Applied Animal Science Program

Peg Wheeler


Peg Wheeler, an adjunct professor for The Thompson School of Applied Animal Science program and owner of the Red Barn Professional Pet Services in Berwick, Maine was recently inundated with 39 cats from a local hoarding situation. Wheeler, through a contract with the town of Berwick cares for the strays through her business but the sheer number of cats required her to reach out for assistance.   

Wheeler’s contract with Berwick is just for stray dogs and any care regarding cats is directly from her own private funds. The sudden influx of that many animals at once would have been overwhelming without the support of the public.  Monetary and food donations quickly came in over the holiday weekend and helped alleviate the initial costs associated with a case like this.  

Two students from the Applied Animal Science program, Erinn Quinn, wheelerVeterinary Technology and Jennifer Blessing, Small Animal Care provided hands-on assistance to Wheeler last week.  The Thompson School, through the Small Animal Care Practicum course provides hands-on training in shelter medicine at local New Hampshire shelters three days a week. This second year course prepares students to assist and adapt to unique situations such as Wheeler’s requiring companion animal care.

All students within the six sections of the course were alerted to be prepared to head to Maine instead of their regular, designated shelter last week. It was unclear which section would be assisting until the coordination of schedules could be confirmed between the Thompson School and the Red Barn.  Quinn and Blessing, though in the smallest section of this course were thrilled it was them.

They quickly helped to load a portable exam table along with supplies and headed to Maine with their instructor, Allison Powers. Once there they provided microchipping, physical exams, and basic care for some of the adolescent cats.  The cats were housed in an unfinished addition to the Red Barn. This was the only area large enough to provide emergency shelter to such a large number of animals at the time.

Fortunately, for the cats and students public donations provided air conditioning and the environment was comfortable to work in. Quinn and Blessing never complained and with positive attitudes happily helped as many cats as they could over the next couple of hours. Powers was impressed by their professionalism especially since it was only their second week of class.

 Wheeler expressed appreciation for their assistance also, in-between helping regular Red Barn customers.  Wheeler sent an email later in the day thanking the students and stating, “This is such a HUGE help!!  They're sound asleep now!!”  This was in reference to how energetic the cats were during their exams for the students. 

The students took the young cats’ behavior in stride and humor as they completed necessary tasks. They made sure to take time to provide some regular petting and a few cuddles before placing them back in their cages. After all, who could resist the soft fur and wide-eyed expression of kittens that have no idea how much better the rest of their lives are about to become.


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