NEW PORT RICHEY — Nine years ago, heartbroken over losing K.C., the furry friend who got her through medical school, a residency and fellowship, Susan Ott went online to petfinder.com to find a new pal to rescue.
When orthopedic surgeon Ott typed in “male, gray kitten” to the search engine, Charlie’s photo popped up. The gray 4-month-old, with just a whisper of white fur on his chin, chest and tummy, was laying belly up with all four paws stuck straight up, sleeping. Ott knew she had to have him.
Ott drove from Plant City to New Port Richey, where she met Charlie at the Little Cats’ Rescue. There, she realized he shared many mannerisms with her K.C., whom she missed terribly.
This year, in honor of K.C.’s memory and Charlie’s adoption, Ott has chosen the New Port Richey shelter to donate funds she is raising for her 17th year of participating in Ironman Florida, a triathlon featuring a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike and then a 26.2-mile run.
As of last week, Ott has raised just under $2,500 of her $5,000 goal. She has until Nov. 2, the day of the triathlon in Panama City Beach, to reach her goal.
“RaeAnna, the president of Little Cats’ Rescue, is a Facebook friend and she’s always needing funds and all my friends love animals so I thought: ‘I’m going to do it for the kitties this year,’ ” Ott said, referring to RaeAnna Saks, who founded the cat rescue group.
In past years, she has raised funds for Moffitt Cancer Center, the Dana Farber Cancer Center and Team Red White and Blue. She started training for the triathlon after he father’s cancer diagnosis in 2005, fearing that he wouldn’t live to see her participate. The following year, she ran her first Ironman and seven years later, her dad is cancer-free.
“I got started doing sprint triathlones and really loved it,” Ott said. “I got involved with Ironman because of the ablity to raise money for a specific charity of my choice. I really wanted to raise money for Moffitt.”
Later, Ott’s triathlon coach’s 13-month-old son was diagnosed with a brain tumor. That prompted Ott to raise funds for the Dana Farber Cancer Center, in Boston. After several rounds of chemo- and stem cell therapy, the tot has had his infusion port removed and is so far cancer-free.
This is the first year Ott is running to help rescued fur babies. The Little Cats’ Rescue helps find homes for domestic cats that have been abandoned or neglected and on occasion, holds events raise the necessary funds to keep the cats fed and protected until they find a new home. Ott has been donating to the shelter for years.
At home, feline friend Charlie has 4-year-old Tucker, Ott’s second cat, to play and snuggle with. With each step forward on foot and bike, they’ll be in Ott’s thoughts, pushing her towards the finish line.
You can donate to Little Cats’ Rescue through the Ironman Foundation at http://ironman.kintera.org/florida2013/tlcr or directly to the shelter at http://www.thelittlecatsrescue.org through PayPal.
If you are uncomfortable with donating online, you can also mail a check to The Little Cats Rescue at P.O. Box 1559 Elfers, FL 34680.