If you've heard joyous singing emanating from the pet shelter of the Humane Society of the Nature Coast, the jubilation is being vocalized by the facility's staffers and volunteers.
With communitywide support, the society is in the running for a $1 million award through a contest sponsored by Zootoo.com, an Internet site promoting pet supplies and responsible pet ownership.
But the shelter still needs help from the community if it hopes to get the much-needed funding to expand and modernize its undersized shelter.
As of Friday, the local agency was ranked at No. 11 out of 2,734 pet adoption agencies, with 428,434 points. That placed it 4,989 points behind No. 10 Angel Acres Horse Haven Rescue of Glenville, Pa., with only 14 days left in the contest.
Breaking into the Top 20 was crucial, explained executive director Joanne Schoch. A committee of Zootoo officials will winnow down the 20 to 10 facilities that its representatives will visit to assess needs and name a single winner.
The agency with the highest number of points does not necessarily win the money. The points are important, however, because they get the shelters into the Top 20 — and thus eligible for the award.
Individuals visiting the Web site note which shelter they want to support for the makeover. Points are awarded for each Web site hit, for photos and brief messages submitted by readers of their pets and for signing up others to receive Zootoo information via the Internet.
A recent two-day outreach effort by society volunteers, making residents aware of the competition, garnered some 200 registrants, Schoch said.
"Now we have to stay (up) there," she added. "Take into consideration that all the other shelters will be working hard (to earn points), too."
Some supporters of the Nature Coast society are ardent in their commitment. Bonnie Kauffman is one of those.
"I have no life," she maintains with good humor. "I have Zootoo."
Kauffman has racked up some 5,500 points for Nature Coast. "Right now, I am considered zoo-wise," said the 66-year-old pet owner.
Kauffman is one of — maybe the leading — "avid Zootoo-ers" for Nature Coast, Schoch said.
Kauffman has diligently sent in point-earning photos and videos of her pets: two dogs and two cats.
Dearest to her heart must be Mabel, a 7-year-old big black Labrador-coon hound mix, that is the star of eight videos Kauffman has submitted. In the clips, Mabel is "running in the yard, playing, begging for food, watching my husband making lunch and hoping he drops something," the filmmaker said. The canine, which the couple has owned since it was 3 or 4 months old, also is the subject of 12 photos now in Zootoo's archives.
Then there's the orange and white tabby cat, Moby, with his own particular idiosyncrasies and smarts memorialized on the Web site.
He was adopted a year ago from the local shelter where Kauffman found him curled up inside a storage bench. It wasn't that he was shy but "just likes to be inside things," she said. "His favorite bed is the bathroom sink," said the owner. One picture on the Internet reveals Moby in that sink.
The feline, estimated to be 8 or 9 years old, "opens doors, drawers, closets and cat treats."
Kauffman came to the rescue when a friend discovered a litter of kittens and their mother on her doorstep in New Hampshire at Christmas-time eight years ago. Her selection from the offering, Mulligan, is marked as a seal point Siamese.
Kauffman had fostered a red terrier-mix from the local shelter two years ago. "And she just decided she wasn't leaving." She completes the quartet of M-named pets, Missy, … so far.
Kauffman is now fostering a litter of eight puppies and their "little mother" from the shelter.
Back to Zootoo.com., Kauffman said, "It's a fun site, even if they weren't giving us money. And we so desperately need that makeover at the shelter."
Beth Gray can be contacted at [email protected]