By Sabina Mollot
For over 20 years, Marilyn Pascarelli has been the go-to person in Stuyvesant Town when someone’s cat has gotten out and needs to be brought home or when an animal has been abandoned by its owner or pretty much any other animal-related emergency.
One recent task included rescuing and placing a kitten that had been left locked in a closet in Stuy Town after its owners, a group of squatters, abandoned their apartment prior to a marshal visit. Another time, Pascarelli rescued two baby squirrels whose mother had died, nursing them back to health. Other rescues include dogs, turtles, a rooster and even the occasional bunny.
A couple of years she ago rescued a shih tzu mix, Bella, who would later become her pet, from a breeding ring in the Bronx. Bella had been found in squalid conditions among a group of 18 shih tzus.
These days, Bella is Pascarelli’s partner on nights when she’s out looking for lost pets or strays on the streets, or, just as frequently, in East Village gardens. Summer is an especially busy time for the pair, and for City Critters, the cat rescue organization Pascarelli volunteers for, because of a seasonal spike in cat pregnancies.
“Often the cats are roaming around the gardens, because they get fed by people,” she explained.
Lately, during searches, it’s been Bella who spots any kitties hiding in the gardens or parking lots. She’s able to detect them instantly, recognizing the scent since Pascarelli also owns four cats and frequently fosters others.
“She’s used to them,” explained Pascarelli, “and Bella will run (to them). She’s very interested in cats.”
After the explosion in the East Village in March that killed two people, the FDNY contacted Pascarelli to help find pet cats that were missing from one of the buildings on Second Avenue and 7th Street.
She went there with Bella, who, while walking alongside firefighters, was able to locate where the cats’ food had been and where they’d slept, although it turned out the cats were no longer in the building. More recent searches have had more success though in turning up missing parties. Later in March, Bella found a cat under a bush in Stuy Town.
“She kept pulling at me to go towards the bushes,” said Pascarelli. “She kept making an mm-mm noise. I saw something moving and I thought it was a rat, but it wasn’t. It was a gray and white cat. It’s since been adopted.”
Another time, Bella sniffed out two kittens who were under a parked car on East 14th Street between Avenues B and C. Then, after spotting them, she refused to leave.
“She had to clean them and make sure I fed them,” said Pascarelli, who later got those felines adopted as well, through City Critters.
As for her own cats, they get along well with Bella, who at 10 pounds, believes she is one of them.
“From day one when she got here, she liked the cats,” said Pascarelli. “When new kittens come in, she cleans them. She has short, little legs, but when she sees them jump on something, she does it too. It’s an interesting dynamic.”
If anyone needs Pascarelli’s help in rescuing a pet or stray animal, contact City Critters at (212) 252-3183 or firstname.lastname@example.org.