By: Sarah A. Neikam, Operations Manager

“A shelter is not a home.” It’s something we’ve said many times when shelter visitors comment on how nice the SPCA Albrecht Center’s animal spaces are and how well-cared for the animals seem to be. We don’t ever want to be confused as a sanctuary for the homeless pets we take in. Our goal for every pet who comes through our doors, is for their stay to be brief; just a passing through point as they make their way to a forever home.

But every pet is different, and to every rule there is an exception. If you’ve visited our animal shelter, you may have met one of our “resident pets” – special pets who have made the shelter their home, most or all of time, for reasons I’ll explain below.

Bonnie is a 10-year-old, black cat who was surrendered to the SPCA Albrecht Center in 2018 when her owners were moving and could not take her. She came to us weighing a whopping 29lbs! We knew right away we had to get her weight down. Bonnie struggled to walk properly and could not clean herself well. Her diet began immediately but she had to lose weight very gradually in order to avoid health problems in the process. During this time, she became beloved to all the shelter staff and she thrived in the shelter with all of the special attention, so it was decided that in order to ensure her diet continued and that her weight loss was maintained, becoming a permanent resident was the best option.

As of today, thanks to staff and volunteers resisting her pleas for treats and the dedication of her caregiver, Emily, Bonnie’s weight is down to 13lbs! Now that she can move around much easier, Bonnie spends her days roaming the SPCA’s cat adoption area and lobby, greeting visitors and begging for treats that she knows she can’t have. Bonnie’s weight-loss journey was shared on her very own Facebook page where she’s accumulated over 7,000 followers from around the world!

Regina, “the Receptionist” is a feisty brown tabby cat who just turned 3 years old this month. She arrived at the shelter as a stray just a few months after her best friend, Bonnie. Regina doesn’t suffer from any health problems, but she does possess some “special” behavior traits that, while endearing to us staff, would make her very difficult to adopt out, including biting and yowling when she doesn’t get her way. Most days, you can find Regina snoozing away by the front desk, sprinting around the lobby or being less-than-helpful pushing office supplies off the desk or watching bird videos on the computer.

Henrietta Beans (Henri to her friends), the SPCA Albrecht Center’s mascot, motivator and muse is a 14-year-old Boston Terrier who arrived as a stray in 2014. It was love at first sight for our shelter manager so she was quickly adopted. Technically, that means Henri isn’t a shelter resident since she has a home of her own, but being Sybil’s favorite, she comes to work every day and takes her place behind the front desk with the rest of our reception staff where she, along with Bonnie and Regina, greets visitors, trips up staff, eats any tiny morsel of food she can find on the ground and, in her own words, “spreads sunshine and kisses”.

Bonnie, Regina and Henri, being the stars they are, each have their own social media presence and following on Facebook! You can find Bonnie @Bonniethefatcat, Regina @reginathereceptionist and Henri @henrietta.beans or visit them in person, along with their non-resident friends who are all waiting to be stars in a home of their own. Meet them all at 199 Willow Run Rd, in Aiken SC, Monday – Saturday, 11:00am – 5:00pm.

Sarah Neikam has been with the SPCA Albrecht Center since 2012 serving first as Volunteer Coordinator, then Digital Media Manager, followed by Marketing Director and now Operations Manager. Sarah lives in Aiken with her husband Tom and their three adopted cats: Bastian, Luna and Grady plus three “former feral” cats: Willow, Big Boy & Phoebe.

The SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare is a private, nonprofit, no kill animal shelter in Aiken, SC. The SPCA also operates a local Thrift Store (“Where Shopping Saves Lives”), a public, affordable Veterinary Care Center & a Dog Park. It is our mission to improve the lives of companion animals by rehoming abused, abandoned, and neglected pets while fighting for their well-being through vigorous legislative efforts, humane education, and by offering affordable veterinary care for all.