BROOKSVILLE — An open house at the Humane Society of the Nature Coast, a birthday party for its executive director, and a seven-day stay in a pen with a dog by volunteers taking pledges combined to raise more than $12,000 last week for the society.
The donations and events made for a successful launch of a campaign that hopes to raise $1-million to build more animal housing.
"The generosity of people who came here, who gave me presents (for the shelter), was overwhelming," said Joanne Schoch, executive director, who celebrated her 56th birthday with an evening-long party — and a night in a kennel. "Strangers brought me presents, people I met for the first time, $500 checks, $1,000.
"It was the best birthday party I ever had. Money was donated to something that was long-lasting. That's truly a gift," Schoch said.
Attendance at the birthday party, where entry was a $5 donation, was standing room only. "It was a sea of people. I was in a kennel so I couldn't see it all. People were here constantly."
The loquacious Schoch greeted so many that she developed laryngitis. Her volunteer staff appreciated her lost voice, she quipped.
Those who donated 24 hours or a week to bed down with a dog not only raised money in pledges, but friends and acquaintances also donated $1 a minute to take them for a walk, $2 to feed them a treat, $2 to hand them a magazine, $5 to break any confinement boredom with a book. Part of the idea was to acquaint people with the homelessness of the pets.
Another aim, to boost adoptions from the no-kill shelter, was fulfilled.
"Adoptions were triple what they usually are," Schoch said. "We've been thrilled to death." Adopted out were 13 dogs and nine cats, compared with usual weekly adoptions of four to five dogs and five to six cats.
An adoption that especially pleased staffers was of a terrier, or maybe pit bull mix, by the name of Daphne, so emaciated by heartworm she wasn't expected to survive when she came to the shelter via a veterinarian in Pasco County.
Initially, three volunteers staffed shifts to care for the dog: Sharlene Morrell, a vice president of SunTrust Bank; Christina Ryman of Complete Technology Solutions; and Michelle Curtis of Curtis Chiropractic. "These were the three who kept her calm and petted and loved and loved and loved, and we didn't think Daphne would make it," Schoch.
But Daphne did, and as of last week, she's homeless no more.
Schoch's own pen pals last week are still waiting, coontick hounds Bella and Fauch, sister and brother that must be adopted together. Bella came in with a brown spider bite. Fauch wouldn't eat while his sister was undergoing treatment. "They are the most beautiful, loving, sweet, sweet, soulful dogs," Schoch said.
"They have been here a year and a half. Too long, too long. But that's how long it took to treat Bella," Schoch explained. "We were literally fighting for her life.
"They are going to make someone so devoted pets. They are the cream of the crop in this place." Coonticks are working bird dogs, "but these dogs just want to play," said Schoch.
And they crave attention. They slept in Schoch's cot while she was penned with them. "We jockeyed for position. They won," she noted.
In addition to the society's aim to up its kennels from 17 to 30 or 40, the shelter needs donations of pet food, dog beds and cat baskets.
The shelter at the juncture of Wiscon and Mobley roads west of Brooksville can be reached at 796-2711. Donations can be mailed to Humane Society of the Nature Coast, P.O. Box 10328, Brooksville, FL 34603.
Beth Gray can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.