CHERRYFIELD – The animals at The Ark shelter are settling into their new home on Barber Lane and will receive visitors today from noon to 5 p.m.
“We’ll have staff here most of Christmas Day, so people can come in and visit the animals or drop off donations,” Director Lorna Konyak said.
Konyak and Jennifer Gaudette, an animal caregiver, were preparing Friday for Christmas at the 1800s farmhouse on Barber Lane.
In addition to giving new toys to the five dogs and 18 cats, staff are preparing special meals for the animals on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, Konyak said.
“It’s just cooked hamburger and rice mixed in with their regular food, but they love it,” she said.
Konyak said the Ark board of directors is still trying to work out the easement problem with the former director who left the Ark’s Harrington headquarters without electricity as of Sept. 25.
But, in the meantime, Ark is leasing the Barber Lane home from the Pet Society of Cherryfield.
The Pet Society was founded in 1984 to work on animal welfare issues and once operated a shelter at the Barber Lane site. But Pet Society President Phil White said in October that the group ran out of funds and volunteers to staff the facility a few years ago.
Konyak said a donor who wishes to remain anonymous is providing the money for the lease payments.
The Ark moved the animals from Harrington to Cherryfield on Dec. 1, a little more than two months after the former director, Alanna Gertz, disconnected the Harrington shelter from her mother’s electrical power line.
Gertz spearheaded the creation of the Ark in 1984 by donating two acres of her own land and a right-of-way on her private road to the organization. Her mother lives on the road-just beyond the shelter-and an extension from her mother’s line had been supplying the shelter’s electricity since it was constructed in 1991.
The Ark was unable to secure its own power line because the shelter doesn’t own land that fronts on the road, so there is no way to set poles running from the road to the shelter. The only land that could be used belongs to Gertz or her friend, David Van Ness.
Both have been vocal critics of the shelter since Gertz resigned as director in October 1998, citing health problems. Neither Gertz nor Van Ness have been specific about what they believe the problems are, and both have declined to be interviewed.
The lack of electricity at the Harrington headquarters became a serious problem as cold weather set in. Staff was heating and lighting the 1,120 square foot shelter with a donated gas-fired generator, filling it with gasoline from a 5-gallon can.
The fuel bill was running about $300 a month, Konyak said.
Now, thanks to The Pet Society and the work of volunteers who renovated the Barber Lane farmhouse, the animals are warm and enjoying their new home, Konyak said.
“And we have miles of trails to walk the dogs,” she said.
But the expense of the move has strained the Ark’s already tight budget, and the new facility isn’t as large as the Harrington shelter, she said.
Where the Ark once was able to accommodate nine adult dogs and four to six puppies, the Barber Lane shelter has room for only three adult dogs and four puppies, depending on the size of the animals, Konyak said.
“We can’t help out with animal control in the area towns,” she said. “They’d be darned lucky to be able to call us and find a vacancy.”
The Ark is starting a fund for a new shelter, and an anonymous donor already has contributed $10,000 in the form of a challenge grant. A couple, who also wish to remain anonymous, has given another $2,000 for a challenge grant, she said.
“We figure this is a three-to-five year project and, in the meantime, we’ll work right out of the farmhouse,” Konyak said.
The organization plans to keep the Harrington shelter, and the Ark has been offered an opportunity to buy the Barber Lane house and another parcel on Route 1A, she said.
“Now that we have options, we could do a wildlife rehabilitation center or an equine rescue program,” Konyak said.