Small Miracles cat shelter expands to include dogs

Moira Liskovec doesn't agree with the adage that cats and dogs fight like … well, cats and dogs. In fact, Liskovec thinks the opposite is true.

"I believe cats and dogs get along better than two cats," Liskovec said recently at Small Miracles, the Howard County cat rescue shelter she started five years ago.

"You bring a dog into the picture, and most likely they're going to be best friends. I had a German shepherd, and I had a 6-pound cat who would totally chew on his head gently," she said. "A lot of people say, 'I want to adopt a cat, but I have a dog,' and I'll tell them it doesn't matter."

Liskovec's theory will be tested when the nonprofit facility is expanded and begins to take in dogs. Construction has begun behind the parking lot of the current location in Ellicott City that will more than double the facility's space, to about 4,500 square feet. The growth is a part of the dream Liskovec's husband, Rudy, envisioned when he first encouraged her to get involved in cat rescue shortly after they moved to Maryland from her native England in 1992.

Initially, it was strictly a financial move after the couple brought nine animals with them.

"My husband suggested I get a job with a vet to help with the vet bills," she said.

After watching a cat euthanized at the veterinarian's office where she first worked, Liskovec began working for a different veterinarian and later helped rescue abused animals for a county-run program. That eventually led to Small Miracles.

"He fully supported me and he said I had a passion to make it work," Liskovec said of her husband.

On Saturday, Liskovec was scheduled to hold an open house from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. to celebrate a belated five-year anniversary for her rescue center as well as commemorate the two-year anniversary of her husband's death. Rudy Liskovec died of leukemia at age 57 shortly after she moved the rescue organization from the basement of their house into the two-story shelter on Baltimore National Pike.

"We're having a party for him, he'll be looking down and smiling," Liskovec said. "He got the shelter for me and decorated it for me. I told the [employees], 'I can't leave this building, this building's got Rudy in it.' "

The shelter will start accepting dogs for rescue even before the new facility is completed.

"It's going to be really different" said Liskovec, who has three dogs and eight cats at home. "There are a lot more things like behavioral problems, they haven't been potty-trained, there's so many different personalities involved with dogs."

Debbie Rahl, programs manager for the Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter, said organizations such as Small Miracles have an advantage over BARCS and other publicly funded animal shelters because they have fewer animals to place. Rahl said as many as 30 animals are brought to BARCS daily. "It's always a struggle to get our animals out" for adoption, she said.

Bev Tucker, the assistant manager at a Petco store in Ellicott City, said that she has directed many people looking to drop off stray kittens to Small Miracles.

"She does great work," Tucker said of Liskovec. "The cats are her life."

Within the next few months, dogs will become a bigger part of Liskovec's life as well. Tucker said, "She's done an amazing job finding homes for her cats; I'm sure she'll have the same success for the dogs that are brought there."

Liskovec estimates that she has taken in more than 4,200 cats in the past five years. As she watches more than a dozen cats play and sleep and eat in the first floor of the current facility, a smile comes to Liskovec's face.

"This makes my day," she said. "If you're having a bad day, you come to a cat shelter, and it makes you feel better."

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