Catherine Clements was greeted by a dog that just wanted to be friends. It turns out the dog has lots of friends.
The young dog, named Blackie, then put a paw up on a gate at the Macon-Bibb County Animal Control shelter as if to say “hi.” Blackie and Clements hit it off right away, and a donation made the adoption -- along with spaying and a rabies shot -- free to Clements.
Later at the vet’s office, Blackie’s heartworm test came up positive. More donations flooded in quickly to treat Blackie, including some cash from workers at Northside Wesleyan Animal Hospital. Half the money came in just three days from Windsor Academy classmates of Clements’ son, Zachary McDaniel, where the generosity was overwhelming.
“He was putting the money in an envelope, and he says, ‘My envelope ran out. The coach had to give me a bag,’ ” recounted Clements.
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Blackie has joined the ranks of dozens of local dogs and cats benefiting from a rush of private donations.
Van VanDeWalker, interim director of Macon Animal Control, said a $750 donation from real estate agent Mallory Jones in late December supported the free adoption of eight dogs and two cats, all of which are already home with new owners. The pets were claimed in the first three business days after the donation was announced.
That donation seemed to start a trend.
Other $750 donations from Tom Wagoner and Carol Wheeler followed, along with $300 from another person -- in all, enough to let 34 dogs or cats go to a new home for free. The donations are run through animal rescue group Central Georgia CARES.
VanDeWalker said he hopes the money already donated runs out quickly, because it means animals are being adopted.
“The more dogs and cats go out of here, the more go home and the more space we have,” he said. “And then maybe someone else will step forward and make another donation, and this wonderful cycle can go forward.”
Half of the adoptions of the 34 animals had already begun by Wednesday, leaving funding for another 17 animals to find new homes.
“These are animals we picked up off the streets, and their owners haven’t come looking for them and they’re at threat of being put down,” VanDeWalker said. “Our goal is to empty the shelter and make sure that doesn’t happen. We’re going to do our best to make sure dogs and cats don’t go down.”
The aging shelter near Macon’s landfill is slated for replacement with $3 million from Bibb County’s special purpose local option sales tax funds. It’s often near its capacity of 80 dogs and 20 cats, which means animals have to be euthanized through no fault of their own, VanDeWalker said.
Other donations are helping with spay/neuter efforts across the county.
VanDeWalker said Susan Helton with Have A Heart, Save A Life has received donations to cover the $20 discounted spay-neuter and rabies vaccinations from a mobile spay unit. The next two runs with the unit, through the Atlanta Humane Society, are already paid for and cover 120 animals, VanDeWalker said.
VanDeWalker said Helton is also arranging for transportation for people unable to bring their pets to the spay unit. Helton said spaces are already filled for the spay/neuter clinic on Feb. 1 and Feb. 2, but it’s possible another one will be held in April.
To keep animals from being euthanized in the Macon shelter, animal rescue groups including Have A Heart, ARC Humane Society and Macon Purrs N Paws have been taking animals from the shelter to get them adopted elsewhere. Some animals were taken in by families as far away as Canada and Seattle, VanDeWalker said.
Such groups were responsible for 1,016 animals being transferred out of the animal shelter last year, Macon Animal Control statistics show.
Jones originally hoped his donation would spur interest in adoptions. He didn’t know it would lead to adoptions and additional donations.
“It’s gone beyond my wildest dreams,” he said. “I just had no idea that it would snowball like this. It’s real heartwarming.”
Jones warns people that pets will bring additional costs but also untold benefits. “There’s nothing like unconditional love,” he said.
Clements said she’s grateful to all the donors that brought Blackie to her home near Freedom Park, and the donors who are paying for the heartworm treatment. Blackie is probably no older than 2 years, leaving the potential for a long friendship that started with one of the simplest gestures in the kennel.
“She came up to the gate,” Clements said.
To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.