Stealing Harpo's Hearts
Fancy Cat
It was a frigid Tuesday in Chicago. The snow was coming down and the roads were packed with ice and snow on this January afternoon. For two days I had visited PAWS Chicago in hopes of bringing home a little kitten friend. I played in "Kitty City" where those little balls of fluff bounced around and tumbled on top of one another, waiting for someone to give them a home.

Fancy was the adult kitty cat peering into the kitten room window, longing for just as much attention as the kittens received. Her unkempt coat and crazy eyes kept away most visitors, but something about her silly little face drew me to pay her a visit. When I made the choice to enter her private room, it was love right away. This little girl cuddled up into my arms and stole my heart.

Now Fancy spends her days grooming her coat to the purr-fect fluff and shine. She loves to chase her laser beam and bat at the air. Her favorite pastime is listening to the piano, happily perched on the chair beside me while I play and sleeping each night in the windowsill watching passers-by and morning squirrels. The truth is, Fancy Cat chose me, and I sure am glad!

— Tina, sales coordinator
Since I am a huge animal lover, I like to go to the local animal shelter from time to time to look at dogs. Sometimes I pretend to be interested in one just so that I can play with him. During one of my visits, I walked into the puppy room and fell in love! I never believed in love at first sight, but this was it!

From the moment I saw him, I knew he had to be mine. It was something about his cute little face that stole my heart. Once we were together in the playroom, the first thing he did was lay in my lap, and of course I melted. That was the deal breaker! But since I was living at home at the time, I had one big obstacle—my mom. She wasn't a huge dog fan, so I knew this wasn't going to be easy, but when she saw him, she too knew he had to be ours.

I truly believe he was meant to be with our family because in so many ways he's just like one of us. When he wants your attention he will make it very known. If he wants you to wake up and take him out, he doesn't take "no" for an answer. He will sit on the bed and stare at you until you notice him, and if that doesn't work he'll take a stronger approach by sticking his nose in your face until you wake up. If music is playing, watch out! He's a dancer and will jump and bark to his favorite tunes. When he has an itch, he will lay on your lap and roll over and stare at you as if it's your job to scratch him. He was meant to be with my family, and I will always be happy I walked into the shelter that day and found my son.

— Sylvia, advertising sales coordinator
At first glance you might think that Molly (a.k.a. The Molls or The Mollinator) is a run-of-the-mill pup who enjoys a normal dog's life—playing in the park, palling around with the neighborhood Chihuahuas, chasing after bouncy balls or plastic newspapers. But you would be totally wrong. If you ran some scientific testing, I'm sure you'd find traces of canine. Classic "puppy dog" eyes that can convince you to give her anything? Check. Floppy ears and four legs? Check. Lover of all things edible? Check. Sadly, that's where the similarities end.

Molls, who is actually my niece dog, is much more interested in activities like watching TV, eating people food and being posed like a living stuffed animal. She really could care less if you made her sit up like a human, arms in front, staring forward. She'll just stay there and glance at you with those adorable eyes until you move her into her next position—or share your turkey sub. 

— Stephanie, senior producer
Drake is a 12-week-old pointer from the Anti-Cruelty Society in Chicago. I went to the shelter on a whim and came out with a bundle of love. Drake was the last one out of his litter to be adopted, and as soon as I saw him in the kennel, I knew he would be the perfect puppy.

Drake loves to cuddle and nap in cozy blankets. He's extremely mellow and just wants to love. Walks can take awhile as Drake has to greet everyone he meets! He's the perfect gentleman though—he immediately sits when people walk by so they can pet him.

A funny quirk about little Drake is his mouth curls up on both sides so when he sleeps, he looks like he's smiling. Happy home, happy dog.

— Kelly, ad operations coordinator
Gabriel is an extremely affectionate Tonkinese who never stops meowing. When I answer the phone at home, because I am talking, he starts talking too. Callers always ask me if my baby is crying, because he is so loud.

When Gabriel was a kitten, his older brother, Trent, came and woke me, and led me into the kitchen, just like Lassie. I heard Gabriel meowing sadly from behind the refrigerator—he had jumped on top and then fallen behind it. I wasn't strong enough to pull the refrigerator out from its niche in the wall, so I made a rope out of a bedsheet, and I tied it to a chair jammed up against the front. Then I hauled myself over the top of the fridge, jumped down to rescue him, and then back out (over the coils!). He never went up there again, thank goodness.

His favorite toy is the feather on a string, and he is a big fan of our heating blanket. He hates having his nails clipped, and he never goes outside, because he is afraid of the Big Room.

— Erin, Web developer
Oscar and Oliver
These are our family cats, Oscar and Oliver—or, as my parents like to call them, "my brothers." We got them from our local Humane Society and couldn't pick just one! They just turned 1 year old and are very rambunctious. They constantly want to play—even when someone's sleeping. They like to drop their stuffed mice on our faces in the middle of the night to try to get us to get up join in on their fun.

— Anna, copy editor
Rusty spent the first two years of her life running a racetrack under the name "Vixen Bondage." When she turned out not to be the fastest dog (and caused many gamblers to lose a pretty penny, I'm sure), she was put on track to a better life thanks to a greyhound rescue organization.

I admit it—Rusty and I had a love-hate relationship at first. My mother brought Rusty home the day after I left for college. Feeling uncertain and out of my element in my dorm room, I called home after my first night away and she told me they had found my "replacement." Clueless that she was even looking for a dog, I balked. My mom then told me I had a "new sister," which didn't make matters any better. I decided then and there that since the family made the decision without me, she would never be my dog. As my mom sent photos of Rusty and my sister, Rusty in a baseball cap, Rusty lounging in the sun, I put each one in the back of my desk drawer. To make matters worse, when I finally met Rusty, she wouldn't even look at me.

But secretly, I liked Rusty. She was shy around strangers because of the abusive conditions she lived in, and we warmed up to one another as the years went by. For such a big dog, she was a total couch potato and spent hours batting around her dog bed until she had it just the right way. Then, she'd nap for hours. When she woke up, she ran figure-8s around the yard. She'd put down the pig ears she loved and would bark in her two cents if there was a group of us chatting in the living room. She sunbathed practically nose-to-nose with my little sister. She even created holiday memories—one Thanksgiving, she escaped from the backyard and the entire family took off after her. Needless to say, she left us in her dust.

As the years went on and I moved out on my own, Rusty always welcomed me home. The love and compassion she showed my family during some tough times is the legacy she left us after her passing last spring.

— Joan, associate producer
Toby and Molly
Whoever said cats don't have personalities or aren't affectionate clearly haven't met my ours. Toby (the tuxedo) is the more rambunctious of our two kitties—he was born the runt of the litter, and we think it's because his mother cast him aside that he's become an attention-seeker, a playful little pup who will be running around like a maniac going nuts with his toys one minute and extremely needy and whiny the next. Molly (the tabby) on the other hand is always quiet, very shy and a total lap cat who loves to cuddle. We love them both to pieces.

— Christine, senior producer
Years ago on a crisp Autumn day I step outside our apartment to see one of the neighbor's cats standing in front of me with what looked like a mouse. When I took a closer look, to my surprise it was not a mouse but a tiny kitten about 3 weeks old. We already had two cats at that time, so we said right away that we couldn't keep her.

For the next month, we looked to find her a good home. Because she was so small, we had to keep her in our bathroom when we weren't home so that the other cats wouldn't hurt her. As we searched to find her a good home, we grew more attached to her and finally decided to keep her. It took awhile for our cats to accept her, but after several months she became part of the crew.

It's now nine years later and little Isabella and our two male cats Whiskey and Maynerd are still with us, along with our dog Smokey (who she's good friends with). She's about half the size of our other cats, meows like a kitten and is a total lap cat. We are grateful that we made the decision to keep her as she has been a wonderful addition to our family!

— Dianne, project management director
Gracie came to me in a strange way, with a bit of luck, or maybe even divine intervention. Two years ago, while I was still living in California, I was on the Internet and was drawn to the Petfinder website. I was not looking to adopt a dog, in fact, I had several already. (Yes, I am a dog lover in a big way.) I started searching, and when I came to Gracie's photo I stopped and immediately called her foster mom—who was in Texas! The fact that I was in California and Gracie was in Texas did not seem to deter me at all! It just seemed she was supposed to be mine.

Gracie was a 10-month-old pup who just had a litter of puppies herself. She was found under a shed with the puppies and brought to an animal rescue group. She was lucky to be rescued by such a great group (a no-kill group), but all the inquiries that had been coming in were for her puppies. No one wanted the "mom"—who was just a puppy herself! Except me. I talked on the phone with Gracie's (who at the time was being called "Latte" due to her tri-coloring) foster mom for a couple of hours, and by the end of the call we were arranging for Gracie's trip to California.

As soon as I met the shy little border collie mix with the beautiful coloring, I fell in love with her. She had such dignity and "grace" for having gone through what she did and had this wonderful way of laying down in front of me and crossing her front paws. Alas, "Gracie" got a new name.

I have had over a dozen dogs during my lifetime, but Gracie is special. She is the smartest dog I have ever owned, and she doesn't leave my side. Gracie has run along side me on the beach and in the mountains in California while I rode my horse, and she is now by my side while I ride in the fields and forest preserves in the Chicago area. Miraculously, Gracie seemed to have come to me knowing every command there is! I spent very little time teaching her, yet she is the most obedient dog I have ever owned and just instinctively knows what I want of her just by looking into my eyes.

I love Gracie—she's beautiful!

— Carol, senior attorney
A week after a bad breakup, a co-worker told me how her daughter's boyfriend had found a tiny kitten paddling for his life in a river near Kent, Ohio. As a college student, she was unable to keep the kitten, so they thought of me. I had always considered myself to be a dog lover, but I thought that having another being to take care of might stop me from feeling so sorry for myself. The night before I picked him up, I dreamed of a strong gray cat with a triangle tuft of white at his neck and piercing green eyes climbed up my body and stood on top of my chest. He looked down at me and said, "You are going to name me Rumi, and you better quit smoking too." I woke up and thought, "Rumi's a great name since it's the name of my favorite poet." I would come to learn it was also just better to quit smoking than to mess with a determined cat who took every opportunity to hide lighters and destroy packs of cigarettes.

For seven years, he was my constant companion, seeing me through illness and health (and a few more bad boyfriends!). He died unexpectedly just before Christmas a few years ago while my mom was putting up the Christmas tree. We had a candelight ceremony, read a Rumi poem, and buried him in the garden beneath the snow. I know that he came into my life to show me how to love myself as well as to remind me that it's always better to let my light shine for the world to see...and to meow a little bit when the mood hits!

"I have come to drag you out of your self
and take you in my heart.
I have come to bring out the beauty
you never knew you had
and lift you like a prayer to the sky." —Rumi

Marlene, programming producer
Madison is love. He truly radiates love. He is gentle and kind—and loves to give and receive love. He makes each day brighter. We feel so fortunate to have found him eight years ago as a puppy at the Anti-Cruelty Society. Our lives are forever richer having fluffy, white Madison in our lives.

— Robyn, director of editorial and design