Rosemarie Ramos Vidal walked outside of her home in Puerto Rico as clean-up crews were clearing the streets following the Category 5 hurricane, Hurricane Maria, in 2017.
Beyond the devastation of the landscape from the hurricane, she was concerned when she overheard one of the men call out that he had found a little cat in the middle of the road while he was clearing away debris.
A cat-lover who had already taken in cats from the street and from a friend who could no longer take care of them, she went to the road to investigate.
“So I just went down, and one of the guys had her already in his hands, and I said, ‘Give her to me. I’ll take care of her,’” Ramos Vidal said.
From this point, she continued taking cats abandoned by the hurricane into her home, until she was caring for over 30 stray cats.
Several years later, in 2020, she needed to move, and she couldn’t find any animal shelters who would take the animals.
Finally, Sunday at 12:30 a.m., after over a year of logistical planning, a flight to New York and a van ride to Ohio, 36 cats arrived in Marion at Homeless to Home Animal Rescue & Cat Sanctuary.
The Sato Project, a disaster-relief organization dedicated to rescuing abused and abandoned animals in Puerto Rico, flew the cats to New York on a private plane. They were then received by the nonprofit pet transport organization, Imagine Home, Inc., who rented a van to drive them to Ohio.
Director and Founder of Homeless to Home Jeanine Tarantino said that after a year of waiting, she heard from the Sato Project team that she would receive the cats.
“All of a sudden, a month and a half ago, they said, ‘Okay, we’ve got flight arrangements,’” she said.
Feeling overwhelmed by the logistics, Tarantino said she had immense help from Mandy Nottingham, a volunteer who is great with travel planning as she works as a flight attendant with Delta.
Late Saturday night, Tarantino said a team of volunteers met at Homeless to Home – a rescue, shelter and sanctuary. She noted that “not all of them are night owls,” but they helped out all the same.
One volunteer, Mark Vicars, joked that he normally helps out Sunday mornings but not usually quite so early.
“It went real well,” he said.
“They arrived exactly on time like they said they would be and helped us get everything unloaded and hung out for a little bit, and then we moved them all inside and started getting them in their homes.”
Vicars said that when they first arrived, many of the cats seemed nervous, but when he stopped by Thursday afternoon, they already were much more relaxed and at-home.
Tarantino explained that once the animals get fully adjusted, they will be available for adoption.
“We’ll get them settled. We’ll get to know them. Eventually, once they’re acclimated to us, they’ll be running free within the rescue like all the other cats do, but we’ll eventually start placing them for adoption,” she said.
Ramos Vidal said words cannot describe how thankful for the help of the Sato Project and Homeless to Home as there are so many people who have as many as 50 animals in their home since the hurricane with nowhere to send them.
“Gratitude is the word, but it’s just beyond that,” she said.
“I had many, many people say no and be very, very, very rude to me. Here are some people say, ‘Yes I will take them.’ She (Tarantino) didn’t even ask how, she just said, ‘Yes, I’ll take them.’ How do you put that in words. There’s no words for that.”
Story by: Sophia Veneziano (740) 564 – 5243 ∣ firstname.lastname@example.org