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Animal Shelter's Bed Friend
Animal lover's 'cage comforters' give strays hope for a new home

dailynews_logo.gif (2841 bytes)February 16, 2002

From: Arts and Lifestyle | Cityscape |
Saturday, February 16, 2002

Animal Shelter's Bed Friend

Daily News Staff Writer

Alice O'Neil could be called the cat lady, with her 14 felines. But that would be ignoring her three dogs, including one-eyed J.J.

"They were all rescued," said O'Neil, 50. "Like I tell them, I snatched them from the jaws of death. Some were thrown in the water in the back of my house, some were thrown out of car windows."

O'Neil, of Brooklyn, is indefatigable in her work for humane treatment of animals.

Take her role as coordinator of the Caged Comforter program in city shelters, run by the nonprofit Center for Animal Care and Control, where she recruits volunteers to sew little beds to put in showroom cages for cats, kittens, small dogs and puppies.

In the last half of 2001, volunteers sewed 3,200 beds and crocheted 1,500 toys for the animals. O'Neil, besides recruiting 37 volunteers, sewed 500 of the 11-inch-by-18-inch beds herself. One volunteer, Jessie Jones of Manhattan, sewed 1,200 beds.

Jody Jones, CACC's director of volunteers, admits the idea for sewing the little beds would never have succeeded without O'Neil.

"She is such a blessing in disguise," Jody Jones said.

Besides relieving the animals' stress, the brightly colored beds allow people who are considering adopting them to see them in a cozy, homelike environment, not as caged animals sitting on newspaper strips or brown paper.

O'Neil asked about volunteering at the Brooklyn shelter at 2336 Linden Blvd. in May and made her first 30 beds when she was told of the proposed Caged Comforter program.

"When we put the beds in the cages, there was such an immediate reaction from the animals," O'Neil said. "I've been doing animal humane work for over 30 years and I never saw anything have an impact like that.

"Some of the little orphan kittens in cages, other animals that had been abandoned, were terrified, hiding in the back under the newspapers. As soon as we put the beds in, those animals jumped up, ran on the bed. They purred and they kneaded the material, they stretched out and I noticed people who were there to adopt gathered around the cage and watched them."

O'Neil has recruited far and wide, from Girl Scout groups to senior citizen groups, for her bed comforter program. Her latest recruits come from the Young Adult Institute's Brooklyn Day Treatment Program, a day service program for people with disabilities.

About 10 youths from the program helped cut the fabric and stuff the batting for 100 beds. The group visited the shelter recently to see for itself whom its efforts benefited.

Carol Coonan, supervisor of the program, said volunteering was good for the youths.

"They have had things done for them all their lives, other people helping and assisting them," Coonan said, "and getting them involved in volunteer services where they're helping others," has done wonders for their self-esteem.

"I mean, they glow." said Coonan.


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