The possum was unsteady, disoriented, obviously injured when Renee Frasca noticed it across the street from her house in Elmont. The little furry thing was slowly wobbling, wandering up the road on a sweltering early Tuesday morning. It was unusual, thought Renee, to see a possum on the sidewalk of a busy thoroughfare in broad daylight, so she decided to check it out.
When she ventured across the street to get a closer look, Renee could see right away the animal was not only hurt and traumatized—hit by a car, surely—but carrying babies. Possums are marsupials; the females carry infants in a pouch. This possum’s belly was hanging low, and when she was approached by Renee, the possum started to panic, and the babies started coming loose.
Renee had some experience nursing injured dogs, cats and birds back to health, but she had never taken care of a possum before. Still, she didn’t want to leave the animal—and all her babies—out there on the road, weak, defenseless, broken. She did the first thing that made sense: called her local veterinarian, New Hyde Park Animal Hospital, on Jericho Turnpike. But veterinarians typically work with domestic animals; they don’t take on cases like this. The veterinarian gave Renee another number, this one for a trapper, Able Wildlife Solutions, based in Baldwin. Renee was not happy, though, with the trapper’s menu of options: A trapper doesn’t do animal rescue, per se; a trapper will pick up the animals and put them down. Euthanize them. For a fee.
“That wasn’t the scenario I was looking for,” says Renee. “The animal wasn’t in that type of situation. She could be helped. And I didn’t want to see her put down, especially since she had so many babies with her.”
The woman who answered the phone, Phyllis Glick, owner of Able Wildlife, understood how Renee felt.
“I’m a huge animal lover,” Glick explains today, to the Press. “And I would rather pass on a job, and not get the money, in order to save an animal that can be saved.”
Glick gave Renee yet another number, told her to call Bobby and Cathy Horvath, in Massapequa, told Renee they could help her, help the animal.
Renee made the call. She got Cathy Horvath on the phone and explained the situation. Cathy told Renee exactly what to expect, what to do: Possums don’t see very well, don’t move very fast, don’t attack humans; they might snarl but that’s the extent of it. Cathy told Renee to get the possum into a carrier, get it into a car, and get it to Massapequa. From there, Cathy would take a look at it, see what she could do. And if the possum could be saved, Cathy would save it.
Renee did as she was told. With a broom, she shuffled the hesitant possum into a cat carrier, loaded the carrier into her car, and drove the whole operation to Bobby and Cathy’s place—not a hospital or a veterinary office, but a modest one-family home on a quiet residential street a couple minutes off the Southern State Parkway. Immediately upon meeting Cathy, Renee knew she had done the right thing.
“[Cathy] was very calming, very reassuring,” says Renee. Since that day, she says, she has checked in with the Horvaths a couple times, and the mama possum is healing nicely. “It’s just nice to know that somebody is there who deals with these animals; that you don’t have to leave them for dead.”
These are calls that come in to Bobby and Cathy all the time, from people all across Long Island, people in Brooklyn and Manhattan and Queens and Yonkers and Westchester County, people who’ve found injured seagulls or falcons or rabbits or skunks or squirrels or whatever. These people start by calling their vets—or the cops, or the parks department or the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals or the local shelter or Animal Control or whomever they can think of who might know what to do—and they are, eventually, led to the Horvaths. It may, as in Renee’s case, take three phone calls; it may take five or six or more. But after awhile, all those tangled and disparate lines of communication will run parallel and merge, they will lead to one house, to two people who will do everything in their power to save those animals, set them right, clean them up, fix them up, rescue them.
Entering the Horvath home, the first thing that hits you, even before the noise, is the smell. The noise is pretty immediate, too, and pretty intense. The noise is mostly dogs, birds, an active telephone, the sound of two human adults—Bobby and Cathy—and two human children—12-year-old Christopher and 3-year-old Sadie—yelling above it all so they can hear one another, hear themselves. But it’s the smell that knocks you back: the smell of countless animals living in a home big enough for one family. It is pungent, acidic, like ammonia. You think to yourself, Gimme five minutes; I will get used to this. But you don’t. Not in five minutes, anyway.
Cathy admits as much. She says she doesn’t even hear the noise anymore, but the smell can get to her now and then, especially when one of the owls chooses not to finish his or her dinner. That dinner is dead mouse, of course—owls are predators; they eat mice—and Cathy can’t force an owl to eat when he or she is not hungry. But the dining habits of a finicky owl means some rotting mouse corpse on the floor of a birdcage, and that, Cathy admits, tends to get a little ripe.
Bobby knows this, too. He says there is an old joke among animal rescuers: You don’t get many visitors in the spring or summertime. You can’t have sick or injured animals outside in the heat, when there are flies, says Bobby. They have to be kept indoors. Which, in this case, is the living room. Or the kitchen. It’s not a big house.
“People don’t enjoy coming over here,” admits Cathy. “Unless they’re here for a show.”
If people are here for a show, then they are in for a treat. Here, animals are everywhere. (Continued…)