April 9, 2024
By: Sarah A. Neikam, CAWA

Saturday night, the SPCA Albrecht Center participated for the first time in an international, fundraising, sleepover event: The Shelter Slumber Pawty; a collaborative fundraising event that brings together animal welfare organizations across the nation and world to raise funds and awareness. Participants spend 24 hours eating, sleeping, and “pawting” with shelter pets, while sharing their experience on social media and asking for donations from friends and family. This year, 60 animal shelters and rescues participated raising a total (so far) of $850,000!

I arrived at the shelter around noon on Saturday and set up my living space in one of the SPCA’s two cat colony rooms. Prime Minister, a beautiful, long-haired black cat, was to be my bunkmate for the night. He watched from one of the room’s hanging cat baskets as I laid out my blankets, pillows and laptop in preparation for the next 24 hours.

Soon after, a family of three set up their space in the other cat colony room, and other participants began to arrive equipped with sleeping bags, pillows, blankets, games and snacks.

Coinciding with the event, the shelter extended its hours until 9pm, so the day flew by with lots of visitors and activity and before we knew it, the sun was setting and it was time to lock the doors.

Participants enjoyed sandwiches and chips provided by Groucho’s Deli and shared fun bonding experiences with each other and the animals playing card games, watching movies on the projector and even Wrestlemania in the shelter lobby from the comfort of an air mattress.

When it was time for bed, I made myself as comfortable as possible on layers of blankets atop a molded, plastic couch. Prime Minister eventually joined me for some cuddles, but also made sure to keep me awake with late night zoomies and toy tossing. Between his antics, the occasional yeowling of a shelter cat or random barking of a dog, the water dispenser’s noisy gurgling, very uncomfortable couch and the strange environment, it was a mostly sleepless night.

SPCA volunteer Tristan Myers spent her night with shelter dog, Franklin, and had this to say about her experience: “The day started off really easy, just lounging around, lots of pets and telling him what a good boy he is; reading my book, playing in my tablet or phone with Franklin cuddled up beside me while people walked by smiling.

Day became night and we settled in for sleep. I think this is when the reality and the reason for this event really began to sink in for me and I began to understand the impact that shelter life can have on a dog’s mental health.

The SPCA truly gives all the animals that come in the very best care, attention and love, but a shelter is still a shelter and while it has MANY positives, being kept in an enclosure day in and day out can truly impact these animals and I felt it first hand.

At about 3am, after struggling to get comfortable and fall asleep, I woke up in a panic; scared, a bit confused, and feeling a bit sick to my stomach. Thankfully, Franklin was there to comfort me. He moved to curl up under my arm, laid partly across my chest, putting some calming pressure on me.

All I could think about is how I wanted to escape, go home, be in my bed, warm, loved, safe and cared for. I realized that what I was experiencing is what the shelter animals experience day in and day out. That even though my day felt easy, that my panic and fear were an accumulation of all the smells, activity, new people walking by the windows, dogs barking, trying to get comfortable and trying to sleep. And this was just one day.

Franklin comforted me, he knew what I was feeling and in turn I wrapped my arms around him and we both fell back asleep. His loyalty, perseverance, love and comfort helped me survive 24 hrs of a day in the life of a shelter pet.”

Franklin, Prime Minister, all of the other shelter pets and the event’s participants endured a new experience together, and we learned a lot from our experience that we will use to continue to advocate for our cause and make the event an even bigger success next year.

Thank you to Events & Fundraising Manager, Jade Garrett for organizing this event, to participating staff and volunteers, sleepover guests, fundraisers and our generous donors and sponsors Groucho’s Deli and Willow Pet Products. I hope we all get a better night’s sleep tonight.

Sarah Neikam is the Marketing Director for the SPCA Albrecht Center in Aiken, SC. She has been with the organization since 2012, holding various roles including Volunteer Coordinator and Director of Operations & HR. A Certified Animal Welfare Administrator as of 2022, Sarah is a passionate advocate for animal welfare. She resides in Aiken with her husband, Tom, and their six cats.