Jody Harmon of Albany is 56 years old, but it wasn’t until about 12 years ago that she said she found love for the first time.
That love wasn’t familial love or love from friends. Rather, the love that gave her life purpose came from a colony of feral cats that lived with Harmon on the banks of the Willamette River in Corvallis.
“Those cats became my family,” she said. “Everyone has to have love and that’s where I found it. I like to tell people my real life began in 2001 when I was homeless in Corvallis.”
Prior to living on the river, Harmon said, she was in the mental health system, staying at the Julian Hotel and the Benton Plaza. After a bad experience with a health care professional, she took refuge along the river.
Harmon became so attached to the river cats that she has made it her mission since then to trap and neuter as many as funding permits.
Most of those cats in Corvallis were neutered at Eastgate Veterinarian Clinic. She still goes to the clinic but there is no fund set up there for her to use. Then a couple who used to live in Corvallis bought her a live trap to make catching cats easier.
“What Scott and Pam Chadwick started by buying me that trap for the cats and for me was astonishing,” Harmon said.
She still has one of the cats from the river. Her name is Vision and she is 19 years old.
Now Harmon is facing financial problems. One of her neutering funding sources in the Portland area will go out of business early this summer.
Harmon is on Social Security disability insurance and can’t afford to continue her work without additional help.
Being on Social Security prevents her from accepting financial donations to help cover her trapping and neutering costs. However, she can continue her work if she sets up a nonprofit. She hopes to do that but needs help setting one up, she said.
Anyone who can help her obtain nonprofit status can contact Harmon at 541-928-2543 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. She also wants at least two hardworking board members.
Meanwhile, she needs donations of food and litter for the cats waiting to be neutered and for those awaiting adoption. For food, she prefers Kirkland in the purple bag that comes from Costco and Purina One or Purina Cat Chow.
She uses wood pellet fuel for litter.
Harmon won’t say how many cats she has at her Albany house that are ready for adoption. The ones that are there have rooms designed for their play and their comfort.
Harmon designed and built enclosed skywalks in the living room that connect with others in the house that eventually lead outside. The walkways are built with salvaged and scavenged materials she’s been given or that she’s found.
Chicken wire and oven racks keep the cats from falling out of the overhead runs, and once the cats are in the backyard, they can’t get out because of fencing and overhead chicken wire.
“I owe stray cats everything because they saved my life,” said Harmon, who estimates she’s helped thousands of cats over the years. “Since I’ve started doing this, there has been a vast improvement in Albany in the number of unneutered cats.”