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June 22, 2009

My Turn: Animal shelter is a gift to the area

This week's "My turn" column is by A. Brent Truitt, treasurer for the Heart of the Catskills Humane Society's board of directors.

Since moving from the city six years ago, my wife, Jennifer, and I have been so impressed with all that this area has to offer _ unrivaled natural beauty, welcoming friends and neighbors and more tent caterpillars than you could ever want (just kidding).

We often say that making the move was one of the best things we ever did. And, soon after the move, we discovered one of the most special gifts of the area _ the Heart of the Catskills Humane Society, or HCHS, in Delhi.

Not long after settling in, we started volunteering at HCHS by walking dogs around the shelter's beautiful grounds. Within a year, we were asked to serve on the board of directors, and we both gladly accepted the invitation.

Since 2004, we have both served as directors, with my serving as treasurer and Jennifer heading up the shelter's marketing and direct-mail campaign efforts.

One of the things that originally struck us as special about the shelter is that it is a happy place. Many folks stay away from shelters, expecting them to be depressing holding pens filled with sad puppy and kitten faces. Nothing could be further from the truth at HCHS.

Working with scant resources, shelter staff and volunteers have created a beautiful haven where dogs, cats and their human visitors can enjoy themselves in a loving environment while they await their forever homes.

Dogs enjoy daily outdoor exercise within carefully structured "play groups" with compatible canines while cats lounge in hammocks made by volunteers or watch birds from the outdoor cat gazebo.

Even the store manager at Kingston's PetSmart, which selected HCHS to run its on-site cat adoption center, observed during his initial inspection of the shelter that "this isn't just a shelter; it's a spa for cats and dogs."

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