Heat and lights returned to SAVE, A Friend to Homeless Animals around noon on Wednesday, nearly nine days after Hurricane Sandy hit.
It was a record-long power outage for the shelter, Executive Director Piper Burrows said.
“The longest we were without power was during Hurricane Irene and power was restored after about three days and temperatures were much different back then,” Burrows said of the August 2011 storm.
As Hurricane Sandy's high winds swept through Princeton on Monday, Oct. 29, SAVE Adoption Counselor Dylan DiMeglio, 19, stayed overnight in the shelter with the shelter's dogs and cats.
Over the next eight days, SAVE’s eight adoption counselors and five administrative staff stepped up to keep things going under difficult circumstances. And community members donated towels, sheets, blankets, toys, batteries, lanterns and flashlights, Burrows said. Others donated food for the staff, including hot pizza.
“People were just marvelous and the staff really rallied together,” Burrows said. "I think it was a real bonding experience because everybody, including myself, we all had to roll up our sleeves, clean cat cages and work in very dark conditions to keep these animals happy and safe.”
Princeton Animal Control Officer Mark Johnson brought a diesel generator from the Township to the shelter, which allowed SAVE to run extension cords into the building for space heaters during the day. At night, the heaters were off, but the buildings were warm enough for the animals, Burrows said.
“We love Mark,” Burrows said. “He cares so much about our animals and our staff. He brought in his own personal generator to keep the administrative office going and he supplied all the gas, he wouldn’t let us do anything. “
The shelter currently houses 10 dogs and about 50 cats, but animals that were considered fragile were temporarily housed with shelter volunteers, Burrows said.
A mother cat and her liter of eight two-week-old kittens went home with one volunteer while another offered to temporarily foster a 10-year-old dog.
Burrows said the Princeton shelter's situation paled in comparison to others.
“I know there were some shelters, especially those out towards the coast, that got completely wiped out,” she said. “As a matter of fact, we received such a surplus of items that one of our volunteers is driving a carload of emergency supplies out to the Woodbridge shelter which was basically flooded and destroyed.”
SAVE has enough supplies now, but what they really need is cash.
“Keep in mind, we have been shut down for nine days,” Burrows said. “We have not been open to the public. That means dogs and cats aren’t getting adopted, people haven’t been coming in to purchase t-shirts and Heartgard and Frontline.
“So when people say ‘Gee Piper, what does the shelter really need,' I say ‘we need cash donations, that’s critical.’”
Donations can be made directly to SAVE online or by sending a check to SAVE, A Friend to Homeless Pets, 900 Herrontown Road, Princeton, NJ 08540.
Also, it’s not too late to attend SAVE’s Seventh Annual Holiday Boutique on Saturday at Bedens Brook Club. The evening includes, cocktails, dinner, and vendors selling ornaments, jewelry, books, ties, pet treats, flowers, stocking stuffers and more. To receive an invitation, call 609-924-3802 or email email@example.com.