Cats are famous for their aversion to water, but 176 found themselves on the mercifully high ground of the Longmont Humane Society in the care of two tireless caregivers.
Jo Ann Maxner and Sue Carrick spent two weeks during and after September's floods caring for the glut of feline tenants -- some rescues and some temporarily housed because their people were flooded out of their homes. That meant a lot of feeding, cleaning litter boxes, cleaning kennels and giving as much love as they had to the furry refugees.
"I know how I would want my cat to be looked after," said Maxner, a 3-year volunteer at the humane society. "I knew how awful it would be to leave my cat behind."
Maxner and Carrick heeded the call Sept. 13 when humane society officials sent out the SOS for help caring for an overwhelming number of animals who were being sheltered at the building.
"They were stressed," Maxner said of the cats. "They were really, really stressed."
Carrick headed to the building every day after taking two weeks off from work at IBM to lend a hand. Maxner worked 14 afternoons and six mornings. They have both volunteered for several years, but the pair had never met before the floods. They forged a friendship to the tune of frantic meows and offered purrs.
"They came in and did laundry, spent time socializing the cats and made certain they were getting love and care during a scary time," humane society executive director Liz Smokowski said of their efforts. "Their help allowed things to stay on schedule and give plenty of affection to those in need."
Neither Carrick nor Maxner thought their efforts were heroic and said the entire staff and volunteer crew earned the title.
"We have such a wonderful group of staff and volunteers," Carrick said.
Both women own cats and put themselves in the shoes of worried pet owners and wanted to step up to make sure beloved cats and terrified strays alike were cared for during the emergency. They watched as displaced families would visit daily with their pets. One Lyons woman would visit her three cats.
"They were ecstatic to see her," Maxner said. "They didn't understand why they weren't going home."
A stray brought in covered in mud and near death was cleaned up and recovered, ultimately going home with a staff member.
"I saw another family who came in and found their two cats and all four (of the family members) were sobbing," Maxner said.
Those reunions and rescues fueled their work, they said. And they were happy to get it done.
"This community has been great and the community is also really blessed with this world-class facility," Maxner said.
Pierrette J. Shields can be reached at 303-684-5273 or at email@example.com.