- Last Updated on 09:17 AM 04/21/10
- BY BY LINDA MERCER/Special TO THE GAZETTE
(EDITOR’S NOTE: This week has been proclaimed as Volunteer Week in Virginia and the theme for National Volunteer Week is “Celebrating People in Action” such as the volunteers at the Halifax County Humane Society. In addition to the following feature story on volunteers at the local humane society, other special people who are working tirelessly to make a difference in this community are featured beginning on page C8.)
All work in rescue, care, placement and fundraising is done by volunteer members and friends of the society. There are no paid positions.
There isn’t even one building that they can call the center of the organization. All animals are sheltered at the homes of volunteer caregivers who give of their time to feed, water, clean and assure the health of the dogs and cats, pups and kittens which the society takes in.
“Fred and I love dogs, so we are glad to keep them here,” Mary Eanes said. “It’s very relaxing to come home and play with them after a long day,” said the high school teacher. “Fred is often followed by the puppies like the Pied Piper when he feeds them or cleans their areas.”
The Eanes have been fostering dogs and pups for over five years. Their home is but one of several which serve this necessary function.
Linda Jones and her husband, Harold, even adopted one of the rescued dogs. “He was pitiful when we got him, but he is the best dog ever now that we got him cleaned up and well-fed,” Linda said.
Essential to the work of the society is the volunteer who coordinates the rescue and placement of the animals. Kris Wagner does this for the dogs and puppies. Her job includes making sure the animals are healthy and have had basic shots and then finding places for them, either local homes or transportation to other areas which welcome them.
“I have sent or taken dogs and pups to Campbell County, Amherst County and New Jersey,” Wagner said. “Up north, they have much stricter spay/neuter laws than we do, so there is a demand for our animals.”
Recently, one dog found a loving owner all the way up in Massachusetts.
“I was so glad to know he found a home,” Wagner said, “because he had been waiting several months for the right placement.”
Being the coordinator for this activity means Wagner cares for dogs on her family’s property as well as assigns others to other foster homes, communicates with rescue organizations in several states, and often is up at 4 a.m. to begin a transport of animals to their new homes. All this is in addition to doing her at-home telecommuting job.
She was the person who organized a rotating schedule of volunteer drivers so the pain of early weekend mornings was spread around. The person who worked on dog placement before her, Sarah Humber, was often on the road north nearly every weekend during the months when there were lots of puppies and dogs to deliver.
“It was so demanding,” Humber said. “I was tired for days the next week and then had to do it again every Saturday.”
On the feline side of the story, Faye Michaud is the head of cat and kitten care for the Humane Society.
“I love cats and keep the kittens in my house until they are big enough to go into the kennels,” she said. Often Michaud has had to feed tiny kittens every two hours, 24 / 7 to keep them alive.
Animal lovers, Michaud and her husband, Robert, have shelters at their home for cats, kittens, horses, goats and other critters.
“It’s like Noah’s Ark,” she said. “When I come home from work, all the animals rush to the fence and want attention.”
Then she has to clean areas, feed and water the animals before her day is done.
In addition to rescuing cats and kittens, Michaud is a member of the society’s board of directors and coordinates the adoptathons at which the society presents animals to the public for adoption.
“It’s a lot of work to set up the tent and bring the animals to the site, but if we can find them homes, it’s worth it,” she said.
A volunteer who often helps with the adoptathons is society Treasurer Cheryl Watts. In addition to her career as a sign designer and painter, Watts keeps up with the society’s budget and fundraisers, which along with donations are the only funding the society has for its rescue and placement mission.
“Keeping the books has made me vitally aware of how much the Humane Society does with so little income,” she said. “The profit from our annual yard sale barely carries us through the summer.”
In addition, Watts has reported to the board of supervisors on the society’s achievements which means the county has had to spend less.
“We rescued and placed over 600 animals in each of the last five years. Many of them come from the county animal control. When we take them, the county doesn’t have to care for them. That’s a savings to the county,” Watts said.
The cause that is dear to Watts’ heart is spay / neuter.
“If only owners would spay or neuter their animals, we would not have so many puppies and kittens that need care and homes,” she said.
It saddens her when the society does not have enough money to rescue all the animals that need it.
While Humane Society volunteers go about the daily animal work, the society is grateful for those who support it with donations of food, supplies and funds to keep things going from month to month.
Supporters include those who donate funds or time or both.
Pat McGown spent several hours at the A&N storefront to receive donations for the upcoming yard sale.
“I belong to the Humane Society because I like animals, and there is a major need in the county to help them,” McGown said “The Humane Society really cares and actually saves animals’ lives--they make a difference.”
Dot and Hop Meeler support the society as well.
“A lot of us need their support with animals as they need ours so it works out. It’s a nice trade off,” Dot said. The Meelers adopted a beagle from the society and had her for 10 years.
Tomoko Gillespie donates regularly to the society.
“I don’t want to see animal abuse. All animals deserve good care, and the Humane Society cares,” she said.
“I wish more residents of Halifax County would become active in the society’s events and daily routine,” said Secretary Linda Mercer. “While we are so appreciative of those who donate to us, we really need more foster homes and workers at our various events. Adoptathons, bake sales, booths at county festivals, etc. take time and effort and we have such a small group of active members right now that the same few keep having to do all of it. More active members would make the burden so much lighter.”
Anyone who wants to help the animals can attend the monthly meeting of the Halifax County Humane Society that meets at 6:30 p.m. at the South Boston Police Dept. building on Hamilton Blvd. on the last Thursday of each month (except Nov.)
Those who have donations, questions, or would like to become foster homes can call the society’s toll free number — 866-553-7365 — and leave a message in the appropriate voice mailbox or write to Halifax County Humane Society, PO Box 969, South Boston, VA 24592.