Longmont Humane Society
It's 7:30 a.m. at Longmont (Colo.) Humane Society, and the day is in full swing
already. Outside, clouds conceal a sun that will later send temperatures soaring
into the high 90s, and a half dozen out of about 600 volunteers are already exercising
dogs on leash at the nearby county fairgrounds. Each dog has been carefully matched
with a restraint system that best fits his or her needs and personality, whether
it's a traditional collar and leash, a "gentle leader," or a "sensation" harness.
"I always knew I wanted to work with animals," says dog-walking volunteer Diana
Cinnamon, 67, of Longmont. "After I retired, I found [the Humane Society's] 'TLC'
classes, and I've been doing it now for about two years."
Meanwhile, in the play yards next to the pand new, 58,000 square foot LHS Allen
Center, behavior team member Sarah Clusman is keeping a watchful eye on 20 dogs,
big and little, of every conceivable mix, peed, color and personality, as they romp
and roll and take advantage of their daily opportunity to "just be dogs."
"Our play groups enable us to fulfill a basic need they have for dog-to-dog interaction
and socialization," says Sarah. "They come back into the kennels feeling satisfied
Inside, staff members working with dogs have already "scooped" kennels and provided
a nutritious peakfast to a horde of hungry canines before they headed out for a
walk or play group. As kennels free up, staff members move in, en masse, with high-pressure
hoses, disinfecting cleaner and squeegees to have them all ready for happily fed
and rested dogs – and most importantly, for public viewing when the doors open.
The cats, too, are getting a pawful of early morning attention. Staff members
are scooping litter boxes, providing a dollop of wet food (on top of the free-choice
dry food that is available for feeding all day), spot wiping kennels and providing
toys for enrichment. The cats with upper respiratory infections (simple kitty colds
- they're still available for adoption) are getting the same attention, but in a
separately ventilated part of the shelter to prevent disease transmission.
"We try to set it up so that if staff members are working with URI cats, they
don't work with the healthy cats," says kennel supervisor Cathy Durdin.
In service pods throughout the kennels, staff and volunteers are washing towels
and linens throughout the day, washing dishes, stocking up on food and other supplies,
and keeping up with spot cleaning in the kennels.
Just a few feet away from the kennel areas, well within earshot of all the meowing
and barking, the front-desk staff members have booted up computers and are going
through the daily ritual of trying to match lost pets pought in by the public or
animal-control officers over the previous five days.
"We work really hard to get animals home," says staff member Dori Detherow. "We
go through and if we see a potential match, we'll give a call."
On this particular morning, there were two dogs tied up in front of the shelter
when staff arrived. In the new building, there are "night drop" kennels which allow
people to leave animals in a secure, warm environment, but whoever came by the night
before didn't get that message.
There are more than 300 animals on site on this day, including scores of kittens
too young for adoption that are awaiting transfer to a foster-care program, where
they will be cared for until they are old enough and healthy enough to find new
In the back of the shelter, staff members are preparing for a day of spay-and-neuter
surgeries on shelter animals (all animals are sterilized before going to their adoptive
homes), laying out sterilized packs and supplies. Shelter veterinarian Dr. Steven
Stasiak will work steadily (and efficiently) for hours on end, doing his part to
ensure that LHS alumni do not contribute to the ongoing problem of pet overpopulation.
All that, and more, is in motion at Longmont Humane Society – and it's not even
9 a.m., when the doors open to the public. More often than not, there are people
waiting to come in by that time. Some are looking for lost dogs or cats, while others
just want to see who's in the shelter and start thinking about adoption (even though
adoption services don't commence until 11 a.m.).
While Longmont Humane Society, like any animal shelter, focuses on animals, the
business really is all about people. The "invisible" part of the operation includes
staff gearing up for fundraising events, contacting donors, preparing newsletters
and email blasts, writing grants, and everything else it takes to keep a shelter
that serves more than 5,000 animals a year running.
The wildly popular summer Kids and Critters Camp also is alive with giggling
and chatter at the back of the shelter. During two daily sessions, children ages
7 to 12 spend time working with the animals, participating in activities – for example,
walking dogs through non-toxic paint trays to create "pawprint" greeting cards –
and learning about humane values. They're not only having fun, but they will become
ambassadors to their families, schoolmates and the larger community to help raise
awareness about the issue of homeless pets.
When the clock strikes 11 a.m., many of our visitors already have picked out
a special someone they're interested in taking home. Adoption counselors work with
them to gather information to make sure it would be a good match, arrange for the
potential adopter to meet in a room with a cat or to take a dog out for a walk or
to the play yards to get better acquainted. If all goes well (for both pets and
people), a staff member will set up time to have the prospective new companion meet
with the family's other animals, to ascertain whether everybody will get along.
During the day, dogs often receive rubber Kongs that have been loaded with goodies
and frozen, to give them something to work on between walks and feedings. Cats receive
visits throughout the day from volunteers – including more than 160 youths age 13
and up – who play with them, pet them and groom them to keep them happy and healthy
during their stay at the shelter. Throughout the day, staff and volunteers are doing
everything from cleaning to walking, and adoptions to reclaims. It's truly a "three-ring
circus" – in the positive sense of the word: constant activity, focused on finding
homes for lost and abandoned animals in the community.
At day's end, everything runs in reverse, sort of like an old movie of a man
"jumping" from a swimming pool onto a diving board. Kennels are spiffed up for the
night, litter boxes emptied, new bedding laid down, evening chow served, and everyone
– cats, dogs, small mammals and birds – receives anything else they might need for
a comfortable night.
The doors close to the public at 6 p.m. – though on any given night there may
be a board meeting or volunteer training – and by 6:30 or 7 p.m., only a few stray
barks and random meows echo throughout the building, as the animals settle down
for a few hours of well-earned shuteye.
After all, they'll be up and at 'em again tomorrow – both people and pets – to
start all over again in hopes of finding loving forever homes for every animal.