Dori Scofield wanted her new house to be more than just a building. She felt it should be a memorial to the beloved pets she lost in a tragic fire that destroyed her family's old home.
That's why Scofield and her family, who moved into their house in time for the holidays after 16 months of living in a cramped double-wide trailer, have nicknamed the Stony Brook home "Halo Farms."
A stone near the front door, bearing a picture of a dog and a cat with halos, is a reminder that the seven dogs and four cats who died in the fire will never be forgotten, she said.
The house is on the same piece of land where the Scofields' home burned to the ground on Aug. 5, 2008. Only the pets were home at the time.
"Part of the reason I didn't want to move was because the property meant a lot to me," she said, "and because of all my animals."
Scofield is the president and founder of Save-A-Pet Animal Rescue, a 15-year-old animal shelter in Port Jefferson Station, and a lifelong animal lover. Investigators said last year that the fast-moving fire that consumed Scofield's house was electrical in nature.
Scofield's husband, Gary, and daughters Cassie and Christina, the younger of the couple's four children, live together in the new house with 21 pets, including dogs, cats, rabbits, a stable of four horses and a chicken.
Financing the 5,000-square-foot house wasn't easy. Gary, an actuary who planned to retire, had to keep working, and the Scofields had to use insurance money and dig into their savings to afford the approximately $500,000 construction job, Dori Scofield said. The new home is about 1,000 square feet larger than the old house and includes an apartment for Scofield's 86-year-old mother, Scofield said.
Daughter Cassie said she's glad to be back in a home big enough for the family's animals, and she thinks they could fit more.
"This is nothing," she said.
Scofield said she was especially devastated by the death of Gianni, a cane corso dog she called "my soul mate, my co-pilot and my best friend," in the blaze.
The residents of the new house include a new pair of rescued cane corsos, Scofield's favorite breed of dog, a new Chihuahua and eight cats that survived the fire. Two of the cats - Baby Lindy and Baby Baby Baby - were missing and presumed dead but emerged a few days later.
A shelf near the front door of the new home includes the ashes of four of the dogs that died in the fire, including Gianni. "I will never get over losing my animals," she said. "But it's a nice, big house where I can take in more animals."