DETROIT (WXYZ) — Cathy Bissell has always had a passion for animals, but actually walking into a shelter is something she avoided for most of her life.
"I never went into a shelter until 12 years ago," she said. "I wouldn't go because it was heartbreaking and I was afraid that I would live with the pain of seeing shelter pets stuck in cages."
But then came the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and shelters in and around the affected areas were left full of adoptable animals that had nowhere to go.
Cathy thought her photography could be used to let people see the animals that still needed a second chance and that meant she had to walk into a place she feared her heart would hurt the most.
"I saw these wonderful faces and I took pictures of them up close and got to pet them and that's really kind of the turning point," Cathy told 7 Action News. "And then I brought my first shelter dog home and that was just life-changing for me."
Cathy now flies to shelters across the country, helping shelters improve the lives of the pets in their care. And she admits she had to learn how to compartmentalize what she sees to get the job done.
"You could become very sad," she said. "But I found what I really love the most is going into these shelters, trying to understand what their needs are and helping them.
"I know I'm doing what I'm supposed to do," she said.
Now, through BISSELL, the family-owned vacuum cleaner, and floor care company headquartered near Grand Rapids, Cathy is matching up to $100,000 in donations for the month of November to help Detroit's first no-kill shelter.
The donations will help Detroit Dog Rescue in their "Closer to Home" campaign fundraiser to renovate a larger facility that will accommodate the increased number of dogs saved from the streets and pulled from shelters that are not no-kill.
DDR's larger space will also allow for more enrichment and training.
Kristina Rinaldi, DDR'S Executive Director, has traveled with Cathy on a number of missions to help shelters in impoverished areas across America.
"We love Kristina and we want to help her shelter be bigger and have more room for so many lost souls," Cathy said. "She takes in the hard cases, the lost cases."
BISSELL will continue the donation match for seven more days. Click here if you'd like to help.