Head your car toward Cadillac on M55 and watch for Paws Trail on the left. A gravel road takes you back through the trees to a building built with love. This is the home of the Manistee County Humane Society’s Homeward Bound Animal Shelter. Built in 2005, this no-kill shelter is a safe haven for an array of pets waiting for their forever home. In any given year more than three hundred pets are adopted from the shelter, each receiving basic vaccinations. They are also spayed or neutered. While they are there, they receive medical care, socialization and training, and loving care from a whole troop of staff and volunteers. The day I visited, one volunteer was doing the laundry assisted by a watchful dark, smoke-colored cat. Another staff member was giving tours to a young visitor in search of a kitten.
The facility is divided into cat and dog areas,but the cats seemed to have run of most of the facility – with the exception of the dogs’ space. To the right of the front desk is a small room where cats were sleeping. Another kitty greeted me in the hallway, while still another enjoyed an afternoon nap on the counter of the front desk. The actual cat room is divided into space for kittens and another for adult cats. The first room was filled with sweet-faced kittens who couldn’t seem to make up their minds between napping and play. The sunny room was very accommodating for either activity with several cozy sleeping spots and lots of toys. I started to think of one active little one as Houdini, since he managed to get to the other side of the closed doors at least three times in the few minutes I was watching him. Quite the clever little guy. Though they may be closed at night, the cages are open and only provide a safe place to their occupants.
The adult cat room had fewer residents, but they all seemed very much at home. One particularly pretty one was perched on the top of the cages regally looking down at everyone below. Another cream colored kitty was fully stretched out on the windowsill enjoying the afternoon sun. The ones that greeted me seemed to truly enjoy visitors and purred instantly when I stopped to pet them.
Down the hall from the cat rooms is the dog quarters. The moment I entered the room, I was greeted enthusiastically with a loud chorus of barks. None of them wants to appear to be the quiet one. Their cages have two rooms: an inside space for sleeping and eating and an outdoor space for fresh air. The day I was there, it was warm and a few of the dogs preferred to be out in the breezes. That’s where I found Maxwell, a handsome boxer/lab mix. I learned about Maxwell from the informative poster on the outside of his cage. With adoption as the goal, the staff at Homeward Bound does their best to let families know about the needs and personality of each pet.
Not every dog is alone in a cage. Thelma and Louise are sisters who share their space. Both seemed to be such happy girls. I hope they find a home where they can continue to stay together. Copper and Coco also share a space. Though their poster info doesn’t say they are siblings, they arrived at the shelter together. Two Jack Russell/Mix dogs, they, too, seemed to enjoy being buddies. The dogs in the shelter the day I was there, ranged in age from one-year-olds to eight or nine. Some are energetic and others more laid back. Dog lovers in search of a friend would probably find one at Homeward Bound. And when that new family member is selected, there is a room to begin to get to know each other before taking him or her home.
Around the corner, I met another little pup who was almost small enough to slip around the gate of the enclosure. There was no name on his cage so I’m guessing he might be new. However, he was almost irresistible which means he probably won’t be there long.
Homeward Bound is supported by donations of all types. They have a membership program which includes single, family and patron memberships of $25, 50, and $75. Donations of $1000.00 or more include permanent recognition on their “Paw Plaque.” They also have several funds for building and fence maintenance. They have a special fund called the “Zeke Fund” which raises money for animals that require special medical care. The fund was named after a dog named Zeke who arrived at the shelter after having been shot in the eye. The community responded generously to help Zeke with his expenses and the remainder started a fund to help other animals.
However, money isn’t the only needed contribution. The shelter puts out a “wish list” for items like pet food, kitty litter, blankets and towels, newspaper, disinfectant wipes, garbage bags, pet toys, and more. Also, there is always a need for animal loving volunteers to help with the front desk, cleaning, gardening and lawn maintenance, dog walking, and pet training to help make the animals more adoptable. So, even for pet lovers who already have a houseful, there are ways to help out.
Below is a picture of our friend Charlotte who was adopted in January of this year. She is grateful for all the wonderful care she received at Homeward Bound and is even more happy to be home.