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2009-03-05 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

by Joanne Anderson

Long Island's homeless pets lost a true friend last month. Sharon Koester, former owner of Pet Paws grooming shop in Lindenhurst, unofficial headquarters of the League for Animal Protection (LAP) South Shore Chapter, passed away in Florida on Feb.19.

Sharon worked tirelessly, fostering and placing countless dogs and cats. Hundreds of orphan kittens, many less than a day old; owed their lives to Sharon's bottle feeding. Kittens were a constant. With her homemade formula and TLC, the kittens never knew Mama wasn't feline. A cat carrier and heating pad always sat on the store counter or in her kitchen. She could feed, burp, and toilet a kitten while juggling 2 or 3 other chores. Uttering shtup (her Yiddish mantra), Sharon never missed a beat when pilling a cat.

Sharon and her husband Dick, longtime director of Nassau SPCA, were founding members of LAP. I met them in the early '80s when I was pulled into the rescue vortex. Back then the new group held meetings in the Board room at Babylon Town Hall. Later we were banished to the basement. Actually I owe the column to the Koesters. I started writing "Pets" at their request when LAP needed a new spokesperson, agreeing to try it for a little while as a way to publicize shelter animals. Little did I know that "little while" would morph into 26 years as of last Monday.

Sharon answered the LAP hotline at her store. She gave out low cost spay certificates and fielded endless requests to take animals. Foster cats stayed in the store, the quasi-League shelter. More were at her home where a huge cat solarium gave the felines a safe outdoor playground. She had a hard time saying NO, even to the guilt trippers who tried to project blame onto us for the dog or cat that they were about to abandon or bring to the shelter.

Sharon's parade of poor waifs would stretch for miles…To name a few: the 3 legged pup who came from the shelter for a grooming and went home with a customer; the kitten missing both back feet because her legs froze to cement; Max a Shepherd with amputated toes; Moise the 1 eyed cat; Mark Spitz an American Eskimo with a plate in his leg, Belle the resident store cat whose head had been bashed with a bat. Some passed through on their way to new homes. Others stayed forever.

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