FORT KENT, Maine — For Roxy the dog, water activities are all fun and games until bath time.
The 4-year-old lab mix looked somewhat less than enthused Saturday afternoon when she and owner John Babin stopped by the Fort Kent Animal Hospital for the annual Fort Kent PAWS car and dog wash.
“She loves to play in the lake but hates baths,” Babin said as Roxy was coaxed toward a waiting tub. “You can pretty much tell that by the way she smells.”
For a small fee, Roxy and the dozen or so other dogs whose owners braved Saturday’s rains got baths, ear cleanings and basic pedicures.
All proceeds, plus fees collected as part of the accompanying vaccination clinic, went to the board of the animal welfare group called PAWS.
“We are currently working on helping stray, abandoned and feral pets,” said Priscilla Daigle, PAWS president. “Right now we are concentrating on the cats.”
According to Daigle, there are plenty of felines in need of help in the Fort Kent area.
“It’s a really big problem,” Daigle said. “In one house in St. John [Plantation] alone we’ve dealt with 30 cats.”
Pockets of homeless cats are all around the Fort Kent area, Daigle said, noting up to three calls a day come in to the local animal hospital from people dealing with so-called nuisance cats.
“It’s a typical situation in rural areas,” said Jean Cobb, a PAWS board member. “We know there are a lot of feral cats out there, but it’s hard to put a number on it.”
When they can, members of the group trap the feral cats and bring them to Dr. Chris Yule at the Fort Kent Animal Hospital, who spays and neuters them at discounted prices.
“We had about 250 cats spayed or neutered this past year,” Daigle said. “The problem is just ongoing.”
Often the stray cats are pregnant, leaving volunteers with kittens to tend to.
“We are always looking for foster homes for these kittens,” Daigle said. “They need a warm, dry place to live for one or two months while we find them permanent homes.”
Fundraisers, like the dog and car wash, have helped. Daigle and Cobb said the group is actively looking for a piece of land on which to construct a permanent animal shelter.
In the meantime, local Boy Scout Curtis Jandreau is working toward his Eagle Scout badge by renovating the small animal shelter building behind the Fort Kent police station as a temporary solution.
“That should be ready in August,” Daigle said. “Then we’ll need volunteers to take care of the animals there.”
As a veterinarian, Yule often sees the end product of abandoned animals in her clinic.
“This is really a good cause,” she said of the fundraiser. “These ladies are doing a really good thing.”
In addition to volunteering and donating funds, Daigle said the most important thing people can do is have their pets spayed or neutered.
“For every cat or dog spayed and neutered, it’s one less litter that may have to be euthanized,” she said.
“This is really a great cause to support,” he said while waiting for Roxy to complete her bath. “My wife was passing by earlier and saw this was going on and said we should stop in.”
PAWS organizers are planning a second car wash on Aug. 1 and a baked bean supper later this summer.