Graphic: Johnson County Humane Society’s logo.

Johnson County Humane Society

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Humane Awards (Paws to Celebrate)

|   2007 Awardees   |   2006 Awardees   |   2005 Awardees   |   2004 Awardees   |


Pawsing to Celebrate

Every year in June we gather at The Cottage Bakery & Café to celebrate the human/animal bond and to honor those who have demonstrated uncommon respect, generosity, compassion, and valor, as well as boundless, unconditional love.

Peggy Sue (the spokescat for this event) reminds us that “It only takes a little to do a whole lot of good!”

It’s a wonderful opportunity to showcase the human/animal bond, and raise awareness of the joy animals bring to our everyday lives. No doubt you’ll notice some repeating themes and shared attributes in the stories of those we’ve honored.

If you know someone (human or animal) who has demonstrated outstanding commitment to furthering the human/animal bond, don’t hesitate to bring them to our attention. Help us Paws to Celebrate every year.

2007 Awardees

Nancy CristOxford Junction, IAAnimal Welfare Foundation of Iowa

Animal Advocacy in Action Award

Stacy DykemaIowa City Animal Care & Adoption Center It’s More than Just a Job Award
Jeremy MillerCoralville U-Haul
Leave No Animal Hungry Award
Julie Phye & Laurie SmithLeash on Life Entrepreneurship Benefiting Animals Award
Rinthea SatterleeWilliamsburg, IASafe Haven
Animal Advocacy in Action Award
Rozella Sorrenson-GrabinOxford, IA
First-Class Feral Cat Wrangler’s Award
Linda TomblinIowa City
The Cat’s Pajamas Foster CareGiver Award
Cameron VanniIowa City
Lifetime of Caring Award

Animal Advocacy in Action Award

Nancy CristOxford Junction, Iowa

Animal Welfare Foundation of Iowa (Jones County)

Abandoned animals have little chance of being adopted in many of Iowa’s counties because there are no animal shelters to take them. In areas like these, strays, at least the dogs, are often held for seven days. If not claimed, (and most aren’t because they’ve been intentionally abandoned) they are simply euthanized.

Nancy wishes that every companion animal could live a peaceful life, cared for by an adoring family. In reality though, she knows first-hand that human cruelty, ignorance, and irresponsibility have created a world of pain and suffering for animals. That’s why Nancy started the Animal Welfare Foundation (AWF).

AWF routinely gives unwanted dogs and cats like these a chance to be adopted into secure, caring homes. Their efforts have saved the lives of homeless animals in Jones County, Linn, Johnson, Cedar, Benton, Keokuk, Muscatine, and Poweshiek.

The Foundation’s Good Citizen Prison Dog Program was launched in June, 2004. It gives Eastern-Iowa stray dogs who are unclaimed and at risk of being euthanized a second chance. By teaching the dogs to be canine good citizens, each dog’s chances of being adopted increase. And coincidentally, their transition to their forever home is smoother. At the same time, inmates benefit from the experience by learning patience, dedication to a worthy goal, and personal responsibility for another living being.

“Visiting dogs their new homes and seeing how happy and content they are is the most rewarding part of what I do for animals. Knowing that because I am willing to be inconvenienced, and give up certain things in my life and prioritize others, many dogs are alive that would have not otherwise made it.

When I help a dog, it’s like being in church. There is a peace I get from animals that I find nowhere else. Learning what a powerful effect you can have on other people when you devote yourself to improving your corner of the world has made a big impression on me.”


It’s More than Just a Job Award

Stacy Dykema

Iowa City Animal Care & Adoption Center

Like most of us here today, Stacy was interested in animals from an early age. Unlike most of us though, she went to school with the intention of following that interest. Stacy graduated in 1992 from Parkland College in Champaign, Illinois with a degree in Veterinary Technology. While there, she did a rotation through various facilities that helped her decide she wanted to work in an animal shelter.

Stacy worked with large and small animals at a veterinary clinic in Kewanee, Illinois. While at a clinic in New Mexico, she focused mainly on boarding and grooming.

In 1999, Stacy began working for the Iowa City Animal Care & Adoption Center as an Animal Care Technician, and has been employed there ever since. Her duties include feeding and exercising the animals, temperament evaluations, and assisting with surgeries and medical procedures.

In addition to being a licensed veterinary technician, Stacy is certified in dog behavior evaluation through Sue Sternberg. She is also certified to perform euthanasia by injection through the American Humane Association. Stacy is an Emergency Animal Rescue Service (EARS) volunteer with United Animal Nations and has completed Swift Water and Low Angle Rescue Training. In the wake of Katrina, she went to New Orleans and helped rescue displaced animals with Best Friends.

Stacy believes that the very best part of her job is interacting with the animals and finding them forever homes. “Children need to realize that animals are part of the family and are to be treated with love, kindness, and respect like other family members.” Her most interesting and challenging work has been educating the public about the importance of spay/neuter.

One of the biggest gains for animals Stacy has noticed is the improvement in sheltering facilities where the standard for animal care has risen to include volunteer programs, training classes, and more careful evaluation for successful adoption matches.

Stacy had one dog while growing up. And now, she shares her home with three very hairy dogs: Riviera, Jenga, and Fly, and four cats: Soffat, Elfie, Bullhorn, and Tangier. “Animals give my life purpose. Through them I feel that I am able to make a small difference in the big picture. They fill a place in my heart with their wagging tails, purring sounds, and unconditional love.”


Leave No Animal Hungry Award

Jeremy Miller

Coralville U-Haul

Jeremy has always had dogs and other animals in his life, “there’s just something about animals that can always cheer you up.” Currently, Jeremy and his wife Jamie, share their home with a Eurasian Chow named Sandy, a Yorkshire Terrier named Sabina, and two chinchillas, Cheech and Keebler. 

Jeremy is definitely a “good-cause” kind of a guy. If he had one wish that could be fulfilled for animals it would be to make sure each one had a home with plenty of love, where they’d be fed properly and have their health needs met.

When initially approached about helping the Johnson County Humane Society with our Petfood Project, there was no hesitation on Jeremy’s part. He recognized our project as a good cause, and equally important, he knew that we couldn’t spend a lot of money. As general manager at U-Haul, Jeremy immediately worked out a way we could schedule affordable transportation through U-Haul for our frequent food donation pickups at Nestlé Purina PetCare Company in the Quad Cities.

Knowing that U-Haul was truly helping animals has kept Jeremy involved with our project. “I hope other companies will help too. JCHS is a good cause.”


Entrepreneurship Benefiting Animals Award

Julie Phye & Laurie Smith

Leash on Life

Julie—My mom worked at the ISU Veterinary Teaching Hospital most of my life. I remember as a little kid, meeting Sarah and Wilbur, two little piglets who were orphaned runts. I fed and played with Sara and Wilbur a lot one summer. That was when I first realized that sometimes little guys don’t always get a fair chance and need help from people.

I think up to that point my parents had taught me that animals take care of their young. Cows, birds, cats, dogs—the mother animal knows what to do and she does it. Sara and Wilbur helped me realize that people sometimes need to intervene or else the animal might die. The older I got and the more I was around the vet hospital, I learned that people could be the best or the worst thing to happen to an animal.

Animals are important to me because they keep us in touch with the world, they live in the moment, and they give unconditional love. Animals are great listeners, too and don’t give a hoot about politics!

My three wishes that could be fulfilled for animals are:

 No more puppy or kitten mills.

 I would welcome stronger punishments AND that they were actually applied to people who abuse and neglect animals.

 I wish there were a way we could better communicate with our animals. We’d learn so much more from them and be able to reassure them when they are frightened and we could understand more fully what’s going on when they are sick.

If I could teach “the general public” three things about animals, they’d be:

 Behavior training doesn’t have to be harsh.

 When it comes to nutrition, you get what you pay for.

 Engaging, durable toys for cats and dogs are not frivolous expenditures. They are essential for physical and mental development.

My dog Rosie is so incredibly happy the moment she wakes up. I wish I could learn from her to greet each and every day with such enthusiasm and energy. What keeps me going is there’s plenty more good work to be done on behalf of animals and I’ve met so many great people in the process.

Laurie—Animals were always in the house as I was growing up. A dog, cat, pony, and even a stray chicken who showed up at our house got to stay. We always considered them part of the family. Animals remind us what is important, they live in the moment, and are also very forgiving. They always seem to give back more than we ever give them.

I wish that people would understand that keeping animals requires a lifetime commitment. It doesn’t matter where they came from or what breed they are...the relationship needs to be a lifelong one with plenty of time, patience, and love.

Both Julie & Laurie—Leash on Life celebrated its first birthday on May 19. Business-wise, it’s a juggling act just staying on top of products and food so we have the best we can offer for our two- and four-legged customers. We also buy from independent businesses as often as possible and try to keep price in mind.

Although we’ve only been in business a year we have already learned of several cats and dogs who are no longer with us. We miss these animals and our hearts go out to their caregivers. Those relationships were so important. The loss is so great.

The most rewarding part of what we do for animals is seeing the joy that pets bring into peoples lives (as well as the joy people can bring to their pets). We stay involved with supporting animal organizations to help animals who need homes to find the perfect place. One where they find just the right fit with human companions.

Neither of us could live in a house without animals—it just wouldn’t be a home.


Animal Advocacy in Action Award

Rinthea SatterleeWilliamsburg, IA

Safe Haven (Iowa County)

A recent rescue experience is burned into my memory. Just four months after Safe Haven opened, the County Sheriff contacted us to do a seizure from the property of an animal hoarder. The year before, 48 dogs had been removed.

Nothing prepared me for what I was about to see, smell, and feel. Eight dogs in a tiny enclosure, barely surviving, their feces and urine caked in their fur. No light or access to fresh air. No socialization.

The first seven were easy to move, but the last (a Corgi who had evaded capture the year before), was terrified of people and desperate to stay away from them. We were determined not to leave him behind, even after he bit two of our volunteers. Back at Safe Haven, he chewed through wire kennels to get away from people. He couldn’t to eat or drink in front of anyone. It was six months before he would potty on lead.

Tucker the Corgi joined my family of six felines on Christmas Day, my own gift from Heaven. He taught me so much about trust and the ability to change, but most of all he taught me to never give up!

Since starting Safe Haven 17 months ago, we’ve rescued 167 stay cats and dogs. Now the County Sheriff knows Safe Haven is an alternate to killing strays. The most rewarding part about animal rescue for me is looking in their eyes after they’ve been on the streets for so long and seeing them switch from ‘survival mode’ to ‘saved mode.’ It’s that deep sigh of relief that comes over them when they know they are safe.

Although it’s frustrating dealing with the stubborn, uneducated people who don’t have their animal’s best interests in mind, I think I have noticed an overall positive change in peoples’ mind set regarding the care they give to their animals. Humane education is an essential part of animal rescue work. Children need to know about responsible pet caregiving, how to handle animals safely and avoid getting bitten, and how to advocate for all the animals of the world. I view educating and building relationships with people as one of the most important parts of what I do.

I volunteer because I feel a moral obligation to give back to our rescues what my own animals have given to me. Long days are little to bear knowing a rescued animal’s suffering is over.


First-Class Feral Cat Wrangler’s Award

Rozella Sorrenson-GrabinOxford, IA

Growing up on a farm we always had lots of animals around. My parents taught my sister and me that showing respect to others was important.

I remember going to visit my grandparents before the days of cat carriers. We put a litter box in the backseat and my sister and I took turns holding our kitty on our laps. Then the kitty used the box. Maintaining respect was not easy. Especially with the windows rolled up. At first we snorted, and then we dissolved in laughter because the smell just about killed us.

Once we left the farm we’ve always had a cat or cats and a dog as house pets. I guess it’s my parents’ doing that I’m crazy about cats and dogs, but I certainly don’t consider that a disadvantage. After a stressful day at work I come home and the animals all seem happy to see me. I know it might have something to do with the fact I am the food bowl, but they still are glad I came home!

Working with feral cats often means I never get to touch them after they are released into the colony. So when I do calm a feral down enough so she doesn’t run from me, or when that big male flops over and lets me pet him...that’s a good feeling. We rarely know the story behind the cats who come to live with me, but I know each of them has seen some hard times. That’s why I want to make their lives as safe, comfortable, and carefree as I can.

The biggest gains I’ve seen for animals over the years are that more individuals and groups are taking notice of the over-population problem. Groups like JCHS have made some good dents in getting more and more animals spayed and neutered.

The addition of the cats rescued from the St. Patrick’s demolition and others who joined my colony right before the cold weather set in made for a busy winter…more feeding stations, checking more beds for straw, more water to be hauled. But I’ll never stop doing this. With all the help and information I get from my “JCHS family,” winters for my colony of cats get better and better.

I wish these cats could all have an inside forever home and never meet any of the cruel people of the world. But that’s not going to happen. So I’ll continue to stay in the background and work with one feral at a time and do what I can to help the poor creature trust me. I give these animals the best I can offer. It’s just “what I do…”


The Cat’s Pajamas Foster CareGiver Award

Linda TomblinIowa City

I came to love animals though the example set by my father who worked in downtown Los Angeles, and often brought stray animals home with him. He couldn’t tolerate suffering, but often we had neither room nor money for more than one animal at a time. Getting strays off the streets and either giving them a home (or at the least, taking them to the animal shelter) was important to him.

So it’s no surprise that I wanted to pass on those same values of respect and sharing. It’s very rewarding to see my own children (now adults) saving animals and making them part of their families. I wish that every animal could have a safe and loving permanent home and be valued as a family member. The most rewarding part of what I do on behalf of animals is simply making a difference, one animal at a time. Animals are important to me in perhaps a selfish way—because as we nurture them, we are nurtured in return. What you give, you get back.

It’s also been rewarding to meet and work with like-minded people. On our way to Florida, a friend and I were driving south, curving through the foothills in Tennessee. Out of the corner of my eye I saw what seemed to be a large gold-colored dog lying near the side of the road. There were no buildings in sight and the next highway exit was about 25 miles. Of course we circled back, both of us scanning the roadside carefully. Then my friend burst into laughter! What was thought to be a golden retriever who might have needed some help turned out to be a gold-colored recliner abandoned by the side of the road. We slowed down, but did not stop to rescue the golden recliner.

The hardest part of doing what I do is letting go. At our house, we often say ‘once you look into their eyes, you just can’t refuse to take that animal in.’ In that instant, the ‘I am responsible for you’ feeling kicks in. Sadly, not all of these animals make it. Sometimes a humane death is the best gift we can offer. Knowing that when I rescue an animal I am one of the few who would go out of their way to do so, is also a grim reality. Most people claim they love animals, but love without taking responsibility just isn’t enough.

(Why cat’s pajamas, you ask? The phrase conveys “the height of excellence.” Used by hipsters of the 1920s, it describes people who are the best at what they do. What better award for someone who has fostered upwards of 205 animals for the Johnson County Humane Society since we started keeping track in the late 1980s.)


Lifetime of Caring Award

Cameron VanniIowa City

Although ours was a Lysol® kind of house, we did convince my mother to let us take in a stray cat who looked like a raccoon with it’s black mask and mottled fur. We named him Rascal because we were reading Rascal by Sterling North in my fifth-grade class. This was the beginning of my love affair with animals.

Animals are wonderful teachers. They have a great deal in common with children. Both share an intense curiosity about their world. If we adults would take time enough to observe animals in the wild, we might learn how to interact with the environment more sparely and respectfully. When I tutor, I find it fitting to use an animal’s curiosity to remind children to ask questions and explore their environment.

The biggest gains for animals I’ve noticed over the years is the burgeoning of technology. Human beings need constant reminders about the plight of our planet and its occupants. Technology is connecting even the homebound with the wild, wild world. Hopefully, we are learning from all the images that technology captures.

I make time in my life for animals because I greatly benefit from all the gifts such companionship affords. The steadfast commitment that companion animals offer to their humans is such a comfort. In my experience, the hardest part of living with animals involves losing cherished friends, since they generally predecease us. This loss is a challenge for me.

I really can’t say that I do anything special for animals. My neighborhood walks and contribution to feeding feral cats are but tiny contributions. I truly benefit from the animals in my world. I’m the taker, not the giver. I wish that all animals would be treated with respect whether theirs is a wild or tamed life. I also wish for empty shelter cages across the world.


2006 Awardees

Wayne Ahearn, DVMGuttenbergAnimal Kingdom Veterinary Care Center

Happy to Be on the Same Page Award

Bruce FreemanCoralvilleCoralville Police Department

The Scarlett Award for Above and Beyond

Stinky Kurk & Randy KurkIowa CityThe Guitar Foundation

Shop Cat Extraordinaire Award

Teresa MangumIowa CityThe University of Iowa Department of English

Capturing Animals in Higher Education Award

Alisa MeggittIowa CityLucas Elementary School ANIMAL Club

Preparing the Next Generation of Kind Kids Award

Pam Micheal-Milder & Ben MilderIowa CityCollege of Nursing Feral Cat Colony

First-Class Feral Cat Wranglers Award

Sue PearsonIowa CitySPOT & Co

Entrepreneurship Benefiting Animals Award

Lisa Drahozal PooleyIowa CityPaws to Train (Iowa City Animal Care & Adoption Center)

Dances with Dogs Award

Kayla SandersIowa CityAmerican College Testing (ACT)

Faithful Service from Behind the Scenes Award

Judy WarthIowa CitySPOT & Co

Entrepreneurship Benefiting Animals Award

Chris WhitmoreCedar RapidsIowa City Animal Care & Adoption Center

It’s Way More than Just a Job Award


“Happy to Be on the Same Page” Award

Wayne Ahern, DVMGuttenberg, Iowa

Animal Kingdom Veterinary Care Center

“I can’t say that I’ve had any special epiphanies about animal care or veterinary medicine. I just grew up as a farm kid with respect for animals and the realization that everything wants to live.”

Dr. Ahern purchased the existing Puffer Animal Care Center in North Liberty two years ago and renamed it the Animal Kingdom Veterinary Care Center. This general small animal practice strives to provide a comfortably thorough experience for animals and the people who live with them.

Wayne is quick to add that Jennifer Smith, (who has been with Animal Kingdom from its first weeks) brings a wide range of experience and skills from other veterinary clinics. Found mainly at the front desk, Jennifer has become the face and voice of the clinic as it welcomes their current clients and newcomers.

Animal Kingdom’s basic philosophy in regard to rescue work is to help as many animals out of miserable situations as best they can. This seemingly simple statement speaks volumes. Before you think to yourself “Well, duh,” you need to understand that some veterinarians view animals who don’t have addresses as second-class citizens. They treat them that way, too. That’s why “being on the same page” is an important enough concept to become the basis for an award.

The clinic’s readiness to regularly accept emergencies and deal with unanticipated needs on very short notice is uncommon. In addition, Wayne is kind enough to provide substantial discounts on his services. And his willingness to work with feral cats (when many others decline) is rare.

Wayne attributes his motivation to become a veterinarian to an incident that happened in first grade. One afternoon, he watched the vet perform a postmortem on a pig at their farm. He went to school the next day and at lunch, reported to everyone that he had seen something inside this pig that looked like blackberry jelly. The teacher called him down for this, chastising him and insisting that his comment was in very poor taste. Wayne was dumfounded, as he thought it had just been a simple, yet interesting observation.

Years later, after he had graduated from vet school, Wayne ran into his old teacher and told her that she had inadvertently steered him toward a career in veterinary medicine. We’re delighted that she did!


Scarlett Award for Above and Beyond

Sgt. Bruce FreemanCoralville

Coralville Police Department

Sgt. Freeman is a Philadelphia native who has been a Coralville police officer for 25 years. He describes his duties as Day Sergeant on the 7 am to 7:30 pm shift as including “everything” a police office might be called upon to do. It’s important to know that Bruce is a life-long dog lover who grew up with a Dachshund. He’s also an avid ice hockey player and fan who holds season tickets to the Cedar Rapids Rough Riders.

On the morning of February 22, 2006, Sgt. Freeman received a dispatch from the Coralville Fire Department reporting a dog trapped on an ice floe in the Iowa River near the Quarry. Bruce was met at the scene by a Coralville firefighter.

A brown dog was in the water, barking, about 20 yards from shore. She had her front paws on an ice floe. Two men on the shore nearby had been throwing a rope toward the dog, hoping to rescue her. The firefighter said they were awaiting the arrival of a red suit (a buoyant wet suit which would enable a rescuer to enter the frigid water without risking hypothermia).

As the minutes ticked away, Bruce saw that the dog had only one paw on the ice floe and was no longer barking. He figured she was about to go under. Knowing he’d have nightmares for the rest of his life if he didn’t try to rescue her, Bruce quickly removed his coat, belt, gun, and keys. After getting the rope from the men who had been trying to rescue the dog, he looped it around his right arm. Bruce then ventured out, crawling onto the thin ice. Half way to the dog, the ice broke and Bruce sank like a rock into the icy river.

Fortunately, it was not the hockey player’s first time in really cold water. Bruce swam the remaining 8 yards to the dog. Upon reaching her, he was able to heave her up out of the water a number of times until she reached good ice and the rescue was completed by those on the riverbank. When the dog was safe, Bruce was pulled to shore. The five-month-old chocolate Lab (Molly) was taken to a veterinarian where she was injected with warm saline solution, had her coat blown dry, and spent time under a heat lamp to help her warm up.

Molly’s owner had reported her (and dog-friend yellow Lab, Sandy) missing earlier that morning. The dogs apparently breached their underground electric fence and struck out for an adventure. Someone walking on a trail near the Iowa River heard barking, saw a dog in the water, and called the police. No one knows how long Molly was immersed. Sandy was found later that day, not far from where Molly was rescued.

The grateful owner (amazed that her animals had strayed so far from home) acknowledged, “If Bruce hadn’t acted when he did, Molly would have died.”

Bruce lives in Coralville with his wife, Tracy. He has two daughters, one in her second year at the University of Wisconsin and the youngest, a sophomore at West High School. Two Brittany spaniels and a dachshund complete the family.


Shop Cat Extraordinaire Award

Stinky Kurk (Randy Kurk)Iowa City

The Guitar Foundation

Mojo, affectionately known as Stinky, started down the path to her reign as The Guitar Foundation shop cat one Saturday morning in 1997. The long-haired dilute tortoiseshell with a white bib and pink collar was seen hanging around the doorway and peering through the window, willing someone to invite her in. The collar indicated a previous home, but the cat’s actions revealed she apparently had left it to seek a career in music.

One of the employees, (arriving at work late and nursing a hangover) allowed the cat to slip through the door with him. After he stumbled into the back room to “rest his eyes,” the beautiful little cat curled up and fell asleep on his chest. The next day, however, an ailurophobic employee called and had the cat taken to the Iowa City Animal Care and Adoption Center. A couple days later the other employees approached Randy, the store’s owner, with a request for a shop cat. Randy grew up living in the country where there were plenty of cats around. New ones were always appearing, and always taken in. “Shop cat...why not?” Randy adopted Stinky and she officially joined the staff!

If you perhaps miss noticing Stinky in the window as you walk by, you’ll be alerted to her presence by the sign on the front door warning all who enter “Don’t let the cat out, no matter what she says.” Not that Stinky seems too interested in escape—she takes her job as shop cat far more seriously than that!

Stinky has a bed in the store’s front window, from which she presides over the comings and goings on Linn Street, including those of a particularly obnoxious ground squirrel who lived in the planter box and taunted her through the glass. She also has a box lined with a pillow made by the mother of one of Randy’s guitar students, located in the room where he gives lessons.

She has definitely made her mark on the store—literally! The kiosks for displaying guitar strings are missing some paint on the lower corners where Stinky has rubbed, and claw marks illustrate where she has climbed up to get a better view of her kingdom. She has found the kiosks, amplifiers, and speakers to be marvelous climbing platforms, far better than those sold at any pet supply store!

Her high perches allow Stinky to watch for potential shoplifters, and she jumps up on the counter to help calculate sales tax. She enthusiastically entertains the spouses of customers who are hopelessly obsessed with guitars. In return, Randy supplies her with all the truly indestructible cat toys she could ever want made from used steel guitar strings with a bit of cardboard or a shiny piece of Mylar tied to the end.

Stinky has been good for business and adroitly manages Randy, his staff, and their customers. She rules The Guitar Foundation with a velvet paw—but mind the claws!


Capturing Animals in Higher Education Award

Teresa MangumIowa City

The University of Iowa Department of English

Animals have been a part of Teresa’s real and imagined lives since she was a child. Her favorite books and movies featured animal protagonists, ranging from the series of novels about the wild ponies of Chincoteague (near her home in North Carolina) and Jocelyn Arundel’s Simba of the White Mane, to Rin Tin Tin, Flicka, Lassie, and Trigger.

Her younger sister happened to be born the same day Teresa’s cat, Li’l Abner, produced “his” litter of kittens. Characteristically, Teresa distinctly remembers being more focused on the arrival of the kittens. She counts animals among a lifetime of friends who have given her immeasurable happiness.

While Teresa has advocated for animals in small personal ways for many years, she’s grateful for the support of the English Department and others at the University, both when she designed a course about the way animals are represented in art, film, and literature, and when she decided to begin writing about human-animal relationships.

Helping students explore cultural perspectives on animals and how they’ve evolved over time; and learn about the ways animals have inspired art, literature, and social change; and discover what respect, justice, responsibility, and compassion mean between human and animals has been a rewarding task. Watching students think through how they relate to pets—and also to wild animals, global conservation projects, and the ethical questions raised by zoos, animal research, and eating animals—all give Teresa hope.

Hearing her students who walk shelter dogs talk about forming relationships with the homeless men who gather near the animal shelter reminds Teresa of the powerful connections animals create and help humans create. Last fall, when she visited the Great Ape Trust in Des Moines, Teresa literally had conversations with several bonobos. Communicating so actively with an animal, especially another primate, calls all the boundaries we use to separate “human” from “animal” into question.

For Teresa, no one has been more inspiring than Misha Goodman who directs the Iowa City Animal Care and Adoption Center, where staff work hands-on wonders for animals every day. Teresa enjoys her time as a member of the Friends of the Animal Center board.

Teresa is also working with several other UI faculty members to raise awareness about the importance of animals to Iowans. They’re hosting a photo-essay contest called The Animals Among Us and co-curating an exhibit at the UI Museum of Art called Animal Expressions, which opens October 21.

This fall Teresa will co-direct a Thursday-night film series on campus that will be open to the public. Some of the films deal with animal abuse, habitat destruction, the bush meat trade, and other grim topics. She’s found it a challenge to remember that working to solve problems is far too important to be overwhelmed by one’s own emotional reactions to the suffering of animals.

For Teresa, the great rewards of animal advocacy are the generosity of the animals and the fundamental goodness of so many people. Educating others about the needs of non-human animals and trying to convince people that as sentient beings, all animals should be treated well seems a very small effort compared to what animals give back in return.


Preparing the Next Generation of Kind Kids Award

Alisa MeggittIowa City

Lucas Elementary School ANIMAL Club

“Teacher extraordinaire” is only one descriptor for Alisa Meggitt, a sixth grade civics teacher at Lucas Elementary School. Her teaching extends much further than the daily classroom routine. Alisa is the teacher-behind-the-scenes of the sixth graders’ ANIMAL Club. (ANIMAL is the student-derived acronym for Animals Needing Immediate Medical Assistance Locally.) Prior to teaching, Alisa served two years with the Peace Corps in Senegal, Africa. Afterwards, she worked in Washington, D.C., on issues of environmental policy. Alisa has also worked for the Department of Natural Resources.

During her four-year teaching career, Alisa has introduced her students to a wide range of social issues, such as child labor, ageism, world hunger, and factory farming. She believes that children are our future and that they need (and deserve) an outlet to express themselves and do something positive for the world around them. Each year, the sixth graders organize an after-school service club and choose its mission. Because of their love for their own animal companions and animals in general, the mission of the service clubs has frequently focused on animals.

ANIMAL Club students have worked with the Macbride Raptor Center; held a Spay Day for which they contacted local veterinarians about free or low-cost spay/neuter services; held a drive to raise food and supplies for the Iowa City Animal Care & Adoption Center; and raised $2,000 to provide humane relief for the horses of Senegal, (which Alisa had the opportunity to personally deliver when she made a return visit to the village she served in the Peace Corps).

For this year’s service club, the students began with a list of 87 issues they were concerned about, which covered everything from acid rain to campaign finance reform. After whittling the list to eight, the students chose the one issue about which they believed they could make a real difference: factory farming and its impact on the animals, the environment, and human health.

The students produced a PATV video highlighting the differences between a family farm and a factory farm. These sixth graders quickly surmised that if legal limits regarding the amount of antibiotics used in factory farming were reduced, the animals would have to be given more space to survive.

They conducted a letter-writing campaign to their legislators, the department of agriculture, and newspapers and magazines. They made posters for the library kiosks. As a fund-raiser, the students made bracelets out of wool from Friendly Farms (Iowa City) to which were attached fact sheets about factory farming.

The students even designed a web site and spoke out at legislative forums to advocate for factory farm animal rights and antibiotic regulation. They are also developing a questionnaire regarding various animal issues to send to the gubernatorial candidates.

In addition their work, there are other interesting features of ANIMAL Club. Despite a membership of about 30 children (approximately half the sixth-grade class), they have no Club president. Instead, they use a team approach, breaking down into committees where all work as equals. The Club meets every Friday after school to pursue their goal of helping animals, as they learn about the political process, how to impact policies, and how to effectively support their beliefs.

The students often find their own behaviors changing as they research issues. For instance, some of the students no longer eat meat as a result of what they have learned about factory farming. As you might imagine, this level of “informed decision-making” poses its own set of challenges for the teacher-behind- the-scenes.

Alisa also enjoys a rich life outside her teacher/activist role and makes quality time for her family members, Eddie-Puss (cat), Washington (golden retriever), Josh (husband, and also a teacher), and newest addition, James (baby son). Why does Alisa continue to spend time and energy working on behalf of animals? “Because I am one,” she states simply. She feels well guided well by the apt quote of Martin Luther King, Jr. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”


First-Class Feral Cat Wranglers Award

Pam Micheal-Milder & Ben MilderIowa City

The University of Iowa College of Nursing Feral Cat Colony

Ben Milder’s smile is infectious as he sits in his recliner, cats at his shoulder and dogs at his feet. He tosses a hunk of peeled banana to a dog who catches and devours it on the fly.

While Ben was in Vietnam and his unit was camped out in the middle of nowhere, a tomcat entered the tent and sprayed his duffle bag. “Sprayed it real good.” He laughs about it now, but clearly remembers how that pungent smell followed him throughout the war. It did nothing to endear the concept of living with cats. Although Ben grew up with pets, he didn’t know much about house cats until he met Pam and heard her say enthusiastically, “Benny, we can do this,” for the first time.

Feral cats are the canniest cats around. Untouched by human hands and more like wild animals than not, they have no reason to trust anybody. Pam, however, was earnestly taking care of a group of these descendents of student cast offs, right outside her office window. They lived on the steep cliff behind the College of Nursing. Her office overlooks this wooded area that was home to an array of wildlife and wild cats.

The cats gathered twice a day for the food and water Pam provided, and in cold weather, some even spent the night huddling in snug boxes under the eaves. After a while a couple of the cats succumbed to Pam’s charms and allowed themselves to be touched while they ate. A few of the younger cats taught one another how to play with jingle balls and catnip mice. Rain, snow, or shine, Pam (with Ben’s help on the holidays) cared for the growing colony. Pam named many of the regulars, careful to stick with generational descriptors, like Baby, Sister, and Mama, rather than burdening the cats with traditional pet names and expectations.

After Pam captured, socialized, and placed two of the colony’s kittens, she called JCHS before the population burgeoned out of control. Using Stanford University’s feral cat program as a model, we approached UI officials with a trap/neuter/release (TNR) proposal. University veterinarian Paul Cooper helped us get the most appropriate group of administrators together.

Studies have proven that TNR is the single most successful method of stabilizing and maintaining healthy feral cat colonies with the least possible cost, while at the same time, providing the best life for the animals themselves. Unsocialized cats are humanely trapped, spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and released back into their campus territory, where they are fed and monitored daily by a volunteer. Every effort is made to find the owners of stray tame cats. Unclaimed tame strays and any kittens are fostered until adoptive homes are found. No cats are euthanized, except as warranted by a veterinarian to relieve suffering.

The plan went into action in March 2001, with Pam as the colony caretaker (the role she had been playing for years) and Ben as director of feline transportation. It came to a sudden halt 15 months later in mid-July, after the dean of the College of Nursing had been convinced that feeding cats would draw potentially rabid raccoons into the building. She insisted that Pam’s caretaking stop abruptly, despite kitten season and blistering heat.

The dean assumed her “animal problem” would simply disappear when the caretaking stopped. But of course, it didn’t. After about two weeks, the dean gave us five days to round up and remove the remaining cats. We trapped the seven cats in a record two days. In all, the Project placed seventeen kittens and cats in homes. Five of the final seven cats remain in fostercare with little hope of being adopted, but at least they’re safe.

Pam no longer catches glimpses of cats playing in the shade outside her office window. She keeps the blinds shut. It’s just easier that way. Pam and Ben’s memories of the Nursing Building Feral Cat Colony live on in Mama and Baby, who wait patiently for them to come home after work every day.

A few years ago the Milders considered adding an adult shelter dog to their clowder of cats. Somehow they ended up with three sizable canines who think of themselves as lap dogs. Their most recent addition is Lena, a Papillion, who (after many years as a caged puppy producer) is learning how to be a dog.

If you close your eyes and listen carefully, you can hear Pam say, “Benny, we can do this.” You’ll see him grin, shake his head ruefully, and hear him reply, “yeah, let’s go for it.”


Entrepreneurship Benefiting Animals Award

Sue Pearson and Judy WarthIowa City

SPOT & Co

Sue Pearson has been enamored with dogs since the age of eight. On her way to school, the people living at the end of their block had a dog house and a beagle who sat up on the roof. Sue often stopped to crawl up on the roof and sit there with him. Ever since, beagles have been an integral part of her life.

In the early 90s Sue acquired her soulmate beagle Jesse. Together, they took some local classes in dog obedience training. Sue got hooked immediately and decided that dog obedience was what she really wanted to.

She began helping with obedience classes at Kirkwood, but after the floodwaters of 1993 ruined the facility that served as the training arena, Sue began toying with the idea of opening her own dog-training business. She was drawn to the name SPOT with its dog-friendly sound before realizing that it was an acronym that fit Sue Pearson’s Obedience Training. That’s when SPOT & Co was born. Her business offers a variety of puppy kindergarten, dog obedience, and Canine Good Citizen classes.

“Making a difference in a dog’s life (and making a difference for the person who lives with the dog) is so rewarding. I just love watching people and dogs learn!” Her most treasured memories are when people tell her things like they’d never considered living with an “inside” dog before, but now they can’t imagine it any other way.

Sue still dances with beagles. Jesse’s gone, but her son Alex, and a beagle-mix keep her life (and world) in order. “Animals bring out good things in people and have the capacity to help us find the good things in ourselves.” Encouraged by the growing cultural awareness of the human/animal bond, Sue believes more people are realizing that animals have true value—that they are not “throw away” possessions—but rather, necessary connections to quality of life.

Sue feels she has benefited much from being around animals. They improve our lives in so many ways and bring a great deal of joy. And the camaraderie with others who work with animals has drawn many of Sue’s closest friends into her life. “Animals have many things to teach us and I hope that more and more people on the planet will begin to appreciate this. I want to be a part of making that happen.”

Judy Warth joined Spot & Co nearly six years ago. She considers working with animals her salvation. Being able to work with dogs and their families, after a long day, is absolutely delightful. She feels fortunate that they make time for her! “Every puppy who comes into class shows me more about teaching, learning, joy, and unconditional acceptance.”

“Teaching positive training techniques helps everyone. Leading our pets, families, communities, and our country in a compassionate and educational manner just has to make the world a better place.”

When Judy thinks back about her first dog, Perry (after Perry Como—her mother’s idea), she remembers that he loved her unconditionally, whether she was riding him or petting him. Perry was always there for her. It’s one of the few memories she has from that portion of her childhood. She also remembers how much she missed Perry when he was gone.

Judy says her work with animals takes her back to her roots. Several years ago, she rescued some orphaned opossums and a baby robin. As she took responsibility for their well-being, it reminded her of the connectedness that all beings share. Judy had worked with Sue Pearson at UI’s Center for Disabilities and Development for several years before she joined SPOT & Co. For almost four years, Judy repeatedly asked if Sue needed any help with her dog-training business but Sue was never interested.

“Those opossums and the robin won me the job. I guess Sue figured anyone who’d get up in the middle of the night to take care of these creatures must love animals as much as she did.”

The most rewarding part of Judy’s work with SPOT & Co is the joy of the animals themselves and of their owners as they build relationships based upon trust and love. “I especially enjoy having children in our classes. It’s exciting to see their self-esteem and knowledge expand as their dogs learn new things too.”

“Working with Sue is a great honor. She’s is one of the top positive dog-training professionals in the country. Her expertise and compassion are inspirational to me. It’s so humbling to be recognized alongside someone of her experience and calibre. Not only is Sue my mentor—she’s family!”


Dances with Dogs Award

Lisa Drahozal PooleyIowa City

Paws to Train Iowa City Animal Care & Adoption Center

Hearing people say “I just couldn’t volunteer at an animal shelter because it’s way too depressing,” is a real turn-off for Lisa Pooley. To her, the big tragedy would be if no one ever went to interact with the dogs. “We have a great core group of volunteers at the shelter, and it’s a good feeling to know we help make life just a little easier for the dogs—and the dogs know that we really care about them.”

Animals have always been a part of Lisa’s family’s life and she loves sharing her time to help them. It’s the special moments that keep her actively involved:

a dog sits when meeting a potential adopter;

you play hide-and-seek in the field with a seemingly aloof dog who finally comes to find you, wagging her tail;

a dog who arrives at the shelter nervous and wound up learns to enjoy belly rubs and hugs;

a former Center dog recognizes you in class and you realize how significant the time was that you spent with her at the Center;

the pride in peoples’ faces when you recognize the dog they adopted and they share with you what they love about him;

when an especially hard-to-place dog finally finds a forever home and you breathe a sigh of relief.

Lisa has seen her own life change with gradual increases in her awareness and self growth. Her work with dogs helps Lisa look beyond the behavior and watch for what the dog is telling her. It’s about leaving your baggage and personal chaos behind and being in the present. “Animals always know when you aren’t there 100 percent.”

What’s most challenging for Lisa is when dogs who can’t handle the stress of the shelter environment start to deteriorate mentally and physically despite efforts to keep them healthy and happy. “We need to savor the small triumphs but keep hoping big.”

The most rewarding aspect for her is knowing when a dog goes to a forever home and it’s obvious that she will truly be part of the family.


Faithful Service from Behind the Scenes Award

Kayla SandersIowa City

American College Testing (ACT) Pop-can Recycling Project

Kayla’s first animal-oriented memory is about her dog Snuggles, a schnauzer/poodle mix. She felt bad that he always had to eat dog food, so she sat on the floor and ate dog food out of the yellow and red bag from Hy-Vee right along with him. “It’s kind of embarrassing to admit, and not very flattering, but that’s my memory.”

Kayla originally got involved with the ACT/JCHS Pop-can Recycling Project for a couple different reasons. First, she wanted to help animals. And second, Kayla believes in giving back to her community. “To be completely honest,” she says, “I’m not actively involved right now, which sort of makes me feel not very worthy of an award. I’ve passed my Pop-can Recycling duties on to a coworker of mine, Chanda Hallen, who loves animals just as much as I do.”

Kayla didn’t find the job hard to do. It was just a matter of finding the time to do it. She says she wouldn’t be able to accept this award without mentioning her mother, Sandy, who helped out on many, many occasions. Whenever Kayla needed an extra hand, her mother was always ready to help. Kayla’s work with the Recycling Project made her realize that helping out in small ways can help a lot. Every little bit really does count. She never thought that what she did was a big deal. She just took bags of empty pop cans to the store for recycling, and forwarded the money to JCHS. Tedious maybe, but not very taxing.

According to Kayla, “Knowing that I’ve helped in some sort of way makes me want to do more. Iowa City is a great community, but think how much better it could be if everyone donated just a little bit of their time to a worthy cause.”


“It’s Way More than Just a Job” Award

Chris WhitmoreCedar Rapids

Iowa City Animal Care & Adoption Center

Chris makes time for animals because that’s pretty much what she knows best. “Animals make my life complete and whole. I just feel that they need someone like me to take care of them.” A true professional, Chris has done sheltering work for the last 23 years. Not surprisingly, careers in animal sheltering tend to be brief. The turn-over rate is high and there’s a lot of what’s know as “compassion burn-out.” Chris keeps at it because she knows from experience that there is always an animal in need. “How could I quit knowing that some animal might not get help?”

The most frustrating part of the job for Chris is that she “catches” so many people in lies that it has become hard for her to trust any of the words people say to her. Before working on behalf of animals, she trusted everybody at face value.

Chris’ first animal-related memory is accompanying her mother and poodle to the groomer. She noticed a bunch of poodle puppies for sale in little cages so small they could barely turn around. “I told the groomer that the puppies were way too big to be in such tiny cages.” Chris’s mother agreed and they never took their dog to that groomer again.

There has always been a soft spot in Chris’ heart for small dogs (yaps, yips, and all). Chris describes her life in animal advocacy as being divided in two parts: pre-Dinky and post-Dinky. Dinky the Chihuahua was relinquished to the Center by her owner. She went up for adoption and three applications later, Dinky was still there. None of her three potential adopters had called back.

Already living with two dogs, Chris was having trouble deciding whether she could responsibly manage and care for one more. It soon became obvious that Dinky and Chris were soulmates, destined to be together. Looking back, “What was I thinking?” she quips, “Nine small dogs later, and I have a dozen living happily with me!”

Dinky is now 12 years old and comes to work with Chris every day. From that dog on Chris’ house, car, and locker have been plastered with layers of Chihuahua stuff. After all, she’s rescued nine. “I just love their spunk and couldn’t begin to live without them!”

The absolute most rewarding part of Chris’ job at the Center is when an animal finds a forever home or when a concerned family arrives to claim their missing pet. Sending any animal out the front door of a shelter is reason enough to rejoice.


2005 Awardees

Caroline BarthelSt. Charles, Illinois

Next Generation Volunteer Award

Ericka DanaGuernsey, IowaCatnip Farm

Wildgirl Award for City Cat/Country Cat Rescues

Eleanor DvorchakMuscatine, IowaSpay Neuter Assistance for Pets (SNAP)

The “I Am Only One” Award

Dave & Betty FunkIowa City

Lifetime of Caring Award

Dolores HeblIowa City

The Cat’s Pajamas Foster CareGiver Award

Janet & Don McClainIowa City

Faithful Service from Behind the Scenes Award

Tammara MeesterIowa CityPet Central Station

Entrepreneurship Benefiting Animals Award

Amy Parker & Matt SchikoreIowa CityIowa City Animal Care & Adoption Center

The Not Just Web Geeks Award

Peanut Doll (deceased)Jenny Doll & Torben PlattSchueyville, Iowa—Witty Kitties (a special-needs animal shelter)

The Scarlett Award for Valor

Salem Russo (deceased)Nick RussoIowa City, IowaKinnamon, Kinnamon, Russo & Meyer

Office Cat Extraordinaire Award

Amy SacksIowa City

First-Class Feral Cat Wrangler Award

Maryanne & Bob ZiomekCoralville, Iowa

The “Bottle Babies R Us” Award


The Next Generation Volunteer Award

Caroline BarthelSt. Charles, Illinois

The University of Iowa

Animals were an integral part in her family’s daily life when Caroline was growing up. Being away from her pets as she began her college studies made her miserable, and she longed for animals to interact with. After hearing about Preferred Stock, Caroline began dropping into the shop a few times a week (pretending to look at clothes) just so she could pet all the roaming cats.

Caroline asked to become a volunteer for Tammara and arranged her schedule so she could come to the store three times a week to clean cages (and of course, play with the cats). When the Preferred Stock location closed, Caroline knew she had to start looking again for another animal fix.

She searched online for a nearby humane society and came across JCHS. Caroline showed up at a monthly meeting and had a great time chatting about cats with the other attendees. The other attendees were pretty blown away with thoughts of “Ah, new blood!” “She is so together for a student. A freshman? No way!” “Ok, let’s not loose her.” JCHS has never been a big draw for college students, yet this young woman found us.

Volunteers looking for hands-on experience with animals usually start at the Coralville Animal Clinic by meeting with the JCHS member who goes there in the late afternoons and Saturday mornings, helping clean cages, grooming and playing with the animals, and just hanging out observing the cats and encouraging them to have positive interactions with one another.

It’s a good reality check. After a few visits people know if they’re “cut out” for the repetition of cleaning mixed with the high drama of cat fights, and the thoughtful patience required to entice a withdrawn animal into a lap. Caroline was a purrfect fit, right from the start. She was such a natural that it was easy to ask if she’d be interested in being the live-in cat wrangler for a JCHS member who would be out of town for nearly two weeks. “So, how many cats are there?” Caroline asked. “All in the house? Wow. (pause) That’s, a lot of cats. (pause) Sure, I can do it.” And she did it just fine.

“I’ve loved pet-sitting for Janet because it’s the perfect environment for learning about how cats interact with each other. I’ve gained a greater understanding for cat personalities and emotions. But most of all, cats teach us more than we could ever teach them. “For instance, I’ve learned patience from Bajeera, a JCHS cat at the Clinic, who took almost a year to get to know and trust me before climbing into my lap. I’ve loved working with the animals at the Clinic and although it’s hard to let them go when they find their new homes, it’s great because you know how much happiness they will bring with them.”


Wildgirl Award for City Cat/Country Cat Rescues

Ericka DanaGuernsey, Iowa

Catnip Farm

Wildgirl self-identifies as a rock’n’roll, Go-Go-Rama, drag-race DJ, gearhead for life, who actually knows Evel Knievel, Benny the Bomb, Animal Jim, Big Daddy Don Garlits, and the late Dale Earnhardt. She’s an organic farmer with a solar, geodesic-dome greenhouse and a custom-built, outdoor kitty playpen; who raises free-range laying hens; and makes jewelry, ceramics, mosaics, window sparklers, ornaments, and wreaths. Catnip Farm also produces Mr. Nipster Fine Organic Fresh & Dried Catnip, potted “kitty greens,” catnip toys, and Wildbaby Kitty Greens cat grass seed kits.

Wildgirl’s also known as Ericka Dana, the cat-rescuing proprietor of a new gift shop called FERAL! on the pedestrian mall in Iowa City, who once packed up her life plus fifteen cats, and drove from New York to Iowa. Straight through, from Brooklyn to what is now Catnip Farm, a 14-acre organic farmstead in Iowa County, owned by Rich and Ericka since 1996.

Proceeds from all the kitty-product sales help offset the food and veterinary costs for Ericka’s rescued stray, feral, and special-needs cats. But proceeds don’t always help with the hard questions. Like most animal rescuers, Ericka has had to make some tough decisions. A recent one involved a milestone cat.

“Mamacita was untouchable, the first feral cat I ever met. She snuck in my window in Brooklyn and had 4 kittens behind my stove. I’d seen her in the backyard a few times before and didn’t even know she was pregnant. I also didn’t know what a feral cat was, or that I had just moved into an apartment with an entire colony of them out back.

The first time Mama was in a cat carrier was on her way to be spayed. It took 12 hours, two people, a bathroom with two doors, blankets, and a wide broom to capture her. They had to use a noose at the vet. She climbed the walls and trashed the place. She was one of the wild cats who Rich and I tricked by serving dinner in large dog kennels for a week prior to leaving Brooklyn, and finally closing the door behind them the night before we hit the road for Iowa.

I had never petted her except a couple of times with one finger when she was very sound asleep. She’d come looking for turkey, fish, or beef snacks at dinner time. Every once in a while she’d accept some from my hand, but that’s as far as her interaction with humans went. She always kept her distance from Rich and me. To let her outside I’d have to block both doors open and stand back five feet until she was absolutely sure she could pass me safely.

If I had known then what I know now about ferals and how to tame them, Mamacita may not have remained the “wild animal who chose to live in our house with us” that she was for most of her adult life. Everything was on her terms. She had a younger man friend, Big Fat Three-toed Sam. He’s the one who loved her, groomed her, and slept with her every day for all those years.

Mama rarely slept stretched out, so I never saw her belly and only discovered the abscessed tumor because she was licking her leg in the air and I could see that some fur was missing. That was the first I knew something was wrong. For the past year Rich and I both would get close enough twice a day to Mama as she slept to check whether she was still breathing. We really didn’t think she’d be around this long. She was toothless and ancient, and we were fully prepared to find she that had passed in her sleep one morning.

But obviously Mama was a tough lady, and not ready to leave. Until today. Anyway, I loved her just as she was, and I’m glad she chose to live her life with us as she did. Poor Sam has lost his two best friends in a less than a month—that makes me sadder than our losing both Rufus and Mamacita to cancer. Right now Big Sam is really bereft. He just sits on Mama’s favorite heat vent and stares, sniffing her favorite place and remembering how things used to be.”


The “I Am Only One” Award

Eleanor DvorchakMuscatine, Iowa

Spay Neuter Assistance for Pets (SNAP)

“About 15 years ago I was working at the YWCA, and a fellow dog advocate told me about a stray in the woods near her home. I was determined to find and feed him. On my lunch hour, I bought dog food, a plastic garbage can, and a carpet square. The can on its side, with the carpet square at the entrance, would protect the dog from the weather and keep the food dry.

I looked and looked, but he was no where to be found, and I got more and more frustrated as I walked the cold woods, asking myself “What am I doing here?” My choices seemed to be: do what ever it takes to help the dog or shut up, go home, and get warm. I decided I wanted to help the dog, even though my feet were freezing. So I selected a sheltered spot for my temporary den, left some food, and kept on looking.

Animal Control caught dog before I did, and I went to visit him at the humane society. Our eyes met and we bonded. You know what that’s like. But the dog must not have gotten his puppy shots, because he picked up Parvo from the shelter environment, and then he died. My journey as a volunteer at the Muscatine Humane Society began when the tragic life of that unwanted stray ended. After five years of learning everything I could from Chris McGinnis, who directs the facility, the road ahead became very clear to me.

Once you see first hand how many adoptable cats and dogs are euthanized simply because there are not enough homes for them, you begin to understand the implications of companion animal overpopulation.” Eleanor became convinced that spay/neuter is one of the most important solutions to this problem, and her personal concern for one animal grew into an intense commitment to many.

Because she wanted her efforts to have a broad, direct effect, Eleanor took action in a very businesslike way. Knowing that affiliating with an existing organization might mean more bureaucracy than she wanted to deal with, she and her lawyer set out to develop her own spay/neuter program.

In 1995, SNAP (Spay Neuter Assistance for Pets) became an official Iowa nonprofit organization. As Eleanor observed wryly—although some people still viewed her fierce personal commitment to spay/neuter as pretty “nutty”—at least now she was a “nut with legal status.”

That status has facilitated her efforts in many ways. SNAP (this one-woman spay/neuter enterprise) has been wildly successful. In just 10 years, 13,000 cats and dogs in eastern Iowa have been neutered through Eleanor’s program. To support her work, she relies donations, veterinary discounts, and her own resources, including a big share of a personal inheritance.

When asked what advice she’d give to others who desire (or need) to start as “only one,” Eleanor shared her guiding principles:

 If you are truly committed—just go with it.

 Follow your heart, but keep your head focused.

 And remember that it’s far better to light a single candle than to forever curse the darkness.

Eleanor made her commitment to animals after an experience of deep introspection, alone, in the silence of the woods, which brings to mind the closing lines of Robert Frost’s poem, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening:  The woods are lovely, dark, and deep, But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep.

Eleanor is a woman who continues to keep her promises to the animals.


Lifetime of Caring Award

Dave & Betty FunkIowa City

You want something to change? Be an instigator. Question authority! Set an example. Do what you do respectfully and chances are, change will occur. That’s how this couple (married for 61 years next March) makes things happen. Things like getting their street paved back in the 1940s, a street light, too. And because Dave especially loathes “petting zoos,” freeing the poorly-cared-for black bear who was on display for many years in the Amanas.

Something made Betty and Dave attend the first meeting of Animal Advocates of Iowa (AAOI), a local animal rights group founded in 1990. They became active members, always ready to write letters to companies, make phone calls to legislators, and even check out places in the business of selling animals.

It worked like this. AAOI would get an anonymous call about let’s say, four mummified chameleons sharing a terrarium with three live ones in aisle three at store X. Betty and Dave were alerted. The Funks would go to store X, shop around, looking at everything, and then Dave would start up a conversation with whoever was in charge. Betty would listen attentively.

Dave would ask polite questions about when was the last time the lizards were watered and fed. And where did they get those adorable kittens and what shots have they already had. And how long has that dog been in that wire cage. Then they’d go home and report back to AAOI. For most stores, it only took one visit and the problem would be resolved, at least for awhile.

Then there was the time when Betty got a call about some sheep in rural Johnson County. She and a friend drove out to take a look. The sheep were penned in an area with no grass and were caked in mud up to their butts. They looked awful and seemed neglected (unless, of course, you understand that sheep often get themselves mighty dirty).

There was, however, what appeared to be a dead-for-days sheep next to the shed not far from the road. Now, that is a problem. As the two women were busy taking notes and trying to get a photo showing the decaying body, the farm owner suddenly appeared and asked what the hell they were doing. It struck them as a reasonable question, so they told the truth, hoping the farmer wouldn’t call the sheriff. Turns out, he did. But all in all, it was a good lesson to remind the women to review the laws about trespass and private property, disposal of dead animals, and warrants for arrest.

The Funks currently share their home with Sheba ’Shrum (a mushroom-hunting yellow Lab) and Missie, the cat who just showed up one day and wanted in.

Entrepreneurship Benefiting Animals Award

Tammara MeesterIowa City

Pet Central Station

Tammara got involved with animal welfare issues years ago. Some of us remember first seeing her at Pepperwood Plaza, in front of a now-defunct pet store, helping find homes for animals she had rescued from a wide range of bad situations. Nowadays, she spends her time at her very own establishment (Pet Central Station), which is a popular pet-supply store right in the center of downtown Iowa City. She has synergistically combined entrepreneurship and rescue activities—with obvious benefits to both.

Visitors to the Station will find high-quality pet food and an eclectic array of carefully chosen, sophisticated accessories, toys, and supplies for animals. But best of all, shoppers are also able to interact with the currently-residing group of rescued cats and kittens, dogs (large and small), and even house rabbits, all ready and waiting to be adopted.

The animals come from overcrowded regional shelters and rescue groups, as well as the streets and alleys of Iowa City and other parts of Iowa. Some have been animals rescued by JCHS. Tammara carefully screens potential adopters. She requires a formal application and she contacts references, and even landlords, before making adoption decisions.

Well over a hundred animals have been adopted through Pet Central Station since it opened. A skilled and dedicated entrepreneur, Tammara has combined a working commercial enterprise with a unique and creative approach for direct service to animals.


The Not Just Web Geeks Award

Amy Parker & Matt SchikoreIowa City

Iowa City Animal Care and Adoption Center

If you’ve not seen the Iowa City Animal Care and Adoption Center’s web site, you are in for a treat. It’s a wonderful gift to the Center, designed, and maintained by Matt and Amy, who really are more than your basic web geeks.

The typical weekly visit to the Center for this couple involves about three hours of photography, animal wrangling, and updating paperwork. Ideally, Amy and Matt arrive before the Center opens on Saturday mornings, with a list of the animals currently posted on the web and a digital camera. They head straight for the cat room, where they photograph cats who are new to the population and reshoot photos of already-featured felines who need updated portraits for the web. In the dog hallway, Matt proceeds to bring each new dog out one by one. Amy takes the pictures while Matt calms and handles the animals.

Then they gather updates from the staff about the adoption status and any new behavioral information regarding each animal featured on the web. In addition to the page of thumbnail portraits, the animals have individual pages with larger photos, demographics, and pertinent behavioral attributes. When they get home, Matt works his computer magic spending an average of four hours each weekend. He matches photos with names and dates, and edits and crops them as needed. Then he enters the animal demographics in his database, uploads the material to the web, and updates his archives.

What motivates Amy and Matt to return week after week? They believe this is the very best way each of them can use their skills to make a difference in the lives of the animals at the Center. Hearing from so many people that they visit the web site every day provides additional inspiration. So far this year, the web site averages more than 800 unique visits per day, some from the merely curious, but many from potential adopters who are very seriously considering who and what they see.

Matt and Amy have intended to overhaul the site for the past couple of years, but for now it still serves its purpose—despite being somewhat outdated (that’s the geek in them talking), technologically speaking—it gets the animals seen by a lot of people and gets people to come to the Center, prepared to adopt.

The Scarlett Award for Valor

Peanut Doll (deceased)Jenni Doll & Torben PlattSchueyville, Iowa

Witty Kitties—a special-needs animal shelter

As a tiny farm kitten, Peanut had suffered a dislocated shoulder and jaw. A veterinarian was able to fit the bone back into the socket, but the jaw misalignment went unobserved. Soon after, Peanut’s jaw fused in its dislocated position. She couldn’t open her mouth and her caregiver at the time fed her mushy food that Peanut sucked through her extremely malocluded teeth. It kept her alive, but she never got enough food to thrive.

Peanut arrived at Witty Kitties in March, 2003. She hadn’t been there long before Jenni decided to anesthetize her to get a good look at her mouth. It wasn’t pretty and there weren’t many choices. After giving a ton of pre-emptive pain killers, Jenni removed all of Peanut’s teeth.

Finally, Peanut could lap her food and was able to eat as much as she wanted at one sitting. She was an interactive, affectionate kitty who enjoyed laps and adored nuzzling. But Peanut also drooled, accumulated a lot of food on her face when she ate, and then tended to smell kind of bad, despite regular face-washings and baths. Many nights Jenni and Torben awoke to see Peanut’s funny, tongue-hanging-out face staring down at them, blowing bad breath and kisses their way.

Although she was not thrilled about it, Peanut soon took up residence in the new shelter building. After a few days, she discovered that shelter life allowed her to meet and charm all the visitors and volunteers. Being the official greeter was much more exciting than living in the house, and the attention was great!

Last September, Jenni was puzzled to find a large amount of blood in Peanut’s food dish. She examined Peanut’s tongue to see if it had been bitten through. It hadn’t. More blood appeared the next day, so Jenni anesthetized Peanut, but saw nothing unusual inside her mouth, considering the limited view. The scene replayed itself the next day: blood, anesthesia, nothing, wake up. Throughout this worrisome time, Peanut behaved as if she had no idea there was anything wrong.

Jenni brainstormed. Should she find a vet with a small-diameter fiber optic scope? Should she break Peanut’s jaw to allow a better view of her mouth and throat? Like many animal guardians, Jenni wondered, “How far do we go?” Jenni and Torben decided they should euthanize Peanut while she still felt good, for it is a rule at Witty Kitties that no one suffers. Their decision was guided by “How much more do we ask this animal to endure?” There was also the sad fact that money and time must be spread over several dozen cats.

After the injection, and crying a tremendous amount, Jenny made herself take a look in Peanut’s throat. She had a mass in her pharynx. Malignant? Benign? All Jenny knew for sure was that she would never have been able to remove it completely.

Peanut is buried under a tree near the shelter. She continues to pop into Jenni’s mind every time she walks by. Jenny likes remembering how Peanut’s tongue was always hanging out, and how exuberantly happy she always seemed (except at bath time). Those images and Peanut’s joyful, though brief time at Witty Kitties are what keep Jenni going and doing what she can to make her “tiny speck in the world” a happier place.

This award is named for Scarlett, the cat, who rescued her five kittens from a fire in Brooklyn, New York. Scarlett, whose story attracted worldwide interest, was severely burned as she repeatedly entered a burning building to retrieve her kittens, one by one. After extensive veterinary treatment at New York’s North Shore Animal League, Scarlett recovered and was adopted by a family chosen from hundreds of people who offered to care for her. Four of her kittens were also placed in permanent homes: the fifth died from smoke inhalation soon after rescue.


Faithful Service from Behind the Scenes Award

Janet & Don McClainIowa City

Janet and her mother lived with an aunt while Janet was growing up, and the only pet she was allowed to have as a child was a turtle named Pete who lived for about eight years. Janet acquired her first cat in college from a neighbor who couldn’t keep her anymore. Ironically, the apartment building didn’t even allow pets, but Janet persuaded the landlord to let her keep Susie there.

Don grew up in a family with dogs and didn’t particularly like cats. The only one he was acquainted with belonged to a neighbor and hunted birds in the McClain’s back yard. When Don met Janet at UNI and started dating her, he came to know (and learned to like) Susie, who was leash-trained and enjoyed being taken to the park. After their marriage, Janet, Don, and Susie moved to married-student housing in Ames where once again, Janet prevailed upon the powers that be to get Susie’s name on the lease. Susie even traveled with the McClains to Tacoma, Washington in a VW Beetle.

Janet and Don have a long history of rescuing cats. They have rescued and placed (despite Janet wanting to keep them all) 45 cats over the years. Actually, the McClains did keep a few, some were placed through JCHS, and the others found homes with friends and family.

One cold January night when Janet and Don were leaving a UI basketball game, they noticed three wary, hungry-looking cats hanging out around one of the residence halls. They went back every day with food and water. Finally, during spring break (after weeks and weeks of dedicated coaxing) the cats allowed themselves to be captured in a humane trap. It wasn’t too long before they found forever homes.

The two McClain children carry on in the family tradition of looking out for animals. While a student, Michael, rescued a pregnant stray cat who had five kittens. He kept the mom and two babies. His sister, Sarah, took two, and a fraternity brother adopted the remaining kitten.

In 1988, JCHS decided to place donation collection containers in selected area business establishments. Ever since, Janet (now with Don’s help) has made regular rounds, getting feedback from the proprietors, refining the marketing yield by adding new sites and discontinuing others, and of course, collecting the money.

Currently there are jars in 10 locations, and it has all added up. Over the years, thanks to faithful service, the donation jars have netted JCHS more than $14,500!

The Cat’s Pajamas Foster CareGiver Award

Dolores HeblIowa City

Dolores was born and raised in Goosetown, which was where her family emigrated to from Bohemia in the 1860s. Early family photos show a variety of dogs, cats, and a canary in a birdcage. Dolores grew up imbued with a respect for animals, especially her beloved dogs and cats. A visual survey of her home today attests to her devotion.

At the end of each work day (in the linens department at Younkers) Dolores would return to her house on Rochester Avenue and spend the evening with her animal companions. Over the years, Dolores had managed to leash-train the majority of her cats, so it was not unusual for them to be tethered outside while she, herself enjoyed being outside.

Unfortunately, Sullivan, Shroder, and Bluto were exposed to a roaming, neighborhood cat carrying the feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV). They contracted the disease, and within four months, one after another, they died.

Soon afterwards, Dolores sold her house. She was animal-less, sad, and lonely. Buffy the cat was sad and lonesome too. His human mom died suddenly from a heart attack and there was no way his mom’s off-at-college daughter could take him. Middle-aged, and set-in-his-ways Buffy came to JCHS with a history of “hands used as toys.” When young Buffy responded instinctively with tooth and claw, his family simply donned gloves for playtime. Bad idea. By the time Buffy matured to a hand-aggressive adult, they declawed him.

Pretty much everything had to be on Buffy’s terms. He was in need of a cat-wise person. Dolores (born catwise) was in need of a cat. The pair soon worked out the details and life was good. Then came a few years of diabetes, which Dolores helped Buffy get under control. When renal failure became apparent, helping Buffy die was, sadly, the best we could offer.

Dolores was lonely again. Peachy Keen the cat was in a bind. She was rescued as a feisty, malnutritioned stray who had been hanging out at the Solon High School. Peach had so many battle scars that it shouldn’t have been surprising when she tested positive for the Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV). But it was. Of these two “killer” viruses, FIV is far less contagious than FeLV, and often takes longer to get into high gear and cause problems.

Although Peachy had sophisticated interpurrsonal skills, her likeliness to tangle with other cats limited her to a home without other animals. Dolores only needed one cat. That was in 2001. Since then, Peach has continuously entertained Dolores, her friends, relatives, SEATS drivers, you name ’em she’s charmed ’em.

Both Buffy and Peachy Keen had special needs and not many options. They were o, so lucky to find a forever home with Dolores. Though, according to Dolores, she was the lucky one. Both times.


Office Cat Extraordinaire Award

Salem Russo (deceased)Nick RussoIowa City, Iowa

Kinnamon, Kinnamon, Russo & Meyer

If ever you happened to visit Nick’s law office on the sixth floor of the Iowa State Bank Building between October 2001 and December 17, 2003, likely you would have been witness to at least one of the following:

 Clients and other visitors leaving the office being officially escorted to the elevator by a very small and frail, but stately gentleman with a slight limp due to a missing paw;

 That same stately gentleman curled up on his pillow on the conference room table, blissfully snoozing through the boring parts of a deposition or eyeballing the court reporter trying to concentrate on getting it all down;

 One of Nick’s colleagues seated at the conference table to work on a brief for a few minutes remain glued to his seat, waiting patiently for the aforementioned gentleman (who had chosen that particular person’s arm for a pillow) to awaken from his nap.

The stately gentleman is Salem Russo, and to know him was to love him. This cat stole the heart of the stodgiest attorneys and the most beleaguered clients. Salem was small, frail, and quite elderly when he joined the practise. However, one look in his eyes and one moment of his chirping purr, and you knew you were in the presence of a very special being, an “old soul,” a teacher.

Although little is known of Salem’s history before he came to be Nick’s office cat, what is known contributes to his legend. On a New Year’s Eve, in the early 1980s, during one of those Arctic blasts that cause all Iowans to wonder why they continue to live here, the West Branch Chief of Police watched a small black animal hobble across the street. He picked up the crippled, forlorn cat and took him to the Shelter to be euthanized.

Apparently, it wasn’t Salem’s time. He quickly stole the hearts of the people at the shelter. So, rather than euthanize him, the staff called a woman from the area who had just moved into town from the country after the death of her husband. Salem charmed his way into her heart, too for the next 18 or 19 years. But when she passed on, no one in her family wanted Salem; or perhaps they all spontaneously acquired a life-threatening allergy to cats.

Fortunately, Laura Twing, (a Good Samaritan who takes in animals others have rejected) took Salem home to live in her barn. One fall day, Nick was visiting the animals at Laura’s place and Salem came around the corner of the barn, and limped over to where Nick stood. When Nick picked him up, Salem rubbed his little face against Nick’s cheek and revved up his famous purr. As Nick put it, “one minute I was one person, the next another.” Salem won another heart.

Nick was already living with cats at home but he really wanted to become Salem’s caregiver, so he offered him a job. And that’s how Salem, (fondly dubbed “The Colonel” by Nick) joined the firm and came to be an office cat extraordinaire. From then on, Salem greeted Nick every morning at the office door and quickly set about stealing the hearts of all who crossed the threshold: children, lawyers, bank personnel, clients. Many still ask about him.

So, whether it was laughing as Salem played “jungle cat” after a meal, or holding Salem in your lap as he groomed himself with his phantom left paw, or having the Director of the Board of Governors escort your “colleague” (who had just crashed their meeting to dine on some shrimp) back to his lair, Salem brought a life and a spirit to the sixth-floor law office that can never be surpassed.

Even as he tired and his ninth life came to an end, his spirit and love never faded. You are missed, Salem. Thanks for stealing our hearts.

First-Class Feral Cat Wrangler Award

Amy SacksIowa City

Amy started doing animal rescue more than ten years ago with her mom. They took lots of walks downtown together and it was almost inevitable that by the time their destination was reached, they would have passed two or three homeless kids with dogs. Although it would have been easier and much less painful to cross the street and look away, or just slip the kid a few bucks, Amy and her mom always went out of their way to find the nearest grocery store and buy a bag of dog food, just to be sure the dog would not go hungry.

Amy continued to do this for many years until she realized that just feeding the animal was not enough. She began to understand that the key to minimizing the suffering of animals is to control the number of unwanted animals born into inadequate and unsafe environments.

It became clear to her that if there weren’t enough homes for even the most adoptable animals out there, spay/neuter would have to be part of the solution. Then something else clicked. More people needed to become aware of what a horrific problem animal overpopulation causes. Amy has overcome her frustration by making it a point to partner public education with the direct action approach she models so successfully.

“We need to teach people about the importance of spaying and neutering their animals and encourage them to teach their friends, because each of those lives—whether it’s a feral kitten on a farm with fifty other cats, or a homeless child’s ten-year-old pit bull—is unique and precious. Each of them deserves to be wanted and live long, healthy, and beloved lives.”


The “Bottle Babies R Us” Award

Maryanne & Bob ZiomekCoralville, Iowa

When Bob started dating Mary, there was just one warm and fuzzy critter. Over the 35 ensuing years, the furry family has grown to 19. The Ziomek’s foray into fostering and eventually becoming parents to an array of cats in need began a number of years ago when a cat with a severe burn on his back arrived at the Coralville Animal Clinic.

Knowing the cat would benefit from some extra nursing care, and knowing that Mary was a nurse, Dr. Cowles called her to see if she’d be interested in caring for the cat until the burn healed. Mary called Bob at work to ask if he’d mind whether she brought the injured stray home until he recovered (despite having already made up her mind to keep him). Bob responded by saying, “...as long as you’re ok with it.” Angus, the former burn patient, is now a beautiful cat again.

Although Bob doesn’t remember Mary calling him at work about the litter of kittens whose mother died, he clearly recalls Mary’s greeting that night when he got home from work. He was so hoping the “I have a surprise for you,” meant that Mary had finally purchased his dream sports car...not.

But that didn’t stop Bob from having the greatest time learning to bottle feed six teeny-tiny, scrappy, energetic, and voracious kittens. Mary (the farm girl) had a blast watching Bob (the Chicago boy, who has climbed mountains in the Himalayas) struggle to keep up with the little rascals. Eventually, three were adopted through JCHS and three joined clan Ziomek. Since then Mary and Bob have bottle fed a whole bunch of babies.

Their most recent bottle-baby keeper is Pookie, who had been teetering on the edge. He had such a difficult time keeping his food down. The Clinic thought maybe an overgrowth of intestinal bacteria was preventing him from digesting his food properly. But canned pumpkin—that good old-fashioned remedy—saved Pookie’s life, and now he’s his daddy’s boy!

Their all-time favorite cat was Pirate, who passed away a couple of years ago. He was already an old guy when Bob and Mary adopted him from the Iowa City Animal Care & Adoption Center, but very, very sweet. The Ziomek felines currently include: Angus, Boo Boo (on heart meds), Budweiser (hind leg missing), George Bush, Izzy (missing an eye), Lolita, Machen, Moogie, Pain-in-the-Agnes (just ask, they’ll tell you), Percy, Pookie, Rosie, Snake, Sweet Seth (deformed back legs), Tibet, Tuttie, Woodie (get’s insulin shots twice a day), Yeti, and Zoomer (the eldest).

And that’s how the Ziomeks became bottle-baby experts, committed to caring for those with special needs, and seeing that the animals they foster are placed in the best of forever homes.

2004 Awardees

Helen & Mick AngellUniversity Heights

Lifetime of Caring Award

June BoagWebster City

Outstanding Senior Volunteer Award

Dennis Cowles, DVMIowa CityCoralville Animal Clinic

The WOW (Walks on Water) Award for Outstanding Service, Caring, & Generosity

Jenny Doll, DVMShueyvilleAnimals All About and Witty Kitties

Innovative Veterinary Services Award

Julieanne Farrant (rescued by Dorothy Meling)Iowa City

The Scarlett Award for Valor

Alex & Ted Lammers (Dan & Katy Lammers)Iowa CityLammers Construction Service

Shop Cats Extraordinaire Award

Ann Leahy, JDIowa CityCounty Attorney’s Office

Service to Animals by a Non-Veterinary Professional

Dorothy MelingIowa City

First-Class Feral Cat Wrangler Award

Lou Pine (and family)West Branch

Long-time Donors and Supporters Award

Betsy RossCoralville

Cat’s Pajamas Foster CareGiver Award

Bill Rugger, DVMOxfordOxford Veterinary Center

Lifetime Achievement Award for Respecting Homeless Animals in Need

Matthew StonerNorth Liberty

Next Generation Volunteer Award

Lifetime of Caring Award

Helen & Mick AngellUniversity Heights

The Angells dedicated their lives to be of service to others on many levels. Helen’s career was in the Red Cross during WWII. Mick was a US Army Ranger severely injured in battle, and when he returned stateside, he became one of the men assigned to protect First Lady, Mamie Eisenhower.

The Angell’s yard has been home to all sorts of wildlife who get watered, fed, and admired each day. A family of raccoons visits the back steps regularly for corn dried on the cob. Birds have seed and suet year round. Wandering stray cats and dogs can get a good meal...maybe even spayed or neutered too!

The house, with its huge fireplace, overflowing bookcases, and plenty of wide windowsills is purrfect for Sir Hilary, the current cat. (As a kitten in our care, Hilary had been adopted to a couple who lived down the street from the Angell’s with their young child. Something happened and the kitten was abruptly returned to us with a broken leg.)

Coincidently, Helen and Mick were brokenhearted over the death of Scooter, a young, special-needs JCHS cat for whom they had generously agreed to provide hospice care. After his death, they considered themselves “too old” to even think about acquiring another companion animal.

But, when the time was right, and Hilary’s cast was removed, he came to live with Helen and Mick and has been the epicenter of attention ever since. Although Mick died a couple of years ago, and Helen, who is in her 90s, has a difficult time getting around, the wildlife still gets admired on a daily basis as Sir Hilary naps in Mick’s favorite chair.


Outstanding Senior Volunteer Award

June BoagWebster City

After Hurricane Andrew, when June and her housemate Kay moved back to Iowa from Miami with their somewhat finicky cat Josie, they had no idea the small patio of their ground-floor Coralville apartment would become a food and rest stop for hundreds of birds, up to seven or eight cats at any given time, a family of raccoons, and a surly possum with atrocious table manners.

June’s cat rescues, which had begun in Florida, were taken to a new level in Coralville one snowy evening when June called the JCHS HelpLine about an injured kitten (now known as Louie Farrant) who was found nearly frozen to a car in the parking lot.

Then there was Yogi. After June captured this gorgeous grey cat and brought him to the Coralville Animal Clinic to be neutered and sheltered, she and Kay visited with him every day. It wasn’t long before June was volunteering there six days a week, cleaning cages and socializing Yogi and the other JCHS cats-in-residence. Soon she became known as Chicken June because she always brought chicken with her for daily cat treats.

Time passed. Kay died. Despite rain, sleet, snow, or sickness, two meals were served al fresco on June’s patio each day until she moved last summer to be closer to family in central Iowa. June has been sorely missed. Buc, Ben, and Clancy, the three Clinic cats still prick their ears when we say, “Chicken Junie’s coming for a visit today!”

The WOW (Walks on Water) Award for Outstanding Service, Caring, & Generosity

Dennis Cowles, DVMIowa City

Coralville Animal Clinic

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when the “walks on water” thing got started. But it’s very easy to figure out why. Dennis is one of those individuals who should probably be cloned. Kind, caring, and compassionate, are but a few attributes. He’s also a good teacher and mentor, which makes it so much easier for his clients to take better care of their animals. Stories about Dennis’ generosity and commitment to animals are legendary. This is a person who consistently goes beyond beyond and then says, “Well, anybody would have done at least that.”

When he revealed that in vet school at Iowa State, he was the first student to petition the dean for permission to allow his “surgery dog” to “survive” and be taken home, we were surprised only that the dean let him do it. In the 1970s, practice animals in vet schools were routinely “sacrificed” at the end of the course, and successful student intervention was rare and not at all encouraged.

You can tell immediately that Dennis enjoys being a veterinarian and actually likes animals by the way he calmly handles them and by his reassuring table-side manner. He’s also willing to try new treatments and is able to sustain hope until it’s time to talk about quality of life issues.

Since 1992, the Clinic has cheerfully provided free “room & board” for JCHS animals waiting for space to open up in a foster home. Over the years, the number of animals-in-residence at the Clinic has ranged between five and seven on any given day. In addition to room & board (and wall space in the waiting room for photos of our animals available for adoption), the clinic also provides a substantial discount on veterinary care, food, and supplies for JCHS animals in fostercare.

Dr. Cowles (with Dr. Cooper from the UI) volunteers on our behalf with the state Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship as a “foster home inspector.” This led to the conversion of our fostercare activities to Iowa’s first state-licensed fostercare program. We hope that our pilot program results in a permanent provision in the Iowa Code, legalizing in-home fostercare of companion animals.


Innovative Veterinary Services Award

Jenni Doll, DVMShueyville

Animals All About and Witty Kitties, Inc.

Jenni has one of the few mobile veterinary hospitals in Iowa. Within a year of moving here from the Northwest to begin a house-call practice, Jenni was working almost exclusively for several animal shelters in eastern Iowa. Her van is outfitted with just about anything a veterinarian would want. So when she arrives at a farm to trap, vaccinate, spay/neuter, and release 15 cats, or at a sheltering facility to treat illnesses, do wellness checks, spays, and neuters, etc., things happen with a minimum of fuss.

While providing low-cost medical care for local shelters and rural cat colonies, Jenni also gives spay/neuter discounts to individuals with multiple cats. In addition, Jenni is one of a very few veterinarians in the state who practices what is now called shelter medicine. This area of veterinary medicine focuses on the particular healthcare needs of companion animals being kept in groups or colonies.

When Jenni established Witty Kitties, a unique shelter that provides life-long care for cats with special needs, we all breathed a sigh of relief. Most shelters don’t have funds to support special-needs cats. Many consider them unadoptable, so they are euthanized. Now there’s a safe place with segregated colonies for cats who test positive for FeLV (feline leukemia virus) and FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus). Cats with neurological and other organ-system problems, and those whose health or behavior issues put them at risk for abandonment are also cared for.

In addition to providing the Witty Kitties cats with shelter, food, plenty of human interaction, and ongoing veterinary care, an attempt is made to find appropriate permanent homes for them. Jenni’s goal is to keep her costs down (without compromising quality) so more animals can get the care they deserve, whether they live on farms or in shelters.


The Scarlett Award for Valor

Julieanne Farrant (rescued by Dorothy Meling)Iowa City

Julieanne is an awesome cat. Born to a feral (i.e., never been touched) mom on the fringe of town, she had always lived outside, too. But she shared her mother’s territory and finally (as an older kitten) ventured across the road to meet the neighborhood cat lady, famous for feeding strays. The cat lady, Dorothy, was shocked to discover that somehow, Julieanne was missing both her hind feet—one just below the knee and the other, mid-thigh. Constant abrasions forced her to use her stumps interchangeably. It wasn’t too hard for Dorothy to keep an eye on Julieanne, since the small cat’s rolling gait was so unusual.

When Julieanne had a litter of five kittens, she carefully moved them one at a time, across the road onto Dorothy’s property. After spending many weeks, patiently earning Julieanne’s trust, Dorothy was able to capture mother and babies in a crate.

With JCHS help, Julianne got the medical care she needed. The X-rays of Julieanne’s hind quarters suggest that her disability is due to trauma rather than a birth defect. This incredible cat’s mobility and agility are astounding, and word has it she easily out-runs her caregiver, even on stairs! Her five well-socialized kittens quickly found forever homes, and now Julieanne has time to devote to her own social life. She enjoys conversation at arm’s length, opportunistic petting on her terms, and the comfort of snuggling with furry companions.

This award is named for Scarlett the Cat, who rescued her five kittens from a fire in Brooklyn, New York. Scarlett, whose story attracted worldwide interest, was severely burned as she repeatedly entered a burning building to retrieve her kittens, one by one. After extensive veterinary treatment at New York’s North Shore Animal League, Scarlett recovered and was adopted by a family chosen from literally hundreds of people who offered to care for the brave feline. Four of her kittens were also placed in permanent homes; the fifth had died soon after rescue from the effects of smoke inhalation.


Shop Cats Extraodinaire Award

Alex & Ted Lammers (Dan & Katy Lammers)Iowa City

Lammers Construction Service

Ask Katy Lammers if she’s ever met a cat she didn’t like and she’ll laugh out loud. That’s probably why she and Dan agreed to adopt Alex and Ted from us after their caregiver committed suicide. These rather hefty brothers had been raised in town as indoor/outdoor cats from kittenhood and their interest in going outside bordered on the irrepressible.

You can see why a shop-cat situation (with safe, limited access to the outdoors) in a quiet location along the Iowa River, populated by a small group of feline-centric construction guys was a good match with what we needed for these affectionate and entertaining cats.

Teddie was recently diagnosed with diabetes. Cats are notoriously difficult to regulate, and Ted was no exception. The Lammers’ had plenty reason to worry. But Ted’s getting insulin injections twice a day and doing much better. He’s even back to working at Dan’s desk, but he’s no longer allowed to order pizza.


Service to Animals by a Non-Veterinary Professional

Ann Leahy, JDIowa City

County Attorney’s Office

A unique population Ann serves through the County Attorney’s Office shares two unusual characteristics: They’re all innocent, and none of them can speak for themselves. These would be Johnson County animals, who, through no fault of their own, find themselves needing the protection of the judicial system. Over the years, Ann has worked on behalf of dogs, cats, horses, and even nonhuman primates.

Most problems are due to a public that’s poorly educated about the needs of animals. Some are the result of impulsivity leading to instant gratification, and then there are the lacks (of compassion, of patience, of responsibility) and the needs (for power, for revenge, for status). That’s not to mention mental illness, which is a factor in more cases than you might imagine.

According to the law, animals are property, so conflicting value systems play a role in many animal cases. What constitutes appropriate care is open to interpretation. Since animals can’t be witnesses, the evidence has to be quite compelling. It’s a wonder any alleged animal cruelty, neglect, or abuse cases come to trial.

We are lucky to have an experienced animal advocate like Ann in the County Attorney’s Office.


First-Class Feral Cat Wrangler Award

Dorothy J. Meling (deceased)Iowa City

It wasn’t like Dorothy made it a habit to go looking for stray cats. They found her, and soon the row of shrubs under Dorothy’s front window became known as a safe place for “cats in transition.” There were snug wooden boxes to bed down in, dishes filled with clean water, home-cooked oatmeal, a few cat toys to play with, and plenty of cat food.

Many of the strays who showed up were ferals—untouched by humans and wild as mountain scenery. Some were injured or ill. All needed taming before they could be captured and spayed or neutered. Field taming takes an incredible amount of patience, consistency, determination, and most of all, time. Despite what she’d tell you, Dorothy has proved to be an accomplished cat wrangler who has rescued more felines than she has fingers.

We know Dorothy would rather not be the focus of attention, but we also know that people like her inspire others to work a little harder and do a little more on behalf of animals. It only takes a little to do a whole lot of good. Thanx Dorothy.

Long-time Donors and Supporters Award

Lou Pine (and family)West Branch

To say that Lou “has a soft spot” for cats would be putting it mildly. Like his love of music, his love of cats is addicting, and addictions require support. Many years ago Lou discovered three interesting and ironic things about money and the support it nurtures.

 It’s fun to give away.

 Supporting local causes you care about is a way to make your community a better place for every one.

 Giving doesn’t hurt at all, in fact, sharing what you have makes you feel really, really good.

That’s why, as he’s paying monthly bills, Lou always writes a check to the Johnson County Humane Society.

Lou and Judy know first-hand what we do and how we do it. So it’s not surprising that when they sought a kitten for their daughter, Jenny, they ending up adopting Gracie, Hazel, and Simon, one-half of a beautifully-socialized litter from a rescued, stray mom who’s now a housecat in Parnel.


Cat’s Pajamas Foster CareGiver Award

Betsy Ross (deceased)Coralville

Betsy and her black cat, Mr. Mutzi shared 21 years together. It was shortly after his death that Betsy became one of our foster caregivers. Her first foster, Whitman, only stayed for a short while and left when his forever home materialized.

At the age of six, when Mittens came to Betsy’s house, she was a devastated, pitifully depressed cat who was no longer grooming herself. She had been discarded by her owner who said she was simply “tired of her.” Mittens and Betsy bonded quickly, and soon it was as if they had always lived together. We all agreed that Mittens would be Betsy’s “permanent” fostercat.

When Betsy tamed a neighborhood stray she named Abby, Mittens was confident enough of her role in Betsy’s life that she accepted Abby, with the stipulation that Mittens would remain Queen of Everything. Both regal Mittens and Abby the commoner were a special comfort to Betsy after she was diagnosed with cancer. They were constant companions who took looking after their mom seriously. Mittens was especially watchful and attentive.

As Betsy was about to have her last surgery, Mittens became ill and had to be hospitalized also. She died of a similar cancer two days after Betsy was released from the hospital. Abby just didn’t know what to do without Mittens. Her grieving was intense, but about a month later, Abby allowed as how there were some positive things about being the only cat in the house. The once-shy commoner began to bloom.

Betsy was a thoughtful person, and fortunately, she had time to think about (and declare) what she wanted for her cats once she was no longer able to care for them. Abby was with Betsy when she died, and the ashes of Mutzi and Mittens were in her casket at the funeral and buried with her. We had decided that Abby would do best in the company of other cats. Her transition from being the-only-cat-with-Betsy to one-of-many- cats with her new foster caregiver is nearly complete.


Lifetime Achievement Award for Respecting Homeless Animals in Need

Bill Rugger, DVM (deceased)Oxford

Oxford Veterinary Center

Doc Rugger began his veterinary career working in his dad’s vet clinic. He was a true friend to animals, and it didn’t matter to him whether they had a residing address or not. As many of his clients have said, “No matter the outcome, you were always left feeling that Bill really cared.”

Bill was very supportive of our spay/neuter efforts, especially the Florence Unash Neuter Program, a generous bequest from the estate of a local animal lover, which helps pay for the spaying and neutering of cats and dogs belonging to residents of Johnson County who qualify financially. Easy-going and kind, Doc Rugger had a swell sense of humor and knew how to entertain clients with a good story; even during the inevitable middle-of-the-night emergencies. He was not in veterinary medicine for the money—many times he wouldn’t charge at all—his mission was to save animals.

A number of years ago, a couple who had just moved to Iowa found a very ill cat in their outbuilding. They called the Oxford Clinic and spoke to Bill’s wife, Lois. Bill was sick in bed with the ’flu, but he came in anyway. He assured the couple that they had done the right thing by bringing the cat to be seen, but he also told them he hoped they weren’t already too attached to the cat because the kindest thing would be to euthanize her. Afterward, Bill went back home to bed. There was never any charge for the visit or the euthanasia.

Doc Rugger humanized his profession well. And we know for a fact that somewhere out there is a cat called Dr. Bill, named in his honor.


Next Generation Volunteer Award

Matthew StonerNorth Liberty

Matthew is a cat magnet. It’s quite unusual to find a young boy who can not only charm cats, but admit to being charmed by them, as well! If Matthew were a snapshot of the next generation, animal advocates could rest easy, knowing that the creatures with whom they share the planet would be in good hands.

The intersection of Matthew and JCHS was the Coralville Animal Clinic. Tiger, the Stoner’s cat, was hospitalized and very ill. Toward the end of his recovery, a very lucky kitten named Carmel moved into the adjacent cage.

Carmel had been found soaking wet in an apartment complex parking lot, as a winter storm blew through town. He must have dropped like a rock after having jumped (or been flung) from a window. The impact broke his femur, forcing the pieces far out of alignment. Carmel’s rescuers called the JCHS HelpLine. We arranged for them to take him to the Clinic. Surgery was necessary to pin the bone fragments together. Three weeks of cage rest would allow the pieces of bone to knit.

Carmel’s unusual color and markings were arresting. While the Stoners were not in the market for another cat, they enjoyed interacting with Carmel when they visited Tiger. You know what’s coming. About a month later, Carmel joined the Stoner family. Although Tiger was not particularly gracious at first, now he doesn’t know how he ever lived without his buddy, Carmel.

And ever since, Matthew and his mom have come to the Clinic on Saturday mornings to clean cages and socialize the group of JCHS cats living there, awaiting foster homes. If only more children could grow up like Matthew, confident enough of his parent’s love for him that he can in turn, respect and love animals without having to dominate them.

Don’t get the idea that Matthew is a miniature adult with a fullyformed values system. Like most young males, Matthew gets a kick out of bathroom humor. It’s hilarious to egg him on by seeing how many times the words “elevator-butt,” “butt,” or just plain old “but” can be worked into a conversation about cats.

Last update:  08/27/14

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JCHS      P.O. BOX 2775      IOWA CITY, IA  52244-2775


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