Friday I decided to visit Valley Shore Animal Welfare League in Westbrook, Connecticut to meet the manager, Haley Samodel, and check out the shelter. Haley recently took over the manager position this past August, but before that she was a volunteer. Don’t let her young looks fool you! She is bright, kind, and extremely professional. I could tell right away that she loves her job and when it comes to anything dog or cat related, she knows what to do. She graciously took time out of her busy schedule to take me on a tour of the facility and show me the ins and outs of running an animal shelter.
The first room we went into was the kennel room for the dogs. Every day, the kennels are cleaned, the towels and blankets are washed, and the dogs are let out for walks or romping time in the backyard. The kennels are wide and deep with extra room for lounging and walking around. I was impressed by the cleanliness and the cheeriness of the facility. Often when I think of an animal shelter, I picture dingy rooms and dark corners, but Valley Shore is quite the opposite. Every room has at least one large window for natural light to pour in and the walls are painted upbeat white or comforting pastels. I could tell just by looking around (and sniffing!) that the staff and volunteers take cleanliness and sanitation very seriously.
Next, Haley took me into the bathing station, where they clean up and shave rescues in need of grooming love. Again, the room was sparkling clean! No puddles, dog hair, or dirt to be seen. As a former grooming assistant, I was amazed. Across from the bath and sink area, Haley showed me their stock room where they keep the dog and cat food, dog toys, and stacks of towels and linens. Despite their seemingly never-ending collection of towels, Haley said they could always use more, so come on down and donate some of those extra beach towels you have lying around! With all the animals they take in, there is always a mess to be cleaned or a sweet fur-baby to towel-dry.
After we finished up in the dog area of the main building, Haley and I crossed over to the cat side where they have a catio (cat-patio), a main cat room, an isolation cat room for the ones who don’t get along with others and/or have a contagious condition, and the kitten room. Yes, you heard me correctly, A KITTEN ROOM! Right now, Valley Shore has four two-week-old kittens and is scheduled to get five more eight-week-old kittens this Wednesday. Come check them out! They are unbelievably cute and are all in need of a loving home. Haley and I spent most of our time Friday playing with the kittens and scratching the ears of the proud mama because how could we not?
On my way out, I ended up running into Annette Marie, the woman who runs the food pantry Hinka’s Cupboard located at 10 Elm Street in Middletown, Connecticut. Every month, she swings by Valley Shore to pick up any extra dog or cat food they may receive to store in her pantry. She explained to me that many food pantries only stock up on human food, directing shoppers elsewhere for their pet needs, making life harder and more complicated for those who don’t have easy access to transportation. Annette prefers to carry both human food and animal food for her shoppers’ convenience. I love her for this thoughtful effort and Valley Shore loves her too because she provides a charitable space for any surplus of food donations they may have. Sounds like a win win situation to me! It warms my heart to see communities networking in this way and improving upon standard operations.
Overall, I had a wonderful afternoon getting to know Haley and Valley Shore Animal Welfare League. She plans to improve upon the facility by repainting the catio, excavating the surrounding woods to widen the backyard, and possibly blaze some trails for the dogs, but even without the renovations, the shelter is impressive. Volunteer, donate, adopt, or just swing by to get a peek at the kittens. They alone are worth the trip!