s Tillies, plural: Specifically, Tillie One – a precocious little male with a white muzzle and loving personality; and Tillie Two – a tiny female waif with big saucer eyes and a cute gopher-like smile.

We’ve fostered cats for Red Paw before, and we could tell from the start that the Tillies – who are brother and sister – had a rough go of it. When Red Paw rescued them from the burned-out building that had been their home, they had been fending for themselves, along with two kittens. Red Paw also found that they were all infested with fleas! By the time they arrived at our door, the fleas were gone but the scent of smoke on their coats lingered.

Their personalities could not have been more different. Tillie One bounded out and got right to rubbing our legs and purring. Tillie Two hid behind a bookshelf for days, sneaking out to eat and hurrying back until we finally convinced her she could trust us. Soon enough, when we would open the their room in the morning, both Tillies greeted us with hungry cries. We so enjoyed this little scene that we would fight over whose turn it was to “feed the babies” in the morning.


The next order of business? A name change. Tillie Two was simplified to Tillie, and Tillie One became Tillman. Seemed logical enough. For several weeks they stayed in my office until our three other cats and tolerant dog had had a chance to be properly introduced.

Given the precariousness of the situation in which they were found, we weren’t too surprised when we learned about a month in that the Tillies’ owner had relinquished them to Red Paw. We weren’t exactly heartbroken either. By then we’d fallen in love with Tillie and were reluctant to let her go. Tillman, however, posed a bit of a problem. He was not getting along with our cat Stretchy, and she was spending less and less time in the house. This worried us. So we decided that as much as we’d like to keep them it was best that we try to get them adopted. The plan was to keep them together, so we starting hitting adoption events to show off the Tillies. No takers. We left each failed attempt event – the Tillies stuffed in their box – with a mixture of relief (Tillie gets to come home with us!) and regret (would anyone ever take these two?)

After the third event (and another celebration of little Tillie’s return to our home) we asked each other what in the world we were doing. We knew we couldn’t give our new baby up. It was foolish to keep trying. But what to do about Tillman? My wife had an idea.

My love of animals is wholly credited to my mother, who filled our home with cats from the day I was born until well after I moved off to college. But after losing her last cat, Bella, in 2011, she was reluctant to start over. The pain of losing her beloved feline friends was just too great. “I just can’t do it anymore,” she told us. My wife made bringing her back into the fold her personal mission and eventually she was able to convince Mom to take Tillman. (She renamed him ‘Cutie’ and not a phone call goes by without a mention of his latest antics).

Today it’s hard to imagine that Tillie is the same cat that hid for weeks and shivered with fear when she was picked up. Now she’s never far behind one of us. We work from home, and Tillie bides her time alternating between between our offices, insisting on attention and letting us know with a cry when she’s not getting enough of it. (It’s amazing such a loud sound can come out of such a small kitty!)


She keeps our other cats on their toes and has developed a special bond with one of our other hard-case rescues, Whitey Ford, who very much enjoys giving Tillie baths. (They’re both kind of half wits so they compliment each other well).

Thanks Red Paw, for all the work you do and for introducing us to our new baby. Tillie has given a little something to everyone (both two- and four-legged) in our home. We hate that she had to go through such hard times before she found us, but it’s nice to know Red Paw is there to bridge that gap between disaster and salvation. Keep up the good work!

*The kittens, rescued with the Tillies, also found a loving home and were adopted together!

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Partnership is key!

Written by Red Paw’s Chester County Coordinator and Chester CART volunteer, Paula Carmichael in conjunction with Volunteer Management Coordinator for the Chester County Department of Emergency Services, Janet Zeis

At Red Paw, we are all about partnership! We could not do what we do without them! Last year during our One Year Anniversary, we gave our first Partnership Award to the American Red Cross, SEPA Chapter for the amazing support and assistance their volunteers and staff give to us everyday! This year for our Two Year Anniversary, we will give the Partnership Award to another one of our partners, (I know the suspense is killing you but you’ll have to wait and see who it is).

Red Paw responds to all 5 counties in Southeastern PA, so having partners we can rely on all over the region is key to our success! We have no better partners anywhere than we do in Chester County, with the Chester County Animal Response Team (CCART). With Hurricane Season in full swing we though it’d be a good idea to explain how the CART’s and Red Paw work together to further the common goal which is to include animals in every facet of disaster planning and emergency response.

In 1999, Hurricane Floyd claimed the lives of millions of animals in North Carolina and thousands more were separated from their owners. Many of these animals could have been saved by a coordinated response plan. From this tragedy, the State Animal Response Team (SART) concept was born. In 2004, Pennsylvania adopted this concept to address its animal-related disaster response needs.

The Pennsylvania State Animal Response Team (PASART) was created through a private-public partnership to serve as a unifying network of organizations, businesses, federal, state, county and local government agencies, and individuals that supports the prevention, preparedness, response and recovery for emergencies affecting animals. Because disaster response needs to happen at a local level, PASART builds County Animal Response Teams (CARTs) across the state. County coordinators are selected to lead the development of county teams consisting of volunteers who will respond to emergencies at the local level. In essence, the CARTs were set up to do large scale disaster response and sheltering for animals and they work closely with the American Red Cross to set up co-located pet shelters during these disasters.


A lot of the CART volunteers are also Red Paw volunteers and we all cross train together. This helps the team members who are able to assist disaster survivors by taking care of individual or small family groups of animals. As the scale of the disaster increases, the lead agency role shifts to CCART who strives to make disaster shelters operated by the Red Cross “pet friendly”.

When Hurricane Sandy struck, two pet friendly shelters were set-up in Chester County. Preparedness is always the key, and as a team, we wereready. Having just gone through a comprehensive shelter training class, the team immediately put the insight and skills to work. During the days of the storm, and as members of the community came to the shelter for comfort and safety, they were greeted by a caring team, who are fellow members of the community, who organized a safe haven where families could feel comfortable and assured that they AND their pets, the entire family, would be safe.

At the conclusion of any sheltering effort, there may be unmet needs. While it was not needed in Chester County following Sandy, some survivors in Philly, Bucks and Montgomery Counties needed additional help with their pets because they couldn’t immediately return to their residences. The lead shifts back to Red Paw who was ready to come to the forefront to provide longer term foster care, transport, vet care and supplies for the families in need.

Come visit us at any fair or festival (where often times we are sharing a table) and you will receive information about the importance of preparedness for yourself and your pet. You will also hear about the system of fosters that Red Paw has in place and how Red Paw works with so many partner agencies. By sharing members, equipment, and resource lists, both organizations have worked hard to improve the capability to respond. By working together, Chester County, along with all of Southeastern PA, is a model for a more resilient community for pets and the people who love them!

For more info on CART go to

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Fostering Redz, the first client of 2013

The following post is by Mary Kury, who has fostered several Red Paw animals and adopted DeeDee.

The hidden benefits of fostering animals…you just neverredz know who you will meet, and really who benefits in the end.

My previous Red Paw foster, Dee Dee, ended up a permanent resident in my home, and I knew that after that, there was NO WAY she or my five cats were going to welcome another foster dog! I wasn’t sure about fostering a cat since cat #4 is an FIV+ former stray and I did not want to jeopardize the health of a feline victim of fire. Then on January 11, 2013, Red Paw’s Facebook posts of displaced felines started to grow exponentially. Jen and Lori had their hands full – maxed out on cats in residence, and the newest arrival was expecting an ‘arrival’ of her own! Once again, in a 30 second decision, I left a voice mail, saying I’d take Redz, a little orange boy who was struggling with respiratory issues or Tabitha, who was v-e-r-y pregnant!

I got the call back, could I come the next day for Redz? It was January 12th, always a tough day for me: it’s the anniversary of one of my most beloved pets ever, an orange tabby named Animal who my ex-fiancé found along a roadside. He and his twin brother Hawk were only about 3-4 weeks old and vets said not to expect them to make it. Hawk died under anesthesia while being neutered, while Animal lived to be 16 1/2 years old. His death broke my heart…we’d been together through so much, seven moves in 4 states, battling a thyroid tumor, and heart issues and cancer in the end. I vowed I would never own another orange tabby. But, enough about him – I had a new orange boy coming home with me that day and there was no way I would let Jen, Red Paw and Redz’ owners down. This little boy would be spoiled andred rounded 3 he would live! A pleasant surprise awaited me that day I went to South Philly to get Redz – Melee “Second Chance Chains” Jameson was picking up a Red Paw foster as well! I was so excited to meet her. In the Fall I’d purchased a pair of her “Mary” earrings and they are stunning! She makes amazing creations from dog chains benefiting several wonderful charitable causes! Bless her, she even named a necklace after my dog DeeDee – I hope the owner of that necklace knows what a fantastic, brave dog her lovely jewelry represents!

Back to Redz. Quiet as a mouse the whole ride home, affectionate, eating like a champ and playful as can be – the perfect foster kitten – for 36 hours. On Monday, I was getting ready for work and decided to pop in his room (I keep my fosters separate from other cats in the house to protect all involved) to kiss him goodbye for the day, when I noticed he was sneezing blood – not good. I am a certified Veterinary Technician and cat owner for over 20 years, and I’d never seen this before. I freaked out, maybe a little extra because I knew I had to be calm when I told Jen! Off to work we went (with a major hind end blow out on the way in…eeewww!) and one of the great vets at my practice saw him. Calm as could be, the vet told me it’s the same as humans getting bloody noses from dry air, no worries. Well, as the exam progressed, they found he was running a fever in addition to the GI issues and ended up with fluids, fever reducers, new antibiotics and additional dewormer! Over the next redz reunion18 days we shared so many cuddles, if I’d owned a baby Bjorn, he would’ve been carried around the house even MORE than I already did. He’d sit on my lap for hours without even trying to get up – so much of a love bug. DeeDee adored him and I think in his own way Redz loved her too…as long as he got 90% of the attention!

January 30th was a sad, sad day. I picked up Jen and we took him to PAWS to be neutered and vaccinated. It was so emotional – I could not stop crying all day, this little orange boy had gotten me through a sad time and as hard as I tried to be happy for his upcoming reunion with his people who loved him too, it was of little consolation. My co-workers tried to comfort me saying things like “maybe fostering isn’t for you,” and I agreed! That is…until I read about a cat named Patches…

To be continued…

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The following post is by Jen Leary, Founder of Red Paw Emergency Relief Team


After two years of responding, and over more than 300 calls involving hundreds and hundreds of animals-most passing through my home-you start to lose track of who’s who. You begin to ask yourself where the third Midnight came from? Is the second Max a dog or cat? Did we give his displaced family resources? What did they need assistance with and what type of assistance? Which Max was reunited with his/her family? Until they all start to blur.

But not with Baldwin’s response. I remember it like it was yesterday. It was September 9, 2011. We had only been in existence for two months. The phone rang at 5:00 in the morning, for a fire in Southwest Philly where a cat had been displaced. I threw on my Fire Department uniform just in case the response took a while so that I would already be dressed for work. I grabbed a jacket to throw over my uniform and off I went. I could drive you to his old house right now I remember it so clearly.

I pulled up and the family was sitting outside on their porch. As I walked closer to the porch, I noticed a little girl was sitting on the steps with a dirty little cat. He was just sitting there, not in a carrier, just sorta hanging out. I picked him up and put him right into my carrier- without any trouble. I assured the little girl that he would be well taken care of and kept safe. I asked the client if he had been inside during the fire – the damage from the fire didn’t look all that bad but they couldn’t stay there because of the smoke and water damage – she stated he hadn’t been inside the house and that they all got out together. The little girl said goodbye to Baldwin, and then off we went.


When I got him home, in the light, it was obvious this cat was a little special. He had thick mattes on his dirty, discolored white fur, he wobbled when he walked, and he was drooling. Still, he was very cute! He had eyes like a person, piercing green eyes and he tilted his little dirty head when he looked up at me. I left him with Lori, our COO, and I went to work, checking in on him all day. Lori stated she had given him a bath but that she thought something might be wrong with him.

I called the client and left a voicemail later that morning stating he needed to see a vet due to sneezing and a weird fur/skin thing. We ended up taking him to the PSPCA that night. They assessed him and I was surprised that everyone knew him there and called him “booger-face,” and they said that he had been there dozens of times and that he had a ton of health issues in the past, including MRSA (a skin infection), feline herpes, and a heart murmur. They also stated that he had been adopted and returned three times!

In addition Baldwin needed surgery on his mouth, had ear issues, needed to be on three different daily medications (two twice a day for his teeth and ears), and needed the mats on his fur shaved. I called the client again and left another voicemail stating his medical needs and asked what she had been doing and how she wanted to proceed, but did not hear back. Since Baldwin was obviously very sick and uncomfortable in his own skin, we told the vet to give him whatever he needed, as long as it would make him feel better. If he was going to be with us, we couldn’t let him suffer. I felt better knowing what was wrong with him but was very upset that he had been suffering for so long.

As the day and nights went on it was clear that Baldwin was a little more than special and that something was very much wrong with him. Because of his condition, he would wake up in the middle of the night and cry out like a newborn infant. Some nights, if he went upstairs or was in a different room he would cry and it seemed as if he was lost and yelling out to us, so we’d have to get out of bed and go get him. We thought maybe he was blind or couldn’t see at night. Although, as soon as we went to him and picked him up, he was fine and would purr and lay in my arms until he fell soundly asleep.


It was very sad watching him go through this, constantly crying, pawing at his face and mouth, like a squirrel shoveling nuts into his paunches, the obvious difference is that he would then yell out in pain while he shook his head back and forth, eventually just not eating. I had not known him very long but I was very quickly falling in love with him. He would crawl up on me at night and sleep with his head on my chest leaving little drool spots on my shirt, he’d follow me around like a dog, he also would bite and scratch me when I tried to clean him or give him his meds, but I was convinced they were love bites!

Finally, four days later his owner called back, stating she had just gotten him a month ago from the SPCA and was unaware of his medical issues and that she would follow up with me about getting him the care he needed. As you can imagine, the news must have been overwhelming. Consequently, we never heard back from her. Finally, three months later, our lawyer tracked her down and she signed him over to us immediately so that we could provide the proper medical care!

Since then, Baldwin has been in our home and we have been to the vet dozens and dozens of times due to his medical issues, on average, once a month for a year and a half. This strange little dirty, scared of the dark, beautiful broken whiskered cat, that we lovingly refer to as Baldie, is on medicine twice a day for the rest of his life, he’s had three surgeries on his mouth, and has almost died once! Today he is still with us and doing great. He was too sick and his constant medical care was too much to adopt him out, plus, he is so goofy and fun we loved having him around. He is still as special as ever, still drools on me, all the time, still bites when we try to clean him, but he only has two teeth now, so it’s not so scary! We’ve been able to manage his pain and his quality of life. He now gives back by going to schools, community groups and workplaces, etc to do speaking engagements on Red Paw and pet preparedness!

We did hear from Baldwin’s previous owner a year later. She called to check on him because her kids were asking about him, wanting to make sure that he was doing ok. She stated that at that time they had just gotten him and that after the fire they didn’t have the money or means to take care of him and she wanted to thank us for what we did for him.

baldwin_capeI started Red Paw to keep families together, to lessen the burden on the shelter system and to ensure animals were cared for after a disaster in their home, regardless of the family’s financial situation. We work very long and hard and do as much as we can to reunite families. Unfortunately, this is not always possible. Yes we are an emergency response organization, but, we are also an animal welfare organization. Sometimes the welfare (and health) of the animals we rescue overshadow everything else. For me, and for Baldwin, that day on September 9th changed both of our lives forever!

I am convinced that I started Red Paw to save Baldwin’s life. I have five cats and two dogs of my own and I love them with all of my heart – but Baldwin…I love that little cat more than life itself, like I birthed him myself! When I’m stressed out and exhausted, wondering why I ever started a non-profit organization, I look at him, sleeping, so happy and content and I know everything else is worth it!

Sadly, after almost three years together, Baldwin passed away on May 24th, 2014. He died at home (RPHQ), in his favorite bed, surrounded by people who loved him very much. Words can not express how much we miss him and the huge void that little cat left behind, in our hearts, in our house and in the organization. Baldwin knew that he had been given a second chance and truly appreciated it. He gave back to his community and touched the lives of so many by doing fire safety presentations and outreach events. He was such a good boy. He will never be forgotten and he will live on forever through Red Paw and he will always be our Ambassador and the love of my life! Watch his tribute video:

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It’s a team effort

The following post is by Dan Crain, a Red Paw Emergency Responder for Philadelphia


It’s never hard to find where you’re going when you’re responding for Red Paw. Rolling up on West Oak Lane I came upon the strobes of the Philadelphia Police and Fire Departments and pulled up on the corner. The second I stepped out of Red Paw 1, our response vehicle that’s fully equipped with everything from leashes and food to oxygen, someone came up and asked me if I was the guy from “Red Paws.” They led me to the owner of Max, a German Shepherd/Pit Bull mix who was sitting down with an old friend of mine from the Red Cross going over some of their paperwork.

An aside: One of the great things about responding here in the city is the community that comes together at each tragedy. Time after time you see the same supportive faces, from the Fire Marshall to the Red Cross to the Salvation Army. Relationships are made and favors are exchanged in order to best help the clients at that scene. I’m very happy to be part of the Red Paw team that has become one of those faces.

Once Max’s owner finished with the Red Cross, she turned to me and I explained to her the assistance that Red Paw could offer. She was so grateful that Max would be somewhere safe and sound while she was able to figure out where she would go in life after this fire. She told me all of Max’s likes and dislikes, including that the poor guy hated the dark, but was back inside their house as we spoke. I went in with the owners, applied a leash to the big boy and slowly walked him down the darkened stairs. max reunionOnce outside, Max was more than happy to assist the Firefighters that saved him by checking out their fire hydrants for them.

After saying our goodbyes and his owner promising to call and check in on him, Max and I sped off to Operation Ava, a safe, warm (and well lit!) place for him to call home for a couple of nights. As a responder, my job ended there, handing off his case to the Red Paw team, who made sure that he got a visit to the vet and some kennel housing until his owners were able to take him back. While I wasn’t there when Max and owner were united once more, our Red Paw crew took some pictures of their owners and the balloons and bones they had ready to greet Max on his return. Those photos of light and happiness make going out and being there during the darkest and most tragic times all worth it.

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