“Some people talk to animals. Not many listen though. That’s the problem.” ― A.A. Milne
When you think of an animal shelter, so many images probably come to mind. Maybe you think of the ASPCA commercials with the sad music (which is when I always change the channel because it’s so depressing). Perhaps you think of dark, dirty cages where sad dogs and cats stare hopefully through the wires. Or maybe you don’t think of an animal shelter in such bleak terms, but it’s still probably not a happy mental picture.
The good people at the Shelbyville/Shelby County Animal Shelter want to make sure you know that’s not how it is for their dogs and cats. Far from it.
“Our pets are here at the animal shelter until they are adopted, no matter how long it takes,” says administrator Chris Browder. “Our dogs are walked six days a week on our wooded trails and they can go inside and outside their kennels. Our cats are held, brushed and able to run around their enclosure first thing in the morning.”
But it’s not just the happy pets that make the difference in the atmosphere at the shelter. Department head Keith Barrett has been at the job for 14 years and puts in plenty of his own personal time to keep the facility and the grounds in top-notch shape, working on the landscaping, building a waterfall and improving the areas where the animals exercise.
And Barrett isn’t just meticulous with keeping the facility clean, he also has a big heart for all the animals in his care. “Each day he spends time with every dog and cat,” Browder adds.
The Shelbyville/Shelby County Animal Shelter has also taken part in amazing partnership the past 11 years with the Vet Tech program through International Business College. Animals are pulled from the shelter so that the students working toward their degrees can learn about spaying and neutering, giving vaccinations, taking x-rays and other veterinary procedures.
“Because of the vetting, Vet Tech has found bullets in our pets that we would have never known about, diagnosed leukemia, and found tumors, even in eyes, where the eye has had to be removed,” Browder says. “This is done at no cost to the shelter or the person who eventually adopts the pets. It is a wonderful partnership as these pets get a clean bill of health and about half of the pets are adopted from Vet Tech. If they aren’t adopted, they return to our shelter turnkey ready.”
But there are definitely challenges working in an animal shelter … and heartbreak.
“It’s hard to know when people are telling the truth,” Browder says. “People bring in a dog claiming it’s a stray, yet you find pictures of the dog on their Facebook page. Or what’s even harder is telling a family that calls in looking for their dog that it’s been brought in deceased because it’s been hit by a car.”
Another difficult aspect is failed microchipping. Browder says it’s so hard trying to reunite lost pets with their owners when the microchip hasn’t been updated or the dog has been passed from owner to owner. “We have gotten dogs at our shelter in Shelbyville with microchips from Florida, California, Montana … you name it.”
There are heartwarming stories, too … the kind of stories that make the job so special and make the workers and volunteers keep coming back.
“An elderly woman came into the shelter for almost two years with her nephews trying to find the right dog. One day a stray black lab mix I named Lydia came to the shelter with the demeanor and personality that I knew would be the right fit,” Browder recalls. “The sweet woman came in and met Lydia and it was love at first sight.”
Some memories are tinged with sadness, but there can always be a silver lining found.
“When a family from Cincinnati brought their beloved Golden Retriever to the shelter to be euthanized due to failing health, they were so distraught and didn’t think they would ever want to have another dog,” Browder remembers. “When they returned to the shelter to pick up their ashes and urn, they saw a Golden Retriever at our shelter that was a stray and they just knew.”
But she wasn’t available for adoption and was still on her stray hold, so the heartbroken family wasn’t able to adopt that day. The family was so determined to give the stray Golden her forever home that they spent the night in the parking lot so she could be adopted first thing in the morning.
So the next time you picture an animal shelter, think of the love and care the animals receive at the Shelbyville/Shelby County Animal Shelter. But if your local shelter falls short, never fear … it’s never too late to start making a difference.
“One person can make a difference, and every person should try.”
― Thomas Cronin
*Many animals at the shelter have had their fees waived due to the partnership with Vet Tech, so please check out their Petfinder site and see if you have room in your heart to give one of these precious creatures their forever home. If you can’t adopt, please consider donating your time or resources to the shelter … there is always a kitty that needs cuddled or a dog looking for a long walk with a friend!*