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Serving the communities of Massena and Potsdam, New York
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Skip’s Retreat takes up donations to provide free cat adoptions

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MASSENA - Soot, a hefty jet black cat with a nick in his right ear, currently resides at the Massena Animal Shelter.

But he hopes his days there are coming to an end thanks to a program that allows individuals who can’t afford the adoption costs to take the animal home free of charge.

Skip’s Retreat, East Orvis Street, Massena, has started a “quarter jug” that allows customers to drop in their spare quarters. When the jug reaches $75, co-owner Judi Hayden-Shutts takes the money to the Massena Animal Shelter, ponders over the cats up for adoption and, when she’s found one that catches her eye, adopts it.

But Mrs. Hayden-Shutts doesn’t take the cat home. Instead, a sign is placed on the glass in front of its cubicle announcing that it’s available for free, thanks to Skip’s Retreat.

In less than two months, they’ve been able to adopt three cats. Soot, an adult male who has been at the shelter since February, was her latest adoption.

“I’m a huge animal lover of all kinds. I don’t even step on spiders. I’ve always been a big fan of the Humane Society. They give their all for the animals,” she said.

Volunteering at the shelter would be too difficult because she’d want to adopt all the animals and take them home, Mrs. Hayden-Shutts said.

“For me, it’s an emotional thing. My way of doing things for them is to financially help them the best that I can,” she said.

As a result, she has set up two collection jugs at the bar she owns with her husband, Skip. One provides funds directly to the Humane Society.

“I go out there quite a bit with donations. I try to collect things like paper towels and necessities they need,” Mrs. Hayden-Shutts said.

The other jug is for the adoption of a cat that currently calls the animal shelter home.

“People drop quarters in the jug. It costs $75 to adopt a cat. The reason I picked cats instead of dogs is because they’re overrun with cats. They are with dogs as well, but I feel like I had to pick something,” she said.

Mrs. Hayden-Shutts said the quarter jug started out as a donation jug. Then, after talking with shelter Manager Heidi Bradish about sponsoring a pet, she decided to use that money to pay for the adoption of a cat or dog.

“I said, ‘I think I’m going to go with cats.’ All my customers are on board with that. They give very generously,” she said.

They give so generously, Mrs. Hayden-Shutts said, that the jug brought in $150 recently, allowing for the adoption of two cats.

While the kittens at the shelter are cute, she said she goes for the adult cats who have likely been there the longest.

“I handpick the cat I want to have the adoption paid for. I go with the adult cats because they have been there the longest. Everybody always wants a kitten,” she said.

“The nice thing about older cats is a lot of older people come out and, if they’ve had a pet for a long time, they want an animal but don’t want a kitten. It maybe entices the older group of people to come out. They’re on a fixed income and can’t afford $75, but they can take a nice lap cat home,” she said.

Jack had been there since January, so he was first on the list. Now it’s Soot’s turn to find a loving family.

“Heidi puts a poster on their cage that says, ‘I’m ready for adoption free of charge.’ I hope it entices people who want older cats. Adult cats get overlooked. That’s the one I’m focusing on, to get them a nice home and a nice lap to cuddle up on. They’re better off in homes where they’re going to be spoiled so they can live out their life in a loving environment,” Mrs. Hayden-Shutts sid.

Potential owners still have to fill out paperwork and meet the Humane Society’s criteria for adoption. Once that’s done, lovable felines like Soot are theirs for free.

“They are very strict about where these animals go. They don’t want them to come back They make very sure the animals are going to good homes. They do a very good job of it,” she said.

Soot is next in line, and there will be others, according to Mrs. Hayden-Shutts

My goal is to do a cat a month,” she said.

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