Deep River, Connecticut - Friday, January 17, 2020: Allison Sloane, owner of the florist shop Ashleigh's Garden in Deep River where she houses rescued parrots, and exotic reptiles. The Pandemonium Thrift Store next door was opened to raise money for the rescue and rehabilitation of parrots, reptiles and other exotic animals.

Deep River, Connecticut - Friday, January 17, 2020: Allison Sloane, owner of the florist shop Ashleigh's Garden in Deep River where she houses rescued parrots, and exotic reptiles. The Pandemonium Thrift Store

Deep River, Connecticut - Friday, January 17, 2020: Allison Sloane, owner of the florist shop Ashleigh's Garden in Deep River where she houses rescued parrots, and exotic reptiles. The Pandemonium Thrift Store next door was opened to raise money for the rescue and rehabilitation of parrots, reptiles and other exotic animals.

Deep River, Connecticut - Friday, January 17, 2020: Allison Sloane, owner of the florist shop Ashleigh's Garden in Deep River where she houses rescued parrots, and exotic reptiles. The Pandemonium Thrift Store

DEEP RIVER — The greeters patiently wait inside the front door with their big brown eyes and wet noses barely reaching over the wooden gate.

There’s 3-year-old Sam, his black furry face barely showing and 7-year-old Winter, with a black and tan coat — he’s bigger and taller and able to comfortably rest his chin on the gate.

Once inside, the cacophony of parrots talking fills the air and it becomes obvious that this is no ordinary flower shop. With the American Akita dogs at the door and Willow, a 3-year-old cat, Humphrey, a 20-pound African spurred tortoise and a “pandemonium” of parrots freely roaming, it is a haven for animal lovers.



“We have 36 rescued, abused parrots now,” she says. “I have a designated reptile room at home and that’s where the reptiles live and the parrots are in a sanctuary out back.”

The animals that reside here have been rescued from abuse and neglect, euthanasia and from crack houses. They are taken in, cared for and loved by Sloane and her staff.

Proceeds from this 25-year-old flower shop have long supported the animals’ rehabilitation, yet as their numbers and needs grow, so do the bills. That is where Pandemonium Thrift Shop comes in.

Pandemonium, which literally means a group of parrots, is an apt name for the shop. All proceeds from the thrift shop go directly to the care of the animals through Pandemonium Rainforest Project, Inc.

The nonprofit organization not only rescues and rehabilitates vulnerable animals, it supports outreach programs to educate the public about the proper care of the exotic creatures.

The 10-room thrift shop, right next door to Ashleigh’s Garden, is stocked with gently-used books, clothes, toys, electronics, furniture, household items and jewelry.

Sloane’s hope is that the store will enable her to raise enough money to build a facility where the public can visit all her rescued critters.

“We’re saving lives through recycling,” she stresses, “and saving the landfill and it’s so important to me. It just can’t keep going, we only have one planet.”

Melissa Yumbla, who was dropping off donations with her daughters, Giselle, 5 and Sophia, 8, stopped in to visit the animals.

“It’s incredible,” she says. “I think it’s just such a great cause because I’m an animal lover,” says the Chester resident.

Marshmallow joined the family after Sloane participated in a ride-along with a local police department. The bird was left homeless when its owner was arrested and jailed.

This Moluccan cockatoo, with its salmon-colored crest rising above its pink feathers, is talkative and prone to biting if not handled carefully.

“It’s going to take us a long time to work with him to get him to the point where he’s comfortable stepping out and coming out for people before we begin to look for a home for him,” she says.

Standing next to Marshmallow’s tall cage, Sloane tears up as she talks about the effect of the Australian wildfires on the local animals.

“…I have cockatoos from Australia and I have emus from Australia and they’re a flock of these guys in a tree,” she says, pointing to Marshmallow. “It just kills me.”

Sitting atop her cage surrounded by flowers, greeting cards and jewelry, the bird greets and talks to customers. With her pure white feathers, perfectly groomed, this Eleonora cockatoo proudly displays her yellow crest atop her tuft.

For Karen Wolff, Ashleigh’s Garden manager for the past 13 years, having the animals around makes her job interesting.

“It could be the craziest Valentine’s Day ever and then there’s a bird singing to me a Judy Garland song from back in the day,” she says. “So, how can I be rushed and feel nervous, or anything, because these animals are ridiculous. They ground you.”

A back room is reserved for 30 parrots. With the door closed to visitors, it is quiet and peaceful - that is until Sloane enters.

Then the talk begins and all the parrots start talking louder and faster, clamoring to be heard above their neighbors.

“Excuse you, very rude,” says Sloane, as Olive interrupts the conversation with her prattle. The blue-and-gold macaw arrived at the sanctuary as an alcoholic.

“Usually when you come in here, you can’t even hear them because they’re part of a flock,” she says. “You don’t even know they’re there.

“All birds are flock animals and so because they have each other, they’ll quiet down now,” she adds. “It’s just mommy; mommy wasn’t giving them the attention they wanted.”

It wasn’t until she was older that Sloane realized her calling was to care for those animals that have no one to care for them.

“We have actual state places that will take cats and dogs, but not parrots and reptiles,” she says. “And there are the exotics. People just go and buy them — they don’t even think about it. They live so much longer than dogs and cats.”

Sloane has always had an affinity for animals in need. As a youngster , she recalls bringing rescued animals’ home.

“I grew up in Lyme and then Essex…I had a horse and we would go, my horse and I, would just ride and you find animals, you find injured things,” she recalls.

This led to working with local vets, in particular the late Higganum Veterinary Clinic’s Rick Jacobs. She learned firsthand about the care of reptiles and “taking care of them properly.”

“We will rehabilitate her,” says Sloane, confidently. “Unfortunately, she didn’t have the proper heating, so she’s in what we call brumation, so she goes into a partial hibernation.

Just hours after arriving, the newest member of Ashleigh’s Garden family was sitting in the glass case, perched upon a log with wide eyes and eating two worms.

When animals are brought into Sloane’s sanctuary, they are signed over to her, never to be returned to their owners.

“We have them sign it over and release it because they’re not a fit home, as far as I’m concerned,” she says.

Every visitor to Ashleigh’s Garden and Pandemonium Thrift Shop walks away educated about the Pandemonium Rainforest Project.

“When we explain that we’re a full service florist and our profits go towards rescue and rehabilitation of their animals and they’re an animal person, they love it and they come back because we have the best flowers and we work very, very hard on all of our floral stuff, but they know that we have a big heart,” Sloane says.

Pandemonium Thrift Shop and Ashleigh’s Garden, 500 Main St., Deep River, 860-767-2889; Facebook Thrift Shop - Pandemonium Rainforest Project and Ashleigh’s Garden; ashleighsgarden.com

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