The Core Paws Story: How a Family’s Love for a Special Needs Cat Started It All

Abbott, a sweet, 12-week-old gray and white kitten, was born with congenital heart issues. He had a big hole in his extremely enlarged heart. His condition presented itself most clearly in his panting and coughing. At his young age, no one knew how long Abbott would live with the heart condition. He needed to be on two different medications for the rest of his life, administered at exactly the same time each and every day.

After being brought into an animal shelter in St. Helens, Oregon,  Abbott was moved by a loving volunteer at the shelter to a local pet supply store. They concluded that  Abbott’s presence in the Pet Barn of Portland, Oregon, would offer better exposure to more animal-loving shoppers than in a small town like St. Helens. Maximum exposure is exactly what Abbott needed, as his medical needs put him into the category of what is known as ‘very hard-to-place’. The employees of Pet Barn were excellent to him, taking the time to administer his daily medication, gently play with him, and give him unconditional love as he waited for the right family. He had a team of supporters; the volunteer who pulled him from the animal shelter in St. Helens, the volunteer’s family, a dedicated veterinary cardiologist, the Pet Barn employees, and myself. image1

I frequently shopped at Pet Barn and remember the day I met Abbott. I instantly took a deep personal interest in him. It was painful to watch Abbott grow from a kitten into a young cat, constantly overlooked the moment potential adopters heard about his special needs. It had been such a long wait for poor Abbott. I was considering adopting him myself simply to see his loneliness come to an end. I wasn’t looking to add another animal to my family, but his story pulled at my heart strings and his adorable, friendly personality was impossible to not fall in love with.

After resolving to adopt Abbott, I drove to Pet Barn. But I was too late. After nearly a year of patiently awaiting adoption in Pet Barn, Abbott met the Scheves, a local family whose son had the same heart condition… and Abbott’s forever family. The business plan for Core Paws was created later that day. The goal: to showcase hard-to-place animals in one centralized place online (which became, and to help those animals find the special people out there who would give these animals the life that they deserved.

schevesThe Scheve family, Sheila and Doug and their sons Sawyer and Jackson, adopted Abbott in 2014. Core Paws became a 501(c)3 non-profit in August of 2014 and has grown rapidly ever since, helping hard-to-place animals across the nation find forever homes. Almost two years after they had adopted Abbott, and many emails and phone calls with shelter staff and employees at Pet Barn, I was finally able to track down their contact information. I had to tell them the story about how their love for Abbott was what spurred a movement for hard-to-place animals across the nation. This past weekend, I visited Abbott and had the privilege of meeting his family. I was truly grateful to see the life that he has with such a beautiful, loving family.

Sheila and Doug’s son, Jackson, was born with a hole in his heart, which at just three months old required heart surgery. Jackson had been on countless heart medications at the time, which Sheila says is one reason why the medication needs of Abbott weren’t scary at all. “We adopted Abbott because he needed us. We knew that his heart condition could be frightening to people who have never experienced heart issues, but to us having dealt with Jack’s heart defect, we knew what to expect and how to help,” said Sheila. Today, Abbott is on three different medications (one administered twice a day), a veterinarian-prescribed diet, and yearly cardiology appointments.

The Scheves want to tell everyone who is thinking about adopting a hard-to-place animal the following:

We feel that once a hard-to-place animal finds his or her forever family, they are the most grateful and loving pets you can imagine. Everyone — people and animals alike — has baggage. Whether it’s emotional (behavioral) or physical, it’s what makes us who we are.  Once we learn to work through it, the result is always good. I don’t think anyone ever regrets helping someone (human or animal), but I do think that people may regret walking away.


Sheila says, “the biggest challenge with being a special needs cat mom to Abbott is thinking about his shortened life. His daily needs are automatic to us, but the thought of him leaving us early is sad and hard to talk to our boys about, but also beautiful.  We talk about loving him every day as much as we can for as long as we can. It’s a good life lesson for all of us.”

Abbott has his favorite “movie room”, where Sheila and Doug have set up multiple bird feeders outside their living room windows, and Abbott loves to watch the birds alongside his adopted canine sister, Daisy.  Their unconditional love for Abbott is shown as they go above and beyond in his care. The right family is out there for every hard-to-place homeless animal, the mission is to find them.  Join us in our movement for animals like Abbott.  Visit to find hard-to-place animals in your area,  email to learn how you can get involved, or contribute a monetary gift to support hard-to-place animals across the country.


Written by Kara Hamada, Founder & Executive Director of Core Paws
Edited by Aascot Bohlander, Content & Email Marketing Manager of Core Paws


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