There’s much more to adoption than just getting a cat out of a shelter and into a home. The mission of Rock N’ Rescue is to go that extra mile to ensure that the cat truly finds a forever home with people who love and appreciate her and can benefit from this therapeutic rescue partnership, too.
In 2008, co-founder and professional photographer Juli Cialone and her teenage triplet sons established Rock N’ Rescue in their hometown of Rochester, New York, partnering with other rescues that allowed teenagers to make a difference in their community. As a professional photographer, she worked with many musicians and concert venues. She’d take her sons along to her gigs and have music artists sign a collar and donate those collars to the rescue. Ultimately the rescue would rename the pets up for adoption after those artists. Imagine Dragons, for example, signed two cat collars for cats ultimately named Imagine and Draghi. Juli quickly discovered that many musicians were happy to help and it was a great way to get publicity and get pets that were for some reason ignored to get noticed — and adopted.
©Sonsedska | Getty Image
Juli’s mission to bring animal-assisted therapy to the forefront of animal rescue and adoption was complete when she met Marla Valentine, a New York state-licensed master social worker with more than 20 years’ experience in the field of counseling, long-term care and case management. Marla, now co-director and therapy coordinator of Rock N’ Rescue, had also spent a lifetime rescuing and fostering small animals, and her career experience in the field of social welfare underscored her belief in the incredible therapeutic value of pets in clinical settings as well as in the home and workplace.
In 2017, Juli moved back to her childhood home in South Salem, New York, and Rock N’ Rescue acquired 501(c)3 welfare status. She and Marla began to expand their pet therapy and wellness mission, establishing a variety of programs run by their organization.
“Our rescue has placed pets into homes of psychologists and social workers who have individual and group counseling practices,” Marla explains. “These special animals are temperament tested based on the specifications required by the professional and their wellness practice. Some of these adopters have shared with us that they bring their cat to work with them to be a support animal for clients during treatment,” she adds.
Juli Cialone, left, with Marla Valentine and rescued kitty Ian.
Juli sums it up, “We work with people who are looking for more than just a feline buddy. Our rescue helps families choose the right therapy animal for lifelong comfort and support. We consider these therapeutic adoptions. This is what makes us different from standard rescue groups, as the well-being of the humans in the family are of prime importance, too. Consequently, during the adoption process, we work with licensed social workers, psychologists and psychotherapists to ensure that the cat being adopted can offer love and affection that meets some of the needs of the humans in the home.
Once in the home, the connection continues, with volunteers checking up on the family and making themselves available 24/7 by phone or via Zoom.
One positive spin-off of the pandemic has been the increase in therapeutic adoptions, with application numbers skyrocketing from families with children as well as young adults.
“Kids and young adults have felt particularly isolated since COVID since they have not been in school and allowed to participate in the usual social activities,” Marla says. “Many are suffering with anxiety and even have had suicidal thoughts. We have so many wonderful stories about how having adopted a cat or kitten has helped ease situations.”
There has also been an increase in younger volunteers applying to help. “Working with cats as a volunteer is a kind of cuddle therapy,” Marla says. “Young volunteers bring a lot of skills with them, as they are great with technology and have helped us make TikTok videos, how-to videos, such as how to trim a cat’s nails, and they are very adept at helping us promote the cats on social media. Those teenagers and young adults working with us report that just working with the cats has helped them deal with their own personal issues over the past year, too.”
©Courtesy Rock N’ Rescue
The organization has many wonderful ideas connecting cats with people (although COVID-19 has put some of them on hold for the moment):
Kitty yoga classes: Rock N’ Rescue brings cats along to join in a yoga class at a studio or specially arranged session in a private home or business where kitties can romp and snuggle with attendees.
Workplace kitty cuddle sessions: These events relieve office stress and fatigue while boosting productivity.
Speed-dating with felines
Art classes and open music jams — just add cats.
Community kitty cuddle sessions: “For example, pre-COVID we’d go to a car dealership and set up huge, enclosed playpens (like a tent), where individuals go inside and sit on comfy mats and literally cuddle kitties,” Juli says. “We had lines out the door!”
Juli and Marla plan to put more events into effect post COVID, such as Corporate Kitty Wellness Centers. “This is a program we are modeling after ones that exist in Japan,” Juli says. “A room or area of a corporation would be a cat ‘destress’ zone. Think of a cat cafe room inside a large corporation where employees would be able to work and/or de-stress where cats are also roaming around. The cats would also be available for adoption. It’s a win-win for the cats and the people, and studies are showing these companies have lower suicide rates.”
Learn more about Rock N’ Rescue at: rnrpets.org
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