During National Animal Shelter Appreciation week, Whitney and Varada headed out to the local animal shelter to see what they were all about (and to bring some chai to the staff and volunteers!).
Between Highway 93 and the railroad tracks just south of Polson sits a small, unassuming building. The Mission Valley Animal Shelter  is a where a number of dogs and cats call home, hopefully temporarily.  Stepping out of the rain into their lobby was like coming into a living room, with comfortable couches and friendly faces.  It’s their new wing, we were told, built in 2010.

Lobby of MVAS

Jill Simpson, the Shelter Director, met us warmly at the door and showed us into their conference room.  Here, in an English-accented voice, she spoke to us of tea and animals and we shared a few animal tales of our own.  Then we embarked on a tour. 

First stop was a small room where little Cherry was recovering from being spayed.  Cherry is a 7 month old Red Pit Bull Cross who is utterly sweet and affectionate.  As soon as she saw us looking in her window, she rolled over on her back, tail thumping.  She’s one of the lucky ones, apparently having a home all lined up for her once she is healed from surgery.  She’ll make someone a very loving companion!

Cherry

Then we were off to the kitten and cat rooms.  Not held in cages, the kitties run loose in well furnished rooms to socialize with others and get plenty of exercise.  This environment reduces the stress a great deal for these little felines. 

Cat room

Greeter Edie, the tuxedo cat with the huge smile, was talking to us as soon as she saw us at the door.  She beckoned us in and very soon had Whitney wrapped around her paw.

Edie and Whit

We moved on to the 8 indoor dog kennels, where we first met Teddy, a big cuddly Bernese Mountain Dog who lived up to his name perfectly.  He sure looked like he needed a hug!

Teddy

We noticed little tags on the kennels announcing that they had been sponsored.  Jill told us that for $100 someone could sponsor the kennel space in the name of a loved one or a beloved pet who might have come from a shelter.  It’s just one more way the community can support the shelter in their work of rescuing and rehoming animals.

Outside we found two big fenced yards for dogs to get their exercise, a number of covered runs and more dogs looking for new homes.  Jill told us the story of Bree, a young Australian Cattle Dog/Blue Heeler who had arrived semi-feral and had to be trained and socialized from scratch.  Hers was a story that illustrated the real dedication of people like Jill, having started off in her home being fostered until she had come out of her shell enough to return to the shelter.  Only 6 months old, she still has puppy energy but it’s clear she just really needs someone to love and dote on her.  Cute and funny, she’s ready for a new home.

Bree

Many of the stories Jill told were of the challenges in matching the right home or “job” to the dog.  In some ways, that is one of the biggest challenges of the shelter, to take these animals in, find out who they are, smooth off the rough edges as much as possible, give them some training and social skills and then find the right “job”.  She was especially proud of a recent placement of a very high energy dog who could jump very high, a talent that could spell trouble in some situations.  Jill found a home for the dog where she has taken to the sport of Dock Diving and has turned out to maybe have the makings of a champion.  Every dog needs the right job, like Jack, for instance, a gorgeous German Shepherd who was restlessly trying to supervise everything that was going on around him.

Jack

Not a sad place with lots of depressed animals in cages, the Mission Valley Animal Shelter is quite a hopeful place.  The needs of the animals are paramount and everything is done to keep their stress as low as possible.  The shelter has a strict limit to how many animals it will house at any given time to protect the quality of life for the ones they are holding.  There is a waiting list of animals looking for new homes and when one gets adopted, another can come in. 

Cats

As we left, we both felt grateful to have such a wonderful resource in our community.  Our hats are off to the dedicated men and women who run this and other shelters across the country, who give these animals a second (or third) chance, who are teachers and matchmakers as well as caretakers and administrators. 
We want them to know how much they are appreciated and we would like to encourage everyone who wants to add a new animal to their family to visit your local shelters first.  You would be surprised how much you will learn and what great animals you will find.  The shelter staff can help people make the right choices so the dogs and cats don’t have to find their way back to a shelter ever again.  Thanks for a great visit, Jill!

Jill and Varada

Thanks to Whitney Cantlon for the great photographs!

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