Thursday, June 21, 2018
News Roundup

Former dancer finds purpose, passion in helping others through cats

LAND O'LAKES — Carolyn Gerow twirled in a black gown with red and white fringe.

Dancing partner Ron Algood was debonair in all black.

Their nerves were high, the music upbeat in the rhythm ballroom dancing competition at the 2006 Florida State Fair. They never expected to win.

"Lo and behold, Carolyn, with her smile and her fancy feet, she did it," he said.

It was her last dance competition.

Just months after the fair, a biopsy identified the illness that had progressively weakened her body for years: inclusion body myositis. Scientists don't know its cause. There is no cure.

She left her job as a nurse practitioner and soon found herself in a wheelchair. She gave up on watercolor class. Grew tired of crossword puzzles. At 66, she compared the emotional toll to circling a drain.

It took a former love to lift Gerow from deep depression.

On her first day at Pasco Animal Services, she arrived in a wheelchair.

What could she do? a staffer asked.

"I said, 'I don't know, what can I do? There's got to be something,' " Gerow recalled of the conversation three years ago.

She had seen an ad in the newspaper about volunteering, and she'd always loved cats.

She met one a few days later that looked desolate and afraid. She spent some time with him. Slowly, he started to warm up. She could see it.

Socializing with cats. It might sound small, but it's not. Helping frightened animals in a scary environment learn that people aren't so bad can make them more likely to be adopted.

It can also help people.

"I do much better as a person if I'm pouring my energy into something, a project," she said. "I got as much out of it as the cats did."

She and Algood, 53, a self-described "recovering cat hater," visit the shelter two or three times a week. They leave after a couple of hours because Gerow's body requires plenty of rest.

She plays with the cats and gives advice to prospective adoptive families. He visits with the families in a special room where they can get to know the cats. He takes photos of the cats for online listings and decorative name cards on their cages. She edits the photos and writes bios capturing each cat's personality.

"My son always asks what I do," she said. "To me, this is it. The cats are my life."

• • •

They have three cats, Crescent Moon, Smokey and Jade, and foster two others for a rescue group in their Lutz home.

Algood teaches dance lessons in the living room, which has been converted to a dance studio with slick hardwood floors and full-length mirrors. Before each lesson, he carts away a massive felt-covered cat "condo" that sits in the middle of the floor.

They met in 1999. He was her dance teacher. After living together for almost 10 years, he sashayed into the living room one day in January and told her, "You know, we should make it official."

They were married on Valentine's Day with only two friends present at the Unity church in South Tampa. They didn't want to force family to travel or send gifts.

He said the worst part about her illness is it took away what she loves. Each day before work, they used to share a short dance.

When they met, he fell in love with a dancer. The past few years have changed his outlook.

"I ended up marrying Carolyn the woman, Carolyn the person."

• • •

At the adoption center in Land O'Lakes this week, they saw Michael in his cage and grimaced. The 7-month-old tabby has been waiting for adoption since July.

Algood spoke with Charlene Stratton of New Port Richey, who, at 78, wanted a laid-back cat that wouldn't be "hanging from the chandelier."

Fifteen minutes later he told his wife the good news: Michael found a home.

Lee Logan can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6236.

Comments
Florida eliminates Texas Tech at College World Series, faces Arkansas for title-round spot

Florida eliminates Texas Tech at College World Series, faces Arkansas for title-round spot

OMAHA, Neb. — JJ Schwarz hit a two-run homer and Florida built enough cushion to survive Texas Tech's six-run outburst over the seventh and eighth innings to eliminate the Red Raiders from the College World Series with a 9-6 win Thursday night....
Updated: 1 hour ago
Missed time a good mental reset for Rays’ Matt Duffy

Missed time a good mental reset for Rays’ Matt Duffy

ST. PETERSBURG — Missing all of 2017 might have been the absolute worst thing for Matt Duffy.Frustratingly idled as he eventually recovered and rehabbed from ongoing left heel issues, he couldn't play the game he loved, couldn't show the Rays o...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Timeline of investigations, suspensions and allegations involving Jameis Winston

Timeline of investigations, suspensions and allegations involving Jameis Winston

The NFL will suspend Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston three games without pay to start the regular season for violating the league's personal conduct policy. The suspension could be increased if he fails to meet certain undisclosed requirements expect...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Jameis Winston suspension means Bucs will turn to Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB

Jameis Winston suspension means Bucs will turn to Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB

TAMPA — The news of Jameis Winston's suspension to start this season likely means the Bucs will have veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick stepping in at quarterback for the first three games of the regular season.Fitzpatrick took over as the starter for th...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Kevin Knox to Knicks makes NBA history locally

Kevin Knox to Knicks makes NBA history locally

More than a year ago, Kevin Knox stepped across the stage at the Straz Center to receive his high school diploma.On Thursday, the former Tampa Catholic star was on basketball's biggest stage as he fulfilled his lifelong goal of making the NBA.Knox wa...
Updated: 2 hours ago
2018-19 schedule unveiled: Lightning opens with five straight at home

2018-19 schedule unveiled: Lightning opens with five straight at home

NHL schedules all balance out at the end, but the Lightning will open 2018-19 with five straight home games and end the season with its last four on the road.The Lightning released its schedule Thursday evening for the upcoming season, with all sorts...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Without a first-rounder, Lightning still could have busy draft weekend

Without a first-rounder, Lightning still could have busy draft weekend

The Lightning doesn't have a first-round pick in this weekend's draft, but that's not to say the weekend couldn't be busy for general manager Steve Yzerman and his front office.The Lightning sent its top draft pick to the Rangers in February as part ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Next move is simple for the Bucs: Get rid of Jameis Winston

Next move is simple for the Bucs: Get rid of Jameis Winston

Trade him. Waive him. Cut him.Whatever.Just get rid of him.Jameis Winston should never play another game for the Tampa Bay Bucs.Plain and simple, he's a bad guy and the Bucs should have nothing more to do with him.He already will miss the first three...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Charles Krauthammer, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and intellectual provocateur, dies at 68

Charles Krauthammer, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and intellectual provocateur, dies at 68

Charles Krauthammer, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post columnist and intellectual provocateur who championed the muscular foreign policy of neoconservatism that helped lay the ideological groundwork for the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, died...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Rays journal: Jake Bauers proves he’s up to speed on bases

Rays journal: Jake Bauers proves he’s up to speed on bases

ST. PETERSBURG – Rookie 1B Jake Bauers has impressed at the plate and in the field since his June 7 promotion.Also, with his hustling on the bases."I knew he played hard; everybody said that at every level,'' manager Kevin Cash said. "I di...
Updated: 5 hours ago