If you saw those big liquid eyes and heard that perfect rock and roll voice in 1979 singing "Stillsane," you never forgot it. "Stillsane" was a rollicking, sax-driven, joyful tune about holding onto one's sanity in the face of adversity. Without the benefit of MTV (which started a few years later in 1981), Carolyne Mas came to the forefront during an era when a number of female rock artists seemed to be gaining purchase in the marketplace for the first time (Pat Benatar, Ellen Foley, and Ellen Shipley were some of the others). Though these artists' sounds were quite different, they were all lumped together by virtue of their sex and Mas' undeniable talent was given short shrift.
No overnight success herself, by 1979 Mas had spent several years honing her chops on the Greenwich Village scene. Lauded as "the female Springsteen" by a music industry that felt compelled to label everything rather than address it on its own merits, and plagued by a label (Mercury Records) that made grievous marketing mistakes with her material, she played her heart out to sold out crowds only to find that her records couldn't be found in the stores in the cities where she was playing.
"I began to feel emotionally depleted, and very unhappy about where my life was going. There was a nurturing aspect to my being that was not being expressed, and I was beginning to feel as if maybe I had chosen the wrong profession. I was not built to operate in such a competitive and ruthless business," says Carolyne today. And the spotlight moved on.
After a number of terrific and completely underrated independent releases in the 1980s and '90s, Mas put her career on the shelf and moved to Florida to take care of her Aunt Ana, a victim of Alzheimer's disease. She also adopted a son, Gabriel. She and her husband, Teddy, somehow found themselves providing a home for a number of cats, dogs, horses, and birds who had no place to go. Carolyne, a lifelong animal lover, was used to living with a variety of different living things: "My family always had cats and dogs as I was growing up. I often got in trouble for smuggling them into my bed after my parents went to sleep. I believed that animals deserved the same kind of love as people, even then."
Carolyne and Teddy bought a house in New Port Richey that had previously been a boarding and training facility for whippets. By this time they had 25 dogs and 33 cats. The day after they moved in, a neighbor told them the property was not zoned for the number of animals that they had and started a case against them for violation of zoning. They found a property 40 minutes away, in Brooksville, and mortgaged the New Port Richey house in order to pay for the new property. In 2006 they were given 30 days to move or the animals would be taken away from them. Carolyne's Aunt, whom she was still caring for at the time, was completely bed-ridden. Moving was expensive and complicated.
In order to defray some of the massive overhead that taking care of unwanted, elderly, and special needs animals was costing them, Carolyne started a non-profit called Our Animal Haus. As their website states, "Whether it be from foreclosures, divorces, mistakes, abuse, or just complete lack of knowledge, the results are always the same; the animals are the ones who suffer the most in the end because they have no place left to go...so we have let them come here."
Currently, they are caring for 45 dogs, 80 cats, 8 horses, one donkey, 50 birds, 2 ferrets, 3 bunnies, a few sugar-gliders, 2 cows, and one prairie dog. "We incorporated Our Animal Haus in May of 2008, in anticipation of applying for a 501(c)3 status, but whenever we got a few bucks together to apply, we either needed dog food or cat food or bird food...or people food."
After moving to Brooksville, Carolyne says:
Everything was great at first, but I had two mortgages, and the house in New Port Richey was hard to sell. When the housing bubble burst, I was stuck with that property which I now owed more on that it was worth.
They had to let go all of the paid help they had hired to assist with taking care of the animals except for one person. In an unforgiving, down economy, they're now faced with the very real possibility of losing both houses.
I don't care about the house in New Port Richey, but I do care about this house. I spent so much money building up this place, putting in the dog runs, building the cattery, putting in corals and special fencing for the horses, and making an enclosed climate-controlled area for the birds.
In order to stop foreclosure on the Brooksville house, they filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. "What I need really, is a benefactor, or an organization that would be willing to step in and help me. Maybe someone, or some animal organization could buy this house and let me stay here. I don't even care about whether I own anything or not...I care about the animals," Carolyne states unequivocally. "If I have to move, I am going to have to raise a lot of money to make it possible." Leaving the animals is, of course, not an option. They're as much her family as Teddy and Gabriel and her ailing mother. "Basically, I have no choice but to believe that miracles can happen."