Client Spotlight: Marla

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I’m Marla and I’d like to share a little bit of my story with you.

In 1986, when I moved to San Francisco from southern California where I grew up, I was completely distraught at the virus that was thinning out my new community, and I wanted to do something about it. Anything. In 1988, I somehow found out about Shanti Project and discovered that I could volunteer to provide emotional support to an AIDS patient. I signed up right away, and completed the intensive 50-hour training over two weekends. Two months later, I received my very own diagnosis, and that’s when I officially became a client of Shanti Project.

In 1995, my first cat came to live with me. Cyrus was a gorgeous pure white Norwegian Forest Cat with big light blue eyes. Stunning! Since my budget was limited, Shanti referred me to PAWS for support. And PAWS has been supporting me and my animals ever since. Help with the vet bills has kept my animals healthy, so we could be together longer. Sadly, animals most often die before we do, and I am now caring for and feeding 7-year-old twin boys, cat numbers five and six. PAWS food bank provided special food to Coco when he had such severe skin allergies that his fur fell out in patches. And to Inkie, too, now that he’s a bit older, and has major dental issues. When my funds allotment for the year was all used up by February, PAWS provided extra funding so Coco could get his very expensive dental cleaning.

I don’t have enough time to share with you every story of how PAWS has brought comfort to our lives, but I can tell you the latest.

Earlier this year, I had to leave town for a family emergency on two days’ notice. My sister is the primary caregiver for my dad in Arizona, and she had to leave the state to tend to a family emergency of her own, leaving our dad alone. My poor dad. 14 months prior, we had just lost my mom, and his health is rapidly declining, both mentally and physically. I just adore him, and I was glad to be able to be with him, but I didn’t know how long I would be in Arizona—it could have been a few days or a few months. I scrambled to find a cat sitter, and hired David, a professional catsitter, to feed my cats during this emergency. But this was inconvenient for David, and he preferred I find someone else as soon as possible.

So off I went to Arizona, very stressed out, as I cared for my dad while trying to find another cat sitter. Among other sources, I contacted my PAWS care navigator, Georjean (I just love her!), hoping she might know someone. I thought I already knew about all the services PAWS offered, but to my surprise, Georjean put me in touch with PAWS staff member, Max… what an angel! Max did a short intake with me and then said they would find me some volunteers to feed my cats. What a relief! I could stop desperately trying to find someone to feed my cats. I could stop paying David money I didn’t have. And I could now be 100% present for my dad and provide him with the love, care, and attention he deserved.

It turned out that my sister came back after one week. And even though I didn’t need a volunteer then, the relief that PAWS was able to offer me during this critical time is something that I will never forget. Oh, and PAWS paid David’s $200 invoice!

Thank you very much for reading my story.

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