Going the Distance

A Welches man travels 200 miles a week to volunteer for cats
by: Contributed photo Bob Anderson shows his “hoot” personality at a Sherwood cat shelter.

Joy Strull was going to switch her volunteer schedule with Cat Adoption Team but realized she'd miss a fellow volunteer, Bob, too much.

Bob Anderson is a beloved presence at CAT, a nonprofit, feline-only shelter in Sherwood. He recently received the 'Going the Distance Award' for traveling from his Welches home to the shelter -- 100 miles round trip - twice a week for volunteer shifts.

Beyond his 12 years of volunteering, Anderson, 75, leads CAT's monthly Hands on Greater Portland volunteer group, offering an overview of the organization and hands-on experience with shelter cats.

'A lot of people turn into regular volunteers because of Bob,' said Nancy Puro, CAT volunteer coordinator.

Anderson, who now keeps house with eight cats, grew up with cats, dogs and chickens in Dedham, Mass. There, his family kept a victory garden during World War II.

He and his wife, Sandy, lived in Medway Mass., until 1994, when early retirement and a vacation in Oregon - where their daughter was attending college - drew them to the Portland area.

In Welches, the couple found a quieter way of life. Though Anderson thought he'd return to engineering, he took a driving job with Antech Diagnostics, a veterinary lab, and was quickly promoted to a supervisor position.

Anderson still drove for the lab and had routes in Sherwood, where Evan Kalik was founding CAT. Intrigued, Anderson and his wife began volunteering in February 1999 and continued volunteering together until Sandy died in 2006.

'I have a special feeling for animals that are unwanted, regardless of what circumstances they're in,' Anderson said. 'It's a nice feeling of being wanted, especially with Sandy gone.'

After Sandy passed away, Anderson's family dedicated the 'get acquainted room' at CAT in her name. A love of 'the kitties' and the great environment at CAT keep Anderson a loyal volunteer.

CAT founder Evan Kalik said Anderson 'does the extra yard in his love for animals.'

'He's a hoot,' Strull said. 'I have yet to see a cat that doesn't like Bob.'

Outside of his CAT duties, Anderson shares his home with his cats: Ebi, Scamp, Grover, Foxy, Sadie, Speckles, Luther and Maxy. His grown children, Bonnie and Robert, both live on the West Coast.

Anderson's house includes a back room kitty oasis with a variety of scratching posts, and his kitchen is stocked with 40 cans of wet cat food per week.

Does it ever get overwhelming? At times, Anderson said, especially when he gets the vet bill.

But he doesn't ever regret keeping his eight cats.

'I'm looking at Maxy, and she's just a love,' Anderson said of his 18-pound cat. 'She's stress relief and humorous.'

Anderson has several cat mottos hung on his walls: Be the person your cat thinks you are. Purr and the world purrs with you. Despurrate Mousewives.

Besides his dedication to cats, Anderson is a loyal New England Patriots and Oregon Ducks fan -- he has the car plates PATS60 to prove it (he was married in 1960, and the Patriots became a team that year) -- and a movie buff.

His first date with Sandy, he said, was watching 'Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.'

'We love him to death,' Puro, the CAT volunteer coordinator, said of Anderson. 'He's the best.'

CAT works with the community to save the lives of unwanted, homeless, sick and injured cats and kittens. In one year, CAT finds homes for more than 3,000 felines.

For more information about CAT, call 503-925-8903 or visit catadoptionteam.org.