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A.D.O.P.T., Blessed Bonds join forces to help pet owners keep pets

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TribLocal Aurora
By Linda Kane, A.D.O.P.T. volunteer
January 6, 2011

New Year’s Day brought a special reunion for Gina Perry and her two cats, Mariah and Neo.

Gina Perry, Harper High School English teacher, felt nervous before her total hysterectomy. With her surgery scheduled for the beginning of December, Perry had to temporarily say goodbye to the students she loved like family.

She also felt nervous about the future of her other family, her two cats: 16-year-old Mariah, a female calico, and 7-year-old Neo, a male black-and-white tuxedo cat.

“As the time got closer, I became more nervous and upset,” said Perry about her two feline friends. “Fortunately, my sister called, saying she had found a website for an organization that might be able to help me.”

The organization, Blessed Bonds, is a non-profit group dedicated to preserving the human-animal bond and promoting its value.

Clinical psychologist Dr. Linda Harper, who, from the age of 12, said she “wanted to do something to help animals,” started the group in March 2004. Using a computer, a telephone and a fax machine, Blessed Bonds helps pets whose families are experiencing a temporary personal crisis because of illness, hospitalization, rehabilitation, or foreclosure, to name a few.

And, as of Jan. 1, Blessed Bonds is no longer its own charitable organization. “It’s [now] a program of A.D.O.P.T.,” Harper said. “We are now able to do so much more. We were limited by being independent.”

Harper, who has always had a dog or cat help her in her practice, said the faltering economy has increased the need for Blessed Bonds. “In the first year, our initial cases were mostly senior citizens who had to go to the hospital and had no family to take care of their pets,” Harper said. “Then the economic crisis hit in 2007-08, and all kinds of other needs came up.”

Since its founding almost seven years ago, Blessed Bonds has helped more than 1,000 pets of families experiencing a temporary crisis. “We are a network of foster homes,” Harper said.

At press time, Blessed Bonds had 65 foster homes. “We want to grow it more,” Harper said. “We want to expand [the program]. We always need fosters. And we want to be in lots of different locales.”

Harper said she has helped pets and pet owners within a 2-hour radius of Chicago. “We have helped in northwest Indiana, Palos Park and Crystal Lake,” she said. “We want animals’ first home to be their forever home.”

Joining with A.D.O.P.T. is a win-win situation for all involved, said Sandy Boston, A.D.O.P.T. president. “If we can help people keep animals in their homes permanently, just through temporary help, we can prevent our shelters from filling up,” Boston said. “[Blessed Bonds’] mission fits with our mission–to keep animals in permanent, loving homes.”

Perry said that when her sister found Blessed Bonds, “it was a Godsend. I talked to Blessed Bonds myself, and they found someone [to take Mariah and Neo]. Then, I talked with Bridget (Forde, the foster) on the phone and immediately formed a bond with her.”

Both Perry and Forde said they have loved animals since they were young. “I’ve never had cats, just dogs,” Forde said. “This was a new adventure.”

Forde, who lives in Evergreen Park, said she and the two cats “would sit for hours.

“They [Mariah and Neo] would jump right up on your lap and follow you around,” she said. “I never knew they were so attached and loving. They are so full of love.”

Perry said it was hard to part with her two kitties prior to her surgery. “I did not want to leave Bridget’s [house] when I dropped them off,” she said. “I had a difficult time doing it, but I felt comfortable with Bridget. She was very gentle, very loving, and really went out of her way to make me and them feel right at home. And that was so important to me.”

While staying with Forde, Mariah and Neo visited A.D.O.P.T. Pet Shelter in Naperville to get their routine shots for foster care. During the exam, A.D.O.P.T. veterinarian Dr. Linda Kopija found that Mariah had a tumor on one of her legs.

A.D.O.P.T. promptly scheduled surgery and removed most of the tumor. “[Mariah] may still have a tumor or two,” Perry said. “But she’s been just as active as she ever was.

Now back with her family of teenagers at Harper High School, Perry had another sort of reunion, this one with Mariah and Neo on New Year’s Day. “I recommend this program to anybody and everybody I talk to,” said Perry enthusiastically.

Forde agreed. “You should not worry about your pet,” she said. “There is a place that will help. The people [at Blessed Bonds and A.D.O.P.T] are so caring...It’s a bond of love.”

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