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A mother’s love: Naperville mom devoted to mothering ‘special’ animals

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TribLocal Naperville
By Linda Kane, A.D.O.P.T. volunteer
June 8, 2011
Lizzie (left) and Little Lulu, two special-needs kittens, will soon be available for adoption at Naperville’s A.D.O.P.T. Pet Shelter (photo courtesy of S. Greiner).

As the mother of five grown children, Sharon Greiner knows a thing or two about loving and caring for a family.

But Greiner truly honed her maternal and domestic skills when she began volunteering for Animals Deserving of Proper Treatment (A.D.O.P.T.) two-and-one-half years ago. As a beginning volunteer, Greiner cleaned floors and dog cages.

Greiner found her “passion,” however, about six months later when a passerby reported three kittens, “probably a week or so old,” in the middle of the street, she said.

“The police called A.D.O.P.T,” said Greiner, whose human family also includes canines and felines. “And Rich (Glessner, director of operations) said the shelter could take the kittens if I could foster them.”

Greiner, always a mom, accepted the challenge.

The three kittens were “loaded with maggots up and down their back and tail,” she said. “In fact, I had to comb them off before I knew what (the maggots) were. I took the kittens home and started bottle-feeding them.

“The shelter gave me some KMR (Kitten Milk Replacer); I did exactly what the instructions said. I did a ton of online research the next day. Every question that came up I would ask someone at the shelter, like an experienced foster mom, the medical team, or Chris Stirn (medical services coordinator).

“I was just so into it,” Greiner said.

Now, at least 10 litters later, the Naperville mom says she’s hooked. “One thing led to another, and I had litter after litter. I just fell in love with [fostering kittens].”

More Challenges

While fostering, Greiner said she’s faced some, well, unpleasant domestic duties.

“I’ve had plenty of kittens that have had diarrhea for weeks, and I’d have to wash them every time I went to feed them,” she said. “Laundry would be three loads per day.”

Greiner said she would spend 5-6 hours each day caring for her diarrheic kittens.

However, a March 2 phone call challenged Greiner’s motherly instincts yet again.

“I got a call that a pregnant mom cat was taken from a hoarding situation,” she said. “I was afraid because I had never had a pregnant mom before.”

Greiner said the future mother kitty had “plastered herself to the back of the cage [in fear]. She was in really bad shape: undernourished, dirty, filled with flea dirt.”

“The shelter tested her, gave her shots and treated her for the fleas before I took her home.”

Three days later at Greiner’s home, the soon-to-be mama finally emerged from under the bed. “I named her ‘Heidi,’ said Greiner, “because she hides.”

A New (Feline) Family, a New Challenge

On March 16, Heidi gave birth to three kittens.

But this time, Greiner faced a different challenge: Two of the kittens had severe birth defects—One was missing a front leg; one had a cleft lip.

The tiny black kitten with the cleft lip, later named Little Lulu, had difficulty nursing at first, Greiner said, “but Heidi was so patient and accepting of me [when I tried to help]. I would put Little Lulu on her.

“I weighed all the babies every single day to be sure they were gaining,” Greiner added. “However, Little Lulu was the smallest from the beginning.”

Now at normal weight, Little Lulu may have surgery later to close the cleft. “We don’t know yet what she’s going to look like when she’s a full-grown cat,” Greiner said. “It’s a pretty severe cleft.”

And what about the kitten with the missing leg?

“She can get around and run with the best of them,” said Greiner about the gray kitten she named Lizzie. “She runs, hops and climbs up on the bed. She’s all over the place, a very social girl.”

Looking for ‘Forever Homes’

Twelve weeks later Lizzie, Little Lulu and sister Lacy are back at A.D.O.P.T. Mom Heidi is there, too. A.D.O.P.T. counselors hope to find them their “forever homes”—special homes for special-needs kitties.

“We didn’t know that [Heidi] would have special-needs kittens,” said Greiner, who added that she’d like to be involved with the adoption process. “We’re doing everything possible for them; we want to find them the perfect ‘forever home’ with a loving, caring, understanding family.”

Greiner said it would be great if the kittens and their mother could be adopted together in pairs. “I really want Heidi to go with one of her kittens,” she said.

In the meantime, Greiner, currently fostering six other kittens, anticipates her next litter. In fact, she said husband Bruce is building her an enclosure so she can accommodate several litters simultaneously.

“I want to do the right thing,” said Greiner who has also rescued baby rabbits. “I want to take these unfortunate little creatures and give them love and the chance at life.

“I’d take every single bottle baby that comes across our path,” she said. “It’s a mother thing.”

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