It’s quiet time in the dog kennel at Texas Humane Heroes in Killeen when suddenly, the door opens and humans walk in.
Four adult dogs still available for adoption after a successful weekend of matching dogs and puppies with new pet parents bark with anticipation. They are alert, jumping around in circles and hoping this may be the day they get a forever home.
On the other side of the building is the cat and kitten area. Two kittens, a grey tabby with tufted ears and a tiny calico, play hide and seek in the cat condos set up in a room that leads to an enclosed patio. Felines are a little standoffish at first, because after all, cats choose us. But then they come out of their lairs and greet you with a head butt against your hand. If you get close enough, they nestle a furry face against yours. That’s the moment you know that cat or kitten is yours.
Pets of all species have been adding love to humans’ lives for centuries, but in the last 20 years or so that bond seems to have deepened. For many pet owners, the psychology of master-pet has given way to the pet-parent connection, and humans now refer to their four-legged housemates as fur kids.
Finding your fur-ever friend
Anyone who has ever loved a pet knows the human-animal bond that begins the moment you look into your new fur-kid’s eyes. It’s that moment of joy when the four-legged critter realizes someone is taking him or her to a forever home where he or she will be warm in the winter, cool in the summer, be able to romp and play in a loving home and maybe even have a backyard to explore.
“Go into any shelter and look into their eyes. They want to come out and be your beloved pet,” said THH Board Member George Grammas. “People and animals have that connection. They give you unconditional love and are so innocent. Our connection with our family pets is an unbreakable bond.”
Finding that special fur-kid, however, takes a little time; especially if you are looking at orphan animals at one of the many local shelters in Central Texas. To help out the overflow of abandoned or surrendered pets, Texas Humane Heroes of Killeen and Leander (www.texashumaneheroes.org) take in the overflow of animals from kill shelters to help mitigate euthanasia. As many as 200 pets a month are collected from shelter facilities around the state and brought to Leander to be prepared for adoption.
“All the animals come into the Leander location first,” said THH Marketing Manager Christine Rankin. “Every Tuesday we transfer adoptable animals to Killeen where they are available Tuesday through Sunday for adoption.”
Approximately 2,400 animals are brought to Leander every year, and as many as 200 pets a month are adopted. Some people drive from out of state to adopt a pet after finding it on the internet.
All incoming animals are spayed or neutered, vaccinated and microchipped. It costs $200 to prepare one animal for its prospective new home.
If you are not sure about being a for-life pet parent, consider becoming a foster parent through Texas Humane Heroes. But keep in mind these are mostly special-needs animals.
“We foster for a few reasons like mamas-to-be, nursing babies, heartworm positive dogs, and behavior problem dogs. Humane Heroes pays all expenses for foster pet parents. If an animal becomes sick, bring it back and we will take it to our on-site veterinarian or to an outside veterinarian,” Rankin said.
People cannot just say they want to foster a pet, Rankin explains. Prospective foster parents must complete a volunteer application and be approved by the volunteer coordinator. A detailed foster training manual is provided to help foster parents understand the responsibility they will be undertaking.
But beware, sudden love is a hazard for foster parents and Rankin said Humane Heroes loves what they call “foster failures.”
“That means the pet has found a good forever home,” Rankin said. “Foster moms are so dedicated. They want to keep their guy or girl, but want to foster more.”
Rankin said it takes discipline to let go of a foster pet when the time comes, especially if the foster parent has become emotionally attached to it.
“It takes discipline to let go,” Rankin said. “Know that it is going to a good home. Foster families are our lifesavers.”
The annual budget is $1.2 million, and is covered by grants and donations. Fundraisers are held on a regular basis, and last year they hosted their first Diamond in the Ruff Gala in Austin and raised more than $60,000 for the shelters.
Monetary and in-kind donations of cleaning supplies, toys to keep the animals busy, canned dog and cat food, (no dry food please, the animals are on a strict diet), blankets, leashes, paper towels and hand sanitizer are welcome.
With all of the help the shelter receives from the community they give back through educational programs.
“One of the things we do is to go into public schools and give presentations to kids in the area,” Grammas said. “The younger we can get them, the better.”
Grammas said it’s teaching kids about pets through community outreach.
“We get invited all the time. We set up tables, take animals with us, teach them (the kids) about basic pet care, how not to get bitten by an animal,” he said. “Kids come in here for a tour. Boy Scouts and Girls Scouts of Leander earn their merit badges.”
Another way THH helps is through Pets for Patriots. Military staff can come in to adopt a companion animal at no charge. But Grammas said too often the soldiers who come in to adopt are deployed unexpectedly and they have to surrender their pets.
“Think before you adopt,” Grammas said. “Animals need a forever home.”
For soldiers who do deploy but want to be sure their pet is waiting for them when they return, Grammas said the Guardian Angels in Gatesville (https://guardianangelsforsoldierspet.org/) will foster out a pet, at the soldier’s expense.