Honoring the Memory of Sir Charles
by Lee Chambers
Patrick Bukowski was always a dog person. Until three years ago when he and his partner Cindy moved to an old house in Enfield and thought it might be practical to adopt a couple of “mousers.” He had been doing some pet sitting and had come to appreciate cats. So he went to a local shelter (not Dakin) and adopted his first two felines, which he named Sir Charles and Little Kitty.
Patrick and Sir Charles developed a close bond immediately. “He was special. He was so loving and would lie with his head next to mine on my pillow, staring into my eyes with his beautiful copper ones.” The shelter didn’t tell him that Sir Charles was positive for feline leukemia. What followed were two years of serious medical issues during which Patrick learned how to take care of a beloved, critically ill animal companion including pilling, forced feeding and administering subcutaneous fluids.
“When Sir Charles died, I had a lot of anger mixed with grief,” he says. “I had gained all these skills that I had never wanted, but now I thought I should use them.” That was when a friend told him about Dakin, which was just launching its Feline Weight Watchers Program in which volunteers monitor the weight of, and provide socialization for, at-risk cats with eating issues.
This past year Patrick put all those skills to great use in Nick’s Nursery, Dakin’s kitten intensive care unit, the only one of its kind in New England. One of those furbabies, Tommy, a beautiful marmalade kitten, found his way into Patrick’s heart and home, and is now a brother for Little Kitty.
Patrick also answered Dakin’s call for vet tech assistants, where, during the busiest season, volunteers support staff by giving meds, assisting with exams, doing intakes for dogs, cats, rabbits and whatever other animals come through Dakin’s doors. He’s found rabbits can be particularly difficult “like catching a greased pig!”.
Patrick volunteers anywhere from one to as many as four days a week at Dakin during the busiest season. “Working at Dakin and seeing their protocols for intake, quarantine and more has shown me how a humane organization SHOULD be run,” he says.
His next big venture will be as a team member for the Jackson Galaxy Pawsitive Project. Dakin is one of 16 shelters nationwide selected to undertake this training. The Cat Pawsitive program will offer guidelines to increase the well-being and adoptability of cats in shelters, particularly shy/fearful cats. Staff and volunteers will learn more ways to engage cats, and keep them more physically active. The program also offers methods to show how cats can be taught using positive reinforcement training methods.
Patrick is excited to be part of this new program. “I’m not surprised that Dakin was selected,” he says. “Dakin is, after all, the cream of the crop!”
Many thanks to Marianne Gambaro who contributed this story.