When the Surface Creek Animal Shelter in Cedaredge held its grand re-opening in June 2018, the crowd of well-wishers got its first glimpse of the non-profit facility's new complex. The renovated building is amazing on two counts. First -- thanks to a combination of generous local donations and external grant funds -- the work is fully paid for. And second, the new design features something approaching 'cat heaven' for the rescued felines that are temporarily housed there awaiting adoption.
In the old days, cats taken in were isolated pending a health exam, then placed in confined cages, and sporadically allowed to roam in the facility. The chief limitation of the old system was that the isolation area, the temporary cages, and the roaming areas did not support a coordinated intake and care system.
Now the renovated building has spaces which are systematically designed to support the orderly and healthy processing of felines. The process begins at the facility's new front desk where both dogs and cats are received. Dogs are placed in temporary kennels and cats are carried through this shared space and down a hallway to a feline intake room where they are isolated in cages for a week of health observation.
Cats and dogs can be briefly co-mingled as they enter the shelter because any diseases they may have upon arrival are not transmitted between species. The most common ailment on the part of cats is an upper respiratory viral infection which shelter volunteers dub 'the sniffles.' After a period of health observation, uninfected cats are moved down the hall to well-rooms while those with the sniffles or other ailments go to a self-contained sick room with its own ventilation system and its own sink. Eventually all cats are transferred to a treatment room or to various well-rooms, during which time the felines are spayed or neutered.
The well rooms include play areas. One consists of large multi-level kennels with climbing ramps, perching shelves, and a hammock. Another is a cage-free space with a rocking chair, a crib and climbing structures, and an accessible exterior window. In this open room cats can interact with shelter volunteers and visitors contemplating an adoption.
All the rooms are beside one another in a sequence that runs along a hallway from intake to treatment to play rooms. Each room has a plaque commemorating a generous donor whose contributions sponsored the space:
• "Welcome Cat and Kitten Intake Room" is sponsored by Nancy and Glen Schlather.
• "Rowdy's Kitty Treatment Room" is dedicated by Fran Goetz to the memory of Ruth Ann Dawson.
• "Well Room" is dedicated by Malcolm and Robbie Spillman in honor of all cats past and present.
• "Jezebel's Play Room" is sponsored by Alvena Richard.
• "Madison's Room" is dedicated by Codi Huggett Nelson to the memory of Madison Welch.
According to Jacki Dapkus, volunteer secretary of the Surface Creek Animal Shelter's all-volunteer board, the number of cats being temporarily housed at the shelter is about the same as previous years. The difference is that it is much easier to separate sick animals from well ones and the new cat rooms are much easier to clean and maintain. Plus there is ample room for play areas and an inviting room for people to visit and interact with the cats.
What do the shelter dogs make of all this? Dogs that are awaiting adoption continue to be housed in spacious kennels and they have access to a dog run and regular meals and daily walks along nearby Surface Creek trails complements of volunteers. The dogs' activities don't conflict with the cats because canines are walked in the mornings and felines have their playtime in the afternoons.
The shelter is operated entirely by volunteers and, although the building is paid for, the non-profit organization continues to need funds to meet operating expenses so fund-raising is ongoing. Supporters can purchase memorial pet tiles which are permanently displayed inside the new building. The custom tiles allow contributors to honor their late pets by name. A tile which measures six-inches square sells for $100. A larger one-foot square tile sells for $300. Tiles can be ordered by completing a form at the shelter during operating hours.
Additional cash donations to support the shelter can be made online through the shelter website (listed below) or by regular mail sent to Surface Creek Animal Shelter, P.O. Box 853, Cedaredge, CO 81413. Volunteers are always welcome as are donations of pet food and supplies are always welcome but call ahead to make certain volunteer slots are available and donated items are compatible with shelter needs.
The shelter is located at 265 Southeast High Country Avenue in Cedaredge and it is open every day from 8 to 11 a.m. and 3 to 5 p.m. The shelter website is surfacecreekshelter.org and the phone number is 970-856-2346. The organization also operates the Shelter Shoppe thrift store which is located at 290 North Grand Mesa Drive (Highway 65) in Cedaredge. Thrift store hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day except Sunday and Wednesday. For more information on the thrift store call 970-856-7913 or visit The Shelter Shoppe's Facebook page.