Good Works

Pets Are Our Link to Paradise

My grand-dog, Bruno, adopted from the
Wisconsin Humane Society in Milwaukee, 2018

No matter how sad and fragmented the world seems to be, people still love their pets. We depend on our animals as much as they depend on us for comfort, connection, and company. I have friends and family who live for their animals, who cannot imagine waking up without their beloved dog, or clowder of cats, or pastel ball pythons, or Komodo dragon, or fish, or parrots, or even spiders. I have a friend with a spider named Blanche, and recently discovered that spiders are trending as a mail-order pet in the U.S. Online sales listings turn up more than 1,200 species of spiders and scorpions available: eight-legged, globe-hopping arachnids who currently fly beneath the wire of international trade regulations, which is how a Costa Rican zebra spider ended up living in Idaho.    

Blanche, the furry jumping spider, 2022

The point is, we care about our pets, from spiders to ferrets to kittens.  One way that care manifests is through the Humane Society of America and the shelters associated with the organization. The Humane Society’s mission is to end the cruelest practices toward all animals, to care for animals in crisis, and to build a stronger animal protection movement. Our local shelter, the Marion County Humane Society (MCHS), is a No Kill animal welfare organization. The MCHS was founded in 1945 in Fairmont, West Virginia, by thirteen Marion County residents, and has operated continuously ever since to protect and support animals.

Marion County Humane Society, circa 1978

In 1978, the MCHS raised funds to construct a brick-and-mortar shelter on property donated by Florence (Flossie) T. Fleming, a large block building that sheltered animals for 44 years, years that took their toll on the facility. Many dog kennels became no longer usable, and a cat “trailer”—a previously donated mobile home—was so dilapidated that it had to be abandoned; all of which decreased the number of animals-in-need that could be accommodated. The outdated shelter spaces, outdated construction, and day-to-day use led to numerous, expensive repairs each year, high utility costs, and, ultimately, a shelter that was no longer safe for staff or animals, which made a new shelter an absolute necessity.

The “old” cat habitat, demolished in fall, 2021

It is immensely fortunate that the urgent demand for a new shelter comes at a time when the MCHS has received generous donations from the estates of several animal-loving donors throughout recent years, including Fleda Reed Moore, James Lee Garzia, Edgar Ryan, Lena West, and Norma Hall. Their donations, along with additional funding from the Marion County Commission, the City of Fairmont, the Town of White Hall, grants from local and national Foundations, donations from individuals and businesses in Marion County, as well as construction funding from Monongahela Valley Bank, make building a new shelter possible, a dream shelter with everything homeless animals need to thrive, be healthy, and adoptable.

The new shelter is currently under construction on the existing property donated by Fleming and is triple the size of the old shelter! The new 12,000 square foot structure was designed by Craig McAllester of KennelDesign USA and will provide every animal with access to outdoor spaces—runs and yards for dogs and enclosed porches for cats. The facility will feature dog and cat intake and isolation rooms with negative pressure airflow and treatment rooms with medical grade equipment. The dog kennels will have heated floors, and the entire facility will use solar energy to offset utility costs. It will also include a whelping room for mothers and puppies, a bathing room, a grooming room, and expanded storage. In addition to the swanky, new digs, the MCHS will continue to facilitate free-of-charge spaying and neutering funding for low-income residents. And if you know of a hungry dog or cat, the MCHS provides nutritious dry food in outdoor bins that are accessible and available twenty-four hours a day. People who need help feeding pets or stray animals can take what food they need away in self-provided containers.

The state-of-the-art shelter in Milwaukee where we found Bruno, 2018

When constructing a state-of-the-art shelter for animals, cost is a factor. The total project cost of the new facility is $2,100,000 and is being funded by previous estate gifts and fundraising efforts totaling $500,000, as well as current fundraising efforts totaling $300,000. The remaining cost of $1,300,000 is being financed with a construction loan from Mon Valley Bank. The MCHS’s campaign to raise funds for the new shelter and, more specifically, to pay off the financed portion of the project is ongoing. If you’re interested in donating, you can link here: Marion County Humane Society.

So many will benefit from the new shelter; most of all cats and dogs who are homeless through no fault of their own, maybe even born at the shelter, and who deserve a safe space on the journey to their forever homes. The shelter staff will benefit from a well-appointed work place to care for the animals in their charge; the new shelter’s design allows staff to decrease intake-to-adoption time through improved animal care and socialization, which benefits the community by making healthy, friendly pets available. We know pets, especially dogs and cats, can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, ease loneliness, encourage exercise and playfulness, and even improve cardiovascular health. Caring for an animal can help children grow up more secure and active. Pets also provide valuable companionship for older adults.

One of the dogs awaiting adoption at the Marion County Humane Society, 2022

A new shelter for the Marion County Humane Society has been on the drawing board for a long time, and its completion will be a win-win for everyone involved, a rare occurrence these days. We love our pets, even the arachnid kind. All spiders residing at the new facility will be local volunteers.

Shelter cats relaxing at the Marion County Humane Society, 2022

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