‘The love is real’

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By JAMIE SEDLMAYER

Coeur Voice Writer

Wet noses and kisses greet visitors at the Kootenai Humane Society.

The dogs and cats available for adoption seem to eagerly await the next visitor, all showing their best meows or tail wags in hopes of finding a family or maybe just a new friend. At KHS friends come in many forms.

The main focus for KHS is to find homes for pets, but their reach into the community goes beyond the homeless pets they care for.

Through the Stop Pet Overpopulation Today program commonly known as S.P.O.T., more than 2,300 pets in Kootenai county were spayed or neutered last year. With an additional 1,062 spayed or neutered as part of the KHS adoption process. PETA literature suggests one female cat and her offspring can produce an incredible 370,000 kittens in as little as seven years.

KHS Director of Development, Vicky Nelson, said S.P.O.T. is most likely the KHS program that has the biggest impact on the community.

“Especially for cats, the cat population for the county is very high,” Nelson said. “People bring in kittens all the time, we care for them until they are old enough to spay or neuter, but it’s better to stop that before it happens.”

Nelson said KHS also works to help stop the cycle by ensuring the pets they adopt out are healthy, vaccinated, micro-chipped and not able to reproduce.

KHS depends on a team of 125 staff members and volunteers to care for the 6,000-plus animals that come through the facility each year, Nelson said..

Judy Maedl, Coeur d’Alene, has volunteered as a dog walker since June.

“I’m retired. I love dogs and wanted to do something to help,” Maedl said. “I wasn’t sure I had what it took, that I wouldn’t be able to not take them all home with me.”

Maedl said she is able to spend three to four days a week at KHS playing with and walking dogs.

“I love them, every time I come in, it’s like I have a new favorite until they are adopted,” Maedl said.

Nelson said people like Maedl are important for the overall health of the pets staying at the shelter. With an average stay of 18 days for dogs and 25 days for cats, daily interactions with humans can help keep animals socialized and easier to integrate into a new home said David Espen, KHS Cat Specialist.

Espen has been with KHS for 12 years, years he has spent becoming a bit of a cat whisperer. Espen prides himself on knowing each cat and its individual personality.

“As you’re cleaning in the morning, you learn their personalities,” Espen said. “Then when potential adopters come in, you know what questions to ask them to make sure they are getting a cat that fits them and their family, so you can be confident they are going to a good fit home.”

It’s not just the staff and volunteers who love the pets, it’s the community also.

The Lights of Love campaign puts that love front and center. From Nov. 27 through Dec. 31 at Coeur d’Alene’s Silver Lake Mall, there will be trees on display with lights featuring the names of beloved pets. The campaign, in its fourth year, raises funds for the nonprofit animal shelter by selling the lights for $10 each. Each light, with a pet’s name on it, is placed on one of the trees.

“People love it. They are able to remember or honor their pet and it helps the homeless animals at the same time,” Nelson said. “It’s heartwarming to see how much love there is in the community for not only their own but the homeless animals as well.”

Nelson teared up as she looked into the eyes of a caged kitten.

“It makes me cry to say that. It’s real. The love is real,” she said.

S.P.O.T. is a low-cost spay/neuter program open to everyone. There are no requirements to meet. Just stop by KHS during regular business hours and fill out the paperwork. Once you have paid the fee you can schedule your pet’s appointment.

For more information on KHS, volunteer opportunities and other programs visit the Kootenai HUmane Society, 11650 N. Ramsey Road, Hayden.

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