Homeward Bound: Journey Through A Shelter
Staff arrives to the shelter early in the morning, greeted by an animal left abandoned in the middle of the night. Whether it’s a crate full of kittens or a dog tied to a tree, this sight is not uncommon to workers in the animal welfare field. We never know the reason for why someone would choose abandonment over surrendering. Maybe they are afraid of judgment. Maybe they found the animal as a stray late at night. Maybe they felt they had no other choice.
Whatever the reason, here sat a drool-y, kind-eyed pup tied to a parking sign outside of the SPCA Albrecht Center. The staff approached him slowly, giving him the chance to get to know them through scent. They gently untied him and led him inside, where they placed him in an empty room in the back hallway with the other homeless animals. He was given food, water, a comfortable blanket to lie on and a name: Broly.
The Dog and Cat Annexes are behind locked doors. This is where the SPCA houses new animals as they wait for medical care or, in some instances, for their owner to pick them up. Dozens of other animals are kept and cared for here until they are medically and behaviorally cleared and there is room on the adoption floor. The public is not shown these animals for various reasons: some of them are sick and we cannot risk spreading the disease; some are waiting for their owners to find them and we protect confidentiality in those situations; some are a part of a legal case; some have behavior issues and can only interact with trained staff.
Though these animals are out of the public eye, the time, money and care that goes into saving each of their lives is just as real as the animals seen on the adoption floor. As a matter of fact, this is where all of our animals begin their long journey to finding a new home. And Broly had just begun his journey.
As Broly settled into his new space, the staff checked him for a microchip. We check animals for a microchip in hopes of reuniting them with their owner. Nevertheless, Broly was without a collar or detectable microchip and he was marked as ‘unidentifiable’ and placed on a five-business day ‘stray hold.’ For identifiable animals, the law requires a 10-business day hold in hopes of a happy reunion.
Within 24-hours, Broly and the other animals taken in that day would receive intake medical care and vaccines. This involves a general exam by our Veterinary Care Center staff and a round of vaccines and medicine. For Broly and the other dogs, this includes DHPP, kennel cough and flu vaccine, as well as Capstar for fleas and dewormer. Cats receive a FVRCP vaccine, a Capstar and a dewormer. Unless the animal is injured or clearly sick, no further medical care is done until their hold time is up, but they still receive regular visits by Vet Care staff.
Broly waits patiently in his room, cuddled comfortably on his soft blanket. He enjoys every second he gets to interact with staff and his time outdoors. Our Annex cats get similar treatment with room views to the outside, kennels with perches, food, water, toys, a litter box and interactions with staff.
Finally, Broly’s stray hold was up and he would take his next steps toward adoption. To make sure he could thrive in a home, our staff and Canine Behaviorist would evaluate his behavior. After he’s cleared behaviorally, Broly receives further medical care to prepare him for adoption, which includes a neuter surgery, microchip, rabies vaccine and heartworm test. Cats are spayed or neutered, microchipped, tested for FIV/Felv and given a rabies vaccines.
Broly can now be put up for adoption, but his time has truly just begun. He would spend nearly twenty more days in the Dog Annex before space opens up on the adoption floor. Many animals wait even longer. Though the SPCA strives for the best possible care for our animals, our shelter is temporary and is not a home for these souls. As a no-kill shelter, Broly is not at risk of euthanasia since he is medically and behaviorally sound, but excessive time spent in any shelter proves mentally, and sometimes physically wearing for any animal.
Finally, enough animals have been adopted, freeing up space for Broly. On the adoption floor, our animals can be cared for by not only our staff, but also our incredible team of dog-walking, cat-socializing volunteers. And then, they wait. They wait for their human to find them. They wait for that one, special person to notice them. They wait to prove that they are worthy of your love, and, oh boy, they’ll prove it. Until one day, they get adopted and are finally in the loving home where they belong - a place where the best part of their journey begins.
Broly is still waiting for his special person alongside 60+ other dogs and cats, not including our Annex animals. If you’re ready to open your heart and home to a homeless animal, please visit the SPCA Albrecht Center at 199 Willow Run Road; Monday – Saturday 11 am to 5 pm.
Claire Grimes is the SPCA Albrecht Center’s Development Director. She is an Aiken native, but spent some college years in Charleston, interning with Charleston Animal Society. She is excited to be working in animal welfare in her hometown and is proud of the community efforts to better the lives of Aiken’s animals. Her family includes her husband, Logan, a SPCA adopted black lab, Ozzy, a SPCA adopted Siamese mix, Luna, and Claire’s first love, Anakin, a 17-pound rescued Maine Coon mix.