Rescue of the Month: Charley's Strays
A No-Kill Animal Refuge
By Susan Spisak
The background of Charley's Strays is a story of helping and rescuing animals, having each other’s back, and paying it forward.
Charley McCarthy was living in Massachusetts, working as a taxi driver with his beloved dog, Pal, as his wingman. Life was not kind to him there, so in 1987 the “animal man” packed his car, his eleven dogs, and moved to property in Maine that was gifted to him by a friend.
He and his pets lived in that car initially, and it was difficult in winter. Several Mainers became aware of not only his plight but his rescue vision and helped him erect a dog shelter, thus establishing Charley's Strays in 1989. They also constructed a building for horses who’d found their way to Charley. There were setbacks, but they all plugged on. A newspaper reported on Charley’s efforts, sparking interest. Next, a large building to hold many dogs safely was built. By 1993, a comrade bought a used mobile home for Charley, allowing him to move out of his travel trailer.
Charley hoped this refuge could be a shelter for the animals then and in the future, long after he was gone. He died in 1996 and left fifty animals, the no-kill shelter, and the two acres it stood on--but no money. The volunteers who had worked with Charley chose to carry on his work.
Fast forward to today, Reb M. (she prefers no last names) is the caretaker for the shelter. She said the facility is like a “dog camp.” There’s a main structure with thirteen heated indoor spaces, outdoor runs with shaded dog houses (because their canines like to lounge on the roofs), and fenced acreage. They take in dogs and cats of all ages and breeds, and they are owner surrenders or rescues who are professionally transported from their southern shelter partner. Charley’s is partial to older and special needs’ animals and give them all as much love and comfort as possible.
In addition to their Board of Directors, they rely on others. “We have several volunteers that do things like keep our web, Facebook page, and Petfinder accounts up to date. And they do various sorts of fundraising and outreach, too,” Reb said.
Charley’s is grateful to continued support from many, including the Loyal Biscuit Co., especially the Waterville location who donate toys, treats, and food. If you’d like to help their cause, money is welcome. As far as tangibles, please call the shelter at 207-325-8894 for specific needs. Dog sponsorships are always welcome, i.e., monthly gifting for a designated canine while the animal is in the shelter.
For info on adopting, to download their application, and to see all their dogs, charleysstrays.us/. One interesting note from their web that melds with their philosophy—and surely Charley would be proud: “We do not charge an adoption fee although a donation is happily accepted. Our goal is to give a cat or dog a chance to belong to a family who thinks of him or her as a full-fledged family member, who needs a lifetime of love, care, and attention.”