By Scott Sullivan
Wishbone House isn’t the fanciest place in Douglas. It fills an ex-video store at 165 Blue Star Hwy. selling thrift donations and, oh yes, 27 discarded cats seeking homes and love.
Success for three staff who draw minimal pay and volunteers equals caring for and placing abandoned, furry friends with human companions who love them back. From Jan. 1, 2018 to June 30 this year, 294 cats and kittens had been adopted there.
Picture backers’ disheartenment Sept. 7 to hear from the Wishbone Pet Rescue board they might shut it down after more than a decade’s service.
Reasons? The Thrift Store, board members are concerned, is not generating funds needed to maintain the building and continue the cat rescue. The structure needs some repairs along with general maintenance.
Want to help? A town hall meeting Wednesday, Sept. 21, in the Coral Gables Crow Bar, 220 Water St., Saugatuck, will present backers’ dilemma and determine the community’s desire the House remain here as Wishbone Headquarters, a cat-adoption facility, thrift shop and pet pantry provisioner. All are welcome.
“There are a lot of unknowns,” writes supporter Sandy Corsiglia, “with the notice that came to us so suddenly Wednesday; however, the one known is our rent, $750 a month, a ‘steal’ by anyone’s standards, in this area especially …
“After Susan Smith and Michelle DeLash paid $25,000 for the renovation of this place to bring it up to code,” she went on, “the building owner agreed to only charge that low rent if they would agree to never contact him re any problems about Wishbone House; i.e., if anything needs to be fixed or replaced, trees need trimming, etc.; it’s at Wishbone’s expense.
“Of all of the people who ‘work’ here, only three are on payroll, making a paltry sum of course, but OK with it because they are cat people. The remaining eight are strictly volunteers. Occasionally that number is higher in the ‘volunteer’ department, but that’s accurate at this time.
“Anything that needs to be replaced, repaired or fixed, large or small, is donated by the volunteers,” Corsiglia went on. “We do not ask for reimbursement. Cost of supplies is almost nonexistent; again, the volunteers or paid staff takes care of that.
“The only thing Wishbone buys is cat food, litter and medication … but those items they would still need to pay for if the cats were housed at the Wishbone-operated Allegan shelter.
“Wishbone House is a sanctuary for all their shelter cats who just can’t make it at the shelter, are seniors, need special medical care or attention, or simply need socialization to make them adoptable. We are sorely needed here.
“Wishbone House, being a ‘foster’ facility, houses 27 cats. If we are closed down, that’s a loss of 27 spots in Wishbone’s ‘foster homes’ program, which means the shelter would have to reduce their intake by 27 cats.
“That results in cats being euthanized. Cats being euthanized for lack of space will result in Wishbone’s inability to retain a ‘no-kill’ status. People don’t want to support a shelter that is a ‘killing field.’”
Think, 294 lives in four and one half years. But yes, money matters too. Vounteers try.
“We provide the pet food pantry for those who cannot afford pet food but certainly don’t want to give up their pets,” Corsiglia continues. “We accept bags of opened dry dog and cat food and place it in bins marked ‘Wildlife,’ and our local wildlife people pick that up to feed local wildlife.
“The Department of Agriculture prohibits us from feeding anything that has been opened to our cats, nor can we sell it; however, our cats receive the same brand of food that all our shelter animals do: Hill’s Science Diet, because it’s a highly nutritious food that will help our animals live a healthier life while under our care and to ready them for adoption.
“We also provide live traps to people trying to capture a feral cat or kittens, along with instructions on how to set it up. Volunteers will respond to an adopter whose cat went missing, usually due to a door left open. We’ll take them a live trap, help them set it up and provide instructions for a successful trapping. So far, 2 cats out of 3 were reunited with their owners.
“And we have adopted many cats out of this location, as so many adopters love to come in where they can visit a cat in a communal room instead of in a cage. So many commented they just can’t bear to go into a shelter/ We have so many reasons to keep our Adoption Headquarters-Thrift Shop in this community.
“We have an agreement with the City of Douglas to house 27 cats here; that means 27 cats less at the shelter; that, in turn, frees up space for all that additional intake at the shelter. With each of our adoptions, a free space opens up … oftentimes two, as we adopt out many in pairs; then another transfer is made, opening up one or two more spaces at the shelter. It’s a win-win situation.
“If this foster location is shut down, the shelter will have 27 less spaces available to house intakes, which means people will be turned away when they bring in a stray or a surrender. People turned away often threaten, and probably carry out, threats to ‘shoot the cat’ if the shelter can’t take them in. It will be a heartbreak to all of us if we are forced to close, knowing the consequences.
“I know we’re fighting an uphill battle, but we love this place and our rotating stewardship of the cats we love so much! It will be heartbreak for all of us if we are forced to close,” Corsiglia said.
By Scott Sullivan