Nearly two years ago, after traveling some 960 miles, Dot reached our shelter.

That’s roughly the distance from Portland to Los Angeles, where Dot was part of a cat colony of nine taking shelter outside of an apartment building and being fed by a kind-hearted tenant. Unfortunately, what Dot and her fellow felines saw as a suitable place to call home, the building’s landlord deemed a nuisance, and he threatened to poison them.

Luckily for Dot and the rest of her crew, that kind-hearted tenant reached out to local animal rescuers for help. She knew from her interactions with the cats that they were friendly and, if given the chance, might come into their own as household companions. Together, the team of rescuers worked to earn the cats’ trust and transport them away from the overcrowded shelters of California—where more than 100,000 shelter animals were euthanized that year—to Oregon, where our shelter and two others were waiting to offer refuge.

We’d been told that Dot was one of the shyest and most easily startled of the group. This proved to be something of an understatement. Her first few weeks at the shelter unfolded in a series of overtures and rebuffs, and it became clear just how unsure she was about taking up residence with us. We gave Dot her space and she enforced it, hissing and spitting and swatting when anyone tried to get too close. Those days, she appeared more feral than not.

Animals are often stressed when they first enter the shelter environment, no matter how thoughtfully a space is curated to maximize their comfort. It’s reasonable to expect that they’ll need time to develop a relationship with their new surroundings before they can begin to show the full breadth of their personality, and it’s a transformation we’ve witnessed countless times. As time went on, however, it became clear that Dot was going to be an extra special resident of ours—part of a community we call Heartstrings Pets.

Heartstrings Pets are at the core of our mission to provide individualized care and a lifelong commitment to each and every animal who takes shelter with us. They are, in fact, exactly the sort of animals that our organization was founded for 50 years ago: Abandoned, abused, or neglected animals; senior pets getting passed over for the youngsters; animals with challenging medical or behavioral needs; or shy pets, like Dot, in need of more time and tenderness.

More than 700 days since we first met her, we continue working to win Dot’s heart a little more every day, and we never take for granted the significance of each step forward. When we agree to assist an animal, we’re embracing every part of them: the past that created them and all their potential to come, injured bodies and spirits alike. Given how often humans are culpable for the dire circumstances that animals find themselves in, it’s a sense of responsibility that guides us, a legacy that we’re committed to carrying forward.

It’s this responsibility that inspires our 150 volunteers to contribute their time and talent to our organization in exchange for the promise of a rumbly purr or wiggly tail. It’s this responsibility that compelled our founder, Jack Hurd, to become an unrelenting voice for animals up to the last three days of his life, even when it required some of his last breaths to do so. It’s this responsibility that keeps us forging ahead, even on days when the weight of the task feels overwhelming, and it’s the reason why I hope you’ll choose to make a donation to Animal Aid’s Heartstrings program today.

There’s no set formula for the rescue process. Still, we’ve found that kindness begets patience, which begets understanding, which has allowed us to learn who Dot is and what she needs from us. We’ve determined that she’s a rampant foodie, willing to brave the hand that tempts the treat. We’ve learned that comfy cat beds act as an effective security blanket for her and the best place to pet her. We’ve observed her whimsical side when it comes to wand toys and other playthings, equally enthusiastic playing by herself as with another. We’ve discovered, however persistent her reservations about humans may be, the degree to which she adores other cats, boldly and blithely abandoning her safety zones at night to wander the room and brush up against her feline friends.

It’s unlikely that Dot will ever be a cat to warm your lap, but her story is one to warm your heart. It’s a story that might have ended in tragedy two years ago, were it not for the dedicated communities that came together to divert this particular narrative and begin a different chapter in its place. Now, with Animal Aid, Dot has a whole new world, one expressly built for her, made possible for all of our Heartstrings Pets because of your compassionate support.


Paige España

Director of Operations

P.S. Are you the forever family Dot’s been waiting for? Learn more about her purrfect match on our website or by emailing Or, if there isn’t room in your home for a Heartstrings Pet, we hope you’ll find room in your heart and donate today in honor of animals like Dot.

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