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The Gifts of Companionship

By Alma Tassi

When Mark Short’s mom in Seattle lost her beloved cats to old age, he knew he had to find new companions for her. He traveled to Seattle with his sister and after visiting many shelters, discovered there was a cat shortage. Unlike Maui where feral cats have been rampant across the island, Seattle’s efforts to tamp down their feral population have been successful. They learned that many cats in the Seattle area shelters were actually shipped from Maui.

Transferring animals from Maui has always been a practice for animal rescue organizations, but the need for homes and fosters became more dire after the August fires. Founder Dawn Pfendler of Hawaii Animal Rescue Foundation (HARF) says, “After all the injuries and lost pets due to the fires, we collectively worked with other organizations to move all our adoptable animals to make room for the influx of animals from Lahaina.”

Since 2011, HARF has been “committed to the philosophy of people helping animals and animals helping people.” A no-kill rescue shelter in Waihe’e, HARF provides shelter and resources for rescue animals, including a transfer program to expand access to adoptable animals on the West Coast in states like California, Oregon, and Washington. Each year varies depending on the capacity of intake partners—there could be 30-40 transfers one year to several hundred.

mom cats

Mark Short delights in bringing home two cat companions for his mother Sharon Short.

HARF also administers a foster program, which provides everything an animal might need from food and medicine to crates. Short adopted his pets from shelters and has participated in HARF’s fostering program now for many years. As a REALTOR® for Keller Williams Realty, he loves helping others to get to the next level in their lives, and he sees the same in fostering. He adds, “Fostering helps give the time needed to find their best permanent home.”

With only so much kennel space, fostering is a lifeline for many animals in need. HARF currently has about 108 active volunteer fosters. Some fosters have medical or behavioral issues and with time to heal and train are given a better shot at adoption.

Pfendler says, "Fostering rescue animals offers them a nurturing temporary home, granting them a much-needed second chance. Simultaneously, it opens up space in shelters for other animals requiring assistance. This act doesn't just save one life; it's part of a broader cycle of kindness and care that impacts numerous animals. A special thank you to HARF foster Mark Short for giving numerous pets a fresh start."

Seeing the boost in his mom’s happiness after receiving her “new” senior cat companions, Short believes adopting and fostering animals goes both ways. He proclaims, “People need to love and be loved.”

For more information about fostering and adopting pets with HARF, visit

REALTOR® means a member of the National Association of REALTORS® Do you know a REALTORS® Association of Maui member who should be recognized for their contributions to the community? If so, send your story idea to Alma Tassi at

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