Harwood couple runs cat rescue
1/31/2010, 12:00 a.m. PST
The Associated Press
(AP) — HARWOOD, Md. - Bob and Kathy Rude run a cathouse and they're darn proud of it.
After all, it's part of the title of their new book, which explains how and why the south county couple has given their time, money and even their home to otherwise unwanted cats. Their Rude Ranch Animal Rescue in Harwood currently houses 112 abused, abandoned or ill cats. All are available for adoption, though the condition and age of some mean they'll probably be lifelong ranchers-and that's OK with the Rudes.
"We don't have any children, just the four-legged kind," quipped Kathy. "That's why we do this."
Over the years, she estimates they've facilitated 4,000 adoptions and 5,000 spay and neuter procedures.
The couple, both of whom retired from their government jobs and use their savings to run the rescue, decided to write the book for two main reasons: A lot of people kept asking them to record their stories, and they wanted to show what just two people can do to help. "There's a lot of need in the animal world," Kathy explained.
"The Best Little Cat House in Maryland: The True and Mostly Accurate Story of How Rude Ranch Animal Rescue Came to Be" was published last year. The 244-page book chronicles the Rudes' adventures in setting up their rescue, as well as the way they acquired some of their cats. The are also photographs of the felines.
The Rudes have always been animal lovers, but got into cat rescue gradually, beginning in 1997 when they spotted some strays behind a restaurant in Crofton. They decided to care for the cats, and that gesture led to more caring for more cats, and so on. At the time, they lived in a townhouse, so they were limited by space.
The Rudes, who are both in their 40s, bought their current 5,600-square-foot home about 10 years ago with the sole intent of transforming it into a rescue for as many animals as possible. They've had as many as 180 cats at one time-their capacity is about 200-but despite this, know all their names and habits, as well as their special needs. "It's one of those things that just felt right to do," Kathy said. "And sometimes things just kind of take off.
"There are times you feel really overwhelmed, like when we had 40 sick kittens and they had to be medicated, but they get better and you see the light at the end of the tunnel. When they start to get up and run and play and do stupid kitten things, it's worth it. And when we find homes for them and they're happy, it's rewarding."
A full-time caretaker, Andrea Stewart of Edgewater, helps out the Rudes at the rescue along with two part-time workers and volunteers. The cats are divided into small groups in rooms with names written on door plaques. Among them are "Hal's Hangout," ''Plasto's Palace" and "Sophie's Salon."
The rooms have lots of space and materials for the cats to climb on or simply relax. The Rudes, on the other hand, are always busy with feedings and general care.
"It never gets boring here," Bob said. "There's always something happening."
"We are the crazy people at the end of the road," Kathy joked.
And in fact, that's what Bowie veterinarian Dr. Robert Harrison thought when he first found out about the plan to turn their home into an animal rescue. Harrison, of Belair Veterinary Hospital, where the Rudes take some of the cats for surgeries, didn't think the concept or their zeal would last. Happily, he said, he was wrong.
"They've grown and grown, and they seem just as passionate as in the beginning," Harrison said. "They're very compassionate people."
Dr. Amy Holstein, who sometimes performs exams and administers vaccinations at the rescue, also has been impressed with the couple's dedication and devotion.
"Since Bob and Kathy treat every animal in the facility as if it were their own, it's not unheard of for them to seek the assistance of ophthalmologists, cardiologists and board-certified surgeons when necessary," Holstein, who practices at Noah's Ark Veterinary and Boarding Resort in Millersville, wrote in an e-mail. "They do their best to spare none when it comes to the care of 'their' animals."
Of course, all of this costs money, so the Rudes are constantly fundraising for the rescue, which is a nonprofit organization. That's another reason they wrote the book, hoping to reach a wider audience for both donations and adoptions.
Angela Meyer of Crofton, who adopted two of the rescue's cats, called the Rudes "incredible people" and bought eight copies of their book to distribute as Christmas gifts.
"I mean, I think it's great (what they do)," she said. "You can tell they really care about those animals."
For more information on the Rude Ranch Animal Rescue, call 410-798-9559 or visit the Web site at www.ruderanch.org
. Web cams allow people to see some of the cats at the rescue.