Rosecroft Raceway Cats Find New Homes With a Little Help From Some Friends
The King Street Blue Grass band is hoping to raise money to pay for the cat-rescue adventure
Nancy Lisi doesn’t necessarily consider herself a cat lover, but for a group of orphaned felines she became a lifeline. Last fall she helped locate homes for the more than 100 cats living at the shuttered Rosecroft Raceway in a month’s time.
“This was an effort by what we dubbed the ‘cat cooperative,’" said Lisi, an Alexandria resident.
Their ‘cooperative’ began when Rosecroft Raceway in Maryland closed last summer. Because of the financial troubles of the racetrack’s now bankrupt owner, Cloverleaf Enterprises Inc., the horsemen and horsewomen were told they had to leave the racetrack. The cats, it seemed, would also have to find a new place to call home.
In early September, Lisi said she received a frantic call that the CEI had issued a three-day ultimatum to remove the remaining cats. Lisi acted swiftly. She posted the news on Facebook to spread the word that more than 100 felines needed a caretaker. The response was immediate. Offers from strangers to adopt the cats began to pour in.
In the meantime, Lisi and friends also managed to extend the time they had to remove the cats. A representative from Cloverleaf Enterprises says there was never a time limit to get rid of the cats, but acknowledged Lisi’s group’s prominent role in finding the cats homes and Cloverleaf’s inability to care for them long term.
So Lisi, along with Cat Tails, Alley Cat Rescue and other horse folk, helped place the cats in homes throughout Maryland, the District of Columbia, Virginia—and even Delaware—in a month’s time.
Even the mean old tomcat who once called the Rosecraft Raceway dumpster site his turf has adapted to domestic life, Lisi said. He was the second-to-last cat to find a family of the nearly 110 cats that remained at the track in September.
Lisi, who was the primary cat transporter, credits Cat Tails President Joy Purnell with “cracking the whip” to make sure cat-rescue tasks happened according to schedule. After all, their team had to trap the cats safely, take them to local vet appointments and deliver them to people’s homes all in a month’s time.
“I must have spent $1,000 on gas driving cats to Maryland, Delaware—returning traps--I felt like I had a full-time job,” Lisi said.
Lisi’s time and money was donated. Other horsemen — from Rosecroft and elsewhere — also made “generous contributions,” to their cause, she said. Cat Tails, however, accumulated an approximate $7,500 debt that Lisi wants to see paid off.
To that end, she and her band, King Street Bluegrass (KSB), have collected about $1,300 for Cat Tails as of last week. The group stages a regular “Cat Jam” at Telegraph Station on Thursdays. Tips go to Cat Tails.
They began busking on King Street in Old Town about three years ago. KSB also plays at the Georgetown Farmers Market. Other notable gigs include opening for nationally-known-bluegrass stars Bobby Osborne and Dry Branch Fire Squad and playing the exclusive Metropolitan Club for the Ambassador to Sweden, Matthew Barzun.
In addition to playing with the King Street Blue Grass Band, Lisi has lived in the Alexandria area for years, putting two children through West Potomac High School.
Lisi sings, plays guitar and upright bass with KSB, and “dabbles with a little claw hammer banjo on a few tunes.” She taught herself how to play guitar as a child living in Pennsylvania. It was also about this time that her father bought her first horse.
Lisi spent 35 years at Rosecraft Raceway, first as a groom, and later as a trainer and harness driver. She said the cats had become a fixture at the track, acting as pets to the horsemen and ridding the stables of mice.
“Each cat had its own story and a different situation,” said Lisi.