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Small Acts Of Kindness Put Focus On Teen, Stray
Teen Tyler Hassel is shown here with Darth Vader, a stray black cat that he has built a friendship with and is now hoping to find a new adoptive home. Photo Contributed

A young Riverbank teen has made it his mission to help a stray black cat find a home. After spotting the cat hanging out at Sorensen Park in Riverbank for a few months, Tyler Hassel was drawn to the stray and decided he had to take some time to investigate the situation.

Hassel and his younger brother stopped by the park to check on the cat, which came out and with almost some sort of familiarity sat right in his lap.

“I am a huge pet person,” stated Hassel. “I have owned pets my whole life. This is the only cat that I have ever bonded with.”

The feelings were mutual between the cat and Hassel and the all-black coloring of the cat led him to name the feline Darth Vader or Vader for short.

With two dogs, two guinea pigs, a bird and a recently acquired kitten for his sister, the opportunity to adopt Vader is just not an option for the local teen.

So for the past few weeks, Hassel has brought Vader food and water in the evenings and spends time with him. He has also made several attempts to find a home for him but so far has been unsuccessful.

“He is a very sweet and loving cat,” added Hassel. “Every time he sees me, he is happy to see me.”

Hassel is 17 and is homeschooled but will be possibly attending a virtual school in Stockton for his senior year and he does plan on volunteering for the ASTRO Foundation.

ASTRO (Animal Shelter to Riverbank and Oakdale) Foundation Director, Scott Hicks saw a post in the “Riverbank Crossroads and Adjacent” Facebook page about Hassel and the stray black cat and found it to be a very nice thing for this young man to do.

Hicks messaged the teen on Facebook and was able to schedule a meeting with him and his mom last week at the park.

“He has tried to find the cat he refers to as Vader a home but has not been successful,” said Hicks. “I met him, Tyler, and his mom at the park last Saturday and they are all on board for him to volunteer and for us to take the cat to help get it adopted.”

There has to be an effort made to find the owner of the stray animal before it can be taken into the shelter, fostered or put up for an adoption.

Once the time has expired ASTRO will take the cat in and he will be neutered, vaccinated, and then hopefully be adopted.

“He gets along with other animals too,” stated Hassel. “I saw him playing with a dog and other cats. He needs a warm home to stay in and people that will love him.”

The ASTRO Foundation was formed in 2012 with the purpose to build a no kill shelter for the Oakdale and Riverbank area. Last year the organization rescued, fostered, and adopted out 350 animals.

They have converted a motorhome into a mobile adoption center and have a thrift shop in Oakdale to help raise funds for their cause.

“Our biggest need is for foster families,” expressed Hicks. “We are looking for properties and things for a cat adoption center because we have so many cats. We are looking for properties in the Oakdale area for that now. So things are just rolling along and growing.”