I recently visited Angel’s Gate Hospice & Rehabilitation Home for Animals in Delhi, New York. This life-saving sanctuary is under assault, and I am asking to help. Places like Angel’s Gate, which care for diseased, deformed and/or hard-to-adopt and unwanted animals are not only extremely rare, they are critical. We need more of them, not less.
Sunday evening, Feb. 19th I asked Susan Marino, founder of Angel’s Gate Animal Hospice, if Friends of Animals’ Bob Orabona and I could drive three hours to visit the shelter in upstate New York on Feb. 20th. Susan quickly agreed, and when we arrived at the shelter, which sits on 100 acres at the top of a snow-covered dirt road, we were instantly greeted by six energetic, friendly, dogs — boxers, a good-looking bulldog named Shifty, and others who must have been the welcoming committee. Those first few minutes set the stage for the warm impression of what we’d see inside.
Susan greeted us inside the preparation room, and I quickly met five workers including Michelle, a licensed vet tech who works at the shelter Monday - Friday each week. Susan explained they care for 75 dogs, 200 cats, 10 parrots, and 3 lame horses, and other than a few of the 14 cottages for cats, we saw most of the animals at the shelter in dwellings situated over 10 acres.
In the preparation room, refrigerators were opened to show us food for cats and dogs that arrives daily. All litter boxes are washed daily and Susan showed us the wood burning pellets used for litter. Remarkably, they concealed odor so well.
Then Susan explained that she’s a licensed rehabilitator and used to care for terminally ill children as a pediatric nurse. That experience, I could see, prepared her for the work she chose — helping mostly unadoptable animals, many who require constant assistance.
Animals at Angel’s Gate arrived from all over the world, such as Israel, Alabama and Florida. Veterinarians send animals who still have months or years of life so someone will let them live. Susan also receives animals from rescue groups and pet-owners. One man arrived while we were there, in tears, with his diabetic cat in a carrier. He asked if his daughter could visit the cat and Susan said, “of course.”
Brightly lit rooms had AIDS- and leukemia- positive cats. Cat cottages also contained gorgeous cats in groups of 6 or so from estates where owners have died. Twenty-five feral cats live within a fenced area outside and an overhead tunnel for one group of 15 feral cats is planned so that they have access to a newly- constructed wood building.
Most of the floors in the house are white tile and they clean up well. A spray vac was always in motion somewhere. Susan’s brother is an architect who helped design the many attractive windows to allow natural light to pour into the shelter; animals seem drawn to that light. We saw cats perched in windows, and dogs walking inside and outside on their porches that provide fresh air and nice views of the expansive property.
The physical therapy room is full of equipment — especially for paralyzed dogs. We saw Willy, a Beagle on a porch recovering from paralysis who has a “spinal walk.” Other rooms contained old dogs, approximately 12 who are blind, and it seemed that some were grouped by size and personality. With each door opened, we were greeted with lively, barking dogs, and when we left the main house to visit cat cottages, three or more small, fluffy dogs came along at top speed — flying down the snowy path, eager to visit the cats, too. Two dogs who couldn’t be trusted with company, I was assured, were caged in one area of a group that contained friendly, deformed dogs.
A Great Pyrennes dog spent time outside in the snow, sniffing and walking around near the ICU room. I learned he was both blind and deaf. Three-year old Bootsie, a chocolate Lab was born without hind limbs, and she needs new prosthetics to help her walk, but they have to be custom made and cost $1,800. Bootsie seems determined to get around the floor like so many other dogs there who despite their deformities, seem to make the best of their situations. It’s obvious they receive loving care.
One dog name Marley uses a cart outside on a deck of a room since his back legs are paralyzed. The cart is taken off occasionally to rest his skin from the device.
Another dwarf Boxer, Sampson, is part of the Reverence For Life School program, and Susan takes him for those outings.
One nice feature in most dog rooms is an assortment of Kuranda beds that elevate dogs off the floor and allow easy cleaning. Baby mattresses also line the edges of the room for bedding and clean blankets are used in abundance and also are in plentiful supply in storage rooms. There’s a laundry room and a linen room, of course. Cribs are provided in some bedrooms for night-time care of deformed animals.
Incontinent dogs have diapers. A Boxer name Dominic has cerebral palsy. Other dogs with neurological damage who arrive that way spin in circles sometimes, and then pause to say hello. We visited a white poodle who can’t stand or walk, and saw four diabetic dogs who receive treatment each day from Susan. Susan’s small bedroom had 10+ dogs on the bed when we entered, including 15 year-old Charlie. Outside the house there are fenced areas so that groups of dogs can be taken outside for exercise.
Overall, the majority of animals seen had deformities, yet Angel’s Gate adopted out about 15 animals last year.
Cat cottages all have their own cleaning supplies and utensils hanging from the wall, and cats lounge on perches in windows. These cottages, Susan says, would benefit from Perfect Fencing — outside cat fencing so that groups of cats can visit outside. Of 14 cottages, four have AIDS cats, and four have Leukemia positive cats. One adorable cottage contains cats from an estate and these most attractive dwellings are full of colorful blankets. Why they seem odorless I have no idea, and they’re all heated and air conditioned.
The ICU room has oxygen available and blood work is done there. There’s caging there for cats and dogs. One cat, Mimi, was strangled as a kitten and has a restricted diet. A few others there visit to have their bladders expressed every day. I watched the vet tech work as another worker told me she wished more people would make unannounced visits to judge the shelter with their own eyes rather than rely on a vicious organization’s propaganda.
Running Angel’s Gate used to cost Susan $30,000 a month, and now she’s spending $20,000 (including vet care), and has stopped paying herself a salary.
I’m impressed with the tremendous energy devoted by Susan and her workers to care for animals otherwise out of luck. Thanks also to the team there for gallant efforts, which have created a loving, respectful environment for animals.
Angel’s Gate desperately needs our financial help. If you can give any contribution, large or small, it would not only be appreciated, it would make a difference in the lives of animals for whom Angel’s Gate is a literal life-saver.
Donations can be made online at www.angelsgate.org
Friends of Animals