A Woman on a Mission: Giving Every Animal a Chance
The Story of Dottie Smiddy and Rescue Kitties, “Sunny” and “Lazarus”
By Charidy Murphy
If one is fortunate enough to have an opportunity to speak with Dottie Smiddy, they immediately learn she is one busy lady. They also recognize, very quickly, that stray and feral cats in Clark County could not have a better friend than this hard-working “Crazy Cat Lady.”
After working for the City Schools, Springfield, Ohio for 29 years, Dottie is spending her retirement volunteering her time making lives better for the area’s stray and feral cats through her rescue and TNR (Trap/Neuter/Release) work with the non-profit groups, Pets Uniting People Society (PUPS) and Cat Alliance Located in Central Ohio (CALICO).
Dottie does an incredible amount of leg work necessary to bring TNR programs to an unbelievable number of local cat colonies. Through TNR, cats are humanely trapped, neutered/spayed, vaccinated, ear-tipped for identification, then returned to their colonies or a location where they will be fed regularly. She says the work is important for several reasons.
She reports that unfortunately, not all stray cats are adoptable; there will always be feral cats. People get annoyed with unwanted cats in their neighborhoods. There are also predators and traffic, so it can be very dangerous for cats that live outside. If the breeding cycle isn’t stopped, the feral colonies will just continue to increase in size. Getting the cats vaccinated against rabies is helpful in the colonies too.
Dottie is locally “famous” as the go-to person for folks looking for a way to help find cats’ forever homes. However, she is NOT the only one. Other local resources are: American Society of Prevention of Cruelty in Animals (ASPCA/Springfield), Animal Welfare League (Springfield), Champaign County Animal Welfare League (Mechanicsburg), and His Hands Extended Sanctuary (St. Paris), just to name a few. In the past year alone, she has facilitated around 140-150 adoptions. At any one time, she may have up to 30 animals being cared for within her fostering network. She needs more fosters too. (If interested, email Dottie at ). The care of each animal is important. “There is no such a thing as, ‘just a stray’,” she explains, “Every single animal deserves a chance to live.”
The stories of rescue kitties, “Sunny” and “Lazarus,” are examples of just how far Dottie will go to give every single animal a chance to live.
Dottie was on her way to the cemetery to decorate the grave of her father, Ray, on Flag Day in the spring when she received a call from a Springfield woman asking if she was able to take a very young kitten that she had found. Dottie told the woman that she would do what she could, but that very young kitties are delicate and need their mothers.
When Dottie picked up the tiny orange tabby kitten, it was wrapped in baby blankets and its eyes were not opened yet. It was estimated the baby was only about 7 days old. She went on to the cemetery with the foundling in the front seat, along with a bottle prepared by the woman who found him. The tiny kitty was about to surprise Dottie in a very sweet way.
When Dottie got back to the car, this little kitty was squirming and made a squeak like he was hungry, so she got the bottle out to feed him. Just before she put the bottle into his mouth, one of his little eyes opened, and it was just as blue as the sky!
Dottie named the kitten “Sunny Ray” in honor of her dad Ray and the weather that day was full of sunshine! Sunny Ray stayed with Dottie for about two weeks before he was fostered by her friend Suellen. She is a member of the PUPS’ foster network and loves taking care of kittens.
Suellen spent the next eight weeks feeding, cuddling, and loving on Sunny Ray before returning him to Dottie once he was more independent. Sunny’s story generated a lot of interest on Facebook and within a few weeks, Sunny was adopted and on his way to his forever home in Chicago, riding in kitty-first-class (a regular airplane seat), right alongside his new family! It was a family known by PUPS’ board member Susan Pike. Since this family already had another orange tabby adopted from Susan named Puddy Tat, Sunny Ray was not alone. These two kitties became the best of friends and sport the 2019 cover of the PUPS Digest, the official magazine of Pets Uniting People Society, www.pupsunite.org!
Another kitty’s story that captured people’s imaginations is the tale of a kitten named “Lazarus.”
Last winter, a tiny black kitten was found by an older man in his backyard. The kitten was frozen to the ground and the man was afraid it was dead, but it was actually still alive. When Dottie received the kitten, it was freezing and in a coma. She immediately wrapped the tiny thing up in a blanket and rushed it to the medical team waiting on her at His Hands Extended Animal Sanctuary. (Dottie works with this local sanctuary a lot). It was imperative to bring the kitten’s body temperature up immediately.
“It took nearly an hour to get his body temperature halfway back up...that’s when we discovered he was paralyzed and had been mauled around the neck,” explains Dottie, “He looked bad, but God love him, he opened his eyes!” However, the tiny kitten was not out of the woods yet, and the only thing they could do was to wait and see how the kitten would do. Dottie did much more than just wait.
She took the kitten home and placed him on a heating pad in a cage in her dining room so she could keep a constant eye on him. He was named “Lazarus” since he was practically brought back from the dead. Lazarus was syringe-fed every three hours, “He was one of my Bottle-Babies,” says Dottie. He also received fluids under the skin, a daily steroid shot, and physical therapy on his legs three times a day. Her work had miraculous results.
Dottie continued to talk about the progress of Lazarus: “I did this therapy every day. At two weeks he pushed back at me! I was so excited! I yelled to Dave (her husband), ‘He pushed back!’ The vet said it was just muscle spasms and to not get excited, but I knew he pushed back. Three or four days later I went out to check him in the morning. I held my breath (because) you never know if the little ones are going to die...Lazarus (had been) moving his head and he looked up at me. Then, there he was, moving those back feet, trying to sit up...and he did! He sat up! He started eating by himself a little at a time. Then I got him down on the floor to let him try to make steps.
I did this for about a week, then, all of a sudden, he started walking. Once he started walking, he took off running! There were many people who were also responsible for Lazarus’ recovery, along with some divine help. A lot of people prayed for Lazarus and made donations of food and money towards his recovery. People were really interested in his story.”
Lazarus was eventually adopted by Dave and Dottie’s nephew in Memphis, Tennessee. So many people follow Lazarus’ story that today he has his own Facebook page, complete with videos starring him. His story is also written into a children’s book by Jeanette Sprouse, a PUPS volunteer. “He’s a very special kitty,” says Dottie.
The stories of Sunny and Lazarus are just two out of the hundreds of beautiful adoption stories Dottie Smiddy has played a part in. However, in spite of the hundreds of kitty lives Dottie has helped save, she shows no sign of slowing down. As long as she is able, Dottie will continue to do her very important rescue and TNR work, giving every animal a chance.