Founding Feline - A Message from Furkids Founder Samantha Shelton

Posted on Saturday, April 11th

This just might be the toughest message I’ve ever written. Our founding feline, Tortie, needs your prayers and uplifting wishes of peace and comfort right now. 

She is fighting terminal cancer and living out her final days with me and my daughter, Emily, who was still a long way from being born when Tortie arrived in my life.

After 19 years, Tortie has lived a great, long, and blissful life; safe from the terrors of her earliest days. While I am not ready for her to leave me, especially during the most harrowing days we have ever known, I know that life on this earth is limited. We don’t know how many more days God has allotted to Tortie, and it’s just so hard to let go. I don't know that my heart can stand it.

Many of you may not know the story of how Furkids was born, so let me share it with you. On the morning of October 11, 2001, I was getting ready to go to work at Equifax, when I happened to look out of my kitchen window. I was startled to see a hungry, scared mother cat and three kittens, quivering on the porch. I left some food on the porch and hurried off to work. But those cats were on my mind all day. When I got home from work, I began calling the few shelters in existence then, and no one could take these helpless cats. Animal control reported that it was overrun with animals and would promptly euthanize this family.

I was determined to save them.  And with that, I found my calling and my life's purpose: to save homeless animals from useless death. I convinced the rescue group at Buckhead PetSmart to let me volunteer there, and I worked with them to successfully find homes for every member of this cat family. But one of the cats didn’t work out. She was returned because she “wasn't a lap cat”. And so Tortie became mine forever. Turns out she is a lap cat - she just wanted my lap.

Four months later, without any knowledge about animal rescue or care, I left the corporate life I knew to start Furkids. Starting with rescued cats, I had to learn every aspect of this work—including rescue techniques, volunteer network building, adoption skills, veterinary care, fundraising, accounting, and so much more—from the ground up. 

As Furkids grew, I knew our mission had to grow, too.  So my purpose expanded to building an organization that not just would rescue, shelter and care for homeless animals until they were adopted, but be a refuge for humans who love animals, and a resource for pet owners in the community. We expanded to acquire a dog rescue organization, also.

It has been a wild and sometimes very bumpy ride, and Tortie has been there for every minute of it. She not only saw Furkids come into being and grow to the successful rescue and shelter it is today, but our lives are deeply intertwined. She is the living bridge of my life before Furkids to the purposeful life I live today. She has been with me through both joyous and faltering relationships, the death of my mother, eight different moves, the purchase of my own home, the birth and childhood of my precious daughter, Emily, and the big transition to Furkids' forever home.  I almost can’t remember my life before this little cat blessed me.

Every one of us with a beloved pet family member knows we will eventually lose that pet, and I know of no one who is prepared for that. Certainly not me. I am eternally grateful to Tortie for giving me purpose and allowing me to enjoy a life's work that is challenging, rewarding beyond measure, and inestimably meaningful. Not everyone is so lucky.

Tortie started something amazing. While it’s the darkest time of our lives, and this little cat’s life is dimming, it’s a moment for Tortie’s inspiring light to shine forever in the hearts of so many rescued animals and families touched by her simple need to stay alive, have a home, and be loved.  I’m asking you to keep Tortie, Emily, and me, in your thoughts and prayers. And if you can, contribute to Tortie’s Mission. Together lets continue her legacy by saving the lives of the most vulnerable homeless animals. You have no idea how much your contribution will mean, especially during this challenging time for Furkids and me.

Thank you for honoring Tortie!

With love and gratitude,

Samantha Shelton
CEO and Founder