Many four-legged guests wore Santa hats. Erin Graf, left, and Bob Coakley attempt to control their menagerie. CHARLOTTE TWINE/Keys Weekly

On Dec 12, a Christmas party took place at 68 Silver Springs Drive in Key Largo. The Keys have been full of similar celebrations the past few days: guests were wearing Santa hats, the smell of chocolate chip cookies emanated from the oven, multiple tables were laden with even more treats, gifts were given out, children played in the yard, and red and green decorations abounded. 

But this gathering had a special purpose: MarrVelous Pet rescue staff were showing off their brand new digs to the community and the guest of honor was a gentle and shy pitbull named Snow White, who is deaf and blind and has cancer, and was wearing a leash that said “Adopt Me.”

Suzi Youngberg is the new director and rescue coordinator of MarrVelous Pet Rescues. She said the nonprofit has been placing animals in homes for 14 years, with foster or permanent families. But the operations had always been conducted from Joy Martin’s American Caribbean Real Estate office in Key Largo. But no more.

Martin is the president of the board and founder of MarrVelous Pet Rescues, and she discovered the property on Silver Springs Drive. The nonprofit bought the property, which has been a longtime goal.

“This was always the dream, to have more space,” said Youngberg.

“It allows us to have meet-and-greets when someone is going to foster or adopt, to make sure it’s a good fit. We used to have to do that in a park. Here, we have a fenced yard.”

Youngberg said clients now sign adoption papers in the office’s homey kitchen, which gives the transaction a cozy, family feel.

However, Youngberg emphasized that though the organization has more space, it will never house animals, like a shelter does.

“We’re not a place to bring strays. We remain foster-based,” she said. “And we can’t keep fosters overnight, because we don’t have 24-hour staff.”

She recommends that locals who do find a stray animal first make sure that the little one doesn’t belong to somebody in the neighborhood. If it doesn’t, then the best thing still is to call the animal shelter. 

“But if you find a stray, we ask if you are available to hold onto it for a few days until we can find someone to take it home,” she said. “We are in need of fosters. A lot of people see it as a service they can enjoy without lifetime commitment.”

The crown jewel of the nonprofit’s new building is the surgical suite, which will be used to spay and neuter animals.

Margie Schwartz has been rescuing cats for 20 years and helping to control the feral cat populations in the Upper Keys by catching and taking them to a low-cost veterinarian to be spayed or neutered. Her nonprofit is called Whiskers & Paws Forever of Monroe County and MarrVelous’s surgical equipment was provided through Schwartz’s nonprofit.

She is ecstatic to finally have one location to bring the feral cats to be fixed. 

“The problem is that there hasn’t been any help from the county and villages for spay and neuter,” Schwartz said. “We are going to focus on feral cat colonies that have been fed but not spayed and neutered. We can take 30 or 40 at a time.”

Schwartz’s current targets are the colonies at Key Largo’s Publix and the Yellow Bait House.

Youngberg said that while the surgery room will focus on those feral cats and MarrVelous intakes, she hopes to open up spay and neuter clinics to the general public soon.

Back at the party, guests and their dogs explored the property. Owners chatted while the dogs all checked each other out with wagging tails. Some posed for pictures with furry mascots Santa Paws and Skippy the Elf.

“Hello, I’m a foster fail,” said one (human) guest to another. 

“Aren’t we all?” she responded with a laugh.

“Foster failure” is the term used by many to describe when a foster animal parent intends just to take care of a pet until they get adopted — but then they fall in love and adopt the four-legged fur baby themselves.

“The MarrVelous staff are the hardest working volunteers I’ve ever had anything to do with,” said party guest Mary Griffin. She also volunteers time for the organization. “They work so hard finding foster homes. Every year, they give foster failure awards. I admire them — they love something and can’t let them go.”MarrVelous Pet Rescues is always looking for foster parents. To fill out an application to become one, to make a donation for the new clinic or for more information about the nonprofit, go to mprescues.org or call 305-453-1315. To learn more about Whiskers & Paws Forever of Monroe County and its wish list (such as kitten food and towels, etc.), go to its Facebook page or call 305-393-1268.

If you would like to have the Weekly delivered to your mailbox or inbox along with our daily news blast, please subscribe here.

Charlotte Twine fled her New York City corporate publishing life and happily moved to the Keys six years ago. She has written for Travel + Leisure, Allure, and Offshore magazines; Elle.com; and the Florida Keys Free Press. She loves her two elderly Pomeranians, writing stories that uplift and inspire, making children laugh, the color pink, tattoos, Johnny Cash, and her husband. Though not necessarily in that order.