South Suburban Humane Society Where You Can Find Real Friends
Russell's Publications; The Crete Record;
Editor Chris Russell
Text and photos by Regina Nuttall
What do you do to get a dog or kitten for your kids or yourselves? Look for newspaper ads, go to the market or..? It depends on your views and preferences.
"Royalty" dogs with impressive documents are easy to find for large amounts of money, and for many, that is a fine way to go.
But if you are not rich, and what you want from a pet is a real friend, not papers, you might consider adopting a homeless dog or cat. Welcome to the South Suburban Humane Society, at 1103 West Ends Ave in Chicago Heights.
Some months ago my family and I met Annie, a French pointer, "the best dog in the world" as we sometimes call her now.
Elenor Meader, educational director, knows thousands of these stories.
One of them happened 35 years ago in a local forest preserve. While walking her own dogs early in the morning, she found a basket containing a litter of newborn puppies that somebody had left to die. A little investigation led her to the Humane Society.
She started volunteering with them, and later took full time job. Today, she lives with five cats, all from the shelter, and can't imagine better companions for people her age.
Where do these animals come from?
*Give-ups. There are a lot of reasons for these. Someone got a puppy and didn't think that it would grow up one day. They get too big, have too much hair, cause allergies, sometimes people die or get sick.
*They were lost. That's why animals need to have identification tags. Everybody can come here and get this tag for free! In this shelter after adoption, even implant microchips can be used to help identify lost pets.
*Abandoned animals. Like her original basket of puppies, many are thrown out, left on the side of the road".
*We get them from abuse officers, who help animals that are mistreated by their owners.
*Kittens and puppies: It is difficult to understand why people don't sterilize their pets. They think Humane Society will help find them homes.
Yes, they are an open door shelter. That means they will accept any animals that are brought in, but they can't keep them forever.
There is no set time limit. If there is enough room, they keep dogs and kittens for 3-5 months, and do everything they can to find them homes.
Kitten season is spring, summer and fall. They get twenty five or thirty kittens every day! There is no way to find homes so many. Usually they place about five kittens a week. The rest have to be euthanized.
Before the shelter will place an animal, the person must agree to sterilize it. Cats and dogs, male and female, all must be neutered.
The cost of this is included in the adoption fee: $50 for a cat and $65 for a dog ($75 for purebreds). They also get a free veterinary exam as part of the deal.
When cats and dogs come in, they are immediately given distemper and parvo shots. They are checked for intestinal worms, and all dogs older than six months, for heart worms.
These are spread by mosquito bites and are a serious problem. Worms collect in the heart, the blood doesn't flow, and the dog dies a slow, horrible death. If they are found in time, however, they can be cured, and the dog can live a full, happy life.
Not just anybody can adopt a cat or dog. Very often workers responsible for adoption have to say NO. The society looks at the histories of potential owners.
Meader gave an example of one person who wanted to adopt. "One dog ran away, one got stolen, one got hit by a car. Someone like that will not have a dog from us. Maybe they want to keep a dog chained up in the back yard, or they never took previous dogs to the vet, or they live in a bad neighborhood. We are able to check records.
People who have never had a pet before have to fill out an application and do an interview. "We get a lot of young people, who have rented for one month and want a little puppy. We say NO WAY to them.
If somebody has rented for a few years, we check with their landlord. If they live in a mobile home park, we might decide to give them only a small dog. We talk to people and try to help to choose what is best".
Meader adds: "People need to have time to take proper care of a pet. A young pregnant mother who lived in a third floor apartment with two small children wanted to adopt a puppy.
Meader asked her to understand that she will not be able to walk this dog. The woman got a little angry, but after the new baby was born she called Meador and thanked her.
The shelter also doesn't give puppies to families where both parents work and the kids go to school. Since puppies chew on things, they sometimes end up spending all day in garage or basement. Then, after while, they come back to the shelter.
And that is another rule. If people decide they do not want the animal after all, they MUST return it to the shelter.
People always want puppies, but for many it is better to get an older dog.
Workers at the Humane Society feel a lot responsibility. They worry that dogs stolen out of the yards can be used for fighting, can be taught to kill. They get pitbulls at the shelter, but they must be very careful where they go. Most of them are euthanized.
Pitbulls and rotweilers are good dogs, but they need to be socialized and they really need somebody working with them. It is good time to remind everybody that the Humane Society in Chicago Heights gets some of everything.
Although most are mixes, there are also pure blooded Persian or Siamese cats, golden retrievers, poodles, and spaniels.
Everybody knows that it is a fine thing to have a pet. The people at the Humane Society will help to match you with the right pet for you. They will also help teach you how to take care of and train your animal so that you can live happily together.
The Humane Society is a private organization and needs money to do it's work.
Some funds come from tags days, some from it's three resale stores and some from individual donations. They don't get federal, state or county money. But they do excellent work and perform a valuable service for community.
If you might have room in your life for a four-legged friend, you should come down to the shelter and see what loving, wonderful animals you can find here.