Trees were bursting with buds, and a fragrant spring breeze from the Pine Barrens blew across the 150-acre Bideawee campus in Westhampton, but, Christine Russell, manager of the Adoption Center said, “It’s like Christmas around here.”
The reason: Staff were scurrying around getting ready for a van with more than 30 rescued animals from Alabama, including some very lucky adult dogs who show promise to become top-notch pets, plus people-loving pussycats and some squirmy, wriggly puppies.
Bideawee Animal Shelter, founded more than 110 years ago by Flora D’Auby Jenkins Kibbe, whose inspiration was a humane group in Paris, has three locations, with headquarters in New York City, and facilities in Wantagh and Westhampton. The word Bideawee is Scottish for “stay awhile,” which is what the organization hopes for—that animals will have a short stay and move on to homes. However, “We are unique here, as we provide a lifetime journey,” said Nancy Taylor, Bideawee President/CEO.
Not only does Bideawee rescue animals and train families to adopt dogs and cats, but it offers many other services, including a pet playground open to the public for $40 annually ($25 for summer), veterinary hospitals for its own animals and for private patients, and pet cemeteries.
In the cheerful, sparkling Westhampton facility, a donated sound system pipes in soothing music to ease stress. All animals get two meals a day, and dogs go out three times a day, led by staff and the more than 100 volunteers.
Because of meticulous screening and matching processes, Bideawee has a very low return rate on animals. As at most shelters, people find kittens hard to resist, but adult cats can be trickier to place. When a 15-year-old pussycat recently went to a new home, “It was an all-out celebration around here,” Taylor said.
While other shelters accept any animal, Taylor said that Bideawee’s role is to take animals that it believes are adoptable and gets them super-ready, with comprehensive medical and dental care, obedience classes and dog training that includes cute tricks like rolling over and shaking hands, and socialization with animals and humans. “At night,” Taylor said, “the animals are put to bed with blankets, toys, cookies and a good-night kiss from staff and volunteers.” Adopters pay $150 for a dog or cat, $225 for a puppy; Bideawee depends completely on donations, and expenses add up to about $3,500 per animal.
Bideawee’s veterinary clinic serves not just Bideawee critters, but private patients as well. “It’s nice for animals that were adopted to have a veterinarian that they already know,” Taylor said. The future pets are spayed or neutered and kept on pain meds as they recover in the cozy facility, a former farmhouse with hardwood floors and a homey ambiance. The home was once enjoyed by the man whose donation, in 1956, made the Westhampton campus possible—author P.G. Wodehouse. His popular novels featuring comic upper-class English fictional characters made him one of Westhampton’s most famous residents.
Bideawee provides grief counseling, transportation and burial of pets. A 4.5-acre pet memorial park is available to the public, and is open daily. Bideawee also helps pet owners with advanced planning for care and eventual burial of a pet, including those who are concerned they may pre-decease their pet.
The pet memorial park in Wantagh opened in 1916. The two memorial parks together contain the remains of more than 65,000 animals. This includes—not only cats and dogs—but various species such as monkeys, ferrets, a turtle that lived to the grand old age of 50, four New York City police horses and former President Richard Nixon’s dog Checkers. That’s a lot of love.