When Jessica had to say goodbye to her feline companion in 2015, her search for her next furever friend led her to our shelter. Since then, Jessica has adopted three cats through Animal Aid. Recently, we chatted with her about the kitties she adopted from us and her experience working with our rescue.

“In September 2015, I adopted the amazing Rosemary from Animal Aid. My previous cat, a large male red tabby, had passed from kidney disease four months earlier, and my house was so empty without his love and demands for treats,” she said. “I was thinking of another red tabby, and when I looked at the Animal Aid website, a tiny red tabby girl just leaped off the screen at me. There was a video of her, and it really caught her character.”

Rosemary was in foster care at the time, so after Jessica filled out an application and spoke with an adoption counselor, a meet-and-greet was scheduled.

“When I met Rosemary at her foster home, I had to squirm under a grand piano on my belly, tossing treats to her,” Jessica recalls. “Although very skittish, she took a treat from my hand, hissed at me, and ran off.”

For Jessica, it was love at first hiss. Not long after that, she welcomed Rosemary home and began the process of winning her over.

“When she came to live with me, it was quickly apparent that she would not give her love easily or to just anyone—I would have to earn it,” Jessica said. “It took a year, and then one night she crawled up on my chest and curled up over my heart while I turned into a puddle.”

“She was tiny but fierce,” Jessica went on to say. “She knew exactly what she wanted and made it clear by ordering me around…and I loved her so much for that.”

One of Jessica’s fondest memories is how much Rosemary loved having her belly rubbed: “When she heard the alarm go off in the morning, she would hop onto the bed and expose her belly. She knew I would get out of bed, hit the snooze button, and come back to rub her tummy. So each time the alarm sounded over the next 30 minutes, she held her position, knowing I’d be back.”

Jessica and Rosemary shared a lifetime’s worth of love over the next three years until Rosemary passed away from Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP), an uncommon but often fatal viral disease.

“She came to me when she was six years old, after a rather chaotic life, and died from FIP less than three and a half years later,” Jessica said. “Her life was far too short, but I am so glad I was able to give her a stable, calm home for those last years, complete with lots of love, lots of treats, premium food, and a catio. I still feel honored that she loved me.”

Rosemary’s memory lives on with Jessica and at Animal Aid, where an illustrated portrait of Rosemary hangs in one of our intake rooms. She greets new cats arriving at the shelter and comforts them as they settle in.

Rosemary was a momumental presence in Jessica’s life, and her absence left a marked gap in Jessica’s heart and home. When the time felt right, Jessica began looking for her next companion…or two.

“Somehow I decided I wanted to adopt a bonded pair of adult cats,” she said. “Adult cats are harder to place, and bonded pairs have an even tougher time finding a home.”

“Although there are many shelters in the Portland area, I only looked at Animal Aid this time because of my experience adopting Rosie,” Jessica said. “On one hand, I appreciated how thorough Animal Aid was in making sure I was the right person in the right place for Rosemary—checking three references, doing a home inspection, and asking a lot of questions about how I would care for Rosemary. That level of investigation was new to me and made it clear how much Animal Aid cares about the animals they place. On the other hand, they also told me a lot about Rosemary’s history and personality, ensuring that I knew what to expect without sugarcoating it. That also showed me that they care about finding permanent homes for the animals. Finally, the agreement that Rosemary had to go back to Animal Aid if I was unable to care for her was reassuring. I hope to live another 30 or 40 years, but you never know—[this way] I could be sure that my cats would always have a loving, suitable home.”

 And so Jessica began looking at Animal Aid’s adoptables online for the second time.

“I found several bonded pairs, but Cedar and Dahlia jumped out at me,” she said. “Although they look so different, they are littermates, approximately five and one-half years old. Cedar is a 14-pound tabby with enormous round green eyes, and Dahlia is a dainty, seven-pound snowy white mound of fluff with beautiful green eyes. Something about their looks and history just caught me.”

Knowing she was about to leave for a long trip, Jessica held off meeting Cedar and Dahlia at first. 

“I was sure they would be adopted before I returned from my trip, but they weren’t. I asked for some more information on them, and Joe sent me a long email with details about their backgrounds and history. I went to the shelter to meet them and another bonded pair, and it took less than five minutes for me to be sure,” she said. “Cedar, who is anxious and shy, was hiding behind a cat tree, but when I stretched out and started petting him, he rubbed against my hand and quickly began purring and drooling! Dahlia was less shy, but also less interested. She allowed me to pet her, but was not very demonstrative. After about 15 minutes, I felt that connection with her, too, and I never visited the other bonded pair. Cedar and Dahlia picked me.”

Shortly thereafter, Jessica welcomed Cedar and Dahlia home. As it had been with Rosemary, however, Jessica had a bit of wooing to conduct.

“Cedar spent the first 36 hours behind the toilet in the downstairs bath, with Dahlia curled around him for his comfort,” she said. “Sometime on the sixteenth, Dahlia moved the two of them upstairs to my second bedroom—under the bed. Cedar pretty much stayed under the bed for a month, coming out when I was asleep to eat or use the litter box. Dahlia spent a lot of time comforting him, but [she also] began exploring my place.”

“I quickly realized that Dahlia was really another incarnation of Dolly Parton,” Jessica said. “She is a total glamorpuss, is so sweet and generous with Cedar, and a soprano—all characteristics of the original Dolly Parton.”

From that moment on, Dahlia was Dolly. Not surprisingly, Cedar was bit slower to reveal more of his personality.

“I’m letting them call the shots, except on the number of treats. If they feel sociable, great! And if they want to ignore me, that’s okay, too. I know they have dealt with some chaos, so I am letting them figure out that I am a kind woman who will never let anything bad happen to them and that I love them beyond all reason.”

“I would lie on the floor to reach under the bed and pet Cedar. He would rub his face against my hand, purring and drooling,” Jessica said. “After about a month, Cedar started emerging from under the bed more often, and after two months, they were both playing with little cat toys on the stair steps. I’ve discovered they are both totally bonkers for cat treats. I give them freeze-dried chicken and salmon, and they can hear it when I pick up the bag, even if they’re sound asleep on a different floor. If one finishes their treats first, they will snag some from the other, and usually they allow each other to do that!”

“They both love lying in the sun, and Dolly loves looking out the windows and enjoys the catio if it’s not too chilly,” Jessica shared. “Cedar still bolts to his hidey-hole a lot, but most evenings he sits on the stairs and ventures into the living room while I’m reading on the couch; I pretend that I don’t see him. Dolly likes curling up at the other end of the couch from me or plops herself down in the middle of the living room.”

Many mornings, Jessica will come downstairs to find the two cats cuddled together on the couch. They are also often side-by-side on the stairs when she comes home. Still, even the best of friends have their moments, as Jessica revealed: “Although they clearly love each other, Dolly will bite Cedar on the butt if he gets too rambunctious.”

Each day, Cedar and Dolly have grown more comfortable in their home, thanks in large part to Jessica’s willingness to let them set the pace.

“I’m letting them call the shots, except on the number of treats,” she said. “If they feel sociable, great! And if they want to ignore me, that’s okay, too. I know they have dealt with some chaos, so I am letting them figure out that I am a kind woman who will never let anything bad happen to them and that I love them beyond all reason.”

Time spent letting the pair settle in is not idle time for Jessica, however. Instead, she’s busy sharing her award-winning cooking and baking talents with others, including Animal Aid and fellow nonprofit, Outside In.

“Every week I volunteer to help cook dinner at Outside In and make 150-200 cookies each week for the kids,” she said. “Outside In has served homeless and marginalized kids, ages 15-24, for the past 50 years by offering meals, a medical clinic, job training, counseling, drug rehab, a needle exchange, tattoo removal, help getting a GED or getting a job, some transitional housing, and many other services.”

“It’s a very welcoming place for everyone, and the kids are amazing: smart, funny, willing to try new things,” she said. “I try to make one regular cookie and one that is gluten-free, vegan, paleo, or two or three of those things. Working there has really improved my vegan, gluten-free, and paleo baking chops. I really enjoy creating goodies for the kids’ special diets or preferences, and baking for the kids brings me a lot of joy—just seeing how happy they are to get home-baked cookies.”

Jessica also enters her baked goods into county and state fair competitions. “My ribbon count is at 96 now,” she said.

Her secret ingredients: “I try to use really high-quality ingredients, I bake with love in my heart and hands, and, most of all, I watch comedy shows while I bake!”

It’s clear that Jessica infuses a similar abundance of love into her relationships with her furry friends as she does into her baking. 

“I love Dolly and Cedar so much and so intensely,” she said. “They have such sweet natures that I am always smiling or laughing when I pet them or play with them. My heart lifts each time Dolly becomes a little more cuddly, or Cedar is a little less jumpy, or they both show how happy they are living here. Just seeing how they love and take care of each other is wonderful, and they are teaching me more about unconditional love. My life is so full and so much better with them in it, and I am totally grateful to Animal Aid for taking such good care of them until we could find each other.”

Is there a happy tail in your home? We’re always excited to hear how our former Animal Aid cats and dogs are doing! Email us at contact@animalaidpdx.org with the mews and pupdates, and don’t forget to share a photo or two as well, please and thanks!

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