Touched by an angel at the Aiken County Animal Shelter

By Joanna D. Samson, FOTAS Vice President

It is May 24th as I write this article, only three weeks into the month of May, and a heart-breaking, record number of animals—480 to be exact—have been consigned to the Aiken County Animal Shelter.

You read that correctly; your eyes are not playing tricks on you—480 dogs, cats, puppies and kittens in the first three weeks of May.

Do the math; I did. Every single day the Shelter was open this month (21 operating days), 22-23 animals were consigned to the Shelter. That’s hard to fathom—there is no way to find local homes for or transfer out that many animals on top of the ones that are already there. Supply far exceeds demand. It’s like sweeping back the ocean with a broom.

A shelter is a stressful place for an animal under any circumstances, but the stress level in a crowded shelter is even worse for these unfortunate animals who are there through no fault of their own. They need lots of help to manage their stress levels until we can find them a home.

That’s why volunteers like the indomitable Nanci Santos are so important.

Nanci has been a FOTAS volunteer for a long time. She has never wavered in her commitment. You can find her at the Shelter every day, seven days a week, without fail. Even a serious health condition some years back did not deter Nanci—unable to walk dogs, she organized and conducted orientations for new volunteers until she had the physical strength to pick up the leash again.

Today, she touches every dog, literally. After the morning walks, Nanci folds and arranges blankets in all the kennel beds so the dogs will be comfortable. She cleans up any messes.

She gives every dog an appropriate toy, making certain that, say, a determined chewer is given an indestructible rope toy and a dainty licker gets a nice squeak toy. That’s how good she is—she figures it out for every one of them.

Nanci’s compassion and intuition have made her invaluable in working with shy, anxious and fearful dogs whose contact with humans has been either non-existent or just plain bad.

“It’s not unusual for Nanci to sit for hours on the floor of a kennel working with a terrified dog, speaking softly, coaxing it to take a treat,” says Kathy Jacobs, the FOTAS Program Director. “Two days later, I’ll find her sitting on a bench in a quiet place, that very same dog curled up in her lap – it could be 15 pounds or 50 pounds—it doesn’t matter. In the end, every dog, no matter how scared, climbs into Nanci’s lap, so to speak. She transforms them.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote: “To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” Thousands of canine lives have breathed easier because of Nanci Santos. Her success is immeasurable.

The Shelter needs your help all the time, but particularly in the summer months when intake skyrockets and folks go on vacation. Please volunteer, foster, or donate; call the FOTAS hotline (803-514-4313) or email and start making a difference today.

Their lives are in our hands.


Nanci Santos, FOTAS volunteer, with one of the dogs at the Aiken  County Animal Shelter
Nanci Santos, FOTAS volunteer, with one of the dogs at the Aiken County Animal Shelter