Sitting around a large table, in Mountain Aire Veterinarian Hospital, with Dr. Diane, Mr. and Mrs. Brimble, Candace and others, seemed to me to be a great place to begin to bring reality to the dream of building an Animal Shelter for lost and abandoned animals. The year was 1999.
Fast forward to the completion of Shelter On The Hill: A Humane Society, although officially not open, and the "dropping off" of nine large breed, five week old puppies, the need for this facility was written in concrete. That very concrete the Shelter was built on.
I have owned and been owned by, cats and kittens since I was a child. My Mom was very good about allowing me to keep the felines that "followed me home". She also made me responsible for their welfare. That fact alone kept the number to a minimum.
Volunteering in the SOTH Cattery is a never ending source of learning, experience, laughter and being close with other feline enthusiast. And, all of the dedicated Volunteers, in my opinion, set compassion for animals up to a new level.
From the beginning, my husband, Horst, worked by my side doing whatever needed to be done. Anything from computer mailing lists for our fledging Newsletter to putting up and taking down tents at events to taking pictures of our annual Wine and Cheese fundraiser and much more. He would set up little forts in our living room for kittens needing socialization. Then watch our Uncle Fritz black cat, as he worked with the kittens. (Fritz was an alumni of SOTH).
We currently have three cats and one dog, all rescues.
Robin Thompson and John Burnham
It was an unseasonably hot Saturday morning in September when the contractor for SOTH's Animal Care Center stopped by to check on a construction issue. The interior of the shelter was complete but there were still a number of outside issue that were waiting for county approval before an official opening. But at the front door our contractor found a dilapidated cardboard box, stained and stinky with feces, containing nine 5-week old puppies - and the call went out for help! Robin was there that afternoon and has been volunteering (along with husband John) one or more shifts every week since that fateful day. Here's Robin's recollection:
It all started around Sept/Oct. 2013 when John received a phone call from Candace wanting to know if I wanted to volunteer at SOTH. They just had nine puppies dropped off at the doorstep. John told Candace that I could volunteer, but that I couldn't bring any puppies home. At that time of year it was getting dark early, so I asked John to accompany me. John couldn't just sit there, so he started helping me. We have been volunteering ever since. Of course, I fell in love with the puppies and wanted one. John new he couldn't win this one, so we picked out #7, because of her floppy ears. Over Thanksgiving we brought her home for a trial to make sure she would get along with a cat that I already owned. We named her Koko. However, I wanted a lap dog. When we took her to the vet for her first checkup, we were told that she would be around 50 to 60l bs. I said "well, so much for a lap dog."
Then comes Tue. Now I work in the cattery at SOTH and this kitten came in that looked just like my cat at home that was a rescue, also. SOTH still wasn't open yet. I told John that Trudy needs a companion, because we are always going away. Needless to say, I talked John into having another cat. Since we brought her home on Tuesday, we decided on Tue.
After all this, I still wanted a lap dog. Sadie was at the shelter for 5 weeks before I could talk John into letting me bring her home. Every time we were at the shelter I would hold her and play with her. One day we were getting ready to leave and John said "you can bring her home for a trial only." Well, the rest is history.
Koko and Sadie are greatly involved in our lives. We take them everywhere from riding ATV and Side by sides to riding wave runners (jet skis). It seems that every where we take them, people are always stopping us to take pictures of them.
The rewards we have received from adopting our animals from the shelter are great, but we are also blessed with the volunteers we work with.
That being said, our family now consists of 2 dogs, 2 cats, 2 chickens and 2 tortoises.
Robin & John
In a long and varied career, the most satisfying thing I've ever done may well be working at Shelter on the Hill. Actually, it's more like playing. I spend time with our guests petting, talking, scratching helping to socialize these little lost souls for their eventual adoption into a furever home. Each of these creatures has a story, mostly sad when they come to us.
Take Felipe. Someone he trusted dumped him out of a car in a motel parking lot, where he ran around in terror for two days. Fortunately, he did not wander off to wild dangers nearby. The desk clerk phoned Shelter on the Hill. A volunteer went and sat on the hot pavement with the dog, talking softly, gradually scooting closer and closer. Until he calmed and gave in to hope.
As usual, at the Shelter he was examined and bathed, got two square meals a day and a safe comfy bed to calm down. Volunteers (by the way, we always need them) talked to him, fed him treats. He and I became fast friends over time, so that he'd stand up on my arrival. We cuddled and talked and he awarded me licks. Can you imagine seeing happy recognition in his eyes every time? When potential families would come, however, Felipe hid in the corner. So, he languished unadopted for some months. Then, one day a couple saw him bounding around the play yard. wrestling with pals. Within days, Felipe had joined the couple and their other two dogs. He now lives in a grand house on the water in Washington where he has a favorite couch and his own life jacket for boat rides, the result of hours of dedication by numerous Shelter volunteers.
Some people have told me they couldn't work with shelter dogs and cats because they'd want to adopt them all. Kind words I too may have used once. But they're a cop-out. Do you refrain from dropping money in the Salvation Army kettle because the need continues and that bell-ringing Santa will return next year? No one can fix everything.
But individually we each can make a small difference. Besides volunteering, any Shelter could use help, including donations of time, select foods, clean towels and blankets, bleach. Even a few dollars to help with vet bills. For your nearest shelter, just Google "pet rescue" with your Zip.
I've had shelter dogs all my life and, yes, I adopted another from SOTH. But I never knew the satisfaction -- actually, joy is a better word -- that comes from sitting with a terrified newly-abandoned soul shaking uncontrollably. In a short time of touching and talking, the trembling stops. Then, the sniffing begins, sensing my dogs and then, of course, the pocket holding treats. Soon, we're scratching and cuddling and slowly over time with the help of many volunteers their trust in people begins to return in preparation for the individual or family that doesn't yet know it is destined to soon fall in love. The best compliment is when they fall asleep there.
With Felipe graduated, now my next favorite guest was Manny. He suddenly appeared in the headlights in the middle of a dirt road in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere. The driver stopped and said, "Come here, little man." Hence, the name. Frankly, I do not want to know how Manny lost teeth on the left side of his mouth. What I do want to know is where he best loves scratches (on the side of his jaw).
And to see that unleashed happiness when his eyes close and tongue hangs out. I also don't mind the arrival licks. And Manny burying his head under my arm. Stories like this are numerous.
I grew up in farm country around all kinds of animals--dogs, cats, a horse. My father's rule was, You don't get breakfast until each of them has theirs. There's a comforting rhythm to life around pets. Science, in fact, finds people with such companions actually live longer. I think people like dogs and cats because of their unconditional love. The first time I picked up our Shelter Jamie from the groomer, she said, "He's a rescue, isn't he?" I said yes. How can you tell? She said, rescue dogs are always more appreciative of attention. Aren't we all? Doesn't everyone need rescuing at some point? What amazes me every time though is how quickly, despite all their hardships, abuse, disappointments, even pains, the love in these creatures can be teased back out simply by soft touches and voices. And patience.
They teach me a lot. I get back from them so much more peace and happiness than I could ever give. And that's by far the best form of payment for any volunteer.
Mia came to Shelter on the Hill in May, frightened and excruciatingly thin with open wounds on her ears and tail but still extraordinarily affectionate and anxious to please. She quickly learned to sit, wait, and walk well on a leash. After adopting a shelter dog called Simone three years ago, Bianca Manicelli, her father Ernesto have been volunteering regularly at the Animal Care Center in Lebec. Recently they began to talk with the other volunteers about Mia exhibiting more and more stressed behavior from living in kennels.
Watching Mia as her stress-related behaviors intensified. they determined to help Mia regain her confidence and one night without warning their dog Simone - they took Mia home. As Ernesto put it Simone "growled and grumbled for about half an hour" but then accepted the newcomer. That night the two dogs slept together next to daughter Bianca's bed.
Of their fostering experience with Mia mom Mariana Manicelli said, "We love having her so much; she's so sweet and gentle. She's always happy to cuddle, play, or nap! She has fit in the family perfectly; we love fostering her and I hope she will soon find a forever home that loves her as much as we do." The Manicellis opened their hearts and their home to Mia, giving her the reassurance she needs to be happy until she can find a permanent home.
As wonderful as this is, it is only a temporary solution. Mia will be great companion dog, and she is seeking her forever home. Are you that family? Could you be that family? We are awaiting your call!
Without caring people like Ernesto, Bianca and Mariana Manicelli, Shelter on the Hill couldn't accomplish what it has. We can't thank the Manicelli family enough for giving Mia this chance and we can't thank all of our Shelter on the Hill volunteers enough for their efforts and commitment which has saved hundreds of lost and abandoned pets over the last few years. To all our volunteers, please know you are loved back.