Burnie d.Katt is what is known as litter box challenged. This otherwise mellow, loving feline simply refuses to use the litter box. Those who care for Burnie today attribute his purrsonality disorder to the terrible trauma he suffered several years ago. Burnie was rescued by a local humane society in northeastern Iowa after someone deliberately burned him in a burn barrel. The humane society spent a considerable amount of money rehabilitating the poor fellow. Fortunately, Burnie healed and his fur growth came back, but from then on he refused to use the litter box making him unacceptable for adoption.
But the good luck that saved Burnie was not about to run out. The humane society contacted the C&W Rustic Hollow Shelter in Nashua, three hours north of Des Moines, which offered to take him. That was in 2003. Since then, this mellow cat with an enormous love of people holds court as the King of the Kat Barn, a position which bears with it the responsibility for being spokespurrson of the C&W Newsletter.
Burnie, while one of the shelter’s more illustrious residents, is not the only behaviorally challenged cat at C&W, far from it. In fact C&W Rustic Hollow Shelter is home to 400 special needs cats who have disabilities, chronic medical conditions, Feline Leukemia or FIV, or who were displaced at the death of their guardian. Simply put C&W Rustic Hollow Shelter in the heart of the heartland offers cats that otherwise would not have a chance the chance of a lifetime. Sanctuary residents come from over 30 states as well as from all across Iowa.
How it began
C&W founders Carmen Linda Conklin and Wanda Orric founded the sanctuary in 1985 on property that had been in Conklin’s family for over 100 years. Building a special needs sanctuary was not their original plan, but it was clearly their destiny. To begin with, each of the women has dealt with her own disability since childhood. Conklin was born with a congenital disease and has been legally blind her entire life. Orric had polio. The two met in college and lived in Iowa and Minnesota after graduation while Conklin taught piano.
In 1980, they moved back to Conklin’s family home to care for her elderly parents. People would bring their cats to the farm, Conklin explained. Eventually, Conklin and Orric realized they needed to become responsible pet parents and spay and neuter the arrivals. When someone died and left 10 cats homeless, the women decided they wanted to turn the property into a cat sanctuary and focus on special needs.
From one building in 1985, C&W Rustic Hollow has grown to six on 190 acres. The most recent edition is a building called Bradley’s house, which is home to 60 cats that came from Virginia when a rescue there closed.
In addition to Conklin and Orric, the sanctuary has a paid staff including a vet tech and her assistant. A vet comes on site as well. The sanctuary is a registered non-profit and in addition to receiving grants and bequests, does a lot of fundraising.
While C & W does not take in people’s pets that need to surrender them, with the exception of the death of a guardian, or strays; it does offer a rehoming program for these animals. None of these reside at the sanctuary, C&W simply acts as intermediator and ‘matchmaker’ for these companion animals. The sanctuary also offers behavioral counseling as well as a subsidized spay/neuter program for barn cats, ferals and strays.
If you live near Nashua, C&W invites you to visit and spend an hour or a day sitting with the furballs. You can find out more about this unique and special place for special kitties, including how to donate or sponsor a cat, at http://www.rustichollowshelter.org/.