Two women share their love at Ellensburg Animal Shelter

December 23, 2016

Cindy Shover and Bunny Cahill give much-wanted love to animals in need.

Shover has volunteered 1,421 hours Ellensburg Animal Shelter since 2007. Cahill has volunteered 1,838 hours since 2005.

“She’s the dog girl and I’m the cat girl,” Cahill said.

The shelter takes in about 500 animals a year, said Manager Paula Hake. When Hake started in 1997, that number was closer to 1,600 and the shelter euthanized about 70 percent. The shelter is down to euthanizing just 2 percent.

The main focus of the job is socializing with the animals, Cahill said. The animals sometimes are abandoned by people and need human interaction so they can readjust and find a good home. The volunteers help clean cages, wash the blankets and sometimes feed the animals. The blankets in the cages are changed every day.

“I just try to calm them down and tell them they’re loved,” Cahill said.

Time with animals

Cahill said she started volunteering to be around cats. At the time she didn’t have any animals, but now lives with nine cats. Shover had seven cats, but now is down to four.

Shover said she got involved after she retired because she wanted something to do. She had always loved animals even from a young age. She grew up with the family dog and now has horses, chickens, dogs and cats.

Shover likes to take the dogs into the backyard of the animal shelter so they can run loose. A lot of people take the dogs on walks, but she likes to give them a bit more freedom.

“In the summer I sit with them and love on them and try to make their time here at the shelter pleasant,” she said.

Hake said animals need a lot of mental stimulation and contact with humans. If they don’t get it, they become non-adoptable. The volunteers help keep them social.

“Being in a kennel all day long really plays with their heads,” Hake said. “The volunteers keep them from getting kennel stress.”

Fostering pets

Cahill and Shover have both helped foster animals in the past. Kittens at a certain age need to be bottle fed every two hours until they can be spayed or neutered and sent to a forever home.

None of the animals that come to the shelter leave without getting fixed, Hake said.

The animal shelter sends kittens and puppies home with someone who can provide around-the-clock care, Hake said. Fostering is something the animal shelter doesn’t do as much of anymore, because it receives fewer kittens and puppies. Fostering animals can lead to strong attachments, though, and both Cahill and Shover have failed as foster parents. They ended up keeping the animals home permanently.

“You’d think we’d given birth to them,” Shover said. “They’re like our babies.”

Shover said it is difficult to see the poor state of health animals can be in when they come into the shelter. The holidays are especially bad because people will dump their animals at the shelter to get rid of them.

“It never ceases to amaze me how rotten humans can be,” Shover said.

It also amazing, though, how animals can recover from that kind of a situation, Cahill said.

Shover said she couldn’t have managed to be a volunteer at any other shelter. The Ellensburg Animal Shelter works hard to find homes for every animal that it can. Hake is the reason for that success, she said.

One memorable experience for Shover and Cahill was after some chihuahuas were rescued from a home in the Yakima River Canyon. There were close to 40 animals saved in the rescue. The animal shelter was filled with wall-to-wall cages.

Two dogs in particular were very unsocial, Shover said. They would growl and nip at anybody who came near. Hake took the dogs home with her and after six months they were re-homed. The dogs underwent a full recovery.

“So this is a special center, because of Paula,” she said. “A lot of shelters they come in and three days later they’re put to sleep. I just couldn’t handle that.”

The animal shelter is not taking on anymore volunteers right now, Hake said. It has seen a reduction in the number of animals rescued in recent years and so doesn’t need as many people on hand. Volunteers also have to be 18-years-old, able to commit to at least six months and undergo a background check.