Dogs, cats, community: LHS thanks supporters
By REBECCA CUTHBERT
OBSERVER Staff Writer
Anyone who has visited a Lakeshore Humane Society Adoption Day in Dunkirk knows that inside those doors, happy, hectic, and heartwarming activity happens all at once. Visitors can also see that as busy as the volunteers are, there’s no way they could do the job alone.
Lakeshore Humane Society began about four decades ago as the Dunkirk Humane Society. Back then, as now-LHS President Rock Vallone describes it, it was a grassroots organization of people in the community who were sick of seeing animals dumped on country roads or simply kicked out the door and left to fend for themselves in the north part of the county. This was before things like Facebook and other high-tech resources were available to rescue groups, so the only thing for volunteers to do was pick up the phone (and roll up their sleeves) to get anything done.
“We had a few dogs and cats in my barn; a few other animals at (other volunteers’ houses),” Vallone said. “From there, it just kept growing and growing as more people wanted to help.”
Things for LHS really picked up steam when, just a few years ago, Bill Cocose donated a large piece of land in Dunkirk and a few other locals contributed large monetary gifts. Fundraising began in earnest, the modern adoption center was completed and dogs and cats moved in. At that point, community awareness of the organization increased, and so did community involvement!
Robert Ehrheart, the LHS official treasurer and unofficial handyman, informed the OBSERVER that now, there are approximately 70-80 volunteers who help at the center on a weekly basis (and some are there daily!). During open houses, events, and just about every other day, friends and community members mail in or drop off donations. These take the form of checks, cash, dog and cat supplies, food, treats, cleaning supplies and laundry detergent, paper products, and sometimes, snacks for the people, too! LHS is, without a doubt, a 100 percent group effort.
One of the best friends LHS has is Nestle Purina.
“Nestle Purina Pet Care has been helping us since long before I was a member, and that’s 15 years,” Ehrheart said, adding that they contributed to the building funds and regularly donate pet food. They’ve even sent work crews to help out the volunteers!
Ehrheart remarked that it seems like just about every business, organization, club and team in northern Chautauqua County has donated to LHS, and some donate regularly.
“Most or all of the local clubs have donated to LHS at one time or another,” he said. “Some make a general donation, while others donate to the (annual) yard sale (at the Chautauqua County Fairgrounds) or the dog walk (at Point Gratiot). We also have the people that send a larger donation once a year. In my mind some of the people that really need to be thanked are the ones who send us a check every month, or every other month.”
Some of those long-term partners have been donating since long before LHS had a physical location. They’re just caring people who want to help in whatever ways they can, and the people and animals at LHS are forever grateful to them. Even the local kids get in on the giving.
“There are kids who ask for donations be made to LHS instead of presents for their birthday,” said Ehrheart. “They may be our future volunteers!”
Fran Price, corresponding secretary and longtime volunteer, noted that many individuals have set up endowments for LHS through the Northern Chautauqua Community Foundation, which does a great job of looking after those funds and helping to carry on the last wishes of the residents whose memories are honored by them. LHS also receives memorial donations, in remembrance of those who loved animals and who have passed away. Some families purchase “Memorial Bricks” at LHS in the name of late loved ones (human, feline, and canine). A new LHS Memorial Garden, with a brick path, will be installed this year.
And where would LHS be — what shape would its residents be in — without their wonderful doctors? Heartfelt thank-yous go to all of the veterinarians and their staff members who have helped LHS dogs and cats get well, feel better and prepare for their new lives as pets.
LHS also appreciates its friendships with other area rescues, like Northern Chautauqua Canine Rescue in Westfield, which does excellent work and has a beautiful “maternity ward” and puppy room; Chautauqua County Humane Society in Jamestown, with its dedicated and knowledgeable staff; Sadie’s Safe Harbor Canine Rescue and its superb foster network; and all of the other rescues that work toward the same goal: getting dogs and cats adopted by those who will care for them and about them for the rest of their lives. (To find out how to help these great rescues, go to their web pages or find them on Facebook!)
Thanks, too, to Steve Purol, Dunkirk’s dog control officer, who has brought so many dogs to safety so that they could get their second chances.
It would be impossible to thank every person, group and company that has donated to LHS, but the volunteers would like to tip their (cat-hair-covered) hats to Tractor Supply, Petmor, Big Rick’s One Stop, the Green Arch restaurant, St. Columban’s on the Lake, Chautauqua Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, BOCES, the city of Dunkirk, Lakeview Correctional Facility, Lake Shore Savings Bank, Little Lenny Cat Care Fund and Bigfoot Fund donors, local 4-H clubs, Lucky Lanes, the 1891 Fredonia Opera House, Nickels Redemption Center, Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops, SUNY Fredonia clubs and classes, all the Dunkirk social clubs, local schools and their student organizations and classes, and so, so many more.
OUT & ABOUT
Area businesses have also invited LHS and its furry residents into their spaces for off-site adoption events. One of those community partners, Just Pets in Irving, has been helping out LHS for almost 20 years, and still has a permanent kennel set up for an LHS cat (or cats!) in need of a new home. To date, Just Pets has helped hundreds of cats find their new families.
Store manager Brian Boedo told the OBSERVER that he, owner Michael Logan, the rest of the Just Pets family and all of their frequent shoppers are glad to help LHS and its resident kitties. The store even adopted an LHS cat years ago. His name is Sylvester.
He looks like a cranky old pirate: he’s down to one eye after an infection took the other one, he has a snaggle tooth, a black patch on his chin looks like a beard, and at 10+ years old, his age shows. Still, he’s adorable, and very loved. He grabs and holds the shoulder of whoever is willing to pick him up for cuddles, and he’s a daily guest over at Stagecoach West, where the employees have set up a second home for him. Really, he’s a minor celebrity, but his story started at Lakeshore Humane Society. The way the Just Pets family sees it, they’re just helping out Sylvester’s buddies — cats as special as he is that are just waiting for their time to shine in their own spotlights.
“There are so many cats who need homes, and (the LHS-Just Pets partnership) provides them with an extra outlet for community access. We’re happy to do it; we adopted Sylvester from LHS many years ago, and he’s great,” Boedo said. “We also send LHS a quarterly check with money raised through our ‘Round Up For Rescue’ donation jar. It lets customers donate their change to the next dollar amount, and we send checks to four rescues each year with the money raised.”
PetSmart in Dunkirk recently invited LHS pets into their store, too, and results have been great. Liaison Jessie Mekus said bringing dogs and cats to PetSmart is “a wonderful opportunity for (LHS) and we’ve already begun to feel the positive impact our partnership with them has had. … The increased visibility helps our cats and dogs get adopted faster and it encourages people to consider adopting through a shelter in the first place.”
Aside from the adoptions themselves, having pets at Just Pets and PetSmart has been a boon for publicity.
“I’ve lost count of the number of people who have told me they didn’t know there was a shelter in Dunkirk and asked for directions how to get there. Although the adoption center has been open for a number of years, there are still many people who don’t know we’re here,” said Mekus.
JOIN THE FUN
The dogs, cats, and their human caregivers at LHS also want to thank all of the community members and visitors who come to the adoption center during open houses and events, who donate to or shop at the annual Giant Yard Sale, who gift raffle items to and buy tickets for the spaghetti dinner every year, who bring their pups out to the dog walk in the summer and who participate in the “Picture Your Pet” photo shoots.
Vallone and Vice President/Volunteer Coordinator Mary Ginley both remarked that LHS would be nothing and go nowhere without its friends and supporters in the community, from the donors to the volunteers to the adopters. Even those who “like” and share LHS statuses and photos on social media are helping the rescue’s mission more than they will ever know. It only takes a second to fall in love with a furry face, and LHS volunteers can’t count the number of phone calls and visits that started with “I saw this dog/cat online and now I can’t stop thinking about him!”
“Thank you to anyone who has ever done anything to support us, whether it be a donation, volunteering, sharing information, whatever,” said Ginley. “The facility wouldn’t exist without community support and assistance, from those who helped build it to volunteers who care for the animals.”
LHS is always happily welcoming new volunteers to help with cleaning and care shifts and special events — because, to borrow a line from a famous doctor, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing’s going to get better. It’s not.”
“You are all the voices of these animals that cannot speak for themselves,” added Ginley. “Anyone interested in helping us can contact us or attend a monthly meeting.”
And, by now, most know the saying “If you can, adopt. If you can’t do that, volunteer. If you can’t do that, donate. If you can’t do that, help spread the word.” Price reminded the OBSERVER that no donation is too small, and no donation goes unnoticed.
“I started writing (thank-you cards) more than 10 years ago, and although I appreciate the big donors, there is a special place in my heart for the people who stretch out their meager incomes to send us $5 a month,” she said.
And oh boy, can those donations make an impression.
This past Christmas season, a young man rushed into the adoption center during an open house with his mother. He wanted very badly to buy one of the holiday ornaments from the LHS tree for his teacher, and he knew which one he wanted: the ornament featuring a photo of Dora, a sweet black lab with a gentle personality. He paid with his own money, which he earned from doing chores. The ornament was his for a $15 donation, but he handed volunteers a $20 bill and told them to keep the change. Before he left, he met Dora, threw his arm around her neck, took a “selfie” with her and kissed her on the cheek.
There wasn’t a dry eye in the room.
So, to the generous companies big and small, to the individuals who have deep pockets and those who have spare change, to the kids who share their birthdays, to the adopters, to the club members with big hearts, to the volunteers, to the raffle ticket buyers, to the yard sale shoppers, to the spaghetti dinner eaters, to the dog walkers, to the social media likers and sharers, to those who have the courage and the ethics to speak for those who can’t speak for themselves: Thank you. You are all heroes.
To find out more about Lakeshore Humane Society and the work the rescue does, go to www.lakeshorehumanesociety.org, find LHS on Facebook and Instagram, stop by an Open House or fundraiser event, come to a monthly meeting, or talk to a volunteer!