Just before Christmas, the Lincoln County Humane Society received a call from a pet owner who seemed desperate to reduce the number of dogs in the home. Our staff was originally asked to accept 20 dogs that the owner could no longer care for. As the conversation continued, our staff requested to visit the home prior to accepting the dogs, in order to gain a better understanding of what was being asked of us.
As we arrived at the rural home, it was clear there were many more than the 25 dogs we were told resided in the home. The couple told us they were being evicted and had no place to go with the dogs. As the day settled into evening, it became clear that these dogs were in need of a place to go immediately.
Our staff and volunteers debated how we could help that many dogs. Would we have the space in our kennels? Or the supplies to care for that many unexpected dogs and puppies? The choice was clear – we had to help because there was no other option. We would make it work somehow.
It was almost midnight when the new tenants settled in at the shelter. Each dog had a warm blanket, fresh food and water, and toys. A tally of the dogs told us 57 had been surrendered to LCHS with more to come because one female was expecting a litter of puppies at any moment. Our staff and volunteer core prepared for a difficult and exhausting week, with no idea what would happen next.
As I arrived at the shelter the morning after the 57 dogs and puppies were brought in, the scene brought tears to my eyes. I could not believe the amount of volunteers who had come forward to help. There were people everywhere – washing dishes, doing laundry, bathing and feeding animals. The support of these volunteers throughout the rest of the week made it possible for us to provide a safe, clean environment for all of the animals in our care. Volunteers arrived faithfully every morning, entire families coming to help, even on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Our staff arrived at any time they were needed, changing their holiday plans and staying longer than expected in order to put the needs of the animals first. We cannot thank these individuals enough. Their hard work helped to speed up the process of adopting the dogs into new families and showed the true meaning of the Christmas spirit by putting the needs of others before their own. The dogs that would have spent a lonely night in a kennel were walked, played with, and began to learn to trust again. Some of the dogs seemed truly shocked by toys, almost like they had never seen any before.
The amount of volunteers was only exceeded by the incredible amount of donations. Supplies came pouring in, even requiring an adjustment to our storage unit in order to fit everything. Monetary donations were sent to help with medical expenses and a number of local stores reported selling out of pet supplies since so many things were purchased for the dogs of LCHS. The shelter lobby was so full of donations that small paths were arranged in order to allow people to move through the building. A situation that could have drained all of our emergency funds quickly became a reminder about the generosity of our community, as well as surrounding communities, and the incredible people who made this situation a positive one rather than a negative.
Two of our long term residents, two pit bulls with no prospects and no one interested in adopting, quickly showed their increasing stress levels with the amount of activity and additional dogs at the shelter. Thankfully, a volunteer stepped forward to foster them and ended up adopting them! Since many of the 57 dogs were small enough to stay in our larger cat kennels, many individuals came forward to foster and adopt cats. One of the most dedicated volunteers became so interested in the activity and workings of the shelter that he has now become an LCHS Board Member. The media called for updates frequently and helped us to spread the word about the dogs that were available for adoption and the supplies needed to care for them. Foster families were set up for the nursing mothers and babies in order to help reduce the stress levels for the mothers. Merrill Veterinary Clinic donated 10 spays/neuters to help offset the medical expenses while the vet from Willow Springs Garden donated more than $1,500 in services. Adoption applications came pouring in; requiring us to stop accepting applications after the number of applicants passed 500. The only sadness of this situation is how many wonderful applicants would not be able to adopt simply because there were not enough dogs for each application.
Two months later, five more puppies have arrived, bringing our total to 62. The flurry of activity has died down and only one mother with nursing babies, and two dogs that were too young to be spayed or neutered have yet to be adopted. We are still receiving calls from people interested in adopting and there is still a sense of shock that we survived 57 dogs coming into our little shelter in one night. We have been blessed to have such an incredible amount of support and to be the recipients of such generosity. Your support has made all the difference, without donors and volunteers like you, 55 dogs would not be in new homes with a bright, happy future ahead of them. We cannot thank you enough.