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Jerry and the Playscapes
Article and photos by
Carol Noyes

Catio 1

The above title may sound like the name of a rock group, but this is really the tale of one of Our Companions’ extraordinary volunteers. Meet Jerry Gryczewski, So. Windsor resident, protector of feral cats, branch manager for a California company, ballroom dancer, top-notch carpenter, and OC volunteer.

Let’s start at the beginning of Jerry’s connection to OC. He met Laura Jordan and Andrea Dobras 7 years ago. Jerry had been caring for feral cats at his home in Stafford, and the task was becoming overwhelming. His veterinarian recommended OC as a place where he might receive some assistance. Jerry followed the vet’s suggestion, and that opened a door for him and for OC.

Laura provided Jerry with trap training, OC helped with vet care and funds, and Andrea helped him put the whole feral problem into perspective. Without Andrea’s assistance, in particular, Jerry says, “I’d be the ‘cat guy’ with 100 cats living inside!” As a thank-you for their help, he built 26 feral shelters for OC. Shelter plans were made available from OC’s Caroline Gaetano. Jerry beefed up those plans and created impressive shelters made of wood.

Seven years ago, Jerry didn’t have the time to do volunteer work. When he found the time, and felt the desire to “give back,” he first started volunteering at Cat Tails in Middletown. He also volunteered briefly at ARF (Animal Rescue Foundation) in Terryville as a dog walker. A short time later, he asked himself, “Why not just volunteer with OC?” A year ago, Jerry and his teenage cousin started volunteering at the cat cottage, and Jerry continues to volunteer at the sanctuary on weekends.

Catio 2When the original sanctuary cottage became the sole domain of the felines, the dog run behind the cottage was transformed into a three-unit “catio,” each with its own cat door from the cottage. Laura, remembering the fine job Jerry had done on the cat shelters, asked him if he could build something for the cats to use in each catio section. Without hesitation, Jerry dived into the project, designing and building three wonderful playscapes that far exceeded Laura’s expectations. His imagination combined with his ability to execute his ideas created three themed playscapes that suit the cats perfectly. Jerry thanks Laura for having the confidence in him to make the request. For him, it was the best and most fun project he’s worked on. Ever!

Catio 3When I visited the sanctuary to see the playscapes, Jasper, Susie, and Samantha occupied the three catios, each very content to loll about on the playscapes rather than to return to the air-conditioned interior of the cottage.

Deserving of special mention is Donal Grogan, Jerry’s boss and owner of the company. He not only provided funds for the feral cat shelters, but he donated a water feature that was recently installed in Jasper’s catio. Jasper checked it out for drinking, but for any human sitting in the catio, the sound of running water is very relaxing.

Jerry, in expressing his feelings about Our Companions, said he considers OC a most unique sanctuary with the most committed volunteers who truly love and show compassion for the animals. And he is forever grateful to OC for saving the life of his cat Blinky (who had to have an eye removed), and for the voice of Andrea in the back of his mind keeping him “sane” during the difficult days of facing the forces of ferals.

Now, the best news! Jerry is available to build playscapes for seriously interested folks. The charge would be the cost of materials plus an additional 25-30% donation to Our Companions. Customers can give Jerry a budget to work with, or he can price it out as one flat charge. You can phone Jerry at 860-719-1317 or contact us here if you're interested.

Jerry’s final words: “Call Our Companions if you want to adopt a cat or a dog.”

See more of Carol's photos of the Catio here.