Walking the Walk

23 November 2014

Walking the Walk

By Joanna Dunn Samson, FOTAS Director

Over the past 5 years, the Aiken County and FOTAS have partnered in a quest to make the lives and prospects of the County’s homeless and abandoned animals better. It’s a public/private partnership that works.

Everybody wins: the County, the citizens, the taxpayers and, of course, the animals.

What makes the County/FOTAS partnership so formidable?  The commitment of the animal-lovers who work in County government, that’s what.

They don’t just talk the talk – they walk the walk.

The commitment starts at the top. When County Administrator Clay Killian, his wife Carrie and his granddaughter Hailey attended the Grand Opening of the new Aiken County Animal Shelter last March, Hailey became crazy smitten with a lab-cross puppy on the adoption floor.

They didn’t need another dog; they already had Daisy, a 14-year-old rescue.  Hailey “laid it on thick,” according to Carrie, but it didn’t take much to persuade Clay, who also fell for the pup on sight.  They took her home that day, and now Zoie sleeps in Hailey’s room each night.

Assistant County Administrator Brian Sanders, his wife Erica and their two children share their home with two rescues dogs.  Josie, their first, was a neighbor’s dog and a determined escape artist.  When Animal Control picked up Josie, the neighbor decided he’d had enough and was not going to claim her.  Brian and his family, who had returned the dog so many times they had become attached, drove to the shelter immediately and brought her home.

Special circumstances, right?  They already knew Josie.  It was easy. They didn’t need another dog.

Ha!  Love trumps practicality every time.  On Christmas Eve, the family lost their hearts to a puppy fostered by Father Grant Wiseman and his family.  That’s how the Sanders’ became a two rescue-dog family.

Barbara Strait, who works for Assistant County Administrator Andy Merriman, visited the shelter last February after her beloved Chihuahua died.  She wanted another Chihuahua.  As she ambled through the Adoption Wing, she made eye contact with a quiet, timid little pit bull named LucyLou, and it was love at first sight.  LucyLou, definitely not a Chihuahua, went home with Barbara.

P.S.: Barbara went back to the shelter later to find that Chihuahua, but she came home instead with a little black dachshund named Amber.

What’s that saying?  Man plans and Cupid laughs? Jayne Smith in Public Works adopted a little black and white terrier puppy named Patches, who Jayne renamed “Chase” because he chases her all over the house. Chase has a black dot on his head, like an on/off switch, says Jayne, that doesn’t work so well. Bobby Arthurs, the Chief Animal Control Officer, and his wife Lisa have adopted 3 Chihuahuas from the shelter that they were fostering, despite a hard and fast rule that they would never, ever adopt a dog they were fostering.Annette van der Walt, the shelter Adoption Coordinator, has adopted 3 dogs and 4 cats and fosters special needs dogs.

Sandy Larson, the Senior Vet Assistant, also has adopted 3 dogs and 1 cat from the shelter.  One of the three is Lucy, who Sandy fostered until her puppies weaned. When the time came to take her back, Sandy just couldn’t do it.  Lucy stayed.

And of course, there’s Dr. Lisa Levy, the County’s vet, who fell in love with and adopted an abused three-legged dog named Trinity.

I am profoundly touched by the love and generosity of spirit of these folks: they opened their homes and hearts to unfortunate, abandoned animals.

As we move into this season of thanking, sharing and giving, we ask that you join them. There are so many loving dogs and cats at the Aiken County Animal Shelter that need a new home.

They need you.

Come on over.  Their lives are in our hands.


OCTOBER 2014 statistics:

FOTAS organized the transfer of 59 dogs & cats to partner rescues, as well as numerous local adoptions were completed

FOTAS’ Fix-a-Pet and Lenny’s Brigade programs paid for 80 spay/neuter surgeries of local pets and community cats at the SPCA


ANGELINA     Female, Lab mix, 2 years old, 46 lbs      $70

AMMO     Male, Domestic Short Hair        $10