One promise changed the life of Save The Animals Rescue Team, II volunteer, Colleen Ofeldt. In August 2010, her beloved feline soulmate, Morpheus, was diagnosed with stomach and intestinal cancer. The prognosis was not good. His primary veterinarian estimated he only had a week or so left to live. However, Morpheus pulled through for an extra two months, surprising everyone. It was during this time that Colleen made a promise to him. “Since my husband and I adopted Morpheus from a local Humane Society, I promised Morpheus that when he passed I would volunteer at an animal shelter to help other kitties awaiting adoption,” reflected Colleen. “I had a volunteer application for a state-funded shelter printed and filled out.”
When the Ofeldts inevitably had to put Morpheus to sleep, they were devastated. “I was never able to fathom such grief without experiencing it firsthand. To this day, I still can't put it into words, nor have I fully recovered,” Colleen said. Despite having other cats at home, being in a home devoid of Morpheus’ personality was unbearable. So, Colleen decided to adopt another cat.
“I searched on Petfinder for a few days and found a kitty I wanted to meet. We made a call to the rescue, Save The Animals Rescue Team, II. Within 24 hours we made an appointment to meet the kitty at Petsmart in Paramus,” said Colleen. However, the kitty she was interested wasn't at Petsmart. Instead, she met S.T.A.R.T. II president, Marge Kayne. Marge was genuinely sympathetic to the Ofeldt’s loss. She personally approved their adoption application and made arrangements for Colleen and her husband to see cats at the shelter the following day. “Out of nowhere, Marge asked me if I was interested in volunteering. I was surprised at her offer. It felt like we were on the same wavelength. Of course, I jumped on the opportunity,” recalled Colleen.
The following day at the shelter, Colleen and her husband spent time with all the cats, waiting for one to pick them out as their new forever parents. Tucked in the corner of the building, they found a cage housing two brown tabby cats. One was large and spotted with a poofy tail and funny face. The other, a petite little princess with marble swirls, terrified of people. They were brother and sister. And Colleen and her husband had to have them. “Since they were in one cage, we adopted them both. An empty cage equated to another animal S.T.A.R.T. II could save. We named them Castiel and Ishtar. Castiel’s antics at home took our mind off of the pain from grieving. Working with Ishtar to make her feel comfortable gave me a sense of purpose, something bigger than myself.”
A couple of weeks later, Colleen started cleaning cat cages for S.T.A.R.T. II. “It is one of the most emotionally demanding and rewarding jobs. The volunteers at S.T.A.R.T. II made me feel welcomed and have become extended family. We've been there for each other through countless kitten and puppy seasons, the passing of our beloved furry family members at home, saving animals on the brink of death from cruelty cases, and pulled through Hurricanes Irene and Sandy. Ultimately, it is all about the animals. When donations are minimal, volunteers purchase items for the animals out-of-pocket. We are strong for them. We are their voice. There’s no room for selfishness,” said Colleen.