Denise Morin, left, and Beth McDonald spend time with Spring Bob and Tiger, two cats that are being cared for by volunteers from the Poor Little Stray Things program. 

LEWISTON — Denise Morin remembers every hard story.

The three kittens who had been hidden in tall grass by their mother and were accidentally run over by a lawnmower.

The three little dogs whose owners couldn’t keep up their care

The cat who was so ravaged by fleas that he was near death from the blood loss.

There have been hundreds of animals over the years. But for volunteers with Poor Little Stray Things — who spend virtually every nonworking hour hand-feeding kittens, medicating dogs and ferrying sick cats back and forth to the emergency vet — they’re all hard to forget.

“Our lives are so much into the Poor Little Stray Things program. Our whole hearts,” Morin said. “We get so emotionally involved with these little animals who don’t have a chance. We give them that chance.”

PLST was started about 25 years ago by an office manager at the Lewiston Veterinary Hospital. A handful of volunteers now run the tiny charity.

Although all PLST volunteers work at the Lewiston Veterinary Hospital, the hospital isn’t affiliated with the group. Volunteers work with the animals only off the clock — going in early, staying late, using their lunch hours — and they pay for all the medical care PLST animals receive there or with specialists.    

Despite the group’s name, most PLST animals aren’t strays but sick or injured pets whose families can’t afford to care for them anymore or simply don’t want to. Sometimes they come by way of the local animal control officer. Usually, they come directly from owners.

If not for PLST, many of the animals would have been euthanized.  

“It’s always sad … but if they can’t afford (to care for the pet) and it’s a young animal and they’re going to euthanize, this gives (the pet) the chance at having a life,” said Morin, who has been with PLST for nine years.

Volunteers said they would like to able to pay for the animals’ care and return them home, but it’s rarely an option. Some of the animals have been neglected, which led to their health problem in the first place. Other times, families can’t afford the pet’s lifetime of after-care, like special food or medication, or they just don’t want the animal anymore.

Not every case has a happy ending — two of the three lawnmower kittens died, one of them in Morin’s arms — but the group gives every animal as much round-the-clock attention and medical care as it needs to have a chance. 

Last week, PLST had:

• Venus, a svelt tiger cat who developed life-threatening liver disease because she refused to eat after her owners separated and one moved out;

• Boster, a shih tzu whose owner tearfully gave him up because his barking disturbed the neighbors in her apartment complex; and

• Spring Bob, a friendly, 2-year-old long-haired Manx whose severe constipation was making him sick. 

Animals stay with PLST for weeks or months. One cat, who was skittish around humans but adored other animals, stayed for more than a year before volunteers found the right home for him on a sheep farm.

“He has the time of his life. He loves the sheep, he loves the chickens, he loves the dogs,” said volunteer Beth McDonald. “He needed a special home.”

Volunteers announce animals up for adoption on PLST’s Facebook page and at the Lewiston Veterinary Hospital. Potential families are vetted through background checks, references and, sometimes, home visits.

“We went to one in Bangor in a blizzard,” McDonald said. “And the home was too stressful. It had too much stress going on for the dog we had at the time.”

Once in a while, that new home turns out to be with a PLST volunteer.

“We’re all foster flunkees here,” said McDonald, who has eight cats and five dogs, including one of the trio of little dogs whose owners couldn’t care for them anymore.

Medical bills can easily top $1,000 per animal, even with the small discounts some vets give. PLST raises money through the sale of T-shirts, candles, handmade earrings and calendars. It is planning a bottle drive and gift card raffle.

Because fundraisers only go so far, volunteers have been known to buy food and litter on their own — or, in one case, buy a soft, squishy bed for a cat who had never had one before. 

“She didn’t know what a bed was. She was like, ‘What is this thing?’ Then she sunk in it and she was like, ‘Oh, OK!’ ” said volunteer Carly Carlile.

Although PLST has been a charity for more than two decades, it is not a tax-exempt nonprofit. The group looked into becoming one, but the process would have cost too much.

“It would have drained our fund and left us with nothing,” Morin said. “We’re that small. We don’t have big money.”

It’s a lot of work for a handful of people, but volunteers say it’s worth it. All three of the animals they had last week are happy and healthy.

Said Carlile as she cuddled Venus, “I can’t picture not saving this little girl.”

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

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