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Fostering animals gives warm fuzzies

One of Lori Johnson's own cats, this white one named Benny, nurtures kittens. Benny starting helping out as young as 6 months of age with feral baby kittens. "Even nursing mothers I have taken in have allowed him to help out with caring for the babies. He has a very gentle, nurturing nature and loves baby kittens," Johnson said. (Photo submitted)1 / 4
Nolynn Tulia holds a rabbit named Atticus Marshmallow Tulia, who was cared for by a Warm Fuzzies volunteer foster parent until he was adopted. He is five months old in this photos. (Photo submitted)2 / 4
Howie the dog is a Leonberger mix that came from an accidental litter on a farm. Warm Fuzzies fostered him for about one month before he was adopted by Erik (above) and Barbara Peterson of Alexandria. (Photo submitted)3 / 4
Lorie Johnson is the founder of Warm Fuzzies.4 / 4

Lorie Johnson has always cared about animals. As a child she always had rabbits, dogs and kittens. "I'd bring home strays," Lorie said.

As an adult she lived a Virginia suburb of Washington, D.C. when she began looking for a furry friend for Queenie, her black spitz. "She was sad because another dog had just passed away," Lorie said.

She looked at animal shelters in some of the low-income areas in West Virginia because she knew the need was great. "It was really a sad situation," she said of the animals living in shelters waiting for adoptions. "I knew that it was really desperate."

Though the animals shelters might be "no kill," this might mean that some of the pets were living in shelters for months, she said. "I just felt so bad for them."

She found a reddish-brown Australian retriever mix named Jack. But seeing all those dogs waiting in shelters spurred Lorie to start a nonprofit called Warm Fuzzies in 2011.

She moved to Duluth in 2013 and brought the animal welfare nonprofit with her. Warm Fuzzies Animal Rescue Inc. was listed with Minnesota Secretary of State as a 501(c)3 nonprofit as of January, 2014.

The mission statement reads, "We are ... dedicated to finding homes for homeless pets by saving them out of animal shelters or off of the streets and finding permanent, loving homes ... We do NOT have a facility. We foster pets in private homes."

"It's pretty amazing what she has accomplished," said Lorie's older brother, Tarey Johnson. When she came to Duluth and realized that Animals Allies was providing shelter for strays, she could have just stood back, he said. "She had a different take on it."

Amy Miller at Animal Allies said that sometimes people want to surrender a pet, but they don't want it to have to wait in the shelter. Animal Allies doesn't take rabbits or animals classified as "pocket pets": guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils and other small animals.

"Lorie is working in unconventional avenues," Tary said. "She is taking up the crusade." Warm Fuzzies' goal is to match up animals needed foster care with someone who can provide that until the animal gets adopted.

Lori is seeking volunteers to foster animals. She does a background check on volunteers by calling their veterinarians, if they already have pets, and landlords.

Jenna Johnson (no relation to Lorie) lives in Proctor and wanted to foster rabbits. "I have a lot of connections with a lot of places in the area that help animals, but none helped rabbits," she said. She says the service is much-needed. Jenna used to watch Craigslist to find listings of people who no longer could care for their rabbits.

Now she volunteers with Warm Fuzzies. The first rabbit that she fostered had to grow up a little before it could be neutered. "Most vets don't like to do it (neuter) until they are four months," she said.

Rochelle Staley of Grand Marais drove to Duluth in June of 2014 to adopt a rabbit for her granddaughter Nolynn Tulia, who was age 6 while staying with her that summer.

"Our bunny was healthy and litter-trained when we adopted him," Staley said. She said Warm Fuzzies provided all his papers and advice about caring for him and keeping him happy. "He's a sweet bunny."

Twice a month Warm Fuzzies brings dogs, cats, rabbits and other animals in cages or containers to adoption events at Petco.

Warm Fuzzies' goal is to get pets spayed/neutered and microchipped before finding a good home for the cost of neutering a rabbit is about $250 to $300 in Duluth. Lori says that by traveling to other towns like Garrison or Ely, Warm Fuzzies has been able to get a discount on the price with a charge of only $100.

They receive some grants from Petco and United Health Care which helps fund spaying and neutering, food and supplies like cat litter.

The nonprofit is selling discount tickets for a meal on May 16 at Old Country Buffet. The funds will be used to help homeless pets.

The tickets are to be used on May 16, starting at 5 p.m. The tickets are selling at a discount, $12.50. (Dinners normally cost $15.50.) To get tickets call (218) 576-8534 or meet Lori at a table inside Old Country Buffet.

Warm Fuzzies has a website at warmfuzzies.petfinder.org and a Facebook page at Warm Fuzzies Animal Rescue Inc.

Naomi Yaeger

Naomi Yaeger is a freelance writer and the former editor of the Budgeteer. See her blog at www.DuluthDailyPhoto.com.

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