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Elections board grieving death of feline mascot

By jim Published: March 30, 2011
Summit County Board of Elections employee Amanda Hagen has plenty of company at her desk as the staff's adopted cat named Special visits often. (Paul Tople/Akron Beacon Journal)

By Stephanie Warsmith
Beacon Journal staff writer

The Summit County elections board isn't quite as special anymore.

Special, the calico cat that adopted the board's Grant Street office as her home, died today during surgery.

''She was a sweet little thing,'' said Marijean Donofrio, the board's director, while fighting tears.

She wasn't the only one saddened by the cat's death. Several of the board's employees had grown attached to their unofficial mascot, with caring for Special becoming part of their daily routines. They thought the cat had a calming influence on the board's often divisive atmosphere.

Special was featured in a Beacon Journal story early last week and on newscasts on Cleveland television stations WKYC and WJW. The cat earned her name because she first started hanging around the board during last year's special election, with employees taking her in when the weather turned cold.

Board employees took Special to the vet last week, concerned after they noticed she was having trouble breathing. The vet said she had likely been hit by a car at some point and suffered from a herniated diaphragm.

A veterinarian with Visiting Vet of Bath offered to do the surgery, which normally costs about $2,000, for free. Board employees, though, were warned that Special might not survive because of her damaged heart.

Donofrio had planned to take Special home to recover after her surgery and was hoping that her husband, Summit County Fiscal Officer John Donofrio, would then let her keep the cat.

''She's just so sweet,'' she said today before learning about the cat's death. ''We'd like to have a home for her.''

Board employees asked the vet for the cat's ashes.

''She was so special,'' Donofrio said.

Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705 or

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