During a 12-month stretch over 2011-2012 we had to have all three of our pets put to sleep—our two cats, Elliot and El Cid and our dog, Peanut.

It was as brutal as it sounds. Not only was it a real-world lesson for our two daughters it was a lesson in parenting (they skip that chapter in ‘What to expect when you’re expecting’). We made the decision to temporarily take a break from being pet-owners, but, as you can imagine, that didn’t last too long when you live with a (at the time) three-year-old and a seven-year-old. And despite my attempts to delay the inevitable, like Don Corleone, I have a sentimental weakness for my children.

So we made the decision to adopt a cat and began visiting local shelters. We made a lot of stops and met a lot of cats but weren’t able to find ‘the one’ (or the ones). That is until we ended up at Second Chance Shelter. And what I saw shocked me.

This place was Xanadu for cats. It was cleaner than some restaurants I’ve eaten at. The cats were spoiled with constant pampering and care from volunteers, only the best all-natural food and ridiculously clean (and suspiciously odorless) litter boxes filled with pine nuggets.

My daughters took full advantage of the play area to get to know several of the cats while my wife and I took the time to get to know Joann Barrows, the president and founder of the shelter (and whose property the shelter was on). Joann was one of ‘those’ people. You know, the kind of person you read about who does the things for ‘charity x or cause x’ no one else has the time or interest in doing.

Joann, whose ‘day’ job was a CPA, ran the shelter with the mentality of a mother hen. She knew every cat’s name, history, ailments as well as the type of family their personalities would fit with. And in addition to the 40+ cats in her shelter, she had another group of elderly cats she was pampering at her house because, as she put it, ‘they should get to spend their last days being pampered’.

We were impressed with the shelter, lucky to have met Joann and finally found ‘the one’ – a great cat named Terri. After eight months I’m still amazed at how ‘owner-ready’ she was. It’s like she’s been living here for years. The cat is happy. My kids are happy. My wife is happy… which means I’m happy. We actually volunteered/visited ourselves as a result of this, which was a great way for us to meet-up with Joann and do a tiny bit to help someone who was doing a lot.

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But sometimes terrible things happen to good people. Which was exactly the case when we received the news that Joann had died, suddenly and unexpectedly, the last weekend of 2013. She was 59. Loved and admired by a lot of people and survived by dozens of cats and happy families. (You can read her obituary here and the comments are overwhelming.)

So why am I blogging about this today? Well, because this isn’t a Disney movie, and when Joann died so did the shelter. It will be closed within the next three – six months. And I want your help.

I’m not asking for money. I’m not asking for time. Those things would be welcome but let’s be honest – that’s not what’s needed.

What I am asking is IF you are now or have ever thought about adopting a cat, give those left at Second Chance a chance. And if a cat isn’t for you, take a second and share this or forward to someone who might be interested.

You can see for yourself at The Second Chance site or like them on Facebook as they feature a different cat every day. If you are interested and want me to make the introduction directly, let me know – I will be happy to do that for you.

Thank you for reading, as always.