By Joanna D. Samson, FOTAS Vice President
They started lining up at the Aiken County Animal Shelter at 10:30 last Saturday. By the time the shelter opened its doors for adoptions at 11:30, the line snaked around the building.
What compelled so many good citizens to stand in line patiently in the brutal heat? The Shelter was participating, along with 700 other shelters, in the annual Clear the Shelters Day, a nationwide pet adoption initiative to connect animals in need with loving homes.
In the days leading up to Saturday, Traci Deaderick, the Shelter’s Adoption Coordinator, organized the staff and the paperwork on every animal to streamline the adoption process. Ellie Joos, the FOTAS On-Site Events Chair, established a systematic process to make certain that every potential adopter had a dedicated volunteer to escort them through each stage of the adoption process. FOTAS volunteers also exercised, bathed and groomed the dogs so that their true adorable selves could be on display. Nothing was left to chance.
“It was a remarkable team effort,” said Jennifer Miller, FOTAS President. “The Shelter has never been faced with processing so many animals in such a short time frame. All hands were on deck, including Bobby Arthurs, the Shelter Manager, and Dr. Lisa Levy, the Shelter veterinarian, who spent her day off at the Shelter answering questions about the animals and moving cats and kittens from the intake wing to the Adoption Floor.”
And it worked. By the time the dust settled and the Shelter doors closed at 4:30, every kennel on the Adoption Floor was empty—46 dogs and 69 cats were on their way to a new family and a better life.
Like Gideon, a lovable sweetheart of a boy who had the unfortunate distinction of being the longest term resident of the Shelter—adopted by a kindhearted older couple. Or Laila, a beautiful brindle whose puppies had been born and weaned in foster care—adopted by a new FOTAS volunteer. Or, Coal, a confident blue gray tabby and a volunteer favorite. Or Cleo, a talkative, people-oriented orange tabby who’s maybe a tiny bit chubby. The list goes on and on.
That day couldn’t have come at a better time. The Shelter is packed to capacity during the summer months. In June, a heartbreaking 532 animals were turned in to the Shelter. Now all of those animals in intake can move to the Adoption Floor for their second chance—we can’t let them down. The work goes on and on.
Saturday’s success was exceptional on so many levels, and not only because of the huge number of animals saved in 5 short hours. The way County staff and FOTAS volunteers came together in an exceptional show of cooperation and grace under pressure was exceptional. This is how an effective private/public partnership works.
Finally, the response of you, the Aiken community, was nothing short of breathtaking. We asked for your help on behalf of these homeless animals, and you showed up in spades—amazing, compassionate people who wanted nothing more than to make a difference and be a part of this historic day.
We are profoundly touched. Thank you and God Bless.
Their lives are in our hands.