We’re hitting peak summer here at the sanctuary. The long, hot days and warm nights make for an exciting time of year. As you know, we do our best here to give the cats and dogs in our care the most normal and enjoyable life we can as they wait for their forever home. During this season, that means getting them the kind of the adventures and experiences they would get in the most loving homes. Here’s a little snapshot of the dogs and cats enjoying the best of what summer has to offer.
The world is full of exciting adventures in summer for the dogs at the sanctuary. It’s a cornerstone of our mission to give the dogs as much enrichment as possible during their stays. We of course have our two and a half miles of hiking trails here at the sanctuary that, at this time of year, are filled with active wildlife, from bunnies and deer to snakes and turtles. And then there’s our two play yards for lots of fun with fetch and with training exercises. But beyond what’s at the sanctuary, our volunteers will often take the dogs out to local state parks or other trips for a day’s excitement. This summer even included a boat ride for Atlas. These adventures are more than just simple fun. They’re an opportunity for the dogs to burn off the stress of daily life, and to experience new stimulus and learn new skills. All of this helps us to get to know the dogs as well as we can, in order to match them to just the right home, as well as work with their training needs to make sure they are the best dogs they can be for their new families.
Roxi takes a cool drink out of one of the doggie pools around the dog cottages.
Aggie enjoys nothing better than to take a field trip to one of the local wildlife areas and enjoy the peace and serenity they offer.
Meeka isn’t one for summer laziness. She’s out to learn some new tricks and show off what she can do.
Tripp enjoys taking trips to local state parks for an adventure with our volunteers.
Estie knows all the best ways to cool off in the summer. Nothing beats digging in the sandbox for chilling out (and getting good and dirty!)
Amber pulls off her best “Wish You Were Here” postcard pose by our very own sanctuary pond.
Of course, the dogs don’t get all of the summer fun to themselves. Our cats all have access to outdoor “catios” that provide them endless entertainment. The cats get so much enjoyment watching the birds, bugs, and butterflies. And what cat can resist bathing in the sunlight on a warm day? But it’s not all just about napping. Some of the cats, like Barnaby, are afforded the opportunity to put on a leash and harness and go for a stroll themselves.
Josie loves spend her days in a cat tree on her catio. It’s a great, low stress way to watch the world.
Hermes and Leela are enjoying some rays of sunshine on the front porch of Jane’s Place.
Carl has found a warm snuggly spot and just wants us to put down the camera and come enjoy it with him.
So now on to the comings and goings for the month of June.
The dog team at the sanctuary had no arrivals or departures during the month of June. This was not unexpected, given the wave of dogs adopted in April and the steady pace of new arrivals in May. But many of the canine crew have made great progress and are up for adoption and ready to go home. We’ll just be looking forward to that late summer bump in adoption activity we get most years.
Amaretto and Praline
Finch, Chickadee, Hawk, and Robin
In the world of Our Companions cats, Daisy went home for good this month, as did Amaretto and Praline. And our new arrivals, as everyone has been so excited about, are the litter of kittens: Finch, Chickadee, Hawk, and Robin. As so often happens, this foursome arrived and were right back out the door to their forever home this month.
So once again, thank you all for all that you do for these dogs and cats in need. We couldn’t do it without you!
I hope you are all enjoying summer with your friends and family, especially the furry ones! Because, as we so often say, they are our family and our best friends. They take us as we are and are utterly committed to us, no matter what. And we do the same with them for them, for better or worse, in sickness and health. So I want to talk a little about some of commitments we’ve made to some of the lovely pets here in our care.
If you haven’t met Atlas, just imagine if your favorite, most comforting stuffed animal toy as a child came to life and grew to 80 pounds, and you get close to what it’s like to be around Atlas. He’s a big guy with a big heart, gentle and simple. Unfortunately with Atlas, as we often see in the human world, those least deserving of trials and tribulations seem to get an extra share sometimes. Atlas’s story, as far back as we can trace it, begins with him being found stray in Florida in late 2016. At that point, he had already been through some hard times, as evidenced by the scarred and hairless spots on his back and side. But his gentle manner came through and an effort was made to get him out of the high kill shelter he was in and into a rescue up north. He was taken in to a rescue in Connecticut, where they started to address some of his health concerns, which included an infection in his elbow. After several months, Our Companions was approached as another home that might be better suited to finding Atlas his forever family. We immediately got to work on his health issues and his persistent elbow infection. We started treatments that, after some time, seemed to clear things up, but before the course was complete, he came down with anaplasmosis, a tick borne illness that can be very serious. He was in rough shape for a while, but with daily attention, we were able to get him back on his feet. Which, of course, is when his elbow infection returned. We worked him through that again, only to then find a growth on his neck that turned out to be a thyroid cancer. He went through surgery for that a few weeks ago, after which, the oncologist said there was no need for any further treatment, just monitoring the site for any return. Which brings us up to right now, and yet another recurrence of his elbow infection. He’ll be having another surgery in a few days that will hopefully fix up his elbow for good. It’s been a long road for everyone’s favorite giant teddy bear.
Similarly, with the cats, we have a challenge of a different stripe by the name of Tabby. You’ll be seeing a big promotional push behind in the next couple of months, since Tabby has now been a resident here for almost four years. So what could earn a cat such a long tenure in our care? She’s been on a long journey to where she is today. Her nervous disposition reared its head in full force after coming to the sanctuary. She was no longer able to live with the people she knew her whole life, and as you can imagine that will make anyone upset. Arriving at the sanctuary, it was clear that she was not a confident cat. When she arrived in 2014, she spent most of her time hissing, trying to scratch and bite us, and obsessively over grooming. Many very brave volunteers “took the plunge” and spent time with her when she was ready for visitors, knowing full well that she was just very scared and confused. Gradually, and with abundant patience, staff and volunteers were able to inch their way closer on to her good side. Once Tabby realized that these humans could be just as pleasant as her old ones, she started to relax. Her mood improved through behavioral intervention and modifications to her room to calm her worried mind. Today, her core group of volunteers know that she’s just as sweet, lovable, and deserving of a good home as the rest of ’em. Since she has improved, there have been only a few incidents of her fearful aggression – a marked reduction from when she first got here! She loves to sit (or rather, stand) on our laps, and sleep next to us while giving us kisses. Currently, Tabby lives a quiet life in Jane’s Place, but, on our scale of Green, Yellow, and Red cats, is our only Red Cat. This makes it more of a challenge to get her the social time she needs, though the staff and our most experienced volunteers are always up for some Tabby snuggle time. Tabby has made immense progress here, but now it’s her time to move on to a home that can love her not in spite of her ups and downs, but because of them. A home that understands that this type of cat needs a second chance in life, and that even the cats with a troubled past can have hearts of gold. Her sensitive nature is going to make someone very happy when the right person comes along. They’ll know this cowardly lion is ready for a new start and a lap to call her own.
This is what we do at Our Companions. We take in the dogs and cats, for better or worse, in sickness and in health, and we make a commitment to be there for them, in every way.
We are so lucky at the sanctuary to be able to see so many cats and dogs find their forever home. Those are the best kinds of goodbyes. Though sometimes, we have to say goodbye to animals who never find their forever home. Some animals come to us toward the end of their life. Some develop health problems like cancer while in our care. The cat team at Our Companions recently lost two of their feline guests and would like to share their stories with you all.
Vivian came to us pretty much as a hospice case. She was found as a stray – with severely matted fur, extremely thin, and in the advanced stages of kidney failure. She also happened to be declawed, which is a brutal and unnecessary procedure that removes part of the cat’s knuckle. With such limited defenses, it was a miracle she survived as long as she did outside. After a quick hair cut and vet assessment, she came to the sanctuary for some peace and comfort in her golden years. This sweet girl loved every human that came her way, despite having been neglected for so long. She would trot around the room, meowing politely for attention. She was too weak to jump up on the furniture, so our dedicated volunteers spent a lot of their time sitting, or even laying, on the floor so she could snuggle up in their laps! Eventually, with more food in her belly and visits from the physical therapist, she gained enough strength to jump up on chairs, counters, and even window perches. We knew that her quality of life was improving, even if we weren’t sure just exactly how long she’d be with us. She made up for a lifetime of loneliness in all the snuggles she received while here.
Vivian stretching out with Sherry.
As photographed by Frances.
Cheetah had a different path. She was living with three other cats before her owner could no longer keep them due to illness. All three got adopted, but Cheetah was the last woman standing and came to the sanctuary. At the time, her only issue was a thyroid condition that was treated with medication. She had that classic “tortietude” – she was a sassy diva who loved attention, but only on her terms. One of her favorite hobbies was to sit behind your head on the couch and give you headbutts from behind. When people came to the sanctuary, she was the first to trot to the door to welcome people in. Unfortunately people seemed to overlook her for adoption – she was older, had a slightly ornery streak, and with minor health problems. Others came and went while she waited for her forever family. In the past several months, she was having issues with eating and digestion. In collaboration with the vet, we tried many different solutions, but no official diagnosis seemed to stick. It wasn’t until she developed a nasal tumor that we realized she had lymphoma. After being at the sanctuary for a year and a half, she had so many friends who all came to say goodbye. She had found her forever family with all of us.
Our Companions promises to do the right thing for animals, no matter the challenge or cost. This promise extends to the most vulnerable animals, whether they come to us as hospice cases or their health takes a turn for the worse while they are here. The sanctuary truly becomes their refuge in a world that might turn them away.
We had a small gathering for them at Harakley’s Pond on our property. Many volunteers and staff members came together to share their favorite memories of Vivian and Cheetah, to shed some tears together, and to spread their ashes in a tranquil resting place. Thank you to all of those who attended and who dedicated their time to these deserving girls.
Here at the sanctuary, we have a lot to be thankful for. We’ve got volunteers who dedicate their time and effort into providing love for some very deserving animals. We have acres upon acres of gorgeous land for the dogs to walk on. We have committed staff who make our workdays cheery and bright.
The cats have at Sebastian House have a lot to be thankful for as well! Let’s see what they have to say about what they’re grateful for.
As we approach the season of giving, everyone here at Our Companions (human, feline, and canine) would like to say how appreciative of we all are of our many volunteers, donors, and helpers out in the community. We can’t do what we do for the animals without all your hard work. With gratitude – we wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving!
The Sebastian House kitties are recovering from their Halloween candy hangovers this morning. Some joined in the costumed fun, while others are already getting ready for the rest of the holiday seasons with a merry “bah humbug!” to all the spooky festivities. We’ve got black cats galore this autumn, making the purr-fect Halloween jamboree.
Albus went all out, living up to his namesake (Professor Dumbledore from the Harry Potter series) with a magical wizards hat. The contrasting stars and moons make his green eyes pop in this spell-bounding ensemble.
And for formal wear, he donned a green and red plaid bowtie for a look that just screams elegance. No dashing cat would be complete without it.
Ferocious Apache did his best lion impersonation, but the effect was probably a little bit more mild than he had hoped – he’s only got one tooth. Still, he did his best to roar but out came a snore. He fell asleep in his comfy cozy headpiece. What a good sport!
Quincy, on the other hand, has fangs to spare. His bold Dracula choice is a Halloween classic. And it’s always so sweet to see timid, gentle cats try on something scary for size. Quincy is all meow, no bite!
Apache had a second costume with his best pal Luther – they cuddled up to become a two-headed-kitty. Voluptuous Luther was so brave on Halloween – he’s normally quite the scaredy cat. But with his best friend by his side, his confidence always soars. He also wants to show off his new figure. Luther came to Sebastian House at a staggering 31 pounds – but now he’s down to nearly 20! Give a round of applause to this trim boy.
The Good Witch Glinda has been snuggling up to all her new friends. She’s made a lot of quick bonds – she’s definitely a lover. She provides us all with lots of black fur and drool. It’s what I always wanted, how did she know!?
And a little Halloween… fairy?…(there’s no Halloween equivalent to Christmas elves) brought by some tricks and treats to all the cats.
It was a dark and stormy night. Gonji arrived at Sebastian House during a signature New England March snow storm. He had been found as a stray and was in need of help. Living out on the streets made him rather skinny, and he still needed to get neutered. After surgery, and with a blue felt cone around his head, he made his way to the upstairs bunk. Gonji was striking – with his long legs, extra toes, and wide set eyes, he was a unique looking cat. And his affection was off the charts! He quickly became a snuggler of epic proportions, wanted to be held by everyone who came across him.
Well, any human.
He was cursed with a most dreadful affliction. He was very aggressive toward other cats. We initially hoped he could maybe live with Cheetah and Dusty, two senior kitties hanging out in the living room. It was a disaster. Hackles raised, tail thrashing, ready to GET THEM! At that moment we knew he had to live a single life. He was a loner, a rebel. He didn’t need anybody! Except humans, lots and lots of humans. He moved into the empty kitchen and we started his promotion.
But then – he discovered he had an enemy. Poor dopey Archer, a grey long haired cat, came to the sanctuary as a stray. He was as sweet as could be, wanted to be friends with every cat and human, liked to play, cuddle, everything. Archer was about as easy going and relaxed as a cat could be. But one whiff of his existence made its way to Gonji’s kitchen lair and pandemonium was unleashed upon Sebastian House. Something about Archer really ticked him off – whether it was because another young male was on the scene, or if they were enemies in a past life, Gonji made it his mission to search and destroy. Of course, Archer was as aloof as ever. He had no idea that a one sided beef was developing.
Gonji started to get agitated more easily. He would try to climb the screen doors just to get a look at Archer. He would ignore cuddles to stare out the window. Putting up blankets and other safeguards didn’t work. He started to lash out at the one thing he loved – humans. Cats do this weird thing called redirected aggression. It’s when something gets them mad, and instead of attacking the thing that gets them mad, they attack something else in the vicinity. It’s usually because whatever is making them mad (scary mailman, feral cat outside, etc) is beyond their reach. So they go for the next best thing.
After a couple incidents, a room change, and lots and lots of gates, we finally found a balance. Gonji moved to a room with a solid door. We instituted a triple gate system so no cat could sneak near his door and set him off. We covered the gates with sheets. His room became staff only. Staff entered wearing extra layers of clothes and big rain boots, to serve as extra protection. We sprayed ourselves with feline calming sprays and moved cautiously. Even though now there was no way for him to see other kitties, the adrenaline from an attack stays in their system for a while. He was still on edge, nervous, jumpy. When cats “ambushed” him at the door, he started to associate the door with impending evil.
The amount of staff, and volunteer, patience it took to help him feel relaxed again is nothing short than astounding. The bravery too. So many volunteers stepped forward to the front lines to help tame this wild beast. We started slow, just having staff behind the gate. Then staff would go past the gate. Then some volunteers would be allowed behind the gate, with supervision. Then without supervision. Then into the room with supervision. By taking it step by step, and over a period of weeks to months, it allowed him to ease back into his old self.
Whether playing with feather toys over the gate, or being courageous enough to let him give a signature Gonji hug, each volunteer contributed to giving Gonji the greatest gift of all: love. Once he realized he was safe from all the evil kitties, it was like the curse had been lifted. He felt confident, content, and most of all safe. And now, he has moved on from Sebastian House to his forever home, with a new dad who understands all of Gonji’s trials and tribulations. And his need for the bachelor life style, feline free. We so look forward to hearing about all his new adventures!
Summertime is kitten time! So as fall rolls in, we just want to take a look back at some of the unbearable cuteness we’ve enjoyed this year, including some kittens that are still here and available for adoption!
Here’s our latest update on the construction here at the Sanctuary. The new buildings are really coming together now!
We’ll start with an updated wide view of the Sanctuary:
Check out this gorgeous cat building. The catios are really taking shape! The doors have all been installed and include kitty doors for access to the outside playscapes. Inside, you can really start to see how the place will be set up. Most of the infrastructure is in place and we’ll have walls up in no time.
And, of course, there’s also the two new dog cottages. They are also moving right along. We can already see some pups snuggling on couches and barking for their dinners.
We’re looking forward to sending more updates of this exciting project soon!