Fairplay woman has fostered 500 felines at Cat Casita | SummitDaily.com

Fairplay woman has fostered 500 felines at Cat Casita

As a pure white cat named Snowflake walks back and forth across Kerrie Lynn's computer keyboard, she takes an order for a customer who has just come in. High Paws Pet Supplies in Fairplay has just opened for the day, and Snowflake is looking to Lynn for attention, rubbing her face against the computer screen.

"I wish we could find her a hospice home," Lynn says, stroking the affectionate cat.

Snowflake has a thyroid tumor and what is believed to be stomach cancer and has been living at the pet store since December 2015. She was transferred to Lynn from the Humane Society of Fremont County due to her need for medical care.

"We had the ability to help her more than the shelter," Lynn says. "She went in at 5 pounds, and was transferred to me at 3 pounds. … She's done a 360."

As Lynn talks, an abnormally large cat fittingly named Andre sleeps soundly in a small bed behind the counter. Downstairs, about a dozen more cats roam freely around a spacious room filled with toys. Lynn estimates she has fostered around 500 cats and kittens at the Fairplay store since the opening of the Cat Casita in March 2010, a branch of Animal Rescue of the Rockies (ARR).

While Snowflake's cancer isn't treatable, she is back to a better weight and her thyroid medication only cost $15 for three months. As an older cat with health issues, Lynn lets her wander the store instead of putting her in the Casita room downstairs, making sure Snowflake is happy and comfortable.

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A TEMPORARY HOME

Karen Martiny and her nonprofit ARR opened the Cat Casita as part of its mission to provide an alternative to shelter environments before adoption, and to keep pets from being euthanized.

"If an owner can't be found, then the cat stays there until it's ready to be adopted," Martiny said. "We usually have around 15 to 17 cats there at any one time, and it's cage free, like a big cat playroom. … They all get adopted; some of them are in there longer than we'd like … but they all find homes."

High Paws donates the space for the cats to roam, and Lynn, who was already working at the pet store, took over managing the Casita upon its opening.

"There's no shelter in Park County, so a lot of people find cats and bring them to me," Lynn said. "Animal control brings a lot to me, and then we're a rescue that pulls from high-kill shelters. Basically, we'll contact the shelters that have euthanasia and we'll pull from their list."

The cats at the Casita are mainly strays from Park County, but also come from all over the state, or even Texas and Kansas — wherever there might be overcrowding at shelters.

ANIMAL RESCUE OF THE ROCKIES

Started in 2003, ARR works to pull animals from shelters that are going to be euthanized, placing them in foster homes until adoption.

"A lot of times we will save them at the last minute," Martiny said. "The closest call was one that was 45 minutes it was scheduled to walk. … It's so hard not to be able to save all of them, but we do our best and we depend on fosters to step up and agree to help with them."

Foster parents can usually expect to house a pet for around 30 to 45 days, although it can vary for each pet.

ARR saves 700 to 750 dogs and cats each year, and has now expanded into the entire Front Range, including Denver, Fort Collins, Boulder and Longmont. Although ARR was started in Breckenridge, Martiny said the Summit County shelter has been doing so well, the organization now mainly focuses its efforts in surrounding areas.

"We actually try to help other shelters that have more of an overcrowding situation where pets only have a few days," she said.

Once pulled from the shelter, the pets are spayed or neutered if not already, microchipped, and examined for further vet treatment if needed. ARR receives support for these services through fundraising events like HOWLaween and the BowWow Film Festival, and also through ARR Thrift Shop in Breckenridge. Volunteers work at the boutique-style thrift shop on Main Street to sell gently used clothing, housewares, linens, books, art and more.

"Vet bills are our biggest expense," Martiny said. "We spend anywhere between $80,000 to $100,000 a year just on vet bills."

On Friday, Oct. 28, the fourth annual HOWLaween Ball will raise funds for ARR, as well as local nonprofits League for Animals and People of the Summit (LAPS), which provides financial assistance to local residents for spay-neuter and other services, and Far View Horse Rescue, which works with abused and abandoned horses. The fundraiser is a costume party, featuring a cash bar with local brewery favorites, free snacks, a costume contest with prizes and a silent auction. The event is at the Silverthorne Pavilion from 7–11 p.m., and advance $20 tickets can be purchased at ARR Thrift Shop in Breckenridge, or Affordable Art & Framing in Silverthorne. More information can be found at howlaween.com.

VOLUNTEERING WITH ARR

Lynn was no stranger to fostering pets before the Cat Casita. She started working with ARR in 2007, initially fostering three dogs. She then started housing cats, and once the Casita opened, she continued to stick with mainly fostering the felines.

"I just love animals and I know that tons are dying in shelters, so I figured I'd open my home to giving some animals in need a place to go before bad things happen," she said.

Right now, besides taking care of more than a dozen cats at a time at the Casita, she is also fostering six at home.

"Don't tell anyone," she laughed.

She has two mixed breed dogs at home, one from the Summit County Animal Shelter, and Boone, who was a "foster failure" — what ARR volunteers say when an animal finds its forever home in what was supposed to be a temporary situation.

"We joke about it, I think pretty much all of us have had at least one foster failure — I know I have myself," Martiny said.

Depending on age and how social they are, the kittens and cats can remain at the Casita anywhere from a few days to a couple of years. If Lynn's space is full, she will send cats brought to her to the Ark-Valley Humane Society in Buena Vista, a no-kill shelter. She can also ask foster parents in Denver if they can take an animal.

"The nice thing is we don't need to move them from here until they find their forever home," she said.

Park County Animal Hospital helps the Cat Casita with vet services. To adopt a cat at the Casita, potential pet owners fill out an application for adoption, and then there is a home check. Lynn looks for an indoor, inviting home where other animals, if applicable, seem happy. She's lived in Fairplay for 12 years, so it's become an easy process for her when locals come in to adopt. Donation fees are $125 for kittens, $65 for adult cats, and $35 for senior cats. Donation fees are waived if a senior citizen adopts a senior cat.

After almost 10 years fostering animals, Lynn said sometimes it's hard to let go, but that it is an incredibly rewarding experience.

"You saved an animal's life, you saved something that was in need," she said. "The best thing is when you adopt them out and you get updates about how good they are doing in their home, and then you can save the next one. It's an awesome feeling, there's no other feeling like it."

IF YOU GO

What: HOWLaween Ball fundraiser for League for Animals and People of the Summit, Animal Rescue of the Rockies and Far View Horse Rescue

When: Friday, Oct. 28; 7–11 p.m.

Where: Silverthorne Pavilion; 400 Blue River Parkway, Silverthorne

Cost: Tickets are on sale for $20 until day of event, $25 at the door. Or use cash/check only to buy tickets at: ARR Thrift in Breckenridge (noon-5 p.m. daily); Affordable Art & Framing in Silverthorne (Monday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.)

More information: http://www.howlaween.com