To honor cancer victim, parents provide senior dogs a new leash on life
PITTSFIELD — Without hesitation and with wagging tails, two senior dogs emerged from a private plane at Pittsfield Municipal Airport on Wednesday afternoon and were welcomed to New England by a tarmac full of admirers, including their new owners.
After losing their 31-year-old daughter, Carrie Tetro, to melanoma, Mike and Betsy Shinego started a senior dog sanctuary at their Rhode Island home in her honor.
"It was the last conversation I had with her," Mike Shinego said. "She said, `Dad, one of the things I really regret is that I haven't been able to establish a dog sanctuary.' "
Shinego said he responded, "Mom and I will take care of it."
About 3 1/2 years after Tetro's death, the couple are taking in their second batch of dogs from Southern shelters. These two 8-year-olds — black Labrador Julie and German shepherd Abby — come from a shelter in Florence, S.C., having been abandoned by their previous owner.
Silver Dog Rescue in Winston-Salem, N.C., worked with the Shinegos for the rescue. Adams resident and longtime animal rescuer Kathy "Skippy" Hynes coordinated the dogs' flights to Pittsfield via Maryland through Pilots N Paws, a nonprofit pairing rescues with pilots and plane owners.
This plane was piloted by Todd Workman, who has transported dozens of rescue dogs to their new owners.
"We are their forever home," said Mike Shinego, a 30-year Navy veteran who recently retired from Raytheon, a defense contracting company.
Julie and Abby will now live with the Shinegos, their two other rescue dogs, Molly and Buddy, and their four cats.
Since downsizing to a one-story home in Tiverton, R.I., one of the towns that doesn't limit the number of dogs in a residence, the couple built on a "dog room" with access to a fenced-in backyard and with its own bathtub and couches.
During the day, the dogs have the run of the full house, Betsy Shinego said. But when they leave, the dogs are relegated to the dog room and yard.
"There's a TV in there, too, because they like to watch baseball and hockey," Mike Shinego said.
"That's more about him," his wife clarified.
The dogs are frequently visited by the Shinegos' youngest daughter, Aimee, and their friends.
The sanctuary, now a registered nonprofit, is called Calypso. It stands for Carrie Lynn Pet Senior Older, the Shinegos said.
While the mission of giving senior dogs a happy end of life is rewarding, it also can come with sad days. One of the first dogs to arrive at Calypso 5 1/2 months ago, Teddy, later died from a preexisting illness.
"It was tough," Betsy Shinego said.
Still, that grief is incomparable to losing Tetro to her second bout with the cancer.
Tetro, who was married and had two stepchildren, Katie, now 18, and Bryson, now 15, first was diagnosed in 2011.
While it cleared for two years after a surgery, it returned via a lump in her arm in 2013.
By February 2014, it had spread to Tetro's chest and, by that September, to her liver and brain, Betsy Shinego said.
"That was a bad month, September 2014," Mike Shinego said.
Despite undergoing the same treatment that is credited for saving the life of Jimmy Carter, Tetro died Nov. 13, 2015.
"When my time comes, at the Pearly Gates I will have a big question," Mike Shinego said. "Why did you take a 31-year-old mother of two and let a 91-year-old man live?"
The Shinegos weren't the only family on the Pittsfield tarmac who have suffered the loss of a young woman.
Beth Doyle, wife of former Pittsfield Mayor Gerald Doyle, attended the welcome bash with her two sisters and neighbors.
The Doyles lost their 36-year-old daughter, Megan, in February. Megan Doyle worked with Hynes to rescue and place dogs in foster homes.
She had rescued Holly, a 9-year-old yellow Lab, with Hynes in August.
Now, Holly lives with the Doyles. Beth Doyle's sister, Missy, intends on rescuing two dogs through Hynes as well.
"She's an angel," Beth Doyle said of her rescue, with tears in her eyes, while the newest arrivals licked the faces of her great-niece and great-nephew.
"I am so grateful we have Holly right now."
Haven Orecchio-Egresitz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, @HavenEagle on Twitter and 413-770-6977.
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