Finding your ‘furever’ home during a pandemic

Nothing can stand between the love of a little girl and her animal.

And in this case, it was a tiny orange kitten named Georgie.

On a blustery December afternoon in 2018, I took six-year-old Grace Zwilling to the Orcas Animal Shelter to meet a new batch of kittens. Within minutes, her eyes locked onto Georgie, a quiet soul with orange fluff for fur. She spent the duration of our time there in an embrace with her new friend.

For the rest of the week, all she could talk about was Georgie. Her parents Katie and Regina recognized the spark of devotion in their daughter and knew that resistance was futile. They called the shelter to inquire about adoption, but sweet Georgie had already been whisked away by another family.

Many, many tears ensued. And for the next 16 months, Grace never forgot about the kitten who stole her heart. She wrote notes to Georgie. She drew portraits of him. She wept while reading Harry Potter because the cat reminded her of Georgie. Katie and I discussed what could be done. Was he still on the island? Could we visit him? The cat had vanished from our lives as quickly as he had appeared.

While Grace was mourning the loss of her first love, the Zwillings also endured the pain of losing one of their beloved cats. Eighteen-year-old Sadie died last fall, leaving their other two cats without a matriarch. They soon adopted a new feline named Katie (she was referred to as Kitty Katie to avoid confusion), an older cat who had been languishing in an off-island shelter, deemed unadoptable by many due to her poor health and medication requirements. She lived the last six months of her life in island luxury before dying suddenly from a stroke.

Shortly after the death of Kitty Katie, Human Katie was looking at adoptable cats on the Orcas Shelter’s website when an orange, adult cat named Georgie popped up. Her heart stopped beating for what felt like a full minute. She immediately called the shelter. After a little research, it was confirmed: Georgie had been returned.

Excitement turned to disappointment when shelter director Kristina Snyder explained that the facility was closed and all adoptions were halted due to COVID-19. Katie begged for an exception. Kristina said she’d consider it.

And a few days later, with gloves and masks on, Grace and her mom walked into the shelter to be reunited with her now full-grown orange kitten. Kristina wanted to make sure it was still a good match before proceeding. And it was as though no time had passed. He immediately went to Grace and didn’t leave her side.

In an unexpected development, Georgie was rushed into emergency surgery on the mainland after five days of living with his new family. A string was lodged in his stomach after becoming wrapped around the back of his tongue. The vet says it was likely there for some time. To help the Zwillings with medical costs, visit

He is now home, recuperating, and back in the arms of his beloved Grace. The two sleep together every night, with Georgie softly purring on Grace’s chest as she reads Harry Potter.