It's the people who make it an animal shelter

Posted 6/26/20

My husband didn't say anything, but I knew what he was thinking: "e;Don't come home with another cat."e; As I drove down a short street off busy Jefferson Boulevard, I entered an industrial area between the Pawtuxet River and I-95. Just

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It's the people who make it an animal shelter


My husband didn’t say anything, but I knew what he was thinking: “Don’t come home with another cat.”

As I drove down a short street off busy Jefferson Boulevard, I entered an industrial area between the Pawtuxet River and I-95. Just before the end of the road I reached my destination: the Warwick Animal Shelter, where I was warmly welcomed by Jackie.

A bulletin board, layers deep in photographs of animals, decorated the entrance area. It’s a small shelter comprised of a team of three full-time employees and two part-time employees, who rely on passionate and like-minded volunteers who help socialize the animals.

When Jackie introduced me to “Bella,” the shelter’s only dog, the three of us ended up in a small hallway of many doors, much to Bella’s bouncing delight. With some gentle coaxing, Judy directed Bella back to her outside area.

Seven cats, hip cats and cool cats, were content, lounging or leaping, grooming or gazing, from their various perches in the very clean and well-appointed cat room.

Stout “Simba” and lithe “Liesl” followed me around, jockeying for position at my feet, as if auditioning for the role of adopted animal. Their companions “Tillie,” a brown tiger cat, and her new brother “Razzle,” a trim black and white cat parked at the window, were headed for their new permanent home when I arrived for my visit.

In 1995, Judy, one of the staff members, was working in South Providence when she came across some stray cats. When she called the Warwick Animal Shelter for assistance she was immediately taken with the volunteer’s willingness to help. This serendipitous meeting led to Judy’s position as a volunteer. “I’ve always been attracted to animals that needed help, including wildlife,” she said, recalling a rescued bird in her youth.

Ann Corvin, director of the shelter, who previously worked as the pound keeper under the Warwick Animal Control Division, has dedicated over 20 years to the welfare of animals.

During those years, I wondered if Ann had ever became attached to one of the animals and ended up taking it home. “It’s usually the difficult ones I fall for,” she confessed. “There was ‘the one that got away,’” she sighed, reflecting on a special animal that arrived at the shelter, “but I was not in a position to adopt.” “Moose” was a mastiff mix, with an aloof personality. “He went to a great home,” she added proudly, after living at the shelter for two months. Ann currently has two cats and two dogs of her own at home, whom she met at the shelter.

The very youngest animals the staff has taken care of have been three-week-old kittens that had to be bottle-fed. This has become a downward trend, however, with compliance to Rhode Island state law on spaying and neutering. The oldest animals have been ones lost and returned to their owners, or senior animals that have been abandoned and found a home at the shelter. “Moe” was a 14-year-old black Labrador. “He was a big and lumbering,” as Ann described him, the shelter mascot who lived out his days there, walking around, and adored by the staff.

Ann grew up a bit like Dr. Doolittle, except for being allergic to cats, but her family also had dogs, a rabbit, and even pheasants.

At Rhode Island College, the material in her human behavior courses proved to have many similarities with her animal behavior studies. “A lot of it is learned behavior,” she notes. Ann considers herself self-taught, having poured over books and magazines on animal health and behavior while she worked as a groomer, during downtime between clients.

During this time of COVID-19 precautions, prospective pet owners may view the shelter animals by appointment, wearing a mask and practicing social distancing with the staff. Gone are the days of browsing, for now the shelter’s Facebook page is an adoption specific website. Fortunately, animal adoptions were not impacted during the stay at home orders; in fact several adoptions took place.

Careful placement is paramount. “The goal of an appropriate home for the animal is for it to be their last home,” Ann emphasizes, “in the best environment, and compatible with the family.”

“The animals get whatever they need here,” Debby, another employee, assured me. “We treat them like our own pets.” She introduced me to her feline friends: “Melvin,” a black and white feline who likes to sit and observe, “Tinsel,” a female black cat who dislikes confrontation, “Vinnie Devito,” the black shelter cat with white boots, and “Heidi,” a petite calico who jumped from her spot and curiously prowled a hallway.

On April 1st of this year, “401 Gives,” the statewide day of giving, the shelter was the benefactor of many generous donations.

The Friends of the Warwick Animal Shelter’s mission is “to increase public awareness and support of the Warwick Animal Shelter,” and have stepped up with annual fundraisers, providing valuable assistance. This year’s “Cause for Paws Classic Car Show,” chaired by Ruth Napolitano and co-chaired by Judy Salvadore, is scheduled for Sunday, July 19th at 9:00AM, yet is contingent upon Governor Raimondo’s reopening Rhode Island phases. As the nonprofit group contends with COVID-19 restrictions, November’s annual pasta dinner, and December’s annual crafts show remain on hold. Information will be forthcoming on their Facebook page.

As I said goodbye to Simba one more time, he rubbed against my shin in earnest. I smiled to think how Liesl nimbly jumped from a cat tree to the top of a cage, to gaze at quiet Tinsel resting below. I envisioned the delight they and their current roommates will bring to the families who welcome them into their homes.

The Warwick Animal Shelter is located at 101 Arthur W. DeVine Blvd., Warwick, RI 02886. The shelter is open weekdays from noon to 4:00PM, and weekends from 11:00AM until 3:00PM. It is closed on Thursdays.

View photos and additional information about Bella, and Simba and Liesel and their feline friends on The Warwick Animal Shelter Facebook page.


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