Once you’ve met the miniature horse or the fainting goat, you know life at Denise and Roger Critch’s is anything but dull. Over the years, Denise Critch has picked up countless strays, finding homes for them, turning them over to the SPCA or taking them to her own home in Cavendish. There’s not much she wouldn’t do to help distressed or homeless animals.
In December 2010, while she was helping a neighbour capture some stray cats, the woman happened to mention if the mother cat were spayed she would keep it.
Critch mulled over situation. Aside from animals, her other love is music. She plays guitar and sings, but has a bit of a phobia about performing in public. Her friends often tell her she should be busking at the mall to raise money for her animal causes.
“This time I thought, why not? Maybe I should do that and raise enough money to get this cat spayed.”
Almost before she had time to think, Jesse and Carol Ann Legge offered her a space at their store in Heart’s Delight-Islington. Then someone suggested she go to the TC Mall in Carbonear, which also donated space.
Between the two venues she raised about $600.
“We had the cat spayed and examined and I donated the money to A Tail or Two in Carbonear and they helped some other needy animals with medical expenses.”
Critch knows a thing or two about needy animals — she has adopted many, and found homes for many more. And each one has its own story.
12, for now
There are 12 animals at the Critch residence.
A pygmy goat (Rocky) that was featured on CBC’s “Land and Sea” in 2007 has taken a room there while his owner is away at school.
Two resident goats, Ginger and Snaps, have yet to fully accept Rocky into the fold, “but Rocky doesn’t mind, he’s a bit of a loner.”
Ginger was rescued just before she made it to the dinner table because Stormy, Critch’s miniature horse, needed some company.
“I got Stormy seven years ago. He’s trained for a cart but he basically spends his time lazing around with the goats.”
The day before she was going to pick up Ginger, Critch discovered Snaps, a fainting goat. A fainting goat is a species whose muscles freeze up when startled, causing the animal to fall over in a faint.
“Snaps was in someone’s barn and he was very nervous because people kept chasing him to make him faint. I had to get that goat out of there.”
Stormy quickly became the guardian of both Ginger and Snaps. If the goats happen to get out and wander toward the road, Stormy faithfully herds them back to safety.
“And when I tie Stormy out on his rope in the summer, Ginger cries for him.”
Three or four years ago when Critch was at an appointment in Harbour Grace she came across a lady who had a small terrier crossbreed she was giving away. Unsure of the dog’s fate, Critch wanted to take it, but with so many animals …
“His doghouse had ‘My Name Is Timbit’ written across the top. Here was this tiny dog in this huge doghouse!” Critch remembers with a laugh.
She and a friend had to roll the large doghouse down over a hill to get it into the back of the truck. It fell out on the way home, but they managed to get it back in two pieces.
After learning about the plight of Timbit, Critch’s mother, Gladys Sooley, offered to have the dog neutered, hoping it would make an adoption easier. It did.
Among Critch’s critters are five cats, including Willow and Earl Grey, who belong to her mom.
Critch discovered Earl when she, her mother and the two dogs were shopping in Carbonear.
“I was taking one of the dogs outside for a walk when this cat came up to us and just seemed to love the dog.”
But the six-month-old male, un-neutered, looked starving.
I’m guessing someone couldn’t afford to have him neutered and had just left him there.”
She placed the cat on the back seat of the truck.
“He was so content he curled up with the two dogs and went to sleep,” she says.
It was love at first sight for Sooley, but Earl Grey didn’t make it back to her house in Heart’s Delight that day. Instead, he was dropped off at the vet’s for a check up and neutering.
“We picked him up the next day and he settled in as if he had been living at Mom’s all his life. A couple of months later Mom and Earl and Willow moved in with us.”
Mouse was lucky to survive his ordeal, when one cold winter’s day Critch and a friend found two freezing newborn kittens on a bed of ashes in an old stove at the dump site.
“Mouse was the ugliest kitten you ever saw. People would ask me if it was possible that the mother had mated with a rat,” Critch laughs.
“I fed the two kittens with a syringe every two hours during the night,” says the surrogate mom. “Then I had to take a cloth to wipe their little bottoms each time — I guess that’s why mother cats lick their babies so much.”
The female kitten didn’t make it.
At that point Critch’s dog, Chance, stepped in to help out by diligently ensuring Mouse’s bottom stayed clean.
Weasel was picked up in Hopeall, the sole survivor of a litter, when he was only three weeks old. Critch told her husband Roger she’d look for a home for him the very next day.
“”But I was actually taking him to the vet’s,” she admits.
Along the way she stopped by a friend’s house.
“Their cat had just had a litter the night before. The mother cat immediately started cleaning Weasel. She nursed him for several weeks, then my friend called to say she was going to try and find a home ...”
Weasel had only just settled in at the Critches’ when Oliver, a fluffy white stray, arrived after another cat, Spook, died in her arms.
Axl and Steven
Axl had not been meant to become part of regular life at the Critches’. The terrier mix moved in when Critch offered to housetrain him for a friend.
“They didn’t want him back. I did look for a home for him — for about a day — but he had gotten so attached to me I couldn’t move without him behind me.”
A seagull, lightheartedly dubbed Steven Seagal, spent a couple of weeks at the haven when Critch spotted it on the side of the road while she and her husband were out running errands one day.
“It couldn’t fly and it was limping.”
The gull was placed on some hay in a shelter used for sawdust at the back of Critch’s property. Out came the syringe.
“I mixed sardines and baby pablum in the blender, this time I put it in my horse syringe. Every time he opened his mouth to bite me, I’d feed him,” she says with a grin.
Seagal made good use of a baby bath Critch placed in the shelter.
“After he ate he’d get in the tub and take his bath. The cats would sit on the tub and watch him bathe.”
In two weeks he was ready to fly free.
Although slightly scolding when it comes to her inability to just say “no,” Critch’s husband Roger seems to love the animals as much as she does.
A double-decker house with a tunnel leading from barn to cage was quickly built for Stewy, a lop-eared rabbit.
“And Roger didn’t complain that much about Stewy’s $400 surgery to have a tumour removed.”
Chance like no other
The most recent addition to the household is Timber, a lumbering Golden Retriever puppy, who arrived in February, after the Critches’ beloved dog Chance passed away Feb. 2.
The couple got Chance after Critch’s father Vince Sooley passed away 13 years ago.
“After dad died I was so depressed,” Critch explains.
The part retriever/part Husky delighted family, friends and neighbours. The dog understood language, no matter what the tone and followed instructions to the letter. Some would even attest that Chance could interpret what Charlie Brown’s teacher was saying, he was that good.
Sentences like “Go find your own socks to play with now Chance and stop pulling off mine” or “I’m busy right now, go ask Roger,” were no challenge for Chance. The dog helped raised many strays and loved to ride on the back of Roger’s trike.
“What can I say about Chance?” Critch muses. “She was human. And after 13 years with her we took her humanness for granted. There’ll never be another Chance.
“She was cremated and I kept her ashes. Wherever I was, she was. And she’s going with me, when I go.”