County top cop no tenderfoot, but tender hearted

Dear Editor:

Sheriff Gordon Smith has taken a personal interest in helping find forever homes for dozens of cats.

Recently, I heard about a “cat shelter” a little more than a mile from my home-as the crow flies. I didn’t even know it existed until a person who teaches with me in Gainesville asked, since I live in Bradford County, could I help place 50+ cats!

This teacher’s neighbor is a nonprofit coordinator. She has paperwork filed with the state. The caring woman bought land, put in a well, septic, and power. She bought a utility building with windows and air conditioning, and had it set up. Then she fenced the building, inside a good portion of the property, with an 8-foot chain- link fence. The owner found abandoned cats and took in unwanted pets. She fed and watered them and paid all their medical bills. She had hoped to start adoptions this year, but a cancer diagnosis stopped all that. She is now in hospice care.

Upon learning all this from my co-worker, I headed off to find this place. About 40 cats greeted me at the locked gate. I said to my cousin, “I’m going to text or call Gordon before this appears on the Jacksonville news as so many of these situations have since COVID.”

In half an hour, he was there personally and found his animal control people already on site. They had been contacted by the woman’s son and the people living across the road. Deputy Byrd has since removed more than 70 cats and placed them in area shelters. She loves her job.

Our sheriff has personally arranged some “adoptions”. My youngest grandson, Garrison Wiggins, will be getting a cat at his home in Virginia. I don’t know when | will be driving there, or his parents will drive down here. The chosen cat will need temporary housing. Gordon said, “I’ll work it out.” 

This place sounds terrible: dozens of cats behind 8-foot-high chain-link fencing; however, like most situations in life, there’s more to the story than we can see. This story is about a woman’s compassion, cats, cancer, and our sheriff helping these animals find forever homes and their owner find peace. Thanks, Gordon! God bless you and your animal control people.

Peg Stanwix-Hay

Hampton Lake Community