Q&A: Alexis Dexter Rescued 57 Shelter Cats During the July Flood | Stuck in Vermont | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Q&A: Alexis Dexter Rescued 57 Shelter Cats During the July Flood 

Published September 13, 2023 at 10:00 a.m. | Updated September 13, 2023 at 10:12 a.m.

Alexis Dexter opened Forget-Me-Not Flowers and Gifts in 2016 on a busy corner in downtown Barre. In 2020, she started Kitty Korner Café, Vermont's first — and only — kitty café, next door. Guests can visit the café, play with the resident felines and even adopt them. Cats are transported from the southern U.S., and more than 750 have found "furever" homes since the café opened. After making it through the pandemic, both popular spots were a big part of Barre's revitalization.

There were 57 rescue cats in the café lounge on July 10, when it began to rain hard across the state. Downtown Barre was deluged, leading to unprecedented flooding. As water crept up outside the shop doors on North Main Street, Dexter and her boyfriend, Logan Wells, moved the terrified cats into carriers and placed them up high. The floodwaters rose so quickly that it was impossible to evacuate the cats to another location.

When water poured through the closed doors and began to inundate both shops, Dexter acted quickly. She used a screwdriver and a hammer to make two holes in the floor, diverting the water to the 7-foot-tall basement and saving the kitties. Once the floodwaters receded, the cats were relocated to foster homes within four hours.

Dexter went viral in the national media after her story got out — but her basement was filled with water. She lost a brand-new washer and dryer, an HVAC system, hot-water heaters, an electric panel, and thousands of dollars' worth of supplies for the cats. A leak from her neighbor's space spilled diesel oil into her basement, which required hazardous materials remediation. Both businesses had significant water damage and black mold. Dexter started a GoFundMe campaign for the cat shelter and raised over $22,000. She has been working with volunteers to rebuild the space and estimates that she has spent about $55,000 so far. The flower shop never shut down; Dexter filled three orders for funerals on July 11, the day after the flooding.

Dexter has help at the two shops from her mom, Jo-Ann Dexter; her grandmother Maggie Dexter; and Linda Bedard. The women entertain each other while making bouquets and hand-feeding newborn kittens. Seven Days senior multimedia producer Eva Sollberger filmed a "Stuck in Vermont" episode about the café in 2021 and visited the Dexters again on a recent afternoon to see the work in progress — and get a kitty fix from the 27 felines who have returned to the café. Dexter hopes to reopen soon and needs volunteers, supplies and donations. Follow her social media and GoFundMe campaign for updates.

Sollberger spoke with Seven Days about filming the episode.

Why did you return to the café?

I loved meeting Alexis and her menagerie of kitties in 2021. When the flooding happened, I was watching anxiously on social media to see if they were OK. She was posting about the traumatic experience, and I was so relieved to hear that the kitties were safe. It sounded like the plot of an action movie, and Alexis was definitely the star. I am so glad that donations poured in after that harrowing night.

Downtown Barre looks pretty good post-flood.

It really does! When I filmed this, it was almost two months since the heavy rainstorm decimated downtown businesses. Most of them are open again, and the main drag is cleaned up. It's nothing like the desolate images of streets filled with mud and muck that I saw online after the flood.

But as Alexis' mother, Jo-Ann, pointed out, even if things look normal, there is a lot of work going on behind the scenes to get through this very difficult time. The Dexters have been incredibly busy with renovations and relocating everything from the basement to the upstairs. Both Alexis and Jo-Ann asked people not to forget about everyone affected by this flood and to shop locally and support small businesses to help them get through this recovery period. There are a ton of ways to contribute, whether through volunteering, shopping or buying a Kitty Korner Café T-shirt for $25.

What was it like being in the lounge with 27 kitties?

Cute overload! I was absolutely overwhelmed and surrounded by fuzzy sweetness. Alexis introduced me to a new phrase: "cute aggression." It is when you want to squeeze and attack cute things. The kitties were in heaven because Alexis sat still for my interview and they got a ton of her attention. Usually she is dashing around changing litter, feeding cats and making flower bouquets.

In the midst of this intense renovation work, Alexis managed to make room for a transport of 15 cats and is caring for two litters of newborns, one of which requires hand-feeding. The adolescent kitties are little balls of energy; different fuzzballs were teething on my headphone cords, climbing me and swatting at my iPhone. A tiny tiger kitten named Forest spent most of the interview snoozing in my lap. It was definitely distracting and totally adorable.

When will the cat café reopen?

That is the big question. People often stopped outside to look in the windows at the kitties. The flower shop never closed, but Alexis is not sure when the café will reopen. It has to pass inspection and is currently short-staffed. Alexis is still accepting adoption applications and trying to find "furever" homes for the cats.

Those kittens were pretty cute.

I have two geriatric cats at home, so it was a big switch to be around this swirl of frantic kitten energy. So many of them are young and adorable and will probably find homes quickly. But the older cats always pull at my heartstrings. There was a fluffy black cat named Mohawk who is a bit timid after surviving the scary night of the flood in a kitty carrier. These more mature cats still have tons of love to give, and I hope they'll find families soon.

The original print version of this article was headlined "Nine Lives | Alexis Dexter rescued 57 shelter cats during the July flood"


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About The Author

Eva Sollberger

Eva Sollberger

Seven Days senior multimedia producer Eva Sollberger has been making her award-winning video series, "Stuck in Vermont," since 2007. New episodes appear on the Seven Days website every other Thursday and air the following night on the WCAX evening news. Sign up at sevendaysvt.com to receive an email alert each time a new one drops. And check these pages every other week for insights on the episodes.

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