The extra mile

18 January 2015

The extra mile

By Joanna Dunn Samson, FOTAS Director

In late November, a tired and emaciated Pomeranian was picked up on the side of the road by a good Samaritan and turned into the Aiken County Animal Shelter. The tiny black dog was scrawny and frightened; her coat matted and crusted with dirt. She was examined by Dr. Levy, the Shelter Vet, and in addition to being malnourished, dirty and generally roughed up from her experience as a stray, several of her back teeth were broken.

Plus, she was no spring chicken – at least 10 by Dr. Levy’s calculations – making her medical prognosis and ultimate adoptability even more uncertain.

Betty Erickson and Sandy Larsen, the two experienced staff on duty, cleaned and fed her before setting her up on a soft blanket in a kennel in the medical suite. She was warm and safe.

The plight of the little dog plagued Betty. The dog was too sweet, too trusting and too old to have been on her own very long – she must have been someone’s pet. So Betty checked the online lost and found websites for the local area.

She hit pay dirt on, where she discovered a notice for a lost black Pomeranian named Tori who had been missing since late September. Squinting at the tiny image on the screen, Betty thought, “Yeah, add a little weight and a shiny coat, that could be Tori!”

Betty called the owner’s number and left a message on voice mail. When she hadn’t heard back by closing time, she called again. This time, a breathless Darlene Tarvin answered the phone.

“I was so excited,” says Darlene, “I just knew it had to be my Tori! I had been frantic with worry for two months.”

The next morning, Darlene and her husband Charles were at the door when the shelter opened, and to everyone’s delight and relief, Darlene was reunited with her beloved Tori. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

Tori was lucky, not every story ends this well, but it’s not for lack of trying. The amazing shelter staff and FOTAS volunteers always go that extra mile.

Whether it’s Betty making calls on behalf of one little lost dog, or Sandy Larsen organizing a pre-dawn pickup to feature adoptable animals on the local news at 6 a.m., or Annette Van Der Walt, the shelter adoption coordinator, giving up a day off (without pay) during the busy holiday season, or FOTAS volunteers like Girl and Caroline Conger taking shelter dogs to a special event on a rainy Saturday, or Ray Eckenrode fostering a hard–to-place dog whose time is running out, or Toni and Gary Urben mounting special appeals to the Aiken equestrian community to find a deserving dog a home – the amount of effort expended to place these unfortunate animals is nothing short of breathtaking.

And here’s the good news – it’s working. Last month a record number of animals, 262 to be exact, were adopted from or transferred out of the shelter, thanks in large measure to the success of our heartworm positive, transfer, foster and off-site adoption programs and the depth of commitment by staff and volunteers.

Back at the Tarvin home, the amazing little Tori (who, as it turns out, is actually 14) is safe and sound and dearly loved.

“She’s been my constant companion since she was 6-weeks-old,” says Darlene, “I was heartbroken when she was lost, but my kids, my grandkids, my husband – we never stopped searching. I never gave up hope.” She pauses. “It’s a miracle.”

Yes, it is – a miracle made possible by love, resolve and commitment.


December stats 2014

Total dogs and cats received – 458

Total dogs and cats adopted/transferred –  262

Totals dogs and cats euthanized – 184

Percent euthanized- 41%


SARA    Female, retriever mix, 1 years old, 44 lbs — $70

ANJA    Female, tortoiseshell, 3 years old, 8.3 lbs — $35