75-year-old Terry Lauerman of De Pere, WI, is an elderly man who volunteers at Safe Haven Pet Sanctuary in Green Bay, Wisconsin. His “job” is to brush cats, but what he really ends up doing most of the time is taking cat naps with them. They seem to enjoy this sort of attention just as much as the brushing, and Safe Haven owner Elizabeth Mae Feldhausen appreciates his work, whether he’s asleep or awake. She even posted photos of him napping with the cats on Facebook as a way of thanking him, and the post quickly went viral.
Since then, thousands of people have been reaching out to thank Terry, exclaim over the cuteness of the whole situation, and donate funds and supplies to the shelter. The exact total hasn’t been announced yet, but it’s enough, according to Elizabeth, to fund an entire year of operations at Safe Haven.
“We did make more than our operating costs for last year,” she says. “Depending on the condition of the cats we take in, it could cover our costs for a year, or it could cover about 50 cats’ surgeries.”
The Safe Haven Pet Sanctuary is a non-profit that takes in animals with disabilities and health conditions, many of whom require surgeries ranging from about $500 to $1,000.
And the donations continue to roll in. Elizabeth says she’s still in awe of the recent events at the animal sanctuary, although Terry doesn’t seem to fully understand his new fame.
“I guess I’m still just shocked,” she says. “I never thought my post would get this reaction. All the people who work here are making jokes about it. Like, ‘Well, if we knew all we had to do was fall asleep, the last two years would’ve been a breeze.'”
Elizabeth and everyone else at the sanctuary couldn’t be more appreciative of Terry’s contribution, but this lovable old man doesn’t want all the credit for himself. Instead, he’s modestly turning people’s focus back toward the cats and trying to get other members of the shelter team the recognition they deserve for the work they do every day to make the operation a success. “Make sure they know it’s not just me!” he says.
So, in that spirit, we’ve got a couple of people to introduce you to. The first is Nicholas Hopp, the web developer who kept the sanctuary’s website from crashing during the upheaval of the Cat Grandpa’s newfound fame.
“For a small nonprofit, we sure got a lot of traffic these last few days,” Elizabeth posted on September 21st. “We couldn’t have done this without him. When he saw our post go viral, he immediately got on the phone to call and say ‘How can I help?!’ What a guy!”
Ryan Keenan is another amazing human being who helps things run smoothly at the shelter. He works as the animal care manager and is credited for saving the shelter (and a homeless woman) during a severe winter storm in April of 2018.
Safe Haven posted this during the storm:
“Ryan has spent this ENTIRE weekend (Friday night – Monday) taking care of 30 cats while the rest of us are stranded by the storm. On top of that, he’s been bringing Diesel and Brownie home with him, because they need round-the-clock care! I just checked in to see how things were going. He said a homeless woman knocked on the door and asked for food. She’s currently shoveling our sidewalks for $15, and Ryan’s cooking a pizza in the toaster oven for her before she heads to the shelter. 😭 We are SO lucky to have him as our animal care manager! The world needs more people like Ryan 🙌🏼 On top of being a manager for us, he runs his own shop and event space next door – Glass Art and Supply, LLC. We ended up with an awesome neighbor. 😻❤️🐾 — feeling grateful.”
The last volunteer we’d like to introduce you to is a woman named Paula. Terry says if he’s the Cat Grandpa, then she’s the Cat Grandma…so you’re definitely going to want to meet her.
This older woman spends lots of time at the shelter, fawning over all the kitties, and she knows each of them by name. She’s known around the sanctuary as the “Safe Haven Complaint Department,” because all the cats tell her their complaints so she can take care of them better. When she’s not petting cats, she spends time knitting blankets for them and making jewelry to sell to raise funds for them.
Check out the video below to see Paula the Cat Grandma in action!
“We have truly come across the best people!” Elizabeth writes. “Paula knocked on the door one day to ask if she could help us sweep, and a year later she’s still here every single day.”
Thank you to all the volunteers who have worked so hard to save so many animals in need! And thank you, Terry, for your focus on giving back to the shelter cats and giving recognition where it’s deserved. You’ve all made such a substantial impact, not only on these pets but on the world!
Share this story to show your support for these amazing volunteers and to help someone else see how much good is left in the world!
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?
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