Better than Normal – May Sanctuary Update

Hi Everyone!
We see it coming. It’s getting closer. It almost feels within reach. The light at the end of the tunnel. People are getting vaccinated. New case and fatality numbers are dropping. Back to normal is on its way. Or maybe not. Why have “normal” when you can have “better?” Over the past 15 months, we here at the sanctuary have not been solely focusing on getting back to “normal.” We’ve been continually attempting to find ways we can improve on how we have operated in the past and use the opportunities afforded by this crisis to improve. Let me fill you in on some of what we’re doing better than normal.

Sometimes big improvements come from well made plans, and sometimes they are totally unexpected. Obviously, the pandemic itself was a big surprise, but the sanctuary cat team has had lots of other unplanned circumstances this past year. While skittish cats are nothing new to us, the universe saw fit to land several on our doorstep at the same time. Magic, Penguin, Parsnip, Keiko, and Paisley have all arrived here during the pandemic, and in a way, it was the best timing. Volunteer traffic had been curtailed, making for quieter cottages, and our staff have been working extra to fill the gap. All of these stars have aligned to lead to a great leap forward in our cat care. Our staff has been studying and practicing a higher level of clicker training and behavioral observation to help give our “fraidy cats” the confidence they need to interact more with their human caretakers. They’ve been trained to approach people and even accept being held or, in the case of Niles, being given regular eyedrops or other care. This work has also spread to our easily overstimulated cats. Parker, Ripley, and Captain Crunch have all gained more healthy outlets for their high strung energy through their increased training. We’re so proud of what the team has accomplished that this will be a new standard part of our better than normal cat care operations.

The pandemic year has seen all kinds of changes for the sanctuary dog team as well. We started last spring with a review of the staff structure that greatly streamlined management of the team. We built a more organized volunteer calendar and sign up system. We added a Volunteer Assistant and a Behavior Assistant to invest in the two most important parts of our operations. And we learned a number of tips on how to better support the volunteers with their work with the dogs, like having the dogs already harnessed for their activities and better preparing the necessary supplies for the volunteers. As we get ready to start recruiting new volunteers again, we are so excited to bring on fresh new faces to a more efficient and productive system. And of course, that couldn’t happen without building on the work of the core volunteers who have been with us throughout. They’re flexibility, patience, and constructive feedback has resulted in a dog volunteer program that is producing consistent results with fewer individual volunteers than we ever have before.

And of course, we can’t forget the ways our care of the facility itself is now better than normal. Our facilities caretaker, Tom, started with us just before the pandemic hit. Nonetheless, he was able to establish relationships and organizational procedures with the maintenance volunteers that kept this place looking and functioning as well as it ever has with far fewer hands than before. And in one of our biggest “better than normal” moments, Tom oversaw the installation and use of a new, super snow blower for the tractor that kept the sanctuary safer and easier to use than ever all winter long.

So as we head into what may be a summer of unprecedented relief and recovery, I want to thank all of our volunteers, donors, and other supporters for sticking with us and helping us reach a state of better than normal.

Ripley’s Corner Office
Hi Everyone!
Ambition. Motivation. Blech!! We cats know that hard work and striving can only get you so far in life. But when it comes to the best things in life: a spot in the sun, a warm lap, a really good stretch, it’s all about slowing down. All of us furry friends here at the sanctuary marvel at the pace you two-leggers maintain all day, every day. But it makes me wonder. When was the last time you stopped to watch the clouds or smell the scents on the air? Has it been a while? Well, what better way to get yourself to take a breath and enjoy the moment than to sign up for a shift at the sanctuary. Come on by and let a warm cat on your lap drain away that hurried energy. Or maybe sitting on the side of the pond with a wet doggie nose nudging your hand is more your speed. Haven’t been here in a while? With our volunteer restrictions falling away, maybe now is the time to contact Beth or Lindsey and set up your return. Never volunteered before? We’re getting ready to start recruiting new volunteers again. Just keep an eye on the website. There’s a peaceful pause waiting just for you at the sanctuary.

And of Course…Adoptions!!

May has been an unusually slow month all around. We’ve had no dogs arrive or leave, and on the cat side, the big action was Opal’s kittens going home right at the end of the month.

Thank you all so much for whatever way you support us and our mission. We couldn’t do it without you.

Jon Phillips

Sanctuary Director

[email protected]