A group by any other name…

….is not the Underground Railroad Rescued Kitty Network.

With so many new members – we have 1, 171 as of this writing – it makes sense to recap some things that some folks may have missed along the way.   The questions I’m going to attempt to answer today are:

What was the inspiration for this group?  Who thought of the name, and why?

So, the short answer to the first question (what was the inspiration for this group) is – Jack the Cat.  I’m sure that many of you followed Jack’s story, either on Facebook or in the media, but I also know that there are many people who never heard Jack’s story.  Grab some tissues and I’ll give you the shorter version of the story (seriously, go ahead, I’ll wait….).

Jack, his bro-fur Barry and hu-mom Karen all lived in New York until the summer of 2011.  Karen got a job in California and packed up the boys for a cross country move.  On August 25, 2011, Karen checked Jack and Barry in (they were too big to fly in the cabin with her) and said goodbye to her beloved boys.  Soon after that, while in the passenger area of the airport, she received a call that one of her kitties was missing in the baggage claim area.  Karen quickly returned to search for Jack.  Unfortunately, after an hour of searching, Jack was nowhere to be found.  American Airlines put Karen and Barry on a later flight and assured her that they would call her as soon as Jack was found.  This is where AA’s customer service really dropped the ball.  They were supposed to call Karen the next day, but failed to call her until the following Monday.  Now, there was a hurricane headed for NYC (and it was a doozie of a storm that hammered the East Coast) but still.  No call until Monday?!?!?  Unacceptable.  In the meantime, Karen’s sister Marybeth started a Facebook page to spread awareness of the plight of this sweet kitty (the page is still up and running if you’d like to check it out https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jack-The-Cat-is-Lost-in-AA-Baggage-at-JFK/143108332445793).  Some amazing volunteers stepped up and helped with search parties in the area for Jack.  But, nothing….poor Jack was just not showing his face.  Finally, on October 25, 2011, Jack literally fell through the ceiling tiles in one of American Airlines behind the scenes areas.  Jack was rushed to a local veterinarian, his identity was verified by his microchip and the vet immediately started to try to nurse this poor, scared little baby back to health.  Sadly, the story does not have a happy ending.  On November 6, 2011, Jack crossed the Rainbow Bridge.  His injuries and his malnutrition were just too severe for him to recover.  Thousands of people, most of whom had never met Karen or Jack, mourned his loss.

However, it is because of this heartbreaking story that URRKN exists.  Shortly after Jack was found, Tina LaBlanc founded URRKN.  She created the group on October 31, 2011 (Halloween!!) with the hope of creating a nationwide network of volunteers who would help ensure that no kitty ever has to fly cargo again.  Poor Karen had no idea of the pitfalls her babies might encounter when she checked them in that day.   With URRKN, we hope that no other pet parent has to suffer the same anguish and heartbreak.

RIP Jack – you are forever in our hearts, little man

Ok…take a few minutes….blow your nose, wipe your eyes and hug your own kitty (yeah, even the doggie too if you have one of those!).  Better?  Good.  Now that you know WHY this group got started, let me tell how you the group got its name.

Underground Railroad Rescued Kitty Network.  Sounds kind of mysterious and clandestine, doesn’t it?  Wellll…it’s not…BUT…yes, the name does take its inspiration from the original Underground Railroad.  I’m sure you all remember your history, but in case you were sleeping in that class (I admit, sometimes I caught a few zzz’s in some of my classes way back when), let me remind you about the first Underground Railroad.  In the 1800’s, the Underground Railroad was set up by abolitionists to help slaves escape to the “free states” in the North (and sometimes even Canada).  The “Railroad” used a network of “safe houses” and secret routes to move these slaves from place to place.  Often the volunteers were in as much danger as the slaves themselves.  But these “railroaders” were passionate about their cause and were willing to risk anything to help.

Founder Tina LaBlanc has said “I was fascinated by the story of the Underground Railroad and always admired those who gave and risked so much to help someone else…. the Underground Railroad just seemed like the perfect model to follow (to transport kitties) and would be a way to honor those who risked so much to help others.”  When Tina was asked about whether or not using the name for a group would dishonor the legacy she said, “I knew when I chose the name that some might take offense and think that I was belittling the original. But I went with it anyway, knowing that in my heart I knew I was honoring something so important….hoping that my passion would make that clear.”  Tina goes on to say, “I have been asked why I do not put this effort to something like advocating for elderly or a children’s cause. It is not that I do not have compassion for those issues. I do. But kitties do not have a voice. I/we must be the voice for them.”

Noelle, one of the Core Admins for URRKN, expands on this idea by saying, “There are a million causes in the world. We don’t choose our causes, they choose us. The ones that have chosen me break my heart nearly every day but on the good days, I’m so proud of what I do. I help cats, I help cancer patients and I help disabled veterans.”

While the obstacles facing the URRKN volunteers are not nearly as death defying as those faced by the original railroaders (although if you’ve ever driving in rush hour traffic on I-95 in Washington DC, you might disagree with me!), there are still many obstacles that must be overcome to move our precious cargo.  We’ve had transports travel through horrible traffic, terrible rain/snow storms and various other things that have led to delays.  However, our volunteers are like postmen (either snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds) but our deliveries make people even happier than theirs do (unless of course it’s a Publisher’s Clearinghouse check!).

So, there you have it.  How we got here and how we got our name.  I hope you’ve enjoyed this.  I know there aren’t as many pretty pictures as there are in a normal blog post….trust me, there are more of those coming!  Lots of kitties have gotten home in the last month – I have my work cut out for me!  Also, if there are any other topics you’d like to see in writing, please drop me a line…I’ll see what I can do!

In the meantime – if you’re not already a member of our group – please come join us on our Facebook page …there is no such thing as too many volunteers, supporters or friends….we’d love to have you  https://www.facebook.com/groups/URRKN/

 

Choo Choo, friends, Choo Choo!!







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Boy….O’Boys

This is the story of two special “bonded” boys.  O’Malley (all orange) was a shelter favorite.  So much so that the staff kept him three weeks past his “date” in an effort to find this sweet boy a home.  O’Riley (orange and white) is a sweet little man who loves nothing more than a warm lap to call his own.  He never stopped purring, even while suffering from a URI.  In stepped their guardian angel, Jess, who pulled both babies for their new furever mom, Eugenia!  You might remember Jess from Sully’s story (and you’ll hear about her again soon!).  The next step – getting these beautiful boys from Michigan to South Carolina.  Choo choo – URRKN at your service!  Here’s a picture of their route so you can see just how much went into this….

You may be wondering how long it takes to put a route like this together….when this event was first created, our goal was to put them on the “rails” home on February 18th.  They finally got to travel on March 10th and 11th.  This is the reason why we currently cannot do “urgent” transports (more on that at another time, though, this is all about the O’Boys as they were affectionately known to URRKN’s).

Back to their trip home.  The O’Boys met thirteen different drivers on their trip of approximately 1,059 miles over the course of two days.  You heard me right THIRTEEN different angels stepped up and volunteered their time to get these boys to their furever home.  That gives me the warm fuzzies just thinking about it again!!  🙂

Their trip started from their wonderful foster’s home in Novi, Michigan.  The first conductor of the day, Raven, picked the boys up and headed off toward Toledo to meet up with Annette.    After the switch was made, Annette headed off to meet with Chris (yes, the same Chris you’ve seen before with Sully and James – you remember how much we love Chris, right?!?).  Well, Chris stepped up again for the kitties this time due to an unforeseen emergency with the driver scheduled to meet up with Annette.  Both Annette and Chris went above and beyond to prove that URRKN conductors are the BEST and will do anything for the kitties!  (and it let the driver in the middle focus on what she needed to focus on without having more to worry about!).  Anyway – I digress (again).  Here are Annette and Chris with the boys –  before Chris headed off to switch cars and put the boys in something a little more suited to their long ride ahead.   Annette also snapped a picture of the boys just relaxing while she had them Sooooo cute!!   Don’t you just want to squeeze them?!?  Not too hard, of course, but….you know….snuggles….

Chris headed Southeast to meet up with Barbara in Pennsylvania (yup, state #3 for the day for the boys).    Barbara made sure to snap another adorable picture of the boys when she had them.  From here, they’re off to Maryland to meet up with Lynne!   Now, Lynne has an adorable little sports car, so of course there was a little bit of concern about whether or not the crate would fit into her car.   But, in true URRKN form (where there’s a will, there’s a way), Lynne managed to make it fit…check her out here   With the boys safely ensconced in their next ride, Lynne zoomed off to meet Noni, who would be providing the B&B for the boys for the evening.  Here’s Lynne and Noni’s hubby Phil transferring the boys at the next stop 

Before hitting the road to check the boys in to the B&B, Noni snapped this picture of her hubby with O’Malley Don’t you just LOVE a man who loves kitties?!??  Now, don’t worry, O’Malley was NOT going to be driving himself to the B&B – he was safely back in the crate with his buddy for the ride to the B&B.

Once at the B&B, Noni and Phil got the boys settled in and sent us a bunch of pictures of the boy enjoying their five star accommodations.  Here are just a few of them.

After a fabulous night’s rest at the Noni B&B, it was time for the boys to hit the road again and head South.  They’re about to become true Southern gentlemen, you know?

Tara and Jason were the first to hit the road with the boys on a beautiful Sunday morning (YES – a third man who loves kitties!!!  These boys are truly special, no?)  Tara and Jason sent these pictures – and Tara mentioned how she missed the boys already when she handed them over to Beth in Virginia (a common feeling of all of our conductors on all of our trips!)

The boys were now safely in Beth’s care and the journey continued South toward Christine who will cruise on down the highway to Bonnie in North Carolina.  Throughout all of this, everyone has said the same thing – the boys are so relaxed and so sweet.  I think that shows up in all of the pictures too, don’t you?  Can’t forget the big smiles on the driver’s faces either! 🙂

 

The boys are getting so close, now, can you feel it???  Bonnie headed across North Carolina to Susan.  Oooh – so exciting, the boys were almost home!!  (and remember, URRKN’s all over the country were glued to their computers, laptops, smartphones, etc… just waiting for updates on the boys.  There’s something about a transport weekend that is just so energizing!).  After Susan took over and headed even further across North Carolina (some of these states are BIG) she met up with Liz, who would be the last driver before the boys would meet their new mommy!!  One more driver…the excitement just kept building and building on the main page.  Are they there yet?  Are they there yet?

Almost, boys (and readers) almost!  Liz took off with the boys and headed to South Carolina (state number SEVEN) to meet Eugenia – who has been patiently waiting for her new babies for about a month!!  And here it is…the moment you’ve all been waiting for – Eugenia with her new little men

  Doesn’t everyone look so happy?!?!  (Just a little disclaimer here, though:  URRKN policies state that kitties should never be outside their carriers outside of the vehicles or with vehicle doors open during transport.  Eugenia is the new mommy so can make her own decisions on handling .)

Eugenia was also kind enough to send a picture of the boys the following weekend – appropriately the O’Boys were celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with her in their new home and they have clearly settled in nicely, don’t you think?

 Do YOU want to feel the excitement of a transport weekend?  Then come on over to Facebook and join us http://www.facebook.com/groups/URRKN/  We’re currently at 1039 members!!  Can you believe it?  In less than four months we’ve grown to over 1000 members!!  Can’t drive?  Not in the US? Allergic to cats, but love them anyway?  Have so many family or work responsibilities that you just can’t take the time out to participate in transport?  That’s okay – we still need you!!!  You might be able to be a B&B or be able to help us recruit other members.  Not all of our member are active transporters, but they’re just as valuable to us.  You never know when you might know someone who knows someone who could fill a leg of a transport.  JOIN US – THE KITTIES NEED YOU!!!

Choo choo!!