“What greater gift than the love of a cat?” – Charles Dickens
After only knowing the walls and people of the Hancock County Humane Society for the first eight years of his life, Wylie finally went to his forever home this past winter. With only one eye, volunteers at the shelter were despairing that Hugo would be forgotten until a little girl walked through the door and stated matter-of-factly, “He needs me.” Neville, who a high-maintenance medical condition, would have been euthanized at most shelters, but through the help of a nationwide Facebook page, found an amazing adopter who flew all the way from Florida to give him a loving family for the remainder of his life.
These are just a few of the amazing stories from the Hancock County Humane Society. And there are so many more, thanks purely to donations, fundraisers and volunteers. Contrary to what the public might believe, the shelter does not receive any tax dollars, government funding or financial assistance from the Humane Society of the United States (with which they are not affiliated).
The Hancock County Humane Society is different than most shelters in the sense that they only have cats, although a few dogs have been rescued as strays and readied for adoption, too. They average between 30 and 40 cats in the shelter at one time, find homes for between 150 and 175 animals each year and assist approximately 300 families in finding their lost pets annually.
And it’s all accomplished through the support of the community, time of volunteers, success of fundraisers and the kindness of foster families.
“Our shelter is entirely run by volunteers,” says the shelter’s vice president of the Board of Directors, Heather White. “Everyone involved is there, in addition to all their other jobs and responsibilities, simply because they want to help animals. Every day, no matter what the weather, requires visits to keep the animals fed and the shelter clean, and separate visits once or twice a day to take care of animals who may be receiving medication or special nutrition for health conditions.”
“We also have teens giving up their Saturdays to volunteer and some even go on to vet tech programs or vet school,” White adds.
And for several of the special needs cases, such as FIV-positive felines, seniors in need of regular medications and orphaned kittens, these cats wouldn’t make it if it wasn’t for the foster families who are willing to open their hearts and homes to help.
“We have foster parents that bottle feed and care for sick kitties, giving up sleep and their time to get kitties well enough and socialized in order to be able to be adopted,” White says. “Sometimes fosters spend two to four months or even longer to make sure a kitty is ready for their forever home. They love them like their own, but know they have to let them move own so they can rescue the next kitty.”
One kitten’s adoption story especially sticks out in the memories of many volunteers.
“We had a kitten with a medical condition where his rib cage was growing inward instead of normally. Most shelters would have euthanized him, but we took him to various veterinarians and eventually found a vet at Purdue University’s veterinary hospital willing to perform the needed surgery,” White remembers.
“He had to return weekly to Purdue for adjustments until it was determined that his rib cage was growing properly and a volunteer fostered him and took him for those vet visits until his adoption. We raised funds to help cover the cost of the surgery and medical care and he was adopted by one of the Purdue vets that helped with his surgery and care.”
But as is the case with many animal shelters, what hits the volunteers the hardest is being unable to save every cat that is brought through their doors.
“The biggest heartbreak is that we can’t help EVERYONE who asks,” White laments. “We have limited space, volunteers, and resources, so sometimes it just isn’t possible… but never because we don’t want to.”
It’s also rough when, despite all the love and medical attention available, an animal passes on to the Rainbow Bridge.
“We do our best to save as many animals as we can, but sometimes even with all the proper care and treatment, we lose an animal. But we believe that we made the lost animal’s life a little better even if we couldn’t save them.”
Saving lives, healing hearts and sharing love is what the shelter is all about, but they need help from the public.
“If you, or someone you know, loves animals, consider becoming a volunteer… it doesn’t have to be a huge time commitment but every bit helps!” White says. “Sponsorships of certain cats and monetary donations are a big help, too, and help us spread the word about the fundraising events we run, or share our social media posts with your friends.”
And no one is too young to make a difference.
“You, your kids, or your community group, could run a supply drive so we don’t have to purchase the items we need most (there’s a donation “wish” list on our website),” White adds. “And, of course, encourage everyone to spay or neuter their pets!”
If you or someone you know are interested in helping the Hancock County Humane Society, please check out their website for ways to donate, whether it’s time or money, including their Amazon Wish List. You can also view their Facebook page to look into upcoming fundraisers and events as a way to support the shelter kitties of Hancock County.
What a purrfect way to make a difference!