Animals

By Beverly C. Tyler

Telling stories about the men and women of the Culper Spy Ring and portraying Setauket spy leader Abraham Woodhull has been one way for me to bring local history to life for both residents and visitors to this area. Reading about the Culper spies is also important, so I have written a number of articles and recommended books that tell the story. I have recently read and enthusiastically recommend “Kayleigh & Conner Detectives Inc. and King The Spy Dog” for children of all ages.

The cover of Dana Lynn Zotter’s first children’s book.

Written and illustrated by Dana Lynn Zotter, this 174-page soft-cover book tells the story of two children, Kayleigh and Connor, who spend their last week of summer vacation visiting their great-grandparents in Stony Brook who live in a historic house that holds all kinds of secrets. 

When the children find a gravestone with the name KING engraved on it in the roots of an old tree, their great-grandfather tells them that there was once a legendary spy dog named King in the area who has appeared as a ghost. The siblings meet a local boy and, as detailed on the back cover, “Three children search for the truth about ghosts, legends, and Long Island’s Culper Spies.”

Zotter has woven a delightful tale of a family and their experiences in the Long Island communities of Stony Brook, Setauket and Port Jefferson together with an accurate portrayal of the men and women involved in the Revolutionary War Culper Spy Ring. This well-crafted story vividly transports the reader to the historic hamlet of Stony Brook where the children explore their great-grandparents’ Colonial-era home and the shoreline of this picturesque community.

As Kayleigh and Connor explore, they discover mysteries connected with the house and the community, including an appearing and disappearing black dog named King. Agreeing to become detectives and follow the clues, the children discover how the Culper spies operated and how King the spy dog became an important member of the Culper Spy Ring.

Their travels take them along West Meadow Creek and as far as the Village of Port Jefferson where they meet General Lafayette on a recreated 18th-century French warship, which actually visited Greenport in 2015. At one point the children are mysteriously transported back to the Revolutionary War and join the Culper spies and King the spy dog on a brief spy adventure.

The Setauket Presbyterian Church and cemetery

“Kayleigh & Conner Detectives Inc. and King The Spy Dog” features 22 illustrations, including a recipe for invisible ink and a spy code, along with a list of historic places to visit. The drawings, including one of the Setauket Presbyterian Church and cemetery, help bring the story to life without taking away from the writing, allowing readers full use of their imaginations. I enjoyed the story and easily identified with the characters. 

Dana Lynn Zotter, who describes herself as a gardener, poet, artist and finder of four-leaf clovers, has crafted a wonderful story that will delight children and make historians smile.

“Kayleigh & Conner Detectives Inc. and King The Spy Dog” is available at the Three Village Historical Society’s gift shop, 93 North Country Road, Setauket. Hours of operation are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m. For more information, call 631-751-3730 or visit www.tvhs.org.

Author Beverly C. Tyler is the Three Village Historical Society historian and pens a biweekly column in the Village Times Herald titled History Close at Hand. 

Photo courtesy of Kent Animal Shelter

This handsome man is Spencer, a 7-year-young poodle mix currently waiting to be adopted at Kent Animal Shelter. Rescued from a kill shelter in South Carolina, this friendly pup dreams of the day he will finally have a home and family of his own. Could that be with you? Spencer comes neutered, microchipped and as up to date as possible on vaccines.

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

A feral cat in a wooded area in Mount Sinai eyes humans entering its habitat. Photo by Kyle Barr

Along a right-of-way in Mount Sinai, the exact location volunteers preferred not to publicize, a number of cats stalk through the cover of tall grass on silent paws. Upon hearing human sounds, they scatter deeper into the weeds.

“Babies, babies, momma’s here,” Miller Place resident Rita Miszuk called to the wild felines as she refilled water and food trays. She said she didn’t want to give away too many specifics of the location out of fear more cats will be dropped there and left in need of care.

Miszuk is the president of Volunteers for Animal Welfare Inc., a nonprofit that aids feral cat colonies across Long Island. Her group tries to infiltrate cat communities, taking the animals to places where they can be vaccinated, spayed and neutered, often on the organization’s own dime. Miszuk said she sometimes spends thousands of dollars to humanely control the number of wild cats roaming free.

Rita Muszik, a Miller Place resident and president of Volunteers for Animal Welfare Inc. cares for feral cat communities. Photo by Kyle Barr

“There were 50 here, but we’ve gotten them down to 11 — they’re all healthy and they’re all taken care of,” Miszuk said. “This is what typical rescuers do.”

They’re not her cats, in fact they’re nobody’s cats. They’re considered “feral,” but that word belies the terrorized nature of these animals left in the wild. They’re shy, they’re alone, and there are more and more every year.

Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Chief Roy Gross estimated, using the organization’s own metrics, approximately 322,000 cats live in Suffolk County, including both feral and domesticated cats. For every four people in the county, there is approximately one cat.

The number of rescue groups, along with the amount of trap, neuter and release programs that attempt to capture these animals, care for them and sterilize them before releasing them back into their original environment, has gone up of late. Still, Gross said the problem only continues to grow as cats continue to breed and people leave unneutered cats in homes as they move away.

“The population is out of control,” Gross said. “[Rescue groups] put a dent in them, but there are just so many cats out there.”

One female cat can give birth to three litters in a year with an average litter of five. Multiply that by their offspring and one cat can become 225 in a year. Erica Kutzing, vice president of Sound Beach-based Strong Island Animal Rescue League, suggested the problem is exacerbated by the warming climate. Where cats used to become pregnant only in the summer months, she said she is now seeing pregnant cats give birth as early as March or February as they get pregnant later in the year.

“A lot of people like to say, ‘It’s not my cat,’” Kutzing said. “It’s fine that it’s not your cat, it’s not our cat either; however, if we don’t fix the problem you’re going to have a lot more ‘not my cats’ on your property.”

A number of animal shelters exist across the North Shore, and many of them host TNR programs. Kent Animal Shelter in Calverton provides spaying and neutering for $50 per cat. Sometimes if the shelter is able to secure a grant, the price can drop to $20.

“A lot of people like to say, ‘It’s not my cat. It’s fine that it’s not your cat, it’s not our cat either; however, if we don’t fix the problem you’re going to have a lot more ‘not my cats’ on your property.”

— Erica Kutzing

Some shelters are expanding their TNR capabilities. In June, the Town of Smithtown accepted a grant to build a new TNR building at the Smithtown Animal Shelter that will expand the town’s capturing capacity, as representatives of the shelter said they estimated Smithtown hosts around 30 to 40 different cat colonies. The town plans to start construction after it receives the funds in 2019, according to Smithtown spokeswoman Nicole Garguilo.

David Ceely, the executive director of Little Shelter Animal Adoption Center, which is also the managing organization for the Town of Huntington Cat Shelter, said it offers residents free TNR services to deal with feral cat communities. Still, the problem is so large Little Shelter often relies on volunteers and community members to manage cat populations.

“We’re one shelter, so to go out there and take care of all of them physically we wouldn’t be able to do it,” Ceely said. “But thankfully there are people in the community who want to do the right thing, and we want to support that.”

Otherwise getting a cat spayed and neutered could cost up to hundreds of dollars per cat, depending on the animal shelter or veterinarian. It means doing TNR on an entire colony could create an incredibly restrictive cost barrier.

“We just did 24 cats in Stony Brook and the final price was about $1,400,” Kutzing said. “That came from our own funds.”

Frankie Floridia, the president of Strong Island Animal Rescue League, said small rescue groups are not large enough to combat the problem, and there is a need for community members to get involved with their own local feral cat communities.

“We get at least 20 calls a month, such as about kittens under a deck or cats with an upper respiratory infection,” Floridia said. “We handle what we can but we’re a small organization.”

Worse still is the proliferation of cats has made the population start to seem like an infestation or a blight. This mindset has fostered an environment in which some commit horrendous crimes against cats, including maiming and torturing the animals. All cats, not just domestic cats, are considered a “companion animal” by the state.

Harming them is a Class E felony punishable with a $5,000 fine and up to two years in jail. Taking a cat to another location is considered abandonment and is a misdemeanor punishable by one year in jail or a fine up to $1,000.

Feral cats in a wooded area in Mount Sinai eyes humans entering its habitat. Photo by Kyle Barr

“There are people out there who are sadistic criminals who go out and find easy prey, generally the kittens,” Gross said. “We have had people in the past drive spikes through them, behead them, impale them, poison them — just horrible acts of animal cruelty. Some of those people are just sadistic, but in cases like poison some people just don’t like these cats roaming around on their property.”

Beyond acts of violence, many residents either don’t know what to do or don’t feel it’s their concern. If people do not interact with these community cats by either taking them to a TNR program or by feeding them, then either the cats numbers grow exponentially or they will start to die.

“Without these people who take care of the cat colonies, we would have cats starving to death,” Kutzing said. “There would just be cat bodies littered everywhere.”

Many groups and shelters like Strong Island or Little Shelter offer local residents opportunities to use their cages to trap the animals so they can later be spayed and neutered. Kutzing said if the cost prohibits a resident from acting on a cat population, they should try and get their neighbors involved and make it a community fund. After all, the community cat problem is a community issue.

“If everyone gets involved, this problem will be drastically cut,” she said.

Miszuk said while her group does what it can, she needs local businesses, residents and especially local government to step in and help, otherwise the problem will only get worse.

“This problem has been swept under the carpet,” Miszuk said. “We need support to say that we are legitimate first responders.”

Photo courtesy of Kent Animal Shelter

MEET PITA!

This handsome ball of fluff is Pita, a domestic long-hair adult cat waiting at Kent Animal Shelter for his furever home.  A staff favorite, this feisty feline has paws of gold and a sweet disposition. Pita loves to sleep in the sunny spots on the screened-in porch at the shelter and will fight any toy that crosses his path. He promises to be your furry partner in crime and a snuggle buddy on cold rainy days. Pita is looking for someone he can give all his love and affection to. Could that be you? Pita comes neutered, microchipped and as up to date as possible on vaccines.

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

Update: Pita has been adopted!

‘No, you ask him to refill the bird feeder ...’ Photo by Jay Gao

Jay Gao of Stony Brook captured this photo in his backyard on July 15 using a Nikon D5500. He writes, “It was in the late afternoon when we noticed these two squirrels were playing around on the  ground. Had just enough time to grab my camera and to take a couple shots before they disappeared into pine trees.”

Share your best caption for this adorable photo at leisure@tbrnewspapers.com. The reader with the most original title will be announced in the Aug. 16 issue and win a family four-pack to the children’s production of “Shrek The Musical,” now playing at the John W. Engeman Theater through Sept. 2. Open to all ages. Deadline to enter is Aug. 11. Good luck!

Shine

MEET SEN AND SHINE!

Sen

Patiently waiting at Kent Animal Shelter for their furever home are 5-month-old brothers Sen and Shine. As cute as can be, they love each other and keep each other busy all day. Sen and Shine come neutered, microchipped and as up to date as possible on vaccines. Come on down and meet them and adopt them both for the price of one!

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

 

 

‘Cassio’ by Dino Rinaldi

By Melissa Arnold

‘Stable Door’ by Joseph Reboli

Horses, whether ridden, raced, bred or simply beloved, have long been a part of Long Island’s culture. From the Belmont Stakes in Nassau to the Smithtown Hunt and the Old Field Farm in Suffolk, the majestic animals hold a special place in the hearts of many.

Among them was the late artist Joe Reboli, whose 30-year career was defined by bringing both famous places and ordinary views of the Three Village area to life with great care and realism.

The Reboli Center for Art and History in Stony Brook was founded in 2016 to celebrate Reboli’s life and honor the history of the place he called home. Since then, the center has created a number of exhibits blending Reboli’s work with local artists as well as artifacts from Long Island’s past.

On Tuesday, the center opened an exciting  new exhibit, Artistry: The Horse in Art, which will focus on horses and their environment through a variety of mediums. Among the Reboli works in the exhibit is “The Stable Door,” an oil-on-canvas painting.

Roberto Dutesco’s ‘Love’ will be on exhibit at the Reboli Center through Oct. 28.

“Joe had a way of capturing this community that evoked such wonderful feelings from people,” said Reboli Center co-founder Colleen Hanson. “His painting of a stable door in our exhibit was done for [the late publisher] John McKinney. Joe’s ability to paint white was just astounding — there is more to the color white than many people realize; there are so many shades and hues in it and he captured them all.”

In addition to work from Reboli, the exhibit will highlight three other main artists. Roberto Dutesco, a Romanian-born Canadian artist, is well known for his fashion photography. But in 1994, Dutesco began to explore nature photography with a trip to Sable Island, nearly 200 miles off the coast of Nova Scotia. There he photographed the island’s breathtaking wild horses. He has returned to the island six times since then with the goal of inspiring greater conservation efforts through his work. 

‘Zidette’ by Dino Rinaldi

Dino Rinaldi is a Port Jefferson native whose winding career has taken him from illustration to advertising and finally painting full time. As a teen, Rinaldi recalls opening up an issue of the local newspaper and seeing a painting of gasoline pumps by Reboli. 

“I looked at it and thought, someday I want to be able to paint like that. It moved me,” said Rinaldi, who now lives in Setauket with his wife and daughter. “To be able to create art for a living is a dream come true.” Keep an eye out for “Zidette,” Rinaldi’s graphite powder-and-pencil drawing.

Elena Hull Cournot, who originally hails from East Setauket, now provides creative arts therapy in the West Village and owns a studio in Brooklyn. Horses are a mainstay of Cournot’s work, who is known for her large commissioned paintings of horses and soulful works created during her time as an artist in residence at the Burren College of Art in Ireland. Like storytellers who seek to capture the personal essence of their subjects, Cournot strives to spend time with each horse she paints. One of those horses was “Indie,” whose oil-on-canvas portrait is featured in the gallery.

The center’s history gallery will focus on events and places that include horses in a prominent role. The Smithtown Hunt is the only surviving foxhound hunt on Long Island. While it was originally a live hunt when it was first held in 1900, it is now exclusively a drag hunt. The Old Field Farm was built by Ward Melville in 1931 and continues to be a hot spot for the equestrian community. 

“Every year, we sit down and talk about what kind of exhibits we’d like to have. We look at different community events that are going on, and then work to determine the artists we might feature and a theme based around that,” Hanson explained. “This is such an interesting and fun show — there are so many people who love horses and have owned or ridden them at some point. They are beautiful, intelligent creatures that have a wide appeal.”

Hanson also joked that her own history was a factor in the decision. In the decade she spent as the director of Gallery North in Setauket, not a single exhibit featured a horse. Thanks to this exhibit, she’s now hung more than 30 horse paintings, drawings and photos.

The center will hold several special free events during the exhibit’s run, each coinciding with Third Friday activities in the area. Dino Rinaldi and Roberto Dutesco will be at the center Aug. 17; Leighton Coleman, Sally Lynch and Edmunde Stewart will be welcomed on Sept. 21; and on Oct. 19 there will be a screening of the documentary “Snowman,” which tells the story of a simple workhorse saved from the slaughterhouse by a Long Island man. Snowman went on to become a national show jumping champion.   

See Artistry: The Horse in Art through Oct. 28 at the Reboli Center for Art and History, 64 Main St., Stony Brook. Admission is free. For information, call 631-751-7707 or visit www.rebolicenter.org. 

While these tumors develop most commonly in mixed-breed dogs, boxers, Boston terriers, Labrador retrievers, schnauzers and beagles are at a higher risk. Stock photo

By Matthew Kearns, DVM

Dr. Matthew Kearns

Cutaneous mast cell tumors are the most common skin tumor in dogs (estimated to be at least 20 percent of all skin tumors in dogs), and one of the most commonly encountered tumors in veterinary medicine. Mast cell tumors can be quite aggressive and cause multiple symptoms (all bad). Where do they come from? What do they do? How do we treat them?

Cutaneous mast cell tumors are malignant skin tumors made up of mast cells, cells normally found in tissues throughout the body. Mast cells contain primarily histamine, a vasoactive protein (a chemical that affects the diameter and tone of blood vessels) and are responsible for allergic reactions. 

Small amounts of histamine cause swelling, itching and redness of the skin. Large amounts of histamine trigger constriction of the airway, dilation of the vessels and an unsafe drop in blood pressure (anaphylaxis). 

Mast cell tumors develop most commonly in mixed-breed dogs. However, boxers, Boston terriers, Labrador retrievers, schnauzers and beagles are pure breeds that are at higher risk. If you have one of these breeds and you see a lump on your dog’s skin, bring it to your veterinarian’s attention as soon as possible.   

Diagnosis of cutaneous mast cell tumors is relatively straightforward and minimally invasive with a procedure called a fine needle aspirate and cytology. This involves obtaining a sample of cells with a needle attached to an empty syringe and sending the sample to a laboratory for evaluation by a veterinary pathologist. Once diagnosed, the best treatment is surgical removal, and the surgery does have to be somewhat aggressive by requiring wide margins. 

“Wide margins” refers to taking a certain amount of healthy tissue around and below the tumor, as well as the tumor itself. This poses the challenge of closing the “hole” you leave behind. 

Why do we take such large and aggressive margins? Mast cell tumors are graded as one, two or three based on aggressiveness, and it is impossible to tell from a fine needle aspiration anything beyond the diagnosis of mast cell tumor. Previous studies have stated that certain margins, both width and depth, help ensure you get all of the tumor the first time.

What do we do for patients that may be too old or debilitated for anesthesia/surgery, or the location of the tumor makes it impossible to remove fully with surgery? There are options such as chemotherapy, radiation and even injections directly into the tumor. All these alternative protocols help, and a small percentage actually completely resolve, or remove the tumor.

If you see a lump pop up on your dog’s skin (especially if you notice it pops up quickly), bring it to your veterinarian’s attention immediately.  

Dr. Kearns practices veterinary medicine from his Port Jefferson office and is pictured with his son Matthew and his dog Jasmine.

By Anthony Petriello

A decomposing beaked whale, not
typically seen near shore, found in Miller Place July 19 caused a stir on social media. Photo from Andrea Costanzo

Pictures of a carcass of a mysterious creature that washed up on the beach in Miller Place discovered by a resident July 19 have been circulating around the local community on Facebook. The photos were provided to TBR News Media by Facebook user Andrea Costanzo, who said they were taken by her father. According to the Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the creature has been identified as a beaked whale, a type of whale typically found in the deep ocean, although the exact species of beaked whale is yet to be determined. When found, the whale was in advanced stages of decomposition, making it difficult to determine what exactly it was, conjuring thoughts of the Loch Ness monster or other mythical creatures on social media.   

The SPCA speculated that the whale had gotten sick and swam into the Long Island Sound seeking shelter. The whale was taken off the beach and transported to the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society in Hampton Bays. According to AMCS Executive Director and Chief Scientist Rob DiGiovanni, very little has been determined as to why the whale became sick or how exactly it ended up on the Miller Place beach due to the advanced stage of decomposition of the animal, making it difficult to ascertain many facts. It was determined through necropsy, however, that the whale did not die due to the ingestion of marine debris such as plastic or metal.

Beaked whales dive for an hour, sometimes two, and surface for just a few minutes to take a series of rapid breaths before diving again, according to New Scientist, an online science and technology magazine. They routinely reach 3,200 feet beneath the surface, while some have been measured as far as 10,000 feet down.

Photo courtesy of Smithtown Animal and Adoption Center

MEET WILLOW!

This sweet girl is Willow, a 2-year-old female pittie mix patiently waiting at the Smithtown Animal and Adoption Center since March. Dubbed a “whole body wagger” by the staff, Willow will give you the greatest welcome home greeting you have ever experienced and loves to be petted behind those big, tall ears. Willow is okay with some dogs but not cats and would love some kids to call her own, to play with her all summer long! She comes spayed, microchipped, fully vaccinated and would make a great family pet.

The Smithtown Animal and Adoption Center, located at 410 E. Main Street in Smithtown, is open Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays by appointment. For more information on Willow or other adoptable pets at the shelter, call 631-360-7575. 

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