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Aldo and Noelle: How a Social Networking Site saved Pets

Updated on May 20, 2009

Disclaimer: These are not my pets, nor was I in charge of the rescue effort.

I was (and still am) a concerned member of the Catster community, and helped keep people informed throughout this rescue. I believe this story is an important tribute to all involved in animal rescue and to the strength of social networking.

All names in quotes are pet names, used in the Catster and Dogster community instead of human's names.

Image created by one of Laurel's Catster friends for everyone to put on their profiles.
Image created by one of Laurel's Catster friends for everyone to put on their profiles.

Laurel's Story

Laurel G. Jaffer was 47 years old when she went to sleep on May 13, 2008, and never woke up. She had major health problems most of her life, and was mainly confined to her home for the last few years, but she still had an active social life. She was part of the, Facebook, and online communities, and had many friends in these communities who cared for her and for whom she cared deeply. 

Outpouring of Love

When Laurel was found by a neighbor, her friend Luis contacted "Wiggy" (aka Diane) to tell her the sad news. "Wiggy" told "Hannah" (aka Teri), a Catster and Facebook friend of Laurel's, and "Hannah" posted notes in group forums and sent e-mails around to others. Within 24 hours, the Catster community, in grief, was asking: "Where are Tess, Aldo, and Noelle? What happened to the pets?"

Calls were made to the local shelters in Tampa, FL, and to animal control offices. Laurel's brother was called as next of kin, and Luis also was on the lookout for the pets. The landlord had opened all the windows and the cats had escaped, but there was no word on the dog either.

Catster "Hazel Lucy" (aka Julie) took up the cause, even though she had not communicated personally with Laurel. She stepped in to organize, talked with Luis, and turned her Catster diary into "Mission Control".


Click thumbnail to view full-size
Laurel and NoelleNoelle with Mollie at her foster home.Noelle at her new home, on the orthopedic bed bought by donations.Noelle with her new "brother", Ziggy.
Laurel and Noelle
Laurel and Noelle
Noelle with Mollie at her foster home.
Noelle with Mollie at her foster home.
Noelle at her new home, on the orthopedic bed bought by donations.
Noelle at her new home, on the orthopedic bed bought by donations.
Noelle with her new "brother", Ziggy.
Noelle with her new "brother", Ziggy.

Noelle is Found and Fostered

A couple days later, searches on shelter websites and calls to shelters bore fruit. Noelle, the dog, was located at Hillsborough County Animal Control Services, where she was brought by the police (who were following procedure when next of kin is not immediately known). Noelle was identified by the shelter as "Jasmine", her former name before Laurel got her (and was the name on her collar, because Laurel never changed it).

A forums message was put out for an adoptive family for Noelle on Dogster, and for a foster family to get her from the shelter and keep her until transportation could be arranged. Dogster "Mollie" and family agreed to foster Noelle, and Catster "Simon" agreed to adopt her into their forever family in Albuquerque, NM.

Laurel's friend Luis was given "next of kin" status by Laurel's brother, so he arranged to have Noelle temporarily adopted to "Lucy"'s family. Laurel's Facebook friends came through with the name of the veterinarian, and he also confirmed that "Jasmine" was Noelle. The shelter and the next shelter Noelle went to, St. Francis Society, were overwhelmed with calls from concerned Catster and Dogster members, and at first thought this was a hoax, but the confirmation from the vet put them at ease.


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Aldo before Laurel diedAldo at Gimme's house.  He lost a lot of fur due to stress.
Aldo before Laurel died
Aldo before Laurel died
Aldo at Gimme's house.  He lost a lot of fur due to stress.
Aldo at Gimme's house. He lost a lot of fur due to stress.

Trapping of Aldo and the Search for Tess

Aldo and Tess, the two cats, were not in the house when Laurel was found, or they escaped before the police got there. Either way, they were not picked up by animal control when Noelle was. Aldo needed medicine for a kidney problem, so Catster members in the area, neighbors, and a licensed trapper put unbaited traps out and watched them for a few days. Ideas on how to catch the cats poured in from Catsters, Dogsters, and Facebook friends.

The cats were seen eating on a porch by Laurel's, then the traps were baited. Two days later, Aldo was trapped by the workshop on the property and the neighbor who saw him notified the other volunteers. Aldo was immediately taken to the vet's, where he was kept for observation. Then he was released to "Gimme" (aka Sue-Lynn), who fostered him until transportation could be arranged to get him to his new home.

Donations, Donations, and more Donations, and Forever Homes

Donations poured in from around the world, from Laurel's friends online and from people who were touched by the rescue effort.  Enough money was raised to pay for vehicle transportation for Noelle and Aldo to their new homes (Noelle by car and Aldo by plane), vet visits, and even some left over to give to the local Tampa Bay area shelters.

Volunteers lined up to donate supplies, new bedding and toys, and other welcoming gifts for the dog and cat for their foster homes and eventual forever homes.

Transportation was arranged, and the Catster and Dogster community came together again to provide a "railroad" of people willing to convey the pets.  Noelle went to New Mexico to live with "Simon" and "Ziggy" and family, and Aldo went to Baltimore, Maryland, to live with "O'Malley" and family.  They are both doing well in their new homes, with some post-traumatic stress and separation issues, but overall happy and healthy.  Aldo even was given a clean bill of kidney health by his new veterinarian! 


Gorgeous in a carrier after she was trapped
Gorgeous in a carrier after she was trapped

Trapping Gorgeous

Laurel was feeding a stray cat as well, and during the trapping process "Gorgeous" was able to be trapped.  She was pregnant at the time, and she is now in a good forever home.  Her kittens were delivered a few days after she was trapped, and have all been adopted. 


Click thumbnail to view full-size
Have you seen me?Tess and Aldo relaxingMy friends want to know if I'm ok.
Have you seen me?
Have you seen me?
Tess and Aldo relaxing
Tess and Aldo relaxing
My friends want to know if I'm ok.
My friends want to know if I'm ok.

The Search for Tess Continues

After Aldo was trapped, two Catster members, "Tyler" and "Ashlye", along with Margaret (the trapper) continued to set out traps and check around for Tess. They also created flyers and posted them everywhere imaginable, asking people for any information, even offering a reward.

To this day, Tess is still missing. One of the workmen might have taken Tess, adopting her, and may not come forward due to immigration issues. Catster members are still concerned for her safety and her life. If you know any information about her condition, please leave a message in the comments. Laurel's friends do not care about immigration status, and we are not out to get anyone in trouble. Far from it! Day after day, the Catster community prays and thinks good thoughts for Tess, and any "Yes, she's ok" or "We haven't seen her" is acceptable. We don't need to know exactly where she is, and will not take her away from anyone. We just care deeply about her, and have adopted her into our hearts. Please, if you have information on whether or not she has a new home, leave it in the comments. 


November 2008:

Noelle's new owner was interviewed by the local Albuqueque, NM, news station. Click here to see the news clip. Dogster/Catster creator Ted Rheingold was also interviewed as part of the story. Video of Noelle is included, so you can see how she is doing.


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