Unsung Heroes: Cats Get a Chance at 10th Life

Berka and Jim Smock offer a haven for cats no one else wants, operating a shelter out of their home in Central California.

By Arden Moore | Posted: Tue May 1 00:00:00 PDT 2001

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Each day, the cats consume more than 20 pounds of dry cat food and 60 cans of wet food. They go through 75 pounds of litter a day. The washer and dryer on the back patio run constantly, cleaning and drying an array of cat bedding, sheets and towels. Nearly daily, Berka tools around in her 1972 green Valiant station wagon in search of homeless cats to feed and take to the veterinary clinic to be sterilized.

At least three times a week, the Smocks walk the one block to their local veterinary clinic with one or two ailing cats inside plastic carriers.

The couple spends more than $8,000 a month for caring, feeding and housing their ever-growing feline family. They didn't inherit a cache of money. They didn't win the lottery. They rely on their dwindling life savings, monthly Social Security checks, profits from their consignment shop and the generosity of cat lovers all over the country to help them cover the costs. If they break even on the month's bills, they rejoice. But those times are rare.

"What are we supposed to do? These cats need our help, our love," Berka says.

Maureen Swanson, a mother of three, plus three Collies, several cats and an occasional opossum, nods in agreement as she mops the floor. She met the Smocks a few years ago and formed a fast friendship. She makes the 267-mile round trip from her Fullerton home to Santa Barbara twice a month to help clean and tend to the cats' medical needs. She also writes a bimonthly newsletter called "Tails of Life" that keeps the growing number of donors from all over the country up to date on the happenings at 10th life.

"Of all the animal shelters and sanctuaries I've visited, this was the one that screamed the most for help," says Swanson, who convinced the Smocks of the need to legally form a nonprofit foundation for tax purposes.

The Smocks dream of someday owning a large piece of land that will allow them to care for more aging, ailing cats. For now, they say they're doing their part to help these cats enjoy long, comfortable lives.

"For the Smocks, it's all about saving and giving cats another chance," Swanson says. "I never knew my grandparents, but I feel like I have adopted ones in Berka and Jim. They've taught me so much about life and giving love to those in need."

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7/17/2010 1:18:04 PM


w jean    nyc, NY

12/9/2006 9:10:49 PM

how do I donate?

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