As an in-home care provider for adults with disabilities, Carolyn Criner Shuff understands what it’s like to nurture another human being. As the director of Shelter Cat Rescue of Pine Bluff, she extends that care to animals – and often that care curls right around and touches humans once again.
Shuff is teaming up with the musical group Ceob and the Boys, from Monticello, to hold a fundraiser from 9 p.m. to midnight Saturday at Brickhouse Bar & Grill at 4600 Dollarway Rd. in Pine Bluff, where the group is scheduled to play. The public is welcome, she said, and people can bring money, animal supplies and animal toys, with an emphasis on cats, to donate at the door.
The fundraiser is designed to help offset the veterinary bills and other expenses of Shelter Cat Rescue, Shuff noted. But she said she wants the endeavor to unfold in the spirit of Go Forward Pine Bluff — or in the spirit of energizing the local business and entertainment scenes.
“We’re trying to is just build our rescue (group)’s relationship with Jefferson County and local businesses,” Shuff said. “We want to bring customers in, to keep people coming and let them know there are good places here in Pine Bluff.”
Shuff grew up in Pine Bluff, moved away and then returned about six years ago. She began volunteering with Pine Bluff Animal Control and the Jefferson County Humane Society, and then about three years ago — noticing a growing number of stray or abandoned cats — she and other volunteers started Shelter Cat Rescue. Soon they were using Shuff’s four-acre home as a base.
“We got a little group of volunteers together to figure out what would be the best way that we could help the cats in Jefferson County,” she said. “We all came up with the idea to go ahead and start our own rescue since we had enough hands on deck to help out, to actually try to stop cats from going into our shelter.”
Shuff, as she visited on Thursday with people in The Pet Place, owned by Pat Selman, is clearly gregarious. She talks easily with people and seems to relish their company – but animals, she said, play a deeply felt role in her life.
“Especially on bad days, it’s nice just to go home and snuggle with my cat,” she said. “I love that. If I had a bad day, my cat doesn’t judge me.”
More than 200 cats, along with a few dogs, stayed at Shelter Cat Rescue last year, Shuff said, with most passing through to adoption and some staying at the Rescue. Many of those animals had injuries or special needs. Shuff works with Selman by frequently bringing a cluster of cats to The Pet Place, at 3404 S. Camden Rd., letting residents see cats they might choose to adopt. Shuff does not sell the cats, but people pay adoption fees to fund shots and other expenses.
Feral cats, which Shuff calls barn cats, tend to become more sociable than some people might expect, she said.
“Once they get that trust to them, they tend to calm down and not be anything like what people think,” Shuff said.
Shuff has become a kind of go-to person in the community when problems with cats arise, and she recently received a call from the Delta Rivers Nature Center to pick up a couple of kittens stranded there.
Shuff’s husband, Doug Shuff, also works with the cats at Shelter Cat Rescue.
“Honestly the hardest part of it is some of the stories we hear,” he said, commenting on abandoned animals.
Sometimes the unexpected animal might be taken into Shelter Cat Rescue, and Carolyn Shuff said her 13-year-old daughter, Autumn Criner, is especially gifted with rescuing the occasional gecko or possum.
“Nobody else really likes to take care of them,” explained Autumn, as she reflected on why she’s drawn to these animals. “You never hear of a ‘lizard rescue.’”
Kathleen Bottoms, of White Hall, adopted a cat and a dog from Shelter Cat Rescue. She brimmed with praise for the animals and said the dog has bonded with her son and the cat with her husband.
“There’s no point in spending hundreds of dollars on animals,” Bottoms said, “when you’ve got good, loving ones right in reach.”
People interested in Shelter Cat Rescue can call Shuff at 870-730-8494 or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or through https://www.facebook.com/sheltercatrescue1/.