Friday, September 8, 2017

The Power of the Paw

I'm a crazy cat lady, and in 2007 I found a website called Catster. It changed my life in the most wonderful way.

Last Monday, Ted Rheingold, the founder of Catster and Dogster died at the much too young age of 47. Although Ted was very ill with an aggressive cancer, it was still a terrible shock to learn of his death.

I told my husband that I felt like Walt Disney had died. And the comparison is appropriate. Ted was our Walt Disney. He created a fantasyland where we could interact socially as our dogs and cats. It was a magical place, and those of us who embraced it, loved it and spent many happy hours there.

A group of Catsters visiting HQ in 2009.

It's hard to describe the Catster experience - you just had to be there. Was it silly? Of course it was, we were play-acting as cats. As our cats, we sent friends requests, joined groups, had parties, played games, got married to other cats, and some of us even divorced other cats.

But there was a serious side to Catster. We shared practical medical and behavioral advice and we grieved together when a cat went to the Rainbow Bridge.

We became a community, sharing the good times and the bad times.

And most amazing is that, from the fantasy world that our "Top Dog" Ted created for us, real relationships were formed. Lifelong friendships were created and they continue today stronger than ever. Tomorrow I will walk with my team "Sugar's Trekkers for Ta-Tas" in the Avon Breast Cancer Walk. Our team would not exist without Catster, without Ted, because that's where we met.

Sugar's Trekkers for Ta-Tas at the Chicago Avon Breast Cancer Walk in 2016.

Last year, after our team walked in Chicago, we had a dinner that was attended by many Catsters. This was shortly after Ted's cancer diagnosis, and at the end of the dinner, we spontaneously decided to send some messages to Ted to let him know we were thinking about him. We wanted to thank him for bringing all of us together. So, we signed the paper tablecloth and I brought it back to San Francisco and mailed it to Ted.

What we didn't know, was at that point in time, Catster was not a good memory for Ted. But when he received our messages, the Catster magic once again began and Ted wrote in his Medium blog about it here.

Ted getting showered.
Being Catsters, we couldn't stop with just a few messages. So we did a "card shower" where over 100 cards and messages from Catsters and Dogsters all over the world were mailed to me. Along with Lori, Catster/Dogster's former Community Manager, I had the great privilege of delivering them to Ted in a pet carrier.

Ted was blown away. I'm not sure how long it took him to read all of the cards and letters, but I hope that after he did, he understand just how grateful we are for the lasting impact he made on our lives. It's a ripple effect and although the heyday of the Catster and Dogster websites is behind us, the community Ted created will live forever.

So in my best Catster parlance, I wish Ted a gentle journey and a soft landing at the Rainbow Bridge. As my angel kitty Sugar would say, "He is in the land of love and light now, where there is no pain and no cancer."

And to all who are grieving Ted's passing, who are struggling to rebuild their lives without a friend, a colleague, a brother, a son, a father, a husband, may the Power of the Paw be with you.



  1. A gentle, caring and very sweet soul is now playing with our dogs and cats at the Rainbow Bridge. Top Dog and Top Cat forever!

  2. What a beautiful tribute, Jeanette! I never met Ted but was honored to take part in his card shower. The love and support that many of us found in the company of animal-loving kindred spirits will never be forgotten. Thank you, Ted, and godspeed.