GREENE — Last year, Albert Abbott had to find a new place to live. Somewhere with a few more people around, a bit more help with daily living. That’s what he needed.

What he wanted was Mio.

The big black cat had been with him for five years and Abbott, 69, didn’t want to move anywhere without him. 

At The Meadows in Greene, he didn’t have to.

“(Owner Becky Laliberte) said, ‘Bring him right down here,'” Abbott said.

For the past five months, Abbott and Mio have shared a room at the assisted living center. Mio, 13, spends his days gazing out the window or sleeping on Abbott’s lap and his nights hogging a disproportionate area of the bed.

“He’s a pain sometimes,” Abbott said fondly, petting Mio as the cat settled in his lap. “Sometimes he’s a good boy.”

At The Meadows, Mio isn’t an oddity. Furry or feathered residents outnumber the human ones.

“It makes life interesting,” Becky Laliberte said.

Laliberte opened The Meadows 20 years ago. The 25-bed facility caters to older people who can’t live alone but don’t need the constant care of a nursing home.

Laliberte’s animals roamed the halls from day one.

“I always had a dog,” Laliberte said. “But then the animal control guy got my name and he started bringing in small animals. We’ve had rabbits. Guinea pigs. It just kind of developed.”

Those were animals who belonged to The Meadows. Then there were the pets residents brought in.

“I wouldn’t come here without her,” said Marlene Fournier, 79, who moved in last October with Baby, her 14-year-old Lab-pug mix.

Today, two of the residents have their own pets: one a cat and one a dog.

“I can’t do without her,” Fournier said of Baby.

The facility’s own menagerie includes two dogs, seven parakeets, several chickens, several ducks and five adult goats. A couple of weeks ago, The Meadows added a newborn goat — but it didn’t mean to.

“We had the boys all fixed last fall,” Laliberte said. “So we’re calling him ‘Lucky’ because he got in right under the wire, apparently.”   

The goats, chickens and ducks have their homes in loosely fenced pens outside. It’s not uncommon for them to wander around the grounds.

“I love to watch them and see what they do, and it’s a good pastime for us,” said Murielle Mills, 85. “My window happens to be on the porch. . . the animals the other night got out, the goats, and they all went on the porch because there’s a barrel there with some (goat) food and they know it. So they were pushing each other.”

The dogs — black Lab Daisy and bull dog-terrier mix Zoey — roam the grounds both inside and out. Daisy and Zoey spend their days napping and visiting residents.

Carlton Adams’ room is one of their favorites. 

“Hello, baby, hello,” Adams greeted Daisy as she wandered in, tail wagging, with Zoey close behind. He opened a baggie of dog treats. “I know what you guys want.”

Adams, 57, has lived at The Meadows for two years. He’d always had animals and loved dogs in particular.

“Some animals are easier to get along with than people,” he said. “I’m glad to have them here. This is a home setting, your animals and your family and friends all combined into one.”

Although they aren’t trained as therapy dogs, they provide the same companionship, comfort and stress relief, residents said. And the dogs seem to like doing it. 

At night, Daisy goes home with Laliberte’s daughter, General Manager Lauriane Laliberte. At home, her collar comes off. In the morning, it goes back on. 

“I say, ‘We got to get dressed for work’ and she gets all excited,” Lauriane Laliberte said.

Residents are largely responsible for caring for their own pets. Dogs are walked around the grounds. Cats stay in residents’ rooms.

Abbott wouldn’t have it any other way. He couldn’t imagine moving anywhere he couldn’t have Mio with him.

And he’s pretty sure the cat is OK with their new home.

“I don’t think he minds it,” Abbott said. “He knows it’s different.”

Have an idea for Animal Tales? Call Lindsay Tice at 689-2854 or email her at [email protected]


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