Animal Shelter of the Week: Episode 62 – Dog and Cat Shelter, Inc.

Dog and Cat Shelter, Inc.

Dog and Cat Shelter, Inc.

The Sheridan Dog and Cat Shelter is what they like to call the “Home in Between Homes” for animals that find their way to their shelter. They are non-judgmental about surrenders because they know life can and does throw curveballs. They have an amazing facility where every dog and cat gets outdoor time everyday. They have volunteers that walk every dog everyday. They have a Senior Dog Project, A Low Cost Spay / Neuter Certificate program, and a newly established Stray to Service Program that places trained service dogs (formerly strays) into the hands of Veterans in need of a Service Dog.


Website: http://dogandcatshelter.org/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dogncatsheridan/“Welcome to the Animal Shelter of the Week podcast, where we feature outstanding organizations from around the country that are helping animals and the people who rescue them. This podcast is proudly sponsored by Doobert.com. Doobert connects animal shelters with volunteers to do animal transport and fostering. Learn more and sign up for free at www.Doobert.com. Let’s meet this week’s featured animal shelter.

The Sheridan Dog and Cat Shelter is what they like to call the “Home in Between Homes” for the animals in their care. They have an amazing facility where every dog and cat gets outdoor time daily. The staff and volunteers have also put a lot of time and thought in some of the programs they offer. They have a Senior Dog Project program, a low-cost spay/neuter certificate program and a newly established Stray to Service program that places trained dogs, formal strays, into the hands of veterans in need of a service dog.

 Hi, Jill. Welcome to the show. Hi, Kimberly. Thank you. How are you doing today and during this crazy pandemic? We’re doing great! Because we’re in Wyoming, we’re very fortunate. That’s awesome. And that’s a positive aspect, and it’s a good way to get this podcast started. So you’re the Executive Director over at the Dog and Cat Shelter in Wyoming like you mentioned. Is that right? Yes. In Sheridan, Wyoming, North Central Wyoming, to be exact. Okay, very cool. So can you just kind of start and tell me a little bit about your organization and maybe your purpose and some of your goals. This particular shelter was founded in, actually 1971 and it was mostly volunteers. They finally built a structure in 2000, so it’s hard to believe it’s been around for 20 years. I have been the Executive Director for just over a year and 1/2 so this is a new one for me, still. You know, we actually have a whole new board, so it’s very exciting and we have a lot of new programs and ideas happening right now. But I mean, I think really, you know, our goal, I mean, the primary goal, probably for most people who work in this industry, is to find a place or purpose for every animal. Right? And that’s ultimately, that’s a lofty goal, but that’s pretty much what I think we’re all doing this for. And so we like to call ourselves a safe haven. A “home in between homes”, for the animals that cross our path or the animals that we have transferred in. that kind of thing. That’s totally the truth. And you want to bring that home aspect as much as you can to those animals in need before preparing them to go into, hopefully, their forever home. Exactly.

 You’ve been with them for about a year and 1/2 now. How did you get started with them? Have you been in animal welfare for a while now, or is this something just like completely new for you? Okay. As a director of an organization like this, it’s very new. I volunteered quite a bit at other organizations, you know, from Equine to I actually volunteered with Dogs of the Ninth Ward in New Orleans, five years post Katrina, which was a fascinating experience. It was also the same year of the BP oil spill, so I experience it a lot from the volunteer aspect. And my nonprofit experience prior to this was actually in economic development. Okay, so a little bit of a different trail there. Yes. But that’s great. And believe it or not, we’ve got a lot of people that I’m coming to find that the path that they were on, was not the path that they were staying on. And now that completely switched occupation fields and now they’re in animal rescue. So I always love to kind of find out, how did you get started here? It’s always fun to see how you ended up in the role that you’re in. Yeah, it’s neat to hear that other people come from basically a logistical background to animal oriented as well. Yeah, I think the animals do it, you know, they just draw people in. It’s just what they do.

 So your guys are obviously in Wyoming, and you kind of just share with us a little bit about your area and your community, for those of us that may not be near your general location. So we are in Sheridan, Wyoming. We’re North Central. So we’re very close to the Montana border. We are at the base of the Big Horn Mountains. It’s a beautiful mountain range with a lot of wilderness and there’s so much that goes on. We have to ski areas nearby for winter sports. There’s cross country skiing. There’s ice fishing. We actually now just got a junior hockey team franchise here, and we have a lot of culture. And for a town of 25,000, the thing that people say the most when they come through here is they can’t believe how much culture there is here. For a town this size, we have theatre, performing arts, everything like that. And the other thing that’s really unusual is that we have high goal polo in the summer, every summer in Sheridan, Wyoming, and people come from all over the world to play. Wow, I’m assuming that with all of that going on, you guys kind of stay involved a lot. Like I’m kind of picturing like this big city where everybody’s kind of driving by and saying hi kind of thing. Is that a little bit right or my kind of way off base here? No, it’s absolutely right. And in fact, we are on one of the most direct routes to Yellowstone, so we get a lot of traffic of people going to Yellowstone. And what I think we would find and Sheridan Travel and Tourism could probably answer this, but people end up coming back here. It’s an authentic experience, I guess. It definitely sounds like it is. It sounds like it would be a great place to visit, which would be new for some of us who are accustomed to where we currently reside. But it seems like it would also be a great area to live in as well.

 So how is it for the animals over there? I know you said that you have a lot of wildlife going on. Does that pose sort of a threat for any strays? If that is a problem, like share with us a little bit about that? Yes, that is probably unique to our area, the wildlife, the interaction between dogs, cats, and the wildlife. So we have skunks, quite a lot of skunks out here. And one reason we have such an active, low-cost Rabies clinic, which we are actually gonna have more of is because there are skunks that test positive for Rabies. Skunks and bats and raccoons. And there are frequent interactions between barn cats or even house cats. Because the river goes through town or there are several rivers in the county as well. That’s probably unique to our area or rural areas. Yeah, but definitely you always hear that the animals have to have their annual Rabies shots, but just to kind of live in an area where you know that Rabies are a high threat to some of the animals. It’s good to kind of be on top of that and the fact that you guys know that and you make sure that you’re prepped and your animals are good to go with that. That’s good.

 So what comes into your guys shelter more? Is it more owner surrenders or strays? I would say, it’s probably 50/50 because our unique factor is we’re probably the only shelter in this northern part, I guess, at the base of the Rocky Mountains and moving up into Montana, we border at least three Native American reservations. And that’s unique in that Native American reservations have you know, there are many family dogs that are well cared for, and then there are those that, for whatever reason, become separated from human care and basically have to go it alone. And these are dogs, that kind of run in packs. They know to go from place to place for food if they can get it. But we have people that kind of network through the reservation and collect dogs and bring them in. Okay. You know, you’ve definitely got a lot going on there and a lot of different things that play parts into just kind of how the community is. It’s good to be knowledgeable about that, and it seems like you guys definitely have that going for you guys.

 So do you guys ever put on any type of events or fundraisers to kind of help involve the people of your community with your organization? Yes, we actually had our inaugural Canines on the Catwalk, it was called last year, and we have an old theater downtown. It wasn’t an original idea, you know. There’s other shelters that have done this, of course, but we called it Canines on the Catwalk, and there’s an old theater downtown that’s been renovated. It’s absolutely stunning and gorgeous, and so we actually did a catwalk in the theater. We had first responders and local personalities, walking with, you know, an adoptable dog or cat. And for instance, the fireman, we had him have two kittens. Oh, my gosh, that sounds like so much fun. It was really fun, but it was a lot of work, but it was so much fun. It was so beneficial in the end, right? I would love to attend that. Well, here you go. Because of COVID this year, we’re going to do it virtually so everyone can tune in. Oh, my gosh, I’m so excited.

 It seems to be that virtual is the way to go right now due to the pandemic. But I feel like it’s doing so much good for these organizations to kind of step out of the box a little bit and say, Hey, you know, save on renting a space to do it. Let’s just do it virtually or something like that. So I’m excited. Are you guys gonna post that on your social media? Yes, we will. And we’re trying to look at ways we can expand it. Of course, you want it to be nationwide, but just how to make it unique and exciting and because we do have programs that aren’t just local, so there’s the potential to probably get some people interested in some of our other programs. And, you know, I totally agree with you that this is awful, as it’s been for most everyone else. We’re so grateful that it has not been bad for us that we’ve all had to prepare the same way regardless, and it completely makes you pause and think outside the box. As you said and go, How can we do things differently? You know, has this made us more efficient? What are the numbers? Has it made us work more together? Things like that. 

Yeah, it definitely has and I want to jump into that a little bit. You have mentioned that the pandemic hasn’t really affected you guys in a negative way. You guys are still kind of doing your same old routine because that’s definitely different than some of the other conversations that I’ve had, with other organizations. Like the pandemic has definitely affected them. They can’t do events. They’re having to get all of their animals out of their organization. So I’m very intrigued when you say that it hasn’t really negatively impacted you guys. Can you just kind of share your secret as to why. Shelter in place is very easy in Wyoming just because there’s just under 600,000 people in the entire state and I think our county, you know, has like 30,000 people. But our county is the size of Connecticut. So I mean, when you put that in perspective is pretty easy. Our governor also did a really good job. Everything basically got shut down, and I would say that’s the mitigating factor, which made it probably so that we didn’t get impacted. Having said that, you still have to prepare. And so what we did is we decided to prepare. So what happens if A) if it comes to us? We followed all the protocols as if we were in New York, you know, set up separate areas to quarantine animals that were coming from COVID homes. But aside from that, we went one step further and said, We do have the space. I mean, we have the land. If we had to temporary set up all kinds of things to evacuate animals and house them, we could do it. So we kind of went into, how can we aid and assist? In addition, to prepare for this epidemic. 

That’s definitely great to hear. Are you guys still doing your adoption process and everything? Has any of that changed? I mean, I’m assuming it must have if they have, like, a shelter in place. Yes, we definitely changed our operations. So we went from regular walk-in adoptions to appointments only. And then actually narrowed it down even farther to say, you know, we were going to give priority to people that had approved applications and also fostering. So we did the foster program much like everyone else. This resulted in us being able to move strays over to the adoption side at a faster rate and increased capacity for any overflow we might get from neighboring or even non-neighboring places, that were in critical mass. It definitely still seems like you guys are on the same track. Have you guys seen a spike in your adoption numbers? Or an increase?  March was slow for everybody, of course, because we just fostered everything and then moved whatever we could over and kept it open. I would say April, I can’t wait to see the end of the month, but I think it’s probably gonna be a busy month. Very interesting. The reason I ask is because a lot of the organizations that I’ve talked to, you’re definitely unique in the fact that the pandemic hasn’t really affected you guys like it has in other areas. And believe it or not, in those areas where it has impacted them harder, they’ve been adopting like crazy. People are home more so they want to adopt animals. But I’m definitely excited for you to kind of see those numbers that I’m sure it’s been busy and crazy. Well,  we actually kind of had a pitch like “It’s a great time to adopt because you have time to adapt”. Yes, very creative.

 So I want to kind of pivot a little bit, and I saw something that struck my interest a little bit, and it was one of your programs, actually. It was the newly Stray to Service program. Could you share with us a little bit about that and what it is? How did you guys come up with it? This program, it’s our inaugural program again, it’s not original. It’s not unique. What’s unique for us, you know there are other programs, such as that in the country. But what’s unique for us is we have a destination Veterans Administration, and it’s a VA that has a mental health component to it. So it’s a rehabilitation VA, and it’s a domicile. So people come in for anywhere from 90 to 100 days, 120 days and they stay on-site and they get help for PTSD, traumatic brain injury, drug, and alcohol abuse. Things like that. They need to take a break before they can enter life. And from a lot of them, they maybe haven’t been able to adapt at all since returning from service. So they come here, they stay, they get the tools that they need. 

So we already had a program where the veterans were coming once or twice a week and spending two hours a day. The veterans in those programs, spending two hours a day with our dogs. We would have them walk the dogs. If all they needed to do was sit with a dog, we made that happen. A couple of years ago, there was another director who started something called the Anchor Dog, and then there just wasn’t the funding for it. So it was discontinued. And so we kind of reorganized and came up with this program, and we have the benefit of having an amazing trainer, in town, who’s had experience in Iraq. He was a canine officer, so he’s very highly credentialed and he was willing to jump in on this program. And that’s our unique factor, once again, we have the VA. We have a trainer who’s local, so we’re able to keep the costs down. 

So we brought all those elements together and he’ll come in and do a behavioral assessment on the dogs, he will have two or four. They’ll actually go to his facility, for anywhere from 4 to 8 weeks, boot camp, and then they come back and he works with our staff to continue working with that dog or those dogs until they’re paired. I love that. You guys are doing so much for, not just the veterans and the people that are checked in there a little bit. But the fact that you guys have found a way to make a connection, you know, So you’re helping them by letting them interact with the animals and just kind of hang out with them, but it’s also helping and it’s working as an enrichment for the dogs in your guys care. I find these types of programs to be, they’re very heartfelt, you know, because you’re doing so much more. It’s not just a program where, oh the dogs are getting enrichment, you know, there’s a bigger picture behind it, and so I think that’s why that one stood out to me as much as it did when I saw it listed on your website. So thank you so much for sharing that with us. I think that that’s a great program that you guys offer. And like you mentioned, the fact that you have that trainer to kind of help and assist and have the experience that he does, is just awesome. 

Yeah, we’re very fortunate and it actually increases our ability to serve outside of our multi-county area because these people who come out, they usually stay for an extended period. They continue to, the first 2 are working with Shan, is his name, that’s the trainer’s name, but then they go back to their communities where they came from and if they’ve successfully graduated, these are full-service dogs. They have a vest, they’re allowed anywhere. We also do the ESA component, but they will return with a new tool in their toolbox. So that part’s really rewarding. We feel like we’re helping people and dogs to move on to another place.

Yeah, So what is kind of the process of that? So do you guys get dogs in and they work with the trainer and they get to be to where they are service dogs. Do they stay in your care? Or do you guys adopt them out and then just train more dogs that come into your care? That’s exactly it. We have the component where the veterans just come and they work with our dogs, the ones that aren’t getting service dogs. And so we’re now getting applications. Of course, that program has been impacted by COVID because nobody can travel. And the V. A is on the North end. But the dogs come in, the trainer does a behavioral assessment, and then he’ll take them and work with them and either says, this guy could go all the way or they won’t and then he’ll return them. But we’re getting a much more adoptable dog. So it’s a win-win. Whoever gets that dog, you know, it’s a win-win, and then we have puppies or young dogs and they’ll be fostered until they’re ready to go into training. So right now, well, you probably saw on the website we have four. That are ready. We have some applicants, but again, we’re at a standstill there. And there is so much interest in this program, we are realizing we need more room. We need a separate kennel that we hadn’t anticipated this last year. But it’s gone so smoothly in the regard from transferring from the trainer, him working with the person that he takes them out. Home Depot, everywhere and they go through the paces over and over, and it’s incredibly rewarding. Then they return to their life, and then we have another cycle of dogs coming through. Okay, the fact that it is a program and it’s booming, you know like you mentioned you guys didn’t think you guys would be where you are right now, like with that program. So the fact that it’s doing awesome, that’s making such a big impact. That’s a huge success right there. And you know I think that that’s definitely something that you guys should be super proud of. You know, that’s a great thing to have going and working for you. Yeah, but it’s also like who you know. Now, where do we go? We need more rooms. That usually comes with everything, though. I mean, wanted to go big, but sometimes you hold yourself back and reserve a little bit because, you know, what comes with that is, if it does move and it does go big now, now you’ve gotta grow that program and grow the space, and exactly. But it’s a good problem to have. It is. Oh, and I should say we register them. Each of these dogs gets registered on a national database. Okay, very cool.

 So, Jill, I know you shared a lot about the organization and your community and everything, but I kind of want to just pick your brain a little bit and learn a little bit about you and what makes you so passionate about working in this industry. Because I know that you haven’t always been in the animal welfare industry. So what keeps you here? First of all, I am originally from this area and then pretty much moved all over the world or worked in places all over the world and then came back here like just over 10 years ago. And, you know, after having lived so many places, I had a newfound appreciation. I mean, it never left me, but I always felt this was a special place. I kind of fell into this position at the Dog and Cat Shelter, but I’m really happy. But I think what made me passionate about is finding different ways to reach a broader audience like the Stray of Service. For me, that’s almost like economic development, which I’ve done. I know the impact that animals can have on people, and that’s why we say find a place or a purpose for every animal. Because I am a veteran. I’m a veteran as well, and so that particular program is near and dear to my heart. But it’s just my operations manager always says there are moving parts. There’s always moving parts, so no day is ever the same, and it’s challenging and it can be rewarding and it can be frustrating. But it’s always amazing, and that’s what keeps me there. 

Oh, good, I love that. And those were those moments that are just their heartfelt, And you could definitely tell that you’re in a position where you’re content but you’re also super happy being content where you are. I think it’s great that you are passionate about what you’re doing, and the fact that you can contribute to some of those great programs you know, and relate with some of the people that are maybe going through some stuff that you have experience with. And I think that that’s a great thing to have because it ties you in, more than I think a lot of people realize. Yeah, absolutely. 

You know, I would love to hear in your future podcasts of what other directors were organization or operations people. I mean, the one thing I have run into in this industry, in particular, is because this nonprofit of this nature demands a large staff. I mean, animals require a lot of care, you know, the volunteers are supercritical. But ever since I don’t remember if it was the Red Cross, it was years and years ago, and so there was a big call for people to not donate for operations anymore. And, you know, a shelter’s stability is born of the staff. And I don’t think donors should be afraid of taking care of the staff. A well-run organization creates a consistent compassionate environment for the animals. Yes, I agree 100% and I’m not too familiar in that aspect. But, um, you know, one of the great things about this podcast is we like to share just what the organization is doing and kind of what you guys struggle with. What do you guys feel is working really well, the programs that you offer. Not just to kind of shine light to your organization, but also maybe help some of the organizations that have kind of run into a wall like maybe they have all these great programs, but they’re just not hitting with their commute cause, as you know, every community is different and their needs and their wants and their desires are different. So you kind of have to play around with things that you offer to get them engaged, you know? So that’s one of the things that I love about this is hearing how different each state is, how different the communities are, what’s working for one that maybe didn’t work for another. And so that’s one of our goals for doing these podcasts to kind of just share the great work that each organization is doing and maybe in the hopes that another organization is listening to, and they can pick up on some of the great stuff that’s going on also. Yeah, it’s a great resource. 

Yes, most definitely is. And if any of our listeners want a way to get in contact with you guys, whether it’s to donate or volunteer, what is the best way that they can get in contact with you guys? Well, we have two Websites now. One is dogandcatshelter.org and the other one is straytoservice.org. And the emails are right there on the Websites. And then there’s our phone numbers (307)674-7694. Perfect and I hope that that kind of helps out. And you know, I highly encourage our listeners to go and check out your website and your social media. I see that you guys are pretty active on your Facebook in posting pictures and updates and resources and everything of that nature.

 So I want to thank you, Jill, today for joining me and sharing a little bit more about the Dog and Cat Shelter. Do you have anything else that you’d like to share with us today? No, I just really appreciate your time. Oh, my gosh. This is so great to have a resource like this and to be able to share amongst other professionals. We love your open enough and for allowing us to kind of just get that glimpse into your organization and just especially you as a person. Also, because you know, you coming on here and telling us your stories and why you’re passionate about your work and everything is a huge thing. And we greatly appreciate that. Thank you.

 Thanks for tuning into today’s podcast. If you’re not already a Dooberteer, sign up for free at www.Doobert.com. At Doobert, we know that together we can save more animals.”

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