I visited Sweet Pea animal shelter in Paxton a few weeks ago …

Text and photos by Rosalie Tirella

… after the fire; after the horrible fatalities (nearly 50 dogs and cats perished in the flames); after the TV news trucks, their satellite dishes and anorexic girl reporters shoved off; after the ignorant comments that went like this had passed: Well, the animals didn’t suffer too much – it was the carbon monoxide that killed them, not the flames; after all the noise and media whores faded away. … I drove up with a friend and found owner Melanie still shaken but quietly tenacious – totally focused on regrouping and reopening her beloved animal shelter.
Melanie’s kennels and shelter space, based on the mini-tour she gave me after the fire, did seem a bit antiquated, but this dog lover felt that IN NO WAY were her dogs crammed in cages. The kennels seemed fine – not shoddily built; there was a play area, there were runs, there was a quarantine building with kennels, there was a heating system, a washer and dryer for dog bedding, a place to wash the dogs.

Melanie had a lot  to contend with when she bought the place: first, it was built in the 1970s – the kennels, building, electrical work were old, just plain old. But probably fine for the time they were built. Melanie doesn’t have a ton of dough so gave it her all –  100% –  to make the shelter she had WORK.

And it did!

Everyone says she DEFINITELY RAN A TRUE NO KILL SHELTER. She took the dogs and cats no one wanted, kept them and loved them and PLACED THEM in loving homes. She told me she even housed feral cats, taming them down – it takes a few years – and then placing them in forever homes! As someone who had cared for two feral cat colonies in Worcester’s inner city  for 10 YEARS, I know how challenging taming down a feral cat can be and thought WOW! This lady is GOOD!

Melanie welcomed ALL to her shelter, the place  was open to every person in the community – no snobby attitude at Sweet Pea! She had 100 volunteers walking the dogs, helping with donations. Her animal shelter hid nothing, had nothing to hide, was accessible – a fun place to volunteer. On any given day you could visit Sweet Pea and see volunteers walking the dogs, a stretch of woods making a lovely backdrop. Sweet Pea is definitely in the country – a tonic for abandoned dogs, critters who are hurtin’!

There is so much to be done now!
So much rebuilding before this single working women can reopen her animal shelter, her not so small biz!



Melanie  needs our help! The Town of Paxton has now come up with a set of standards for all kennels in town: kennel dimensions, the kind of materials that need to go into kennel floors, the kinds of walls that need to go between kennels, lengths of runs, sprinkler systems, etc. THIS IS A GOOD THING. FOR THE DOGS AND CATS and PEOPLE! These new regulations will help ensure that a fire – or other calamity-  will not wreak havoc in places where helpless animals are locked up – are unable to flee the flames, the flooding, etc. Can you imagine the FEAR, THE OUTRIGHT PANIC the Sweet Pea dogs and cats felt as they gnawed or pawed away at their cages to free themselves from FIRE … HELL? Horrific.

We will always remember them…WE MUST NEVER FORGET!

But it’s time for Melanie to rebuild, take Paxton’s blueprint for animal SAFETY and success and make it REAL!

Please CLICK HERE and make a donation to the SWEET PEA GoFundMe or PayPal accounts!

Learn about Sweet Pea and the wonderful work that Melanie and her volunteers have done!

Make Sweet Pea come alive with dogs and cats and all critters great and small once again!