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By Mimi  Pollack

Photo: Riley

November 15, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) -- Looking at her blue eyes and gorgeous coat, nobody would ever suspect that Riley was once a very sick seal point Siamese that was going to be euthanized.

Debra Parmenter found her at the Carlsbad shelter and after Riley weakly head butted her, decided to adopt her even though the prognosis was bleak. Riley was a year old at the time. Now 10 years later, she is the queen of Parmenter’s household. She is also the conduit that started Debra on her path as a foster for the Southern California Siamese Rescue Organization.

Parmenter is now on the board of directors and specializes in rescuing, fostering and finding good homes for Siamese kittens. At this time, she has three of her own [Riley, Truman, and Tiger] and is fostering nine more, including a sweet and loving boy, Solomon, who just had eye surgery, and tiny Mork. In her seven years of doing this, Debra has fostered around 100 cats.

Southern California Siamese Rescue Organization partners with many shelters around the county, including the one in El Cajon. They recently joined up with   the Humane Society of Imperial Valley, and 11 Siamese were rescued.

It isn’t always easy, but all the happy endings make up for the sad ones. To be a foster, you have to have compassion and grit. Debra has both. Many shelters in Southern California call the volunteers to come and pick up the kittens and cats that have been dropped off.

Not all the cats are purebred Siamese, but they all have to have blue eyes and “points” to be fostered and put up for adoption by the organization. Some of the cats are sick, so the fosters have to nurse them back to health, give them love and affection, and help to find suitable, forever homes.

Fosters need to have a household set up for this with separate rooms for the sick and healthy cats, and also to keep the cats apart as new ones are introduced into the mix. The medical expenses are paid for by the organization, but the foster family foots the bill for food, litter, and toys. The kittens are fixed at 10-12 weeks and put up for adoption after they are 12 weeks old.

Southern California Siamese rescue began in 2005 when the California Siamese rescue was divided into two groups to better serve all the cats in need. Karen Dauphin, a lawyer, is the director. She is in charge of all the administrative duties. Susan Ellis, like Debra, also serves on the board, and is one of the main people in charge of public relations. The organization doesn’t have a central office and all the board members and volunteers work out of their homes.

The Siamese cat is a special breed. Due to their nature, these cats don’t fare well in shelters or on the streets. SCASR fosters all of its cats in private homes, so their staff gets to know the cats and kittens to better match them up with potential adopters. They try to ensure that all the cats and kittens are healthy; California law states that all cats be spayed or neutered prior to adoption. In addition, all the cats are tested for Feline Aids, Feline Leukemia, and given all the necessary shots.

Because of the large number of homeless Siamese at the shelters and on the streets, SCASR is always looking for suitable fosters and volunteers who are willing to help in any way that they can.  This organization relies on donations and fundraising. One of the ways they fundraise is by selling crocheted blankets. They are made by Denise Reynolds of La Mesa, who is also another foster.

For more information on adopting, fostering, volunteering or donating, check out the Siamese Rescue website at

Mimi Pollack is an ESL teacher at Grossmont College and freelance writer.

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