Sixteen pairs of little eyes and ears experienced a mix of excitement and sadness as they walked through the Cortez Animal Shelter on Feb. 1. A few of the children were not familiar with the shelter. Others had pets at home that were adopted from there.
The Cortez Girl Scout Troop 2619, decided if there was one place in the community that needed support from the scouts, it was the shelter.
Dena Thomason, troop leader, sat down with her girls in January to discuss their Take Action project. This special project is used to help young girls become better advocates for their communities by engaging in volunteer service. Thomason was especially happy when they chose the shelter.
"It was their idea to help the shelter," Thomason said proudly. "I asked them what they thought our community needed from us and they immediately started talking about animals in the area. There was not much discussion after the shelter came up."
The plan was for the troop to visit the animal shelter to get a first-hand perspective on how the animals live day-to-day and what is needed to successfully run the shelter. Thomason got the green light from Jennifer Crouse, the kennel supervisor, to bring the troop in after hours so she could show them around. Before they went in, the girls and a few parents stood in the shelter parking lot and gave out badges from their previous service project. Daisies, Brownies and a couple of Junior Scouts paced the cold weather anxiously, waiting to see the furry friends.
Once inside, there were nonstop questions from the curious girls. Where do the dogs play? How do the animals end up here? What happens to them if they are in the shelter for a long time?
Eager to inquire about every thought on her mind, Emmy Cochran, 8, listened intently as Crouse talked about the purpose of animal shelters within communities. Cochran's hand, along with others, shot up when Crouse was done speaking. She wanted to know how long the shelter stayed open, if they had any birds and wanted to share her story of their adopted dog.
"I want to get all of them," Cochran said. "But my dad won't let me."
Crouse explained that most of the animals come to the shelter because they get out of their yards or don't have a home to begin with, and they transfer animals all over the state if they stay in the shelter too long. They also have a place in the back of the building where dogs can run and play with one another while their cages get cleaned out.
"There was the cutest white dog in there with the cutest bark," Cochran exclaimed. "And there was this little kitten with the biggest eyes. Sometimes when I am amazed by something, my eyes get big like that. I thought he was amazed by me."
Becky Swift and her daughter Savannah were visiting members from troop 1199. She was also glad the girls chose the shelter as their Take Action project. As an animal lover with three dogs of her own, one of which she adopted from the Cortez shelter, Becky Swift saw the necessity for the girls to realize and understand what this visit meant.
"I hope that the girls leave here with the realization that animals are not part-time pets," she said. "They take a lot of work. It's like having a child."
"We just want them to take something away in their hearts and learn from the experience," Swift added.
Swift had adopted a dog from the shelter a few months prior to their tour. Savannah said it's hard work to take care of the dog. "I take her outside, play with her, hold her and pet her," she said. "But I also have to feed her and clean up after her messes."
At the end of the tour the girls discussed with Thomason how they would collect the donations and what items they would need. Since the beginning of the month, the girls have been collecting supplies needed for the shelter to help make the animals more comfortable. Items such as treats, toys and food for both cats and dogs, bleach, paper towels, dish soap, laundry soap, sponges and cat litter were a few of the items on their lists.
After gathering donations from family and community members, they presented the items to the animal shelter at 10 a.m. Saturday.
The girls were happy to be surrounded by animals in the shelter. Many felt like they were sad and alone and felt adopting them all was the answer. By the end of the night, each child knew they would be helping these animals through another act of kindness. And that is always better than doing nothing at all.
For information on the animal shelter, adoption fees and hours of operation visit www.cityofcortez.com