Gretchen Levine co-runs the family-owned and operated A Paw Above in Hollywood, Florida, which does everything from pet sitting to grooming to boarding for clients.
Levine has always considered herself something of a stepmother to the pets she watches and cares for every day, but when the devastating Hurricane Irma hit Florida, she took on a whole new role entirely: fairy godmother.
As the Category 5 approached the coast, many of Levine’s clients realized they either wouldn’t be able to get back to their pets in time (many were traveling, including some who were out of the country) or they could not care for them during the crisis.
Knowing, in her heart, she could not leave the animals she cares for to fend for themselves, Levine and her husband, Ron, opened the doors to their home and welcomed in their clients—46 of them, to be exact. (In total she took in 24 dogs, 21 cats, and one rabbit.)
“I couldn’t say no,” Levine tells BeChewy. “I would have felt terrible.”
The Levines made space in their home (“We do not live in a mansion,” she notes) and improvised to make all the accommodations necessary for their furry guests.
Designating separate rooms for cats and dogs, the Levines also made makeshift cat litter trays out of turkey roasting pans and turned plastic food storage containers into feeding bowls.
But even with a bustling household in the midst of a storm, Levine says all of the pets were well-behaved and got along quite well.
“I have to give them all an extra treat, because they did really good,” she says. (Thankfully, there wasn’t much in the way of thunder or lightning in their region, Levine says, which likely allowed the animals to stay calm and collected.)
Since the storm has passed, Levine still has 21 pets in her care as of Sept. 14. Although she is out of power, the community has come together to help her and the animals, bringing over generators to ensure the cats, dogs, and, of course, the rabbit, have access to cool air, clean water, and fresh food.
Over the past week, Levine has been feeding, cleaning, and playing with the pets around the clock. In order to help maintain the pet-friendly post-Irma household, a GoFundMe page has been started, and the Levines are also accepting donations, monetary or pet supplies, to their address.
Levine says she is touched by the outpouring of help and support from people in Florida and around the country, especially since it has benefitted the pets in her care. As she simply puts it, “I love animals with all of my heart.”
Photos courtesy of Gretchen Levine
Aly Semigran is a lifestyle writer for the world, and roommate of Ruby, the cutest dog in the world.