RITA & ROB
I live in Virginia, near Washington, D.C., with my husband (Rob) and our four cats. Our feline family members include our spicy Maine Coon mix Kitty Girl, short-haired tabby sisters Taffy and Truffles, and Maine Coon mix Tinsel. We were also the proud aunt and uncle of a sometimes naughty but always loving Jack Russell (Jax), who spent his golden years with us until we lost him to cancer a few years ago. Jax is actually in BUB’s Hello Earth video game, which is so dear to us.
I’m a math and science girl by nature and have spent much of my career in the aerospace industry. After finishing a big project about 10 years ago, I decided to transition to part-time work so that I could explore what other things might catch my interest. We’d had Kitty Girl for about 10 years at the time, and over those years needed to learn to work with her on what I call her, “anger issues”. Learning how to best care for her led me to applying my knowledge as a volunteer with a local humane society as a “cat socializer”. Though I do have to admit, spending time visiting and playing with kitties hardly seemed like an altruistic endeavor! Since mid-2013, I have been volunteering with Only Maine Coons Rescue, a small foster-based rescue group, and I am so happy to say that our spicy cat who led me into the world of rescue is still with us, at almost 20 years old!
I mainly do administrative things with my rescue, but we’ve also fostered – and foster failed. That’s why we have four cats instead of one! We’re not very good at letting them go. We fostered a very sick kitty for the local humane society several years ago, as well. She came to us skin and bones in liver failure, with a feeding tube, bottles of medication, and not eating on her own. Once she was healthy again, she was adopted by an amazing family who still sends us photos of her with her three “little” human brothers. She’s the best big sister! It was so hard to let her go after caring for her, but she found the absolute perfect family and has even come back for “vacation” a couple of times.
How were you first introduced to BUB?
I so wish I could point to “that moment” when I first saw a photo of BUB or read about her, but when I think back, I don’t remember ever not knowing about BUB. It’s like she’s always been with us. I will always remember when I first got to meet BUB, though! It was in Los Angeles in 2015 at CatCon. I actually had a business trip to Los Angeles planned and learned BUB was going to be at the conference, so I jumped at the opportunity to sign up for her meet and greet. Seeing her in person for the first time, so tiny and bright-eyed, was something I’ll never forget. The whole experience was truly magical and inspiring, from meeting all of her fans as we waited in line, to speaking with Mike and interacting with BUB herself (she drooled on me, which could not have been more adorable!), to seeing the young gal behind me, whose fiancé had driven her down from northern California as a birthday surprise, burst into tears as she stroked BUB’s lil head. There was not a dry eye in sight at that moment. In addition to meeting tiny, precious, magical BUB, what left the most lasting impression on me was the obvious bond between BUB and Mike. Their magical connection was palpable, even in the midst of all the busyness of the event, and it was so lovely to be a part of that happy energy.
What inspires you to give?
Why is animal welfare important to you?
I’ve been drawn to animals, both domestic companions and wildlife, since childhood. Much of my youth was spent with the happy, smelly hound dogs that my father kept as alleged hunting dogs, though the only things they ever “hunted” were belly rubs and what fell off the table at dinner time. One of my earliest memories is of our then very old beagle, Jake, bringing home three baby rabbits he’d found, one at a time and quite alive, and placing them gently at my father’s feet. We cared for them and were able to release them on their way when they were old enough. How astounding that a beagle, a dog that instinctively hunts rabbits, would save the most vulnerable of his prey.
I feel a sense of responsibility to care for the vulnerable amongst us, and companion animals, specifically, rely on us to provide for them. Those with special needs rely on us even more. It’s heartening to see the progress that so many shelters, rescues, and individuals have made in caring for and placing pets with special needs into loving homes. BUB became such a powerful advocate for pets who need extra care, showing everyone that they are still beautiful souls just as worthy of finding their own special family and living their best life.
Also, I think more and more people are finding that animal welfare crosses the species boundary into human welfare. Animals touch a place in our hearts which, for some, is not always open to other people. Their devotion and affection can truly help people find their way in life. There are so many stories about the deep bonds that develop between pets and their humans. It’s hard to pop onto social media, even briefly, without seeing a beautiful story about how human and animal companions have lifted each other up. BUB’s and Mike’s deep connection is such a great example, and their precious friendship touched me profoundly from the very first time I was able to meet them.
What other causes do you support?
When I began supporting animal welfare charities, I wanted to include those working in wildlife care and conservation, as well. I help sponsor two gorgeous leopards at The Wild Animal Sanctuary – a wonderful sanctuary in Colorado that provides a forever home for large carnivores rescued from captive and abusive situations. Sadly, most captive wildlife cannot be reintroduced into the wild, and sanctuaries such as this are the only hope the animals have to live out their lives in a way that tries to recreate what nature intended. I also support the Snow Leopard Trust, which is an organization that works to protect snow leopards from extinction by working with local communities in snow leopard territory to encourage conservation while building up the community members’ livelihoods at the same time. Their online shop features many items made by local women, providing them the opportunity to take a very active role in conservation efforts while helping support their families. It’s really an amazing partnership benefitting the animals, people, and the environment.
Rob and I also support the activities at our local church, and especially feel connected to the family charities which provide food for at risk families in our community. There are many families in our area who struggle to make sure their children have a good meal each day, and during the pandemic, the need has been especially great.
We’ve also been volunteer coaches for Special Olympics (ice skating), which was so much fun! We haven’t had a chance to be active with Special Olympics for a while, but still keep in touch with several athletes and their families. It’s a wonderful organization, and it doesn’t matter if a volunteer is good at sports. The athletes LOVE the support they get and the new friends they make, and they will steal your heart in a hurry.