Cats rule in Dayton |

Cats rule in Dayton

by Sally J. Taylor
Cathleen AllisonJohnye Saylor plays with Buckaroo on Wednesday morning at her Dayton home, which doubles as a cat rescue.

The dogs, rabbits, turkey and peafowl play second fiddle to the cats at the Saylors’ compound in Dayton.

Steven and Johnye Saylor rescue all types of animals, but focus their efforts on cats for a simple reason: No one else in the Dayton area is doing it, not even the Lyon County Animal Shelter, which calls the Saylors when cats are turned in.

Their mission began about nine years ago when a friend working at the animal shelter asked the Saylors to take in a litter of kittens. Over the years, they’ve adopted out more than 600 cats.

“Right now, we have 54 cats,” Johnye said. “During the day, they all go out, except those not spayed or neutered. At night, they’re all in.”

The animals lounge, play, and explore in four different buildings, including the main house, which is the oldest house in Dayton. Another building, a refurbished C&C Railroad car, serves as Steven’s artist studio with a connected gallery and gift shop.

But the history of the buildings matters little to the cats, as well as the other animals, who enjoy warmth and food from caring hands.

“What I really enjoy is taking in a litter of tiny babies and hand feeding them,” Johnye said.

Some of the Saylors’ cats arrive after being hit by cars, attacked by dogs, or just abandoned.

Many of the animals are special, such as the orange tabby that came to them with a 6-inch dart in its head, and the Saylors keep them around. Most are up for adoption.

“We’ve had 70 babies this year,” she said. “I don’t ever have enough kittens.”

The Saylors work closely with the Pet Network, based in Incline Village, to find adopters.

Unlike other rescuers and shelters, the Saylors do not charge for adoptions, which they say may deter some who would otherwise provide good homes. What they do require is a contract promising that cats will not be declawed, and if an animal has not been spayed or neutered, the new owner will do so. Plus, if the animal doesn’t work out in the new home, it will be returned to the Saylors.

They get help from PetSmart distribution center in Reno, which donates broken bags of food – pallets full of cat, dog, rabbit and bird food. In turn, the Saylors give pet food to families in need through area food banks and Nevada Aging Services.

Veterinarians Dr. Linda Miner and Carson Valley Veterinarian Hospital also help out, but the bills still mount.

“I’ve got two kittens in back that came to me with distemper. They cost $2,000 (to nurse back to health),” Johnye said.

“I can’t not do it.”

The Saylors are working with others in the area to establish a no-kill shelter in Dayton, first for cats and later for dogs. The effort, the Judy (Hartwell) Project, is named after a close friend and cat rescuer in Napa who recently died of cancer.

The county has agreed to provide the land, and the project received a Robert C. Hawkins Foundation grant for $4,000. But that’s only a fraction of the what’s needed.

“In the next couple years, hopefully we’ll get the shelter,” she said.

Another goal is to develop a program with aging services so seniors who want a cat can get one, along with the supplies plus a veterinarian check each year and a volunteer to check on the animal’s welfare periodically.

“A lot of elderly people won’t get out of bed,” Johnye said. “But if they have a pet, they will to take care of it. And if they do pass away, we will take the animal back. (Seniors) worry a lot about that.

“That’s something when we get grants that we’ll be able to do. Right now, we can provide them with food.”

For more information, call 246-0659.