Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Madison County Cats: Till We Meet Again...

Many thanks to Marcia Goodman, RedRover Responders volunteer and Communications Assistant, for writing this blog series on our deployment to Madison County, Florida. This is her final entry for this series.

This final entry in this blog series focuses on the wonderful RedRover Responders volunteers who deployed to Jacksonville, Florida. I wasn't able to interview all of them, but the ones I did speak with represented a good sample of our volunteers.

Rob and Julie preparing cages for the cats.

As is typical for RedRover Responders, we were a varied group of volunteers. This was the first deployment for Rob Sullenberger, an ex-marine who shares his home in Georgia with 11 dogs and 7 cats, and for Andrea Weisberger, a Jacksonville area local who has 21 cat companions and also cares for a feral colony of about 25 cats. Diane Dupont and Julie Rathbun have deployed together in the past and were roommates at this deployment. I've also deployed with Julie in the past. Newly retired Karin Evans, my roommate at this deployment, has previously traveled to the Dominican Republic and Thailand to help animals and looks forward to more international travel. Two Jacksonville-area volunteers, Monica Ross and Amy Mcmahon were runners for the medical department at this deployment. Rebecca Cox, a vet tech student with an eye toward possibly going to veterinary school, did homework for school at night after an 11-hour workday at the emergency shelter.

Diane carrying cats from the ASPCA rig into the temporary shelter.  

Most rewarding

To Andrea, most rewarding about this deployment was that she made a difference for the cats: being able to talk to them and provide positive human contact to make them feel more secure. Rob said that the large size of this deployment gave him insight into deployment operations through the interaction and dynamics of the different animal welfare groups working together. For Diane, who worked at a very similar deployment a few months earlier (the huge cat rescue in Gainesville, Florida), this Jacksonville deployment was an opportunity to apply the lessons she learned in Gainesville. Rebecca, who also volunteered at Gainesville, added that it's personally rewarding to make a difference for the cats she helped and also to be around "my kind of people" – that is, people who care about animals. Amy called this deployment an "amazing opportunity" as runner for the medical team, which "exceeded my every expectation." Karin appreciated how much was accomplished in such a short time and how great it was that everyone worked together effectively.

Andrea, on her birthday, suiting up to treat cats for ringworm.

Why deploy?

Diane deploys to animal rescues so she can make a difference, which she feels is (sadly) easy to do because the animals come from such horrid conditions. In a similar vein, Rebecca deploys because, although many people are sympathetic about what happens to animals, not many do something about it – and the animals need people who will help. Karin is thrilled that she has the time to deploy now that she's retired. She tried to retire once before, but the small business she created at that time blossomed; now she has sold the business and can devote much more time to helping animals in distress.

Karin providing daily care for the cats. 

Challenges as a RedRover Responders volunteer

The challenges faced by RedRover Responders volunteers differ from person to person. Karin says it's difficult to put a burden on the people she leaves at home to take care of her companion animals so that she can deploy. For Diane, it's not knowing what happens to the rescued animals after an emergency shelter closes. On this, her first deployment, Andrea was sorry that she wasn't able to work with the other RedRover Responders volunteers more; we were so dispersed throughout the shelter. Rebecca hopes that in future deployments, she'll be able to use the skills she's gaining as a vet tech student so she can help more and learn more.

Amy checking on cats who are next to go to medical.

How this deployment has been different

This was Rebecca's second deployment; her first was the major cat rescue in Gainesville. She said the first one was a very emotional experience for her because she had a hard time seeing beyond all the individual cats who were suffering. At this deployment, she's a little less sensitive in a good way: she feels better able to help large numbers of cats because she can see beyond each individual cat. Amy helped at Hurricane Katrina and noted that this deployment to Jacksonville was "luxurious" in comparison thanks to the supplies provided by PetSmart Charities, the indoor shelter with electricity and real bathrooms, and the great meals provided by the ASPCA. (Note: Amy lives locally and didn't even get to lodge with other volunteers at this deployment.) For Karin, this deployment was the biggest she's been on; there was a lot to get done in a short period of time. Similarly, seeing multiple organizations work together on this deployment was the major difference for Diane; there's been more diversity this time around, meeting lots of different people from different organizations.

Rebecca filling out a daily care sheet.
There you have it – nine volunteers with nine different stories, and yet the most important piece of each story is the same: we all share a passion to help animals in need. We were all in Jacksonville to help nearly 700 cats by supporting each other, as well as the staff and volunteers of other organizations, and bonding with one another as we did so. As always, I look forward to the next deployment when I'll be able to walk in on Day 1 and say to some volunteers, "Great to meet you!" and to other volunteers with delight, "Wow, I haven't seen you since...!!!"

Marcia donning Tyvek attire, a fashionable favorite among RedRover Responders volunteers. 


  1. You all are AWESOME.

  2. Bravo to all the kind people who step up and help in dire are appreciated never forgot that

  3. It's interesting to hear of some of the challenges for the volunteers. Thanks very much for sharing this.


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