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Mortgage Executive, Foreclosed Pet Rescuer

Like most of us, Cheryl Lang looks forward to her Saturday mornings. Unlike most of us, the president of Houston-based Integrated Mortgage Solutions and founder of "No Paws Left Behind" - who has the passion and dedication to simultaneously run two businesses - starts her workweek on Saturday.

Cheryl's everyday life has been busier and more rewarding than ever since she founded No Paws Left Behind (www.nopawsleftbehind.org) in 2008.

Between IMS, her asset management for-profit company, and the nonprofit organization dedicated to rescuing foreclosed pets, her days are filled with fast decision-making activity. It was during her work with IMS, trying to help homeowners facing foreclosure and foreclosure risk, that she realized nobody was coordinating that effort with assistance for the pets they willingly, or unwillingly, left behind.

Cheryl initiated the nonprofit using IMS systems. "Information coming to us from our field reps indicated there was some sort of a pet crisis going on once the owners evicted the property and nobody knew exactly how to deal with it." She decided to actually do something about it. For her efforts, Cheryl received the 2008 Humanitarian Award from the Five Star Institute, which recognizes individuals whose charitable efforts and programs make a profound impact on their communities.

To get a real snapshot of her dedication to No Paws Left Behind, her coworkers say, one should have a peek at Cheryl at home on a Saturday.

It tends to start early, animated by the strong smell of fresh coffee and unwinds pretty much like someone else's Monday or Tuesday. First, Cheryl starts checking her bounty of work e-mail. The weekend is the time to catch up on No Paws Left Behind items she did not complete during the week. Cheryl Lang and a shelter cat "Those e-mails that pertain specifically to foreclosure pets, I forward on to my contacts who then cross-post to their network to find the animal a home. Generally, 10% of the e-mails I receive on any given day are related to abandoned pets, but I also sift through general pet rescue e-mail requests and cross-post to my network of contacts who do rescues and fosters."

The earlier she completes that e-mail sorting process the better. Later in the day the phone starts ringing indiscriminately as it does every day of the week. "I call the No Paws Left Behind line the 'bat' phone. It could be a borrower, a Realtor or a field service representative calling who has found an abandoned pet and needs help placing it."

There is basic information to be had for each pet. Cheryl asks for a photo of the animal, a description of its personality and disposition, and their location. It helps her determine which local field representative is available to feed and water the pet while No Paws Left Behind screens longer-term housing options, which can be both temporary shelter or foster care and adoption.

Cheryl sends a cross-post with the data and her assessment to a network of rescuers who may step up to adopt the animal. "Placing one pet can take at least 7-10 e-mails."

The whole process is still a work in progress as networks take time to build and develop. The current No Paws Left Behind network was built by word of mouth and continues to expand the same way. "A woman in Oregon heard of our organization and contacted me, and it began growing from there." Data exchange and rescuer availability becomes more efficient this way. Cheryl estimates there are 50 people in her network, who have around 50 people in their individual networks, whom in turn also try to create their own networks. And since it is charitable work, the pyramid-type connections are productive. Each of these people represents a grassroots presence that can provide help where it is needed most - at the neighborhood level. Cheryl sees this collaborative effort as a way to ensure the interest of avoiding animal control is preserved.

All the hard work pays off when a borrower receives help and a pet is rescued. Cheryl already has many touchy rescue stories to tell. Charles Taylor, who was going through foreclosure in Georgia, was being forced to part with his six-year-old dog, Mr. Spatz, whom he had owned since the pet was a puppy. Being in between homes, Mr. Taylor could not care for the dog so in March No Paws Left Behind placed Mr. Spatz in a foster care home until his owner can move into a new home.

Cheryl loves these kind of stories, "Our goal at No Paws Left Behind is to keep borrowers together with their pets."

It may seem it is an easy process, but there are problems, sad stories and some quite unusual stories along the way, too.

One time, she recalled, a lady whose name she discretely withhold, called to ask for emergency assistance for her pets. The woman complained that unless she received $10,000 to take her cats to the chiropractor they would die and she could not live without them. "That sure was a hilarious, one-of-a-kind request."

Usually problems faced by No Paws Left Behind representatives are hands-on and demanding. Often they deal with cat litter problems as abandoned pets find shelter for their kittens in abandoned properties. Field representatives in charge of securing the property also face pets left behind by a mother cat that cannot get back into the house to care for her kittens. "We found a litter of kittens recently in a house in Denver. I contacted Michael Clower, a broker and supporter of No Paws Left Behind based in Pueblo, Colo. He was able to rescue the litter, but because the mother cat ran away, two of the kittens did not survive."

Determining who qualifies for No Paws Left Behind support is another sensitive issue. Unfortunately, Cheryl recalls, not all people asking for help are being forthright. To avoid unpleasant surprises the nonprofit now requires a copy of foreclosure papers as part of the data set for each pet.