The summer months are nerve-wracking at the Aiken County Animal Shelter, and this summer is no exception. Dogs are doubled and tripled in kennels due to extraordinarily high dropouts from owners. We recently heard that a shelter in Georgia was euthanizing adoptable animals because they ran out of space. This is our constant nightmare, but FOTAS volunteers and shelter staff are working full time to prevent this outcome in Aiken.

Last Saturday started at 9 am with the monthly pet food aid drive sponsored by FOTAS. The cars were already lined up before we opened and by 10am FOTAS had provided food for over 100 animals whose owners just needed a little help. No owner should ever have to put their pet back in the shelter because they can’t afford food – not if we can help.

At 10 a.m. our Dog Ears Listening event began, which FOTAS sponsors with the Aiken County Public Library. Young school-age children come to the shelter with their parents and read to the dogs in the kennels. It’s amazing how quiet dogs become while children read to them. I don’t know who enjoys it more: the children, the dogs, the parents or the FOTAS volunteers who oversee the program.

Simultaneously, in the outdoor courtyards, staff and volunteers managed groups of dogs selected as part of our Dogs Playing for Life program. Dogs are social animals, and that playtime is essential for their physical and mental health, and a happy, relaxed dog is a more appealing adoption prospect.

Once the playgroups were over, obedience training began, where volunteers, under the direction of trainer Jennifer Jotblad, teach the dogs basic commands to make them more adoptable. Dogs that have been in the shelter the longest receive the most attention. One of these dogs, Lady, became a star. Volunteer Malia Koelker takes Lady in her car for doggy style outings, takes her to Hopelands Gardens and offers her chicken nuggets at McDonalds. Lady loves the car and next week if not adopted she will be going to an offsite adoption event at Dover Saddlery.

At 11 a.m., the doors of the shelter officially open for adoptions. The shelter participates in the Pick Me SC adoption event, where shelters across the state waive or reduce adoption fees. I was thrilled to see potential adopters walk through the door. It also made my day to see a new foster family take in a dog – we always need more foster families.

Then a Good Samaritan stopped with two dogs he found on the street. Both dogs were microchipped and the nice gentleman agreed to drive the dogs home. Love these happy endings!

I then had the pleasure of meeting volunteer Joanne Goble. Joanne had moved to Maryland in 2020 to be close to her family. Although she loved Maryland, she loved volunteering for FOTAS even more. She recently returned to Aiken and resumed her volunteer duties at the shelter. How cool is that?

FOTAS and county staff are working overtime during these hot days to ensure that no adoptable animal needs to be euthanized under our watch, but we need your help. Please adopt, volunteer, foster and donate.

Their lives are in our hands.