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Paying Homage to Will and Grace

At the St. Clair County Humane Society in Port Huron, Michigan, volunteers have helped make all the difference for Will the poodle, Grace the calico, and so many other animals who come through shelter doors. At a volunteer recognition dinner, the organization’s treasurer, Cynthia Bostwick, paid tribute to their efforts with this speech.

I want to tell you two shelter stories. I want to tell you about Will and Grace.

When Will the poodle was found, he was covered in fleas, saddled by a collar that had grown into his neck, and barely able to see past his matted bangs.

Will was found wandering along the highway by one of our board members. He was a white poodle with huge black eyes, a fine leather nose, tons of fleas, and a neck that was rotting from his ingrown collar despite severe undernourishment. Unaltered, of course, Will was probably someone’s puppy mill stud.

The person who found Will instantly decided to take him to the shelter. At the shelter, Will was welcomed, washed, and treated thanks to each of you seated here; as you know, we raise all of our operating funds through volunteer activities and contributions. Will received his vaccines because you worked at the Pawzaar and raised the money to pay for them. He was housetrained by staff because you worked the art fair and encouraged a passerby to purchase a sweatshirt. He was neutered and his wounds were treated because you stood smiling in the rain to raise $8,800 at the Mutt March. He was able to stay at the shelter because you took him out of his cage regularly to socialize him, walk him, and help him get some fresh air.

And finally, Will’s adoptive family found him on Petfinder because you helped us pay for the electricity that keeps the computer running. Now Will lives in comfort with two adults and a child.

Grace was also found outside; she was one of a colony of abandoned cats. She is a domestic short-haired, lush, bright calico with a pumpkin face: a black triangle outlines her prominent nose. Her original human was a misguided man who kept her and her unaltered progeny in his small apartment in Port Huron. By the time he’d been evicted by his landlord after fleas and the smell of urine had driven a neighboring tenant away, there were three generations of cats living in the apartment, and Grace was pregnant again.

A volunteer first spotted the cats—seven of them, ranging in age from 6 to 18 months—on a bike ride downtown. You see, the owner had left them behind, and the landlord had shooed all the cats outside. They were hanging around the rooftop entrance to their former home, lying on the fire escape, and scrounging in the downtown dumpsters for food.

The volunteer came back to the site with some food and water. She contacted the owner of the building, who had placed an unattended live trap under the fire escape. She found out that his plan was to “trap the cats, take them out to the country, and let them go.”
The volunteer patiently tried to educate the landlord. She offered to help trap and take the cats to the Humane Society.

“They just kill them there, don’t they?” he asked.

She patiently explained that dropping them off in the country was a death warrant, and that, yes, sometimes the animals are humanely killed if they can’t be placed or if they’re injured. The landlord said he hadn’t thought about the problems his methods were causing, and agreed to let the cats be trapped and taken to the Humane Society.

The trapping process began. Grace was easy; she was pretty socialized and not difficult to handle. She and one of her youngest kittens were the first ones to come to the shelter.

Grace was immediately spayed to prevent the birth of more kittens; the shelter was able to do this because you worked at the garage sale for 10 long hours, setting up and sorting and selling. Grace was vaccinated because you had made knitted items to raise money for shelter programs. And the shelter had enough money to test for feline leukemia because you had brought your better stuff to be sold at the Pawzaar.

Unfortunately, Grace’s kittens tested positive. The next three cats from the colony were also FeLV-positive. Using the accepted protocol for colonies of feral and abandoned cats, we made the decision that the two remaining members were likely to be infected or to be carriers. But because you encouraged our executive director with a kind word or a check for the coffers or a Christmas gift, because you were there when she just needed some help, she was able to keep her spirits up as she did the hardest job of all: euthanizing the kitten and the five remaining cats as they were trapped and brought to her over the next six weeks.

Neither the landlord nor the tenant ever helped with the cats at all, nor have they made a donation to cover the expenses. All of that—the moral support, the work of trapping, and the cold cash—came from your hard work over the past year.

Grace was adopted from the shelter by a wonderful couple in Avoca, who sent a photo at Christmas time. When she’s not sleeping on Mary and Al’s bed, Grace sleeps on a pet bed purchased at the Pawzaar.

Grace the calico kitty and Will the poodle, two of the millions of animals helped by shelter volunteers every year, are now happy in their new homes.

The stories of Will and Grace are true. Without your work, these animals would not have survived. Without your aching backs, smiling faces, willing hands and spirits, without your generous donations of time, talent, and cash, Will and Grace would be dead. Eight to ten million animals enter U.S. shelters each year, and only about half of them are lucky enough to be adopted. You directly saved Will and Grace—and more than 200 others like them this year just in our shelter alone.

And you multiply that number many times over, because your efforts not only help the shelter directly but also support the incredible education efforts of our volunteer humane educators Tom and Gerry, taking the humane message to thousands of schoolkids every year. Your efforts support the printing and mailing of our newsletter, which takes humane education to thousands of readers four times a year. And finally, your efforts also tirelessly support the animals who share your own homes. Even though you’re dog-tired after standing all day in the hot sun at the art fair for the Humane Society, when those tails wag or those throats purr in friendly greeting, you squat down to pet them and thank them for gracing your lives. And even though your own feet ache, you feed them, play with them, love them. The contribution you make to our community by being compassionate, loving companions to your own animals is pure gold.

You all share a special bond with the animals of the world. It’s a calling to volunteer the way you do. We never can thank you enough. So please accept the stories of Will and Grace as a token of our gratitude, a living testament to your efforts, the proof that your good works bear life in our community. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your determined wills and your passion and your compassionate grace on behalf of all the animals.


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