Naomi & Karina Paape
Dear Fellow Felines: The day dawned dark and stormy on Sunday, October 4, but – unruffled – my Meow Power team slinked through the course of the Marco Island Fitness Challenge Triathlon and made me and my staff (remember, cats have staff; dogs have owners) here at For the Love of Cats proud. Not only did they obliterate their target finishing time, but they also raised $2,095 for all the cats and kittens here at Marco’s no-kill cat shelter. This was a respectable 42% of their $5,000 fundraising goal. Despite the threatening weather, the Meows had a small cheering section that kept everyone’s spirits up with a colorful Meow Power sign!
As their coach (yes, I know I’m just a cat) I was beaming from ear to tortie ear (remember, I’m a “tortie,” a type of cat known for its take-no-prisoners personality) when my gals received their “finisher” medals. I’d worked the Meows hard through the suffocating summer heat, drenching downpours, and frightening lightning.
Team Meow Power competed in the event as a relay team (versus as individuals), meaning each competed in a single discipline. The team’s swimmer – Sammy Miller, an accomplished triathlete, put in roughly 50-miles of swim training to prepare for her quarter-mile, open water swim, no small feat given that some of her swim sessions at the beach involved dodging families playing and splashing in the water, as well as having to get in and out of the water to avoid getting hooked by fishing lines!
But alas, on game day the seas of the Gulf were dangerously rough for the swimmers who’d be fighting a westerly wind of 15-20 knots and a strong riptide. The organizers decided to cancel the swim, a heartbreaker for the 342athletes who’d spent months training for that segment of the course. Instead, the swimmers ran a quarter-mile on the beach, and then ran up to the transition area to hop on their bikes for the 15-mile ride to and through Key Marco and back. As if the hilly course through Key Marco wasn’t challenging enough, the bikers had to deal with the same strong and gusty winds that had shut down the swim leg.
Team Meow Power’s biker, endurance cyclist Karina Paape, put in roughly 1,000 training miles and 25 hours of spin classes, yet still found the course a pedal-to-the-metal suffer-fest. Runner Maria Lamb, a marathoner who’s doing the New York City Marathon in two weeks, was waiting for Karina when she hit the transition area, literally. Karina fell spectacularly while trying to run across the sandy parking lot in cleated biking shoes to rack her bike, yet still managed to hand off the timing chip to Maria, who was waiting anxiously in the team box. Maria dashed back to the crowded beach for the event’s final leg, a 3.1-mile run in the sand.
The team’s assistant coach “Felicia” – a beautiful, elderly Maine Coon cat who took up residence in the shelter early in the summer, crossed the Rainbow Bridge on August 24 after an unsuccessful battle with a litany of health problems. The loss drove my Meow Power athletes to train even harder so as to make Felicia proud. The effort was reflected in a finishing time of 1:38:18, which was well below team captain Maria’s goal to finish in 1:49:00. Team Meow Power finished fourth in their team division, which fell one place short of bringing a trophy home to the shelter. But to me, the kitties, and my staff ofvolunteers, Meow Power brought home the greatest prize of all: hope and happiness for all the kitties we rescue each year.
I was so touched by their dedication, in fact, that I decided to give them each a Certificate of Appreciation in recognition of how hard they had worked for the shelter kitties. When the Meows arrived for the ceremony, they found me (I’m the official “shelter supervisor”) and my staff knee deep in a litter of five orphaned, nine-day old kittens who’d come in the door moments earlier. We were busy giving each one a bath, picking fleas off, and determining their genders.
The Meows, wearing their neon green triathlon shirts and finisher’s medals, jumped right in to help. Maria started bottle-feeding them one at a time, after which I asked Sammy and Karina to give the newbies a walking tour of the shelter. Since the kittens delayed my little awards ceremony, I gave the Meows the honor of naming the new arrivals. They didn’t waste any time coming up with purr-fect, famous athlete names: Diana, Gretta, Quintana, Ranger, and Rodger. And they’re already talking about next year’s triathlon! “The best part of all was sharing the race with my uber talented and caring teammates,” Sammy explained. “That’s the part I’ll treasure the most!”
In closing, I encourage readers to check out the shelter’s “kitty cam” at: www.fortheloveofcatsfl.com. And start saving your allowance so you can buy one of the shelter’s Glamour Puss 2016 calendars, which are available online and at the Farmer’s Market. They make purr-fect Christmas gifts!
Naomi is a 6-1/2-year-old Tortie and a permanent resident at FLC. She is the shelter supervisor and takes her salary in food. She would love for you to learn more about For the Love of Cats at its website, www.fortheloveofcatsfl.com