Wendy Holman of Galena is living a dream come true. And it couldn’t be more purr-fect for her. Finding a way to take her unbridled love of animals to a whole new level was something she had only dreamed about for many years. As the owner and operations manager of Purr-Fection Animal Rescue and Shelter in Jo Daviess County for the past ten years, her animal rescue efforts have fallen short of reaching the limelight, but Wendy’s persona softly emanates pride when she talks about her rescue efforts. It’s not hard to “get it” when she talks about her quiet mission and how much it means to her.
“It was just something I dreamed of doing for a long time,” Wendy explained. “And then we finally made it a dream come true,” she says of her and her sidekick husband, Jim. “It was just a fluke that this whole thing started with me taking in a few stray cats.
“We’ve always flown under the radar screen,” Wendy said. “We manage a cageless, no-kill rescue shelter for animals that need a chance at life. We provide a home for animals who have been relinquished, abused, abandoned, neglected, hurt, maimed, or lost. And although we mostly rescue cats and kittens, we have rescued other animals like dogs, skunks, and even raccoons.”
Wendy, who has always been an animal activist and a pet owner herself, says she finally got the real push she needed in 2006 with Jim’s encouragement and support to create the rescue shelter at her Galena home. That push included Jim building the appropriate animal accommodations for starters and getting the appropriate state facility license.
“When I built the addition on to the garage, it was for the animals,” Jim said. “We call it ‘Wendy’s Cat House.’”
From there, Wendy’s rescue efforts expanded primarily through word of mouth. She has established a network of needed connections in the tri-state area over the years with veterinarians, area wildlife rehabilitators for the animals she wasn’t set up to take in, and networking with other people who could assist in fostering the animals or help in a wide variety of ways.
“It’s not a business by any means, I don’t make any money,” she noted. “It’s just something I wanted to do.”
If there is such a thing as a luxury hotel for cats, the Holmans have indeed created it in Wendy’s Cat House. Accommodations include cozy nooks and crannies secured to the walls so each animal can have their own “retreat” area. Window seats provide excellent vantage points for observing the grounds. The cat house also has an insulated door which allows them access to an outside “catio,” where the walled-in area allows the cats to climb the large tree the walls have been built around or sit in the many boxes strategically placed throughout. Nibbling on catnip growing along the perimeter in the summer is an option, as is a place to nap in a sunbeam while having a bit of fresh air. The facility is climate controlled and there are plenty of bedding and blankets for snuggling. A stereo pipes in all their favorite music… whether it be by the Pussy Cat Dolls, the Stray Cats, or Cat Stevens. And of course, there is plenty of food, water, and Holman love.
Every cat that is taken into the facility is given medical attention, spayed/neutered, tested for feline AIDS, feline leukemia, and heartworm so that they are ready for adoption. Currently they average around 15 cats under their care, but they have had as many as 65. Wendy estimates that they have had between 500-600 animals total over the years.
“Overall that might not sound like a lot, but it is for two people,” she noted.
Under no circumstances is an animal ever euthanized unless they are beyond medical treatment. As a result, Wendy said the Territory Veterinarian Clinic has been extremely helpful and accommodating, and works with them very closely.
Once the cats are back on their feet, Wendy says anyone is open to adopt them. However, an application needs to be filled out, complete with a candidate’s references to insure the animal is indeed going to a good home.
“There is no adoption fee, but if you would like to make a donation, that is always greatly appreciated,” she said. “The one requirement we do have is that they have to love the cat and if for some reason they have to give the cat up, it has to come back to us.”
But of course, all of this cost money. Donations come in a variety of forms; many from anonymous supporters and even retail stores who may have products like cat food or kitty litter that they donate due to torn or broken packaging that cannot be sold. A particularly generous supporter has even been holding a private, invitation-only fundraiser for Purr-Fection for the past few years with a Boxing Day Party every December 26.
Another local volunteer has set up a Facebook page that is quite active. It not only acts as a great communication medium for Purr-Fection, but doesn’t focus on the negative aspect of an animal’s plight, but more on the happiness associated with adoptions.
“It’s a blessing,” Wendy said. “Without these people we couldn’t do it.”
The Holmans also hold two gigantic garage sales every year, spring and fall, which helps enormously with defraying expenses. This winter in particular, a local storeowner donated a few months of free rent for them to open a thrift shop for their continuously growing garage sale items. If the Holmans had a wish list, a donated location where they could keep the thrift shop open all year would be at the top.
Their thrift shop efforts also assist them in another way. In addition to Purr-Fection, the Holmans are also very actively involved in the Salvation Army’s annual fundraising efforts and community services. This often means their driveway becomes the drop off zone for usable items from other garage sales. These articles not only fund their feline efforts, but are also contributed to local people in need.
For more information on Purr-Fection Animal Rescue and Shelter, animal assistance, donations, or to volunteer, Wendy prefers to be contacted via the Facebook page or by phone at (815) 821-1810. The Holmans also prefer to list their address as the corner of Purr Lane and Meow Place, simply because they don’t want animals dropped off undetected in their driveway in the dead of winter or the heat of the summer.
The purr-fect ending?
“It can be heartbreaking work at times,” Wendy concluded, “but it is rewarding as well. The best thing that could happen to us is to go out of business and have no homeless animals.”