Noland was found abandoned, and even after he was rescued his chances of survival didn’t look good. Without his mommy, the puppy was still very vulnerable. Then his carers thought of a possible solution: they had a new mother on the premises, but the plan was still a little outlandish. Surely it wouldn’t work… would it?
Noland’s rescuers were the Animal Protective League (APL) based in Cleveland, Ohio. The organization actually dates back to 1913, and they have since grown into a large, non-profit animal welfare group. Furthermore, the society says that if it has the space, at no time will it refuse a domestic animal admission.
“We never turn companion animals in need away due to their age, health, or temperament,” the organization wrote on Facebook. “This year, thousands of injured, abused, or homeless animals will come through our doors. Once inside, they receive the food, shelter, and medical care they so desperately need.”
Noland the puppy is just one of those animals, but his story is an unusual one. On June 12, 2013, a humane officer responded to a report of animal cruelty. During the investigation, the animal control worker discovered a newborn pit bull cross dumped in a garage.
Flies riddled the poor pooch, who couldn’t have been more than a day old. Unable to locate the pup’s mom, and surmising that the young fella desperately needed care, the humane officer placed him in the capable hands of the APL. And staff there named the puppy Noland.
Further investigation also turned up Noland’s mother – a dog named Molly – later that same day. Molly was actually found at the same address but had been chained up in the yard outside and deprived of food. Understandably, Molly was in bad shape. She weighed just 30 pounds and was clearly in no condition to raise Noland herself. This left Cleveland APL in a difficult situation.
Sharon Harvey, the organization’s CEO, described Noland’s situation to ABC News. “Pups that old without their mom… their survival rate is pretty iffy,” she said on June 19, 2013. With that mind, Noland’s future was uncertain to say the least.
However, after discussing its options, the APL team came up with a solution: to find Noland a foster mother. Easier said than done, perhaps – especially as the stand-in mom they had in mind was a different species to Noland. Would she realize the puppy was different and reject him?
On June 20, 2013, Cleveland APL’s operations director Ayse Dunlap described events to Fox 8’s Annette Lawless. “We held the puppy up to her,” Dunlap said. “She came up, she started sniffing, and then immediately nuzzling and licking. She just accepted the puppy as one of her own.”
Dunlap said that the connection was “immediate.” And while this was obviously great news, it was also perhaps a little surprising. That’s because Noland’s substitute parent wasn’t another pit bull. In fact, she wasn’t even a dog. Noland’s surrogate mom was actually a rescue cat named Lurlene. And the maternal moggy had given birth to her own litter of kittens just two days previously.
Furthermore, not only did Lurlene welcome Noland into her care, but the puppy also gained four sibling kittens. Happily, despite his obvious differences, Noland’s new family either didn’t notice or didn’t care that he wasn’t a cat. As it turned out, APL theorized it was the former.
“[Noland] doesn’t know she’s a cat,” Harvey said, “and I don’t think [Lurlene] knows he’s a dog.” Dunlap readily agreed. “It’s adorable, right? You just can’t beat it,” she enthused. “They don’t know one is different from the other, they’re just one happy family.”
Of course, since dogs are larger than cats, Noland still needed a little extra attention. He certainly required a lot more feeding than his kitten brothers and sisters in order to grow big and strong. Indeed, one of the APL’s volunteer staff fed him at least seven times a day. But his foster mom didn’t seem to mind the new addition being treated a little differently to the rest of her brood.
“Lurlene loves him, it’s so adorable,” Harvey told ABC News. However, Harvey and Judy Hunter – director of development at APL – did admit to a few worries as Noland began to grow. They thought puppy play might be a bit overwhelming for the other kittens.
According to a report on Cleveland.com from December 19, 2013, the pair informed the Petco Foundation of their apprehension. “We were a little concerned that Noland would get to be too big and rough for his less robust feline family,” they wrote. “But Lurlene had things under control.”
“It didn’t take the kittens long to learn how to put him in his place,” Harvey and Hunter continued. “Actually, Noland blended in with the family so well, he was even found using the litter box a few times.” And with APL’s dedicated care, Noland continued to flourish.
Naturally, Noland’s story went viral, and social media users seemed to love the adorable mismatched family. To date, five million people have watched the footage on YouTube, with many leaving positive comments. “Love knows no bounds,” one wrote.
But the cats and dog clan didn’t just bring joy to people’s lives. They also helped bring a $25,000 windfall to the APL after the society’s sterling work was recognized by the Petco Foundation. And the tale didn’t end there; Noland and the cats all got their just rewards.
Brilliantly, every one of the animals found loving forever homes. Even Noland’s mom Molly made a full recovery in time. In fact, Molly gained a new canine sibling called Jerry and ended up with a very special neighbour: another rescued pit bull.
The last word goes to the APL and Sharon Harvey, without whose dedication, Noland, Lurlene, Molly and the rest would be a lot less better off. “Truly, Noland and Lurlene’s story encompasses everything we do at the APL,” Harvey told Cleveland.com. “Protecting animals from cruelty and neglect, staff members and volunteers working together to nurse them back to health, finding them wonderful new homes, and learning from them about the power of forgiveness and unconditional love and acceptance. And when you get right down to it, that’s really what it’s all about, isn’t it?”