Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Dorothy & The Cats - An Update

(Update to the update: If you're returning here after reading this piece already, there is cogent commentary in the "comments" section.)

(If you didn't read my previous piece concerning Dorothy, you may not truly understand much of what is said here. So, for background, here is the original.)

It seems that Dorothy has many friends. Also, a few enemies.

From The Boston Globe, August 9th:

A Franklin condo association's plan to trap and exterminate a colony of feral cats was temporarily called off yesterday due to public outcry.

Roy Blanchard, manager of the property, said his office has been swamped with calls and e-mails demanding that the roundup be called off.

"I've been threatened and the e-mails just won't stop and the phone calls just won't stop," Blanchard said. "People are very emotional about these cats. I'm getting calls from people in Maine. Calls from lawyers."

That's good news. If you wish to add your cheerful greetings to Mr. Blanchard's day, I'm sure the cats wouldn't mind. If you do so, please be polite. Dorothy doesn't want to antagonize anyone. She wants to help the cats, not make more enemies for them.

Roy Blanchard, Property Manager
c/o Pioneer Property Management
15 Florence Street
Franklin, MA 02038

Telephone (508) 528-9242
Fax (508) 541-6113
E-Mail: pioneer5@earthlink.net

Back to the story:

[pleased is] 81-year-old Dottie Luff, who refers to herself as the condos' "crazy cat lady." Luff, who has lung cancer, walks into the woods twice a day to feed the cats. She said that there are as many as 15 cats living in the woods, and that they are like children to her.

"My doctor said the cats are what's keeping me alive," Luff said. "I have no intention of stopping feeding them."

For the complete article, please go to: Feral Cats Get Reprieve (via Boston Globe website)

Reading the story in full, one line sticks out.

Marilyn McAneny, a condo association board member and no fan of the cats, said she and other tenants have been waiting for Luff to die before [killing the cats.]

I'm not so unintelligent as to just go off on a rant about that. I understand the context of the quote. The condo association figured that they'd not be immediately troublesome to Dorothy, since she is going to expire at some point. In a way, it could be taken as a kindness, right? It paints a macabre picture, though, of folks who are listening for some soul's last breath to be had, and then taking that as their cue to begin offing a bunch of other living creatures.

(Gee, it's awfully hard not to be sympathetic to their cause, eh?)

More stories:



After reading the Globe story, I decided it would be a good time to give Dorothy a call and catch up on things. Since so many of you have done kindnesses for Dorothy and her cats, I figured you'd like to know. Obviously, a lot has been happening since I last talked with her. As it turned out, there was even more happening than I knew.

When I got home from work, there was a message on my answering machine. It was from my Uncle Jim - Dorothy's cousin - whom you may know from his occasional comments here. When I found out about the Globe story, I told him about it. In his phone message, he said that he had given Dorothy a call, but she had asked him to call back later. The reason was because WCVB-TV, Channel 5 (ABC) in Boston, sent a camera crew out to her place today, did a story, and it was going to be on the evening news at any moment.

(To see the televised story, go here. When you click onto the video, you'll have to sit through a short ad. Be patient.)

Channel 5 did a fair and even-handed job, in my estimation. Dorothy said they were very nice. She had especially kind words for Jack Harper, the on-camera reporter of the piece. When the crew showed up to do the story, Dorothy was unloading the weekly 220 cans of cat food from her car. Jack Harper carried them inside for her.

I talked to Dorothy for a goodly while. Aside from Channel 5 and The Globe, there have been stories in a number of local newspapers. Dorothy says that, between feeding the cats, defending them from being killed, and giving interviews, she hardly has time for anything else. She said it with a laugh, of course. That’s Dorothy. Her health isn’t improving, and she knows it, but she jokes and smiles and loves that her cats have as many defenders as they do.

As a result of the television story, she immediately received phone calls from people she hadn’t heard from in years. For instance, her former pastor, a Father O’Leary, called just before I did. She hadn’t seen him in 13 years. How nice is that?

Here’s something even nicer. Because of the stories in the local papers, the last time Dorothy was at the supermarket buying her weekly supplies, she received a very nice surprise. As she was checking out with the 220 cans, word spread about who the lady was with all of that cat food. The other shoppers started applauding. They shouted encouragement and a couple of them donated a few bucks to the cause. God bless them.

Dorothy talked at length about the very nice people at the Purr-Fect Cat Shelter in Medway, Massachusetts. They’re the folks who supply the dry food for the cats, as well as doing many other services for Dorothy’s friends in the woods. They are at the forefront of fighting for the survival of the cats. No healthy cat that comes into their care is ever killed. All cats accepted into the shelter have a home for as long as they live (or until some kind soul adopts them.)

Dorothy also has friends at the local Animal Control in Franklin. The general consensus there seems to be that the cats pose no real harm to anyone. The population is shrinking now, of course, since they and the shelter have coordinated to catch the cats, spay and neuter those who are healthy, and then release them back into Dorothy’s care. Without the cats breeding willy-nilly, there will continue to be a limited number of them.

One of the most remarkable people Dorothy mentioned was a local veterinarian by the name of Hedley Marks. Whenever Dorothy finds kittens in the woods, she brings them to Doctor Marks. He gives them shots, makes sure they’re healthy in general, and then finds homes for those he can. Some go to the Purr-Fect Cat Shelter, but many end up with loving owners in comfortable homes. How many? Dorothy says that one day, while waiting for a kitten to be given an exam, a secretary decided to bring up Dorothy’s record, just for kicks. Seeing the record, she asked Dorothy if she had any idea how many kittens Dorothy had delivered into Dr. Marks’ care. As it turned out, the number was over 300 during the many years Dorothy has taken care of her cats. That’s quite an amazing number.

Even more amazing is the fact that Dr. Marks has never charged Dorothy a single penny for his services.

(If you’re a praying person, how about offering one up for the good doctor?)

I made a date to visit Dorothy again, a week from this coming Saturday. I plan to be there at about noon, just in time to help her feed the cats. I’ll take a few more photos, if possible, and report back to you then.

Soon, with more better cats.

P.S. I need to thank my faithful reader, Miriam, for bringing the Globe story to my attention. I’d give her blog a plug, but she doesn’t have one. If there’s anything else I can do for you, Miriam, just let me know.


Michelle H. said...

God Bless Dorothy and Hedley Marks!

As for those callous tenants, it makes me wonder how cruel people act toward other living things. Human beings do not own the world and should have no say on what lives and dies all because the animals are deemed a "nuisance."

If they really wanted to solve the problem, they would help Dorothy find homes for those kittens. Each kitten that finds a loving home is one less cat growing up feral.

lime said...

that comment about waiting for dorothy to die before killing the cats is just about as crass as it gets. how heartless a person do you have to be to verbalize such a thing?

i am glad to hear there have been equally vocal supporters of dorothy and the cats (as well as those offering practical assitance).

Unknown said...

I'm sure Ms. McAneny is kicking herself for actually saying such a thing out loud and for a newspaper, too! People are so funny. (that would be funny-sad, not funny-haha).

Praying for Dorothy and the vet (and the cats, too.)

SandraRee said...

3 thoughts...

I could feel my face growing warm when I read the words, "waiting for Luff to die before killing the cats." I said a quick pray for Marilyn McAneny and the tenants who said that so my head wouldn’t explode with their evil words.

Dr. Marks is an angel.

Dorothy is my hero.

Rooster said...

Why do condo association boards always come across as being evil, stuck up, beligerent, uncaring, unkind, unfair, and generally just a bunch of power hungry a$$holes?

Must be one of those things, like trailer parks being targeted by tornados. Just part of nature.

Hey Sul, I'm back from vaca - thanks for the nice comments.

Janet said...

I read the Globe article yesterday when Miriam posted the link, and I too was incensed at Ms. McAneny's comment, not just because of the insensitivity to Miss Dorothy, but the complete lack of compassion for anyone besides herself. "I live here." So what?
Anyway, i'm glad to see Miss Dorothy getting the recognition she deserves. The vet and the animal shelter are definitely worthy of praise and thanks, but Miss Dorothy started the ball rolling. It only takes one person. We've learned this ourselves - when the Mountain Man started working with low-income people on their homes (hovels, shacks, what have you), he was the only employee and all he did was some simple rehab and try to start raising funds. Now he is the director and has a staff of 20, including 14 carpenters (4 crews) and they build 24 brand new up-to-code very pretty houses every year for people who would otherwise be unable to own a home.
I agree with Sarah, I bet Ms. McAneny has gotten some choice hate mail in response to such an unthinking and rude comment.

Pat - Arkansas said...

My heavens above! From what I read in the links you supplied, the feral population is down to about 11 animals. That's a problem??? There are more than eleven domesticated cats roaming free in my neighborhood, and no one is up in arms and threatening to exterminate them. Sounds to me like Ms.McAneny is the one with the problem!
Go! Aunt Dorothy! May your friends be many, and your enemies--- well, I can't say what I'd wish on your enemies.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Jim. This is a great follow-up to the story about your cousin-once-removed Dorothy.


David Sullivan said...

Good follow up cuz! She handled her self great on the Channel 5 clip.

Balcony Gal said...

So cool! When you visit with Dorothy, can you find out who her publicist is?

Buck said...

As it turned out, the number was over 300 during the many years Dorothy has taken care of her cats. That’s quite an amazing number.

You're right: I'm amazed. In Dorothy's case it's continuing amazement coupled with admiration, and for Dr. Marks it's begun as soon as I read this. Good on them both, and good on all the people who've gotten behind Dorothy. And thank you, Jim, for giving us the follow-ups.

John-Michael said...

To paraphrase a verse of scripture that I believe speaks to the core of this story ... "As we are in our Hearts ... so we are as individuals."

I have had my emotions torn and challenged over the course of the past few days, by (on one hand) the beauty and glory of idealized respect, Honor, Acceptance, and numerous values and traits that are the stuff of The Olympic games ... and (on the other hand) the evil of man's lowest denominators of selfish disregard for and even hatred of one another as illustrated through the goings on in Russia's present invasion of Georgia (taking advantage of the world's distraction by the afore-mentioned games, the political campaigning in the USA, economic woes across many countries, and health concerns pressing on others.) The Light of mankind's 'Highest' Angels, contrasted against his 'Lowest" is inescapable ... and tragic.

And You, Dear SulDog Friend, bring to 'the table' a shining example of one Individual's expressions of her loving Spirit. A lady who is demonstrating, in each day that she is granted life, her respect for and willingness to serve, life and the living in her individual world. You also illustrate (so beautifully) the eager willingness of others to join their voices, and their actions, to this lovely lady's efforts ... and (on the 'other side of life's coin) the self focused will of those who know nothing of loving and embracing the diverse nature of those who share our world with them.

Yep!! All right here ... offered up clearly and distinctly by your caring and generous efforts, Jim. And I do love you for it!

Melinda said...

Thanks for the update on Dorothy. She certainly deserves all of the applause, help & prayers that she can get.
As for those jerk tenants, particularly the lady who made such callous comments - I hope somebody shows them the same consideration they're showing those innocent cats. If the hate mail they're going to receive doesn't teach them how to treat fellow creatures, I'm sure kharma will.

david mcmahon said...

God bless Dorothy and all those like her.

Rebecca said...

Karma is a funny thing. And I hope it bites that horrible woman in the housing complex right in the ass...!!!

What a lovely woman your aunt is. We need more people like her in this world.

Woman in a Window said...

Dorothy sounds absolutly wonderful. We could use more Dorothys in the world.

Sandi McBride said...

Dorothy is my kind of woman. But this hideous little plan of the condo board is simply appalling at best. They should take a page from Charlotte, NC's book and capture the cats, spay and neuter them then release them back into their wooded home where they too may die of old age...and the other condo dwellers should hope that they don't come back as cats when reincarnation occurs...or if they are, they should come back as Dorothy's cats! Thank you Jim

Chris Stone said...

Go Dorothy Go! *I am now doing a jump with splits and pompoms....* *hehehehehe*

but really. good on her and thanks for the update.

Anonymous said...

Hi Suldog. I really like your blog style. You seem to be a very level headed person.

I wanted to reply to Rooster's comment. Are you saying the Condo Board is a buch of ####? I couldn't tell if you were supporting that view or not.

If you are I would like you to know a couple of things. Most of the members of the board did not want to be trustees. At Highwood's last annual meeting only about 9 owners bothered to show up. All but one of the trustees were retiring from the board. There were four postions open. These folks stepped up to the plate because they care about Highwood and have seen all of it's problems (multiple structure issues, landscaping, snow removal, and yes, the cats).

I figured I would serve on the board so I could push for desparately needed landscaping and structural issues. Once on the board you have to weigh in on every issue that comes before it. The issue of the cats was presented at my first board meeting.

At the annual meeting there was quite a discussion about the cat issue. There were no cat defenders there. So, consequently the new members of the board were left with the impression that the community as represented at that meeting were fed up with the cats.

At the first trustees meeting I had hoped to discuss Highwood's structural and landscaping issues. However, a lot of time was spent on cats again. One trustee presented an argument and a non-trustee owner was there to complain about the situation also.

So here I am with my fellow new trustees being presented with the cat issue. There was no power trip. There was no hatred. There was no conspiracy. There were only folks who had an obligation to try to do what was in the interst of the owners. The end result was a vote to trap and euthanize the cats.

I can't take that vote back. Something good is coming out of this however. All this discussion has been a real learning experience. It may be hard for feral cat colony supporters to beleive this but a lot of people out there have not idea that there is such a thing as feral cat colony management. I'm still not sure how I feel about the colony concept (it seems cruel to release cats back into a desparate circumstance where they have to struggle everyday to survive) but I have learned a lot and I am becoming sympathetic.

I think it would be a good idea if the Purr-Fect Cat shelter would educate the owners of Highwood I, perhaps with a letter or visitng each unit. This is a huge country with people of all sorts of backgrounds. Please don't simply assume that if someone disagrees with you that they are evil. I don't think Suldog beleives that.

And please don't just assume that the board is evil or power hungry. People have to serve on the board or the place will literally fall apart. It is a difficult job but it has to be done. Personally, I have been completely soured by this experience and will probably leave the board (I don't like being called the things the board has been called and not just about the cat issue). I also, plan to finish renovating my condo as soon as possible so I can sell and move out. I will try to find another condo where the owners take a real interest in their community and aren't so hostile and bitterly divided (and doesn't have a feral cat colony in the area...now that I know to ask).

One additioal note. I find Dottie a delightful woman. Her smile is infectious. Nothing I have done was "against" Dottie. I thought I was doing right by the homeowners as a whole. I thought I was doing my job. It's always safe on the sidelines.

Thanks Suldog. Maybe I will get to meet you when you vist Dottie next. I would like that.

Anonymous said...

Oh, Sully. There are *so* many things I want to say about this post, but I'll try to limit myself...

I'll second what so many here have said - Miss Dorothy and Dr. Hedley Marks are both remarkable people, as are the good people at the Purr-fect Cat Shelter, and the Animal Control people. There surely must be a special place in Heaven for all of them.

About the Condo Board. On the surface, I am appalled. (And that's putting it mildly.) However, once upon a time, before Twinks was born, I served one the Board of Directors (and was even the President of the Board for two years) of our PUD/Condo Association. We lived in a lovely development; lush green lawns, well-manicured flower beds, exterior lighting that was always maintained, tennis courts, a pool, a heated/cooled clubhouse with a full commercial-grade kitchen for catered events and even RV/boat parking. And the reason it was such a nice place to live was because the Board of Directors met every month to make sure it *stayed* that way. It was the least fun/most stressful volunteer position I have *ever* held.

So the commenter named "brokenenglish" is right. When you are in that position, you only know what you hear from the few who bother to show up for the meetings. Every now and again, a resident might write a letter, or call a Board member, but the reality is that you will often base your decisions on the limited feedback you get from the community. So, the squeaky wheel gets the grease - and those who don't bother to show up, to take a moment to call or write the Condo Board to express an opinion have no one but themselves to blame when things don't go the way they want them to.

I believe "brokenenglish" when they say that it has been a thankless job, sitting on the Condo Board; What I hope is that "brokenenglish" will take the suggestion that they made in their comment to seek out more information from local experts (like the animal control officers, and the Shelter volunteers) before they move forward with any plan regarding the cats. Just because the Board voted to eliminate the cats DOES NOT mean that the Board can't accept a new motion to MODIFY IT'S PLAN (or to accept a whole new plan in place of the original one). The Board can still "save face" - and save the kitties at the same time!

Good luck to "brokenenglish". I sense you'll need it in the months to come.

Thanks for the update, Sully. I hope that Miss Dorothy knows how much I admire her.

Thim :)

Suldog said...

I wish to thank you all for your comments, and for your well-wishes to Dorothy. Just for the record, Dorothy is my second cousin, not my aunt.

I particularly wish to thank "BrokenEnglish" for his/her reply. I believe it was spurred by my having posted a comment over at the Milford Daily News website, on a page containing a story about the cats. The website, for those interested:


(Please remember to paste both halves in your browser. And, if you also comment, please be the polite people I know you to be.)

I appreciate the thoughtfulness of the reply, BrokenEnglish. Obviously, you are a sincere person, who had been presented with a particularly thorny problem. Having served on a couple of boards in my day - and not having enjoyed the experience much - I can empathize with you.

My hope is that the cats can continue to live, however that comes about. They mean a great deal to Dorothy, aside from their worth as living creatures, so I am on their side - and that means that whatever goes down, I will continue to side with their right to exist. I am not unsympathetic to the problems that may be happening, though.

A meeting with ALL of the folks involved in the issue - condo residents & board, property management, Franklin Animal Control, Purr-Fect, etc. - should happen. Not everybody will come out of it perfectly pleased, I'm sure, but airing everything, and exploring whatever options are available, certainly can't hurt. From my admittedly distant position, it appears that such a meeting has not yet happened. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

Anyway, again, I do appreciate you taking the time to reply here. If you're around on the 23rd, and you see a fellow with a goatee and baseball cap accompanying Dorothy into the woods, please do say hello. If you wish to correspond with me in private - perhaps letting me know your real name or whatever - reply to suldog@aol.com.

Merisi said...

Dorothy sure is a special person, and that vet who's taken care of "her" cats all those years an angel.

I found reading the comments enlightening, though. It is always easy to take up one side of an argument, without listening to the other, especially when the subject is an emotional one, about fellow humans who mean nothing but the best, and beloved animals that have been dealt a hard lot in life (since domestic cats are not meant to be living and fending for themselves in the wild, the cause of this problem goes back much further than the condo board, all the way to those people who were irresponsible enough to abandon their pets!).

I wish Dorothy and her cats well.

Michelle H. said...

Someone made "Post of the Day" over at Authorblog. I wonder who...

Congrats, Suldog!

mary from franklin said...

It was stated that only 9 owners showed up at the annual condo association meeting, just curious, how many people own their unit vs. rent their unit at Highwood? I rent at Milliken Condominiums in Franklin (also managed by Pioneer Properties) and as a “renter” I am not allowed to attend the condo association meetings. And by the way, I think Pioneer Properties and Roy do a terrible job. Trust-if I owned my unit I would be at every condo association meeting. I bet if the “renters” were allowed to vote on the cat issue, the outcome would have been much different.

I hope and pray they do not trap and euthanize those kitties. What happens if they round up cats that are someone’s pet? Just because a cat does not have a collar on does not mean it is feral. And I bet Ms. McAneny is very sorry about the comment she made regarding Dottie passing on, I imagine she must be getting all kinds of nasty letters!!

Suldog said...

Mary asks a question of some salience: How DO they know that a cat caught in a trap is one of the feral colony, rather than someone's beloved pet?

Rooster said...

Just a quick clarification to Broken Engligh. My comment was not judging THIS condo board. I was just pointing out that (like in movies, tv shows, books, etc.), condo boards are always portrayed as the evil bad guys. I was trying to say THIS board was evil.

That being the point of my comment, I'm happy that you posted your excellent comment to give everyone a view from being on a condo board. Well done.

I think, from reading your comment, that the lesson learned is that people on boards, such as that one, always need to be careful and thoughtful when making decisions and casting votes and considering whether they have all the info they need before finalizing the issues.

Again, nice reply!

Rooster said...

(Oops) it should have read...

"I was not trying to say THIS board was evil."


CSD Faux Finishing said...

Good for her! Talking to the press and defending her animals is wonderful for her spirit and clearly is making an impact on so many other people in this world. Every cat the good Doctor helps is another cat that a wonderful family can adopt and enjoy for many years to come.

Dorothy has clearly made friends and foes over this arrangement but nothing easy was ever worth it and anyone doing something so supremely selfless will always come up against resistance from people who will never understand that concept.

Prayers for all of these amazing love filled people :) Thanks for keeping us up on her story.

CapCity said...

Hey SulDog! I don't get "out" like I used to now that I'm workin' full time ... and that's not always a bad thing;-).

rosecreekcottage-carol.blogspot.com said...

Wow Jim!! I LOVED your initial post about Dorothy....but these people are to be commended.

“If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.”—Francis of Assisi

Blessings to Dorothy, Hedley Marks, and the others who share Dorothy's compassion and love. We can all learn a lot from them.

Boos to those who don't! Nuff said.

Anonymous said...

Dorothy ROCKS! When I grow up I want to be just like her. Smart, funny, kind and compassionate-she's a wonderful person.
Being from Mass, I can tell you that there are a lot of us (crazy cat ladies) and we will not go quietly into that good night!!! lol
And I have a message for Ms. McAneny too...........should anything happen to our Dorothy, and she is unable to care for the cats, there are dozens of us ready to step up and care for those cats. As far as I am concerned one of those feral cats is worth more than a dozen of YOU. Shame on you I hope you are embarrassed as you should be for your insensitive comments!

Hilary said...

Wow.. this story has certainly evolved. Dorothy is such a wonderful woman and I sure hope those felines continue to know her love and caring for a long time to come. Thanks for the update.