This is the first installment in our TEAM Players series where we will spotlight individuals who have made an impact on the organization in a variety of ways.

Crystal M., of Wallingford, has used and supported TEAM for many years. Crystal recently answered some questions for Program Coordinator Lacey Raymond about what keeps her coming back to us.

Have you always wanted to help animals?

I have always loved animals, and have wanted to help them and keep them safe.  When I was 16, I started working at North Haven Animal Hospital as a kennel helper and stayed there until I had my second child. I have adopted many dogs, cats, hamsters, mice and a few ferrets.

How many cats have you helped through TEAM and other programs?

I have helped dozens of cats. When I was young, our neighbor had too many cats and she never cared for them. They were usually sick or pregnant, and most of the males not neutered. I would take them to the vet for medication or to be fixed, and return them to her yard.  She would say it was a waste of time because “they are just cats.” It broke my heart.

I have brought all five of my cats to TEAM. I am constantly referring others to your program. You have a great staff and the prices are affordable. You are in it for the cats. That is the best thing of all. You honestly care for the animals.

Tell us about Teddy, the first cat you brought to TEAM 11 years ago, and a few of the others.

Teddy, my oldest cat, was a sad rescue story. I was driving home from the store with my sons, and a van, two cars ahead of us, hit a cat. I pulled over immediately only to see that the cat who was killed had a kitten in her mouth! Cars were driving over him. I stopped traffic, picked him up, and moved his mom to the curb. I called animal control to get her off the road, and took the kitten to the vet. His mouth was bleeding and he had a deep cut on his chest. He was only four weeks old!  I bottle fed him and we have been inseparable ever since! He was a fresh kitten, but now loves to give hugs and kisses. He was neutered at five months old.

Lola was the next rescue. One of our elderly neighbors was a hoarder. When she passed away and the EMTs went into her house, a ton of cats and kittens got out. I set up a trap and caught Lola and her mom (unfortunately, during transport, her mom got out). Lola was skinny, covered with fleas, and had cuts all over. She was your FB “Cat of the Day” when she came to be spayed. She is sweet and loving.

Peanut, also a rescue from the hoarder’s house, was next. She was about seven to eight weeks old when I caught her. I heard her crying in the backyard for days, but couldn’t find her. Finally, I found her under our shed. I tried for two days to catch her, but every time she saw me, she ran under the fence! I slept outside– I couldn’t leave her alone. Finally, I heated up a can of salmon with milk to entice her and it worked!  I scooped her up and brought her to safety. She was small and loaded with fleas. That’s why we called her Peanut.

You brought Bob to us in 2019. He was in rough shape then, but he is thriving now.  What is Bob’s story?

Bob was also one of the hoarder-house cats. He was too smart to be caught. He was fresh and very mean. He hung out in our yard and lived under our shed. I saw him for months but he would run. I started putting food out for him twice a day, and it would disappear. I would call “here kitty, kitty” and he would come, so I think he was falling for my charms! I started calling him King Bob from the Minions.

I put a kitty condo and house out for him with food and treats inside. In winter, he slept in there. He would sit out in the snow and just wait for me to feed him, but never get close. This went on for about a year and a half.  We even hired a pet sitter to feed him when we went on vacations. He was our cat, we needed to take care of him.

One day I noticed a small hole on Bob’s shoulder. He was limping and didn’t eat as much. He would just lay in the garden. I knew I had to do something. The wound was getting bigger and was covered with flies. I was a wreck.

I called many vets, including my own, but no one worked on feral cats. If they did, it was super expensive. I decided to call TEAM. I spoke to Donna who agreed that if we set up an appointment for Bob to be neutered, the veterinary staff would see how they could help him once he was onboard.

But now I had to catch him. I set a trap, used the salmon and milk trick, and he fell for it!

TEAM was able to treat his wound and neuter him. You saved his life. But I knew I could not put him outside with a big wound; he would just get attacked again. Also, Dr. Heller found that Bob had only a few teeth and it would be hard for him to survive outdoors. So, I decided to keep him in the extra bathroom in our basement until he healed.

I knew it would be tough. He was quick and grumpy. Bob and I were both scared, but we stuck it out.

The only way I could get close to him was to put a warm washcloth on his wound. He would chill a little each time, learning to trust me. After weeks of the washcloth, I was able to start putting antibiotic cream on the wound.

Then, he started to let me love him. I could pet him and clean his ears! He was loaded with fleas so I would brush him to remove them. He loved it! Soon, he let me put Frontline on him.

We believe Bob is eight or nine years old now. Our family gave him June 18th as his birthday and celebrated with him. After months of care, it was time to introduce him to the crew. It was a rough go at first, but they all get along pretty good. Bob went on vacation with us to our house in Florida last year. He was great in the car and loved the weather. The trip opened him up. He was sitting on the couch with us and not hiding as much.

Now, his wound is healed and has some fur on it. No one can pet him but me—though I still can’t pick him up. But he will let me do anything I need to, and he trusts us. He is healthy and happy, and for the rest of his life he will be safe and loved. (TEAM Note: the photo in this post is Bob today)

What you did for Bob, and the rest of the crew, will always keep me coming back. I am so glad I found you 11 years ago!

We are glad you did, too, Crystal. You are compassionate, caring, and dedicated to the wellbeing of all animals…truly a TEAM player!