Dorothy Max, the angel of Cleveland

Dorothy Max spent much of her life feeding stray cats and caring for them. She would catch the feral cats, domesticate them, and find them homes through her association with the PetsMart in Willoughby.

Her group, Save Our Strays, was a loose-knit organization of volunteers who would help Dorothy on her rounds. By her own admission, she was hard on her volunteers and ended up losing many, then having to handle the lion’s share of the feedings. Her son said her current group of volunteers have been actively working the daily feedings and caring and would continue Max’s goodwill work. Michael Max said he would stay in Cleveland and “carry on my mother’s work.” He had assisted his mother over the years, but moved to Tennessee. “My wife just lost her job down there, so there’s nothing to keep us in Tennessee,” he said. “We’ll come back and stay here.”

Dorothy was always reluctant to count the number of stray cats she fed, saying she was afraid to know the actual figure. Conservatively, it was more than a hundred. The health and safety of the cats was all that Dorothy cared about. She would break into abandoned buildings, trespass on private property, scale four-foot snowdrifts and defy drug dealers to feed her charges. She once said she had garnered a grudging respect from drug dealers who didn’t bother her on her daily mission to leave food out for cats in East Side Cleveland neighborhoods. She said some times they even helped carry the bags. “They got to like this crazy old lady who wasn’t afraid of them,” Dorothy said in an interview several years ago. “I didn’t bother them and they didn’t bother me.”

Dorothy used to spend three to six hours a day feeding hundreds of strays from Collinwood to Willowick, regardless of the weather.

One night in February 2012, she went to bed and died in her sleep, peacefully. She was 81.

 

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