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Melissa Lehmann
Executive Director

     When Katrina Denning was a young girl, lost animals around her neighborhood would follow her back home, knowing they were safe and had someone to look after them. She was known for always having a great empathy for every animal, and Katrina carried that love into her adult years.  She spent the majority of her life working in animal rescues, and over time, she started to dream about creating her own. 

     In 2014, she opened Jacob’s Hope. Her mission was simple: create an organization where every abandoned, neglected, or homeless animal gets a chance at life, love, and family. She went with the name “Jacob’s Hope” because of a very special kitty named Jacob. She fought hard for Jacob and did whatever was necessary to give him the life he so deserved. Although his outcome was not what she hoped, she knew that his time on this earth was filled with love. It was animals like Jacob that drove Katrina to a simple, but effective, concept of no paws left behind. Not only did this concept become the tagline for her organization, but it also become the mantra that is the foundation of this rescue today. 

    The rescue operates with a small group of volunteers, but the impact they make is immeasurable. In just 2020 alone, they have rescued over 100 cats and kittens, and completed adoptions for most of them. They provide outreach to families in need of pet supplies and run a juniors’ program that engages younger members of the community to take part in the rescue. They are also one of the lead members of the TNR (trap-neuter-return) task force that has changed the way feral cats are treated in the Town of Brookhaven, NY. Katrina Denning, along with other rescuers in the community, took part in town hall events that educated and convinced the town board to start a program where trappers can more easily perform TNR in their community. 

     Over the years, many cats have become fan-favorites to the followers of Jacob’s Hope Rescue. Castiel and his siblings, all named after the TV show Supernatural, found their way to us in July of 2019 at just 2 months old. Within the first 24 hours, we discovered that Castiel had a neurological issue after suffering from several seizures. The next morning, Katrina rushed him to the vet to confirm what she already knew – he would need to see a specialist right away to figure out what was going on inside his tiny body. No matter the cost, Jacob’s Hope was going to do whatever it took to give this little one a fighting chance. After several fundraising events, calls for donations, and even a feature on a morning talk show, Castiel stole the hearts of every Jacob’s Hope follower, and we raised the money to give him the help he needed. 

     As the summer turned to the fall, the bond between Castiel and Katrina grew. Anytime Castiel would start to have a seizure, Katrina would rush to his side and sing to him, soothing him until it passed. He slowly began to gain weight, and the medication for his seizures began to work. It appeared, for a short while, he was going to pull through. On November of 2019, his health declined. He lost all the weight he had gained. 

     On his six-month birthday, he let Katrina know it was his time. He crossed the rainbow bridge, free from pain, in the arms of his most favorite person. Castiel held Katrina’s hand until he passed. There is a lot of loss in rescue, and so many little ones are not able to be saved. The members of Jacob’s Hope can tell you that it never gets easier, and every loss is grieved like the first. There was not a dry eye that evening – everyone who was touched by sweet little Castiel mourned for him. 

    During the bad days, moments of good encourage volunteers to continue carrying out our mission. In March of 2020, a woman trapping feral cats began working with a cat colony in Long Island, New York. She came across a female that had a badly injured and de-gloved tail, and later learned that the colony’s feeder knew of the injury for over four months, but did not take the proper steps to seek medical attention. The trapper contacted Jacob’s Hope, and immediately, the rescue took over the cat’s care. 

     Within 24 hours, the amazing followers of Jacob’s Hope raised the funds for an emergency tail amputation that saved Lizzo’s life. Lizzo recovered with the help of her wonderful foster family and became the most loving and affectionate little girl. She was moved to the rescue’s adoption towers at a local pet supply store, and one of the customers immediately fell in love. Lizzo joined her forever home this summer where she will never feel neglect again. It is stories like Lizzo’s that drive rescuers to keep carrying out their mission, because all our time and energy is worth saving even just one life. 

     Working in rescue means celebrating even the smallest impact to the animals in need. It takes strength to know not every life can be saved but deserves a fighting chance anyway.  The heart of rescue is the ability to know that every animal deserves the same love and respect as every other living being on this planet, and to devote 100% to the promise that no paw is left behind.

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