Fluorescent bulbs light up the glossy floors and glass windows that line an empty hallway. There’s a sharp smell of disinfectant in the air and a muffled, but insistent barking behind the glass. There’s a shadow of movement in the first window. A stainless steel water bowl lies in the corner of the cage and a few pieces of kibble sit in another bowl off to the side. The tip of a mangled bone is barely noticeable under a thin blue blanket that rests on top of a square bed.
A pitbull-mix wanders the cage, sniffing at something on the floor. The paper to the side of the window reads: Willow. Her fur is short and auburn. A patch of white splits her face down the middle and travels down her chest to her stomach. Her ears flop to the side as she looks up. Chest shaking, she leaps up on the window and opens her mouth to let out a bark. Two sets of brown eyes stare at each other through the glass. When she jumps down there’s a tiny, toe-sized smudge on the window.
This scene focuses on Willow, but it represents how many other dogs and cats live at the Humane Society of Weld County. Dogs and cats at the shelter depend on volunteers, workers, fosters and patrons for daily interaction.
There have been a few changes to protocol at the shelter since COVID, but the animals’ daily routine remains the same. Masks are required for workers, volunteers and patrons.
Only five people are allowed in the lobby at a time. This limits the amount of interaction that the animals get every day, but the number of adoptions is going up.
The Humane Society of Weld County gets 120 to 250 adoptions monthly.
“Some days are hard when you have a ton of people surrendering their animals for various different reasons, but it is rewarding when you find them a new home,” said Jenn Barday, office coordinator.
Senior cats and dogs are typically the most overlooked at the shelter. People can’t afford the cost of medical bills or different dietary requirements, so they adopt younger dogs.
These senior dogs are given to fosters so they can rest more comfortably while waiting to be adopted.
Fosters are an important part of the Humane Society.
Fosters care for puppies and kittens until they’re old enough to get adopted. They also provide comfortable housing for sick or elderly cats and dogs.
“We also use fosters to give shy animals the experience of living in a home. Fostering has been integral in making sure our animals are set up for success for their future homes,” said Bria Pritchard, community engagement coordinator.
To foster with the Humane Society of Weld County, someone has to be 18, have their own home and pass a background check. The shelter provides the supplies to take care of the cat or dog so there is no cost for the foster. COVID has influenced the number of active volunteers at the shelter. There used to be around 50 volunteers coming on a weekly basis, and now there are only 20.
The Humane Society of Weld County is one of the only shelters in Colorado still encouraging new volunteer applications during COVID. Workers want to make sure that the animals are staying active every day and getting the best care possible.
Volunteers are vital for the structure and survival of the shelter. They make sure that the dogs and cats have a stimulated daily routine.
Volunteers have several different duties, including the following: taking dogs out for walks, playing with the cats, helping to sanitize and clean the kennels, giving the animals a bath, brushing the animals and giving the animals treats.
Each individual cat gets human interaction three times a day, and each dog gets to go outside at least three times a day.
Workers and volunteers combine their efforts to make sure that the cats and dogs are getting mental and physical encouragement.
When animals are about to get adopted, they are brought into a visitation room to meet with their potential family. The staff discusses the needs of the dog or cat and then makes sure those needs fit the needs of the family.
Dogs or cats can be adopted the same day as the visitation, or the patron can put them on hold for $25.
People need to be prepared financially, mentally and physically to have a four-legged friend in their home.
“We had this little chihuahua get dropped off and she’s been with this family her whole life,” Pritchard said. “She is 18 years old now and she wasn’t able to hold her bladder anymore and they handed her over to us. We did some testing and discovered that she’s starting to show signs of kidney disease, so we started her on a special kidney food. And she’s been doing fantastic in her foster home. It just goes to show that as long as you’re dedicated to your animals there’s always something you can do for them, and if not, your vet will let you know. They are 100% a commitment, and if you’re not able to take that commitment you shouldn’t have an animal.”
To find out more information you can contact the Weld County Humane Society at (970)-506-9550 or visit their website at www.weldcountyhumane.org.