Animals

By John L. Turner

Many Long Islanders look forward to the winter. It’s a time for skiing, skating, sledding and building snow people. It’s the time of year to walk along quiet coastal shorelines devoid of the maddening crowds and, during the holidays, provides the opportunity to reconnect with family and friends. For folks inclined to stay indoors during the cold, it’s a time to catch up on best-selling books accompanied with the obligatory hot chocolate, wine or spirits of a stronger nature (a smooth tasting bourbon, anyone?).

My primary attraction of the winter? Waterfowl or, more precisely, ducks, swans and geese and the more the merrier! Each winter I look forward to the arrival of nearly three dozen colorful waterfowl species that fly south to overwinter on the Island’s ponds, lakes, harbors, bays and near-shore ocean waters, making our island one of the premier waterfowl viewing locations in North America. 

They join several species that are on Long Island year-round, such as mallards and mute swans. They arrive here from far-flung places where they’ve spent the breeding season: northern forested ponds, the tundra wetlands of the far north ranging above the Arctic Circle and North America’s “duck factory” — the prairie pothole region of the Dakotas, Montana and the prairie provinces of Canada.

All waterfowl are avian eye candy and, unlike many other birds that are challenging to identify because they constantly flit around, generally stay put on the water, giving the viewer ample opportunity to enjoy their rich tapestry of color and texture and to make the correct species identification. 

If you think I’m exaggerating about their beauty, as soon as you finish this article, look up the following species – wood duck, harlequin duck, redhead, common eider, hooded merganser, ring-necked duck and long-tailed duck (especially the male). Or how about the little butterball-shaped buffleheads, or the similarly small ruddy duck and green-winged teal. Let’s not forget common goldeneye, graceful northern pintail or larger northern shoveler, which uses its unique spatulated bill to feed on algae, duckweed and small aquatic animals available in freshwater ponds.

One duck I always look forward to seeing is the least showiest — the gadwall (one of the prairie pothole species). They overwinter on ponds throughout the Three Village area and are regular winter visitors on the pond at Frank Melville Memorial Park and the pond extending south of the Old Field Road bridge.

Take the time to look closely at a male gadwall and you’ll agree with one of the monikers birders’ call it -— the duck in the herringbone suit. The feathers are finely barred, with subtle reticulated patterns reminiscent of a maze diagram a child would try to solve; no surprise these beautiful little feathers are prized by fly fisherman for fly tying. As you watch gadwalls don’t be surprised if they turn “bottoms up,” plunging their heads below their surface with only their rumps showing as they feed on aquatic vegetation that sustains them through the winter.

Over the past decade us waterfowl aficionados have more reason to enjoy the winter season, as several “exotic” waterfowl species like barnacle and pink-footed geese have become regular visitors. These are species common to regions in Europe that have begun to nest in northeastern Canada and instead of crossing the Atlantic Ocean to overwinter in Europe, they head south to coastal New England and Long Island. 

And due to taxonomy (the science of biological classification) we get a new species of Canada goose called the cackling goose in our midst, identifiable by its smaller body and shorter neck.

To satisfy my seasonal waterfowl fix I recently visited the bluffs adjacent to the Old Field Lighthouse, overlooking Long Island Sound. I was in search of hardy sea ducks and I wasn’t disappointed. 

Focusing the 40× scope on the rafts of sea ducks, I was quickly rewarded by a wonderful collection of feathered beauty — common goldeneyes, red-breasted mergansers and several species of scoters (black, white-winged and surf).

Also bobbing in the waves was my favorite — the exotic looking long-tailed duck (a future article on this duck awaits). Common loons and a few gull species were sprinkled throughout the calm, near-shore waters. Many ducks were actively feeding, diving to the bottom to forage on mussels and snails. The weather was below freezing and I marveled at the birds’ abilities to thrive in such conditions without a problem.

Not so for me, as my fingers and feet were growing uncomfortably numb after an hour of standing in the relentless chill. But as I ambled back to the warmth of a car, with binoculars slung around my neck and birding scope on my shoulder, forefront in my mind were the beautiful images of all these ducks — an annual gift of the winter season I never tire of receiving. 

If you haven’t yet enjoyed taking a closer look at winter waterfowl, consider it a holiday present wrapped in pretty paper with a gaudy bow. I hope you take the time to unwrap this winter gift in the weeks ahead.

A resident of Setauket, John Turner is conservation chair of the Four Harbors Audubon Society, author of “Exploring the Other Island: A Seasonal Nature Guide to Long Island” and president of Alula Birding & Natural History Tours.

Bailey

MEET BAILEY!

This week’s featured shelter pet is Bailey, a 5-year-old American bulldog mix rescued from a high kill shelter in Texas and currently waiting for his forever home at Kent Animal Shelter. 

A handsome playful dog, this sweet boy loves squeaky toys and long walks. Why not come by to meet him? He comes neutered, microchipped and is up to date on his vaccines. 

Kent Animal Shelter is located at 2259 River Road in Calverton. The adoption center is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information on Bailey and other adoptable pets at Kent, call 631-727-5731 or visit www.kentanimalshelter.com.

Frank

MEET FRANK!

This week’s featured shelter pet is Frank, a 1½-year-old American fox hound who was surrendered to Kent Animal Shelter from Smithtown Hunt for being unable to be a hunting dog. Frank is super sweet, mellow and would make a great addition to a family! 

He comes neutered, microchipped and is up to date on his vaccines. Come visit Frank and fall in love. 

Kent Animal Shelter is located at 2259 River Road in Calverton. The adoption center is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information on Frank and other adoptable pets at Kent, call 631-727-5731 or visit www.kentanimalshelter.com

Photo from Kent Animal Shelter

 

FAMILY SWIM

Chrissy Swain of East Setauket snapped this incredible photo on Dec. 24 at Sand Street Beach in Stony Brook. She writes, “I was on a beach walk and happened to have my good camera on me when I stumbled upon this family of deer grazing. I watched them quietly for a few minutes and then they one by one got in the water to cross together. It was really beautiful.”

A feline relaxes in the cat room at A Kitten Kadoodle Coffee Cafe. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Adopting a pet can be a challenging undertaking, where soon-to-be pet owners are potentially committing to years of caring for a furry friend.

When it comes to adopting a cat, animal rescuer Jennifer Rose Sinz is working to make the experience a little easier. Sinz and her husband, Bill, are the owners of A Kitten Kadoodle Coffee Cafe in Selden. The cafe has been open since July 2019 and has been a dream that Sinz has been working on for a few years.

Young Sylvester was recently adopted from A Kitten Kadoodle Coffee Cafe. Photo from Lauren Sharp

Sinz said it was 2015 when she first heard of a cat cafe in Japan. She mentioned the idea to a rescue organization she was working with at the time, but the organizers weren’t too keen on the idea. So, she started researching on her own.

She described the Selden cat cafe as different from others that have popped up on Long Island. In addition to beverages and snacks being served, visitors can also order cold and hot meals. It is also the first cat cafe to serve vegetarian options.

With a glass wall between the cafe and the cats’ quarters, guests can see the animals relaxing in their temporary home filled with couches, chairs and toys while they eat. For a fee of $5, visitors can go into the cat room for an unlimited time and socialize with the felines. The fee is good all day, so prospective pet owners can take some time out and come back later.

As an animal rescuer who has owned pets her whole life, Sinz, who also runs All About Pets Rescue, said it’s important for people to have ample time with an animal before adopting. Limiting that time, like other businesses or shelters may do, doesn’t make sense to her.

“How are you supposed to get to know a pet if you’re interested in adopting,” she said. “I want them to get to know the personality.”

Her advice is simple.

“Sit down, relax, get to know the personality of the animal before making a commitment of 15 to 20 years,” she said.

At the cafe, Sinz offers children workshops and yoga classes. She said the workshops and classes give people a chance to spend time with the cats, even if they have a family member who is allergic.

Visitors to the establishment can find cats of all ages who have been in various situations, including being abandoned and abused. Sinz said she prefers to take in older cats so they will have a second chance at life. She also never turns down senior adoptees who may be interested in a cat as she said owning an animal is therapeutic and keeps people energetic.

Her husband, Bill Sinz, thought it was an interesting concept when she first brought it up to him, and considers her saving the cats a “noble fight.”

“Her love for the animals is amazing,” the husband said. “I hope other people appreciate what she’s doing and come here and share it with her.”

Lauren Sharp is one of those who have appreciated Sinz’s work. One day, during a stressful day at her job in Selden, she stopped by the cafe during lunch to pet the felines. That visit led her to stop by often and eventually to adopt a 1½-year-old cat she named Sylvester, due to his similarities to the Looney Tunes character. Even though she grew up with a dog and birds in her family’s home, Sylvester was the first pet she adopted on her own.

Sharp said she loved the chance to get to know the personalities of the animals. Allergic to cats when she was younger, she didn’t have much experience with them. She said she had checked out another cat cafe in Sayville, but Sylvester stuck with her because he was so relaxed when she and a friend would come to visit.

When it came to the adoption process, Sharp said it was smooth from start to finish, and Sinz had all of Sylvester’s medical records ready to go.

“It’s a great place,” Sharp said. “I think Jennifer is very sweet and really cares for all the cats.”

Cat lovers can find the cafe at 600 Middle Country Road, Suite C&D, Selden. For more information, call 631-846-7389.

Stock photo

By Matthew Kearns, DVM

I’ve always had trouble instituting New Year’s resolutions. Shortened daylight hours and colder weather make it sooooohhh difficult to get up early and exercise. I also instinctively look for starchy foods instead of fresh fruits and vegetables. Our pets face the same problems. 

Wild animals in colder climates slow down their metabolism and hibernate during winter months as temperatures drop and food becomes scarce. Domesticated dogs and cats are not so far removed from their wild ancestors that their own bodies react the same way. How do we avoid the inertia that inevitably sets in with winter weather?

The first thing is to keep an exercise routine in place. One of the few advantages of global warming is although temperatures drop, we don’t see as much snow and ice as in previous years. Sticking with daily walks helps keep their (and our) waistline at a manageable diameter. When the weather is not cooperating and our pets only go out long enough to do their business consider an indoor exercise routine. Rolling a ball to play fetch or using toys designed for cats to induce their stalking instincts are viable alternatives to playing outside. 

The second phase of our New Year’s resolutions is to take a closer look at calorie intake during colder months. I always recommend evaluating how many treats, rawhides, table scraps, etc. our pets receive. During the winter months we may need to decrease or eliminate these extras. 

I also see a lot of pets that gain weight the winter after they’ve been spayed or neutered and that can be difficult to take off again. Studies have shown that spaying and neutering dogs and cats does slow metabolism but, just because your pet was spayed or neutered does not mean that they will automatically become obese if we monitor their calorie intake and adjust properly. 

If we are exercising and reducing calories but not seeing a reduction in weight, it’s time to talk to our veterinarian about underlying disease. Glandular disorders such as underactive thyroid in dogs can lead to obesity and, without thyroid supplementation, no amount of diet and exercise will help them. Older dogs and cats frequently suffer from obesity secondary to arthritis. These pets exercise less because they are unable to move like when they were younger. 

Supplements and medications are available to help make them more comfortable and exercise more. Increased exercise and subsequent weight loss could reduce or eliminate medications (I recommend supplements lifelong).  

I hope this information is helpful in keeping our pets from gaining too much during the winter months. Now, onto my New Year’s resolution … UGH!!!

Dr. Kearns practices veterinary medicine from his Port Jefferson office and is pictured with his son Matthew and his dog Jasmine. Have a question for the vet? Email it to leisure@tbrnewspapers.com and see his answer in an upcoming column.

Above, from left, Rumpleteazer (Naoimh Morgan), Victoria (Francesca Hayward) and Mungojerrie (Danny Collins) in a scene from Cats. Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures

By Jeffrey Sanzel

In 1939, T.S. Eliot published a slender volume of poetry: Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. Fast-forward just over 40 years and Andrew Lloyd Weber’s megahit Cats premiered in the West End, where it played for 8,949 performances, becoming the longest-running West End musical, a record it held until 2006. The Broadway production opened in 1982 and ran for 7,845 performances; it is now the fourth longest-running Broadway show. Cats went on to be seen internationally, playing in dozens of countries and languages.  

In 1998, a direct-to-video production was shot at London’s Adelphi Theatre. While significant cuts were made and it was played on a new set, it gives a sense of the stage production. 

Cats has always been a divisive musical, dividing into two distinct camps: It has its champions and its detractors, with few in the middle ground.

Judi Dench as Old Deuteronomy in a scene from the film. Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures

The current offering of Cats many lives is the film directed by Tom Hooper with a screenplay by Hooper and Lee Hall. This means that Hooper is doubly responsible for what is on the screen. And while Hooper’s work has included the John Adams miniseries, The King’s Speech and The Danish Girl, Hooper also gave us the clumsy, bloated and wholly unsatisfying 2012 Les Misérables.

The plot of Cats — such as it is — tells of the Jellicle Ball, an annual gathering of cats where one is granted the chance to go the Heavyside Layer and rewarded with a new life. Here, it is told through the eyes of Victoria, an abandoned kitten. All of this is just a structure in which to introduce a range of cats who each pitch their right to be granted this wish, their individuality displayed through a series of musical turns. Throughout, the candidates are thwarted by the mysterious Macavity, whose nefarious plan is made clear fairly early on.

The film opens strongly with one of the best numbers from the show,“Jellicle Cats.” It manages to provide cinematic spectacle without losing its musical theater roots. Ultimately, it was when Hooper allows Broadway to come through, the movie finds its limited success. When the cast dances, there are moments of real celebration. Unfortunately, after the first 10 minutes or so, he decided to not trust the material, and the film becomes choppy, disconnected and feels overlong. There is an unnecessary slapstick, singing rats and dancing cockroaches. These elements are neither whimsical nor clever and enhance neither story nor spectacle.

The film boasts a number of high profile names. Rebel Wilson as Jennnyanydots and James Cordern as Bustopher Jones are ill-served by aggressively abrasive choices — novelty songs that are stripped of their charm and turned grotesque. Idris Elba fairs decently as the ominous Macavity, and Taylor Swift, as his henchperson, Bombalurina, is not given much to do but her one decently executed number. 

Judi Dench, as feline matriarch Old Deuteronomy, and Ian McKellen, as Gus the Theatre Cat, are channeling everything they’ve done for the past five decades and come out best. Jennifer Hudson, as the downtrodden Grizabella, is too overwrought and loses the sympathetic core of “Memory.” Newcomer Francesca Hayward functions nicely as Victoria the catalyst for the action (no pun intended). 

What is most surprising is that the voices in general are pleasant but not strong, which is an odd choice for an almost sung-through film. (The less said about the dialogue that has been shoe-horned in, the better.)

However, the biggest problem — and it is insurmountable — is the overall visual of the film. The characters have been strangely CGI-ed, and they come across neither as humans or cats but as some Island of Dr. Moreau hybrids. There is an unfinished quality to the faces, as if they are poking their heads through a Coney Island cut-out. The bodies are clearly feline but some are clothed and some are not, sending a bizarre and uncomfortable mixed message.

There is no commitment to what the audience is supposed to be seeing and the result is disturbing. Why the creators did not take a page from the stage production is a mystery for at least then they could have found an aesthetically pleasing or least unifying design.

There has been discussion of a Cats film since the musical first became popular. Given the nature of the source, it is a challenging one. And while the play will continue to prowl stages across the world, the film will surely be a strange and unpleasant footnote in the history of movie musicals.

Rated PG, Cats is now playing in local theaters.

From left, Eileen Striese, Linda MacDonald and Pam Green. Photo by Heidi Sutton

In 1969, the Kent Animal Shelter opened its doors in Calverton to Long Island animals with nowhere to call home. From their first day of operation, Kent was a no-kill shelter, providing a safe space for healthy animals to find homes and treatable sick or injured animals a place to recover.

The private, nonprofit shelter was founded by a small group of humanitarians with a deep compassion for animals. The shelter was small and not well known outside the local community, and for several decades they struggled to avoid financial problems. The animal population was minimal and the staff didn’t have an executive director, either. In 1985, they hired Pamela Green for the job in a last-ditch effort to rejuvenate.

“I love being a part of the work we do, which ultimately helps both people and animals.”

— Linda MacDonald

Green, who went to college for pre-veterinary studies, grew up in a family that always encouraged compassion for animals. At home, they raised horses, chickens and ducks, among others. “It was always my intention to work with animals. They can’t speak for themselves so they need people to help them,” she said.

Under Green’s direction, Kent Animal Shelter has flourished. They now facilitate adoptions for nearly 700 dogs and cats every year, and are expecting to surpass that number by the end of 2019.

Included in the adoptions are a population of animals rescued from other places in the United States and even around the world.

“We have rescue partners around the country as well as internationally. Every 10 to 14 days, we do rescue transports from high-kill shelters in places that don’t place a lot of priority on adoption programs,” Green explained. “For many of the animals in those areas, there aren’t a lot of ways out of the shelter. We rescue them, bring them up here for medical care, vaccines and spaying or neutering, and then adopt them out.”

Many of the rescues Kent performs are in the South, where animals can become victims of homelessness or injury following natural disasters like hurricanes or floods. Some rescue dogs are flown to the United States from other countries where dog meat is consumed. Around 25 animals are rescued per trip, the majority of which are dogs because of Long Island’s ongoing problem with cat overpopulation.

One of the shelter’s biggest draws is their spay and neuter program. Two veterinarians work four days a week to spay and neuter local pets. Approximately 3,500 animals are spayed or neutered each year, Green said.

Pam Green with Mason

“Spaying and neutering is so important because if it’s left unchecked, a huge number of animals will be left without homes. You see this in areas of the country where spay and neuter programs aren’t as much of a priority. It leads to overbreeding and overpopulation.”

It takes a lot of work to keep the busy shelter running, and a regular staff of 22 makes it happen, along with volunteers who walk dogs, play with cats, and work fundraisers.

Office manager Linda MacDonald has been involved with animal care and rescue in various capacities for more than 20 years. These days, she keeps the business side of the shelter running smoothly while also helping to facilitate adoptions and surrenders.

“I love being a part of the work we do, which ultimately helps both people and animals,” MacDonald said. “I get to know the animals we have here very well, and it helps me to counsel customers on the right type of animal or breed for their lifestyle. We’re always looking to change and grow, whether it’s growing our social media presence, expanding our kennels or working with a trainer to help our customers introduce a pet to their home. A positive experience when a pet goes home can affect how they behave the rest of their lives.”

Eileen Striese of Bellport visited Kent for the first time 15 years ago. She had lost a dog a few years before and was eager to bring home a new pet. Her husband suggested they try Kent, and not long after, they welcomed home a black and white shih tzu named Lily.

Years later, as Striese approached retirement, she began to think about what she might do next. “I always knew that I wanted to volunteer and give back in some way,” she explained. “I love animals, but I had never worked with them before. So I went to the shelter and asked how I could get involved.”

Soon, Striese was walking dogs and socializing with the animals at Kent. She was also one of the volunteers responsible for transporting dogs to a local Petco for adoption.

“They warned me that I might fall in love with one of them, and there was a white bichon poodle mix that would just fall asleep in my arms. The bond formed instantly,” she recalled. “A few months later I brought him home. We renamed him Rocky.”

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine with Pam Green, executive director of Kent Animal Shelter and her dog, Frodo. Photo courtesy of Kent Animal Shelter

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine has a long-standing connection to the shelter that began when he adopted his first family dog in the 1970s. Since then, his family has gone on to raise two poodles who are now elderly. 

“I thought that these two dogs were going to be the last for us, but sometimes life throws you a curveball,” Romaine said. “My wife was diagnosed with cancer, and she said to me at the time, ‘If I make it through this, I want to get a dog.’”

In March 2018, the Romaines welcomed a white bichon poodle mix into their family. Appropriately, they named him Lucky.

“They say you can judge a person by the way they treat animals — I’ve known Pam Green for a long time, and she’s a very special person who is so enthusiastic about her career,” he said. “The work Kent does for the community is incredible, and so important. It sets the shelter apart.”

Kent Animal Shelter’s funding is donor-based, and while most donations come from private donors, other funds come from foundations including the ASPCA and PetSmart. The shelter also holds several fundraising events throughout the year, all of them focused on having fun. In the past, they’ve held comedy nights, psychic readings, dog walking events, and recently celebrated its golden anniversary with a dinner/dance fundraiser at Stonewalls Restaurant in Riverhead.

At the end of the day, it’s all about doing as much good as they can, said Green. The shelter is looking to update and expand its facilities in the future to reach even more animals in need.

“It’s very rewarding work, but it’s also difficult and sometimes disheartening. The reward is to see an animal taken out of a terrible situation and have its life saved. To see them go to a loving home makes it all worth the effort,” she said.

Kent Animal Shelter is located at 2259 River Rd, Calverton, and is open seven days a week. To learn more about the shelter or to find your perfect pet, visit www.kentanimalshelter.com or call 631-727-5731.

Richard

Update: Richard has been adopted!

This week’s Shelter Pet of the Week is Richard, a 10-month-old classic brown tabby cat rescued by Kent Animal Shelter from a house where his owner hoarded a lot of cats and could not care for them all. 

Richard is a quiet, playful and gentle guy, a little on the shy side, but once he gets to know you he loves cuddles and belly rubs. He also really likes other cats! He comes neutered, microchipped and is up to date on his vaccines. Come visit Richard and perhaps bring this furbaby home for the holidays.

 Kent Animal Shelter is located at 2259 River Road in Calverton. The adoption center is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information on Richard and other adoptable pets at Kent, call 631-727-5731 or visit www.kentanimalshelter.com

Photo from Kent Animal Shelter

 

 

Photo from Smithtown Animal Shelter

MEET GIA!

This week’s featured shelter pet is Gia, a nine-month-old female French bulldog mix currently waiting at the Smithtown Animal & Adoption Shelter for a loving family to adopt her.

This little pumpkin was rescued from a sad start to life. While she is still learning how to trust people, she is beginning to learn that playing with toys and being showered with love is a part of her daily routine. If anyone deserves a home for the holidays, it’s this bundle of happiness packed into a small sized dog. 

Gia enjoys playing with the staff and volunteers all day long. She does have some orthopedic issues, requiring special care to meet her needs. However, a little extra work is worth the endless love and appreciation Gia displays when she snuggles up to you. 

If you are interested in meeting this sweetheart, please call ahead to schedule an hour to properly interact with her in a domestic setting, which includes the shelter’s Meet and Greet Room, the dog runs and Dog Walk trail. 

The Smithtown Animal & Adoption Shelter is located at 410 Middle Country Road, Smithtown. Walk-in hours are currently Monday to Friday,  8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Saturday from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and Sundays by appointment only. For more information, call 631-360-7575.