By Andrea Agardy
Stephanie Smith, manager of the White County Animal Shelter, is devoted to finding homes for all the dogs under her care.
The number of dogs needing homes usually exceeds the shelter’s capacity to help. Smith — who volunteered at the shelter before she became manager — is determined not to put dogs down unless medically necessary.
With the help of the nonprofit group Pals of the Pooches at the White County Animal Shelter, or POPS, shelter dogs are routinely transported to upstate New York, where they are adopted. “I stay in contact with the place that they go to,” Smith says. “I’ve driven the transport two or three times myself, so I know exactly where they go. The place that takes them in is owned by two veterinarians.”
In addition to the transport, POPS also helps the shelter cover the costs of the dogs’ medical care and food. “We have a great working relationship with Sparta Veterinary Services,” Smith says.
While the image of a child opening a box on Christmas morning to discover an adorable puppy makes a great dog food commercial, experts caution that the reality may not live up to the expectation.
Stephanie Smith, director of the White County Animal Shelter, does not recommend giving a puppy as a Christmas gift. “Think about this: There’s already a hustle and bustle going on, and the puppy was more than likely just taken from its mama and everything it ever knew,” she says. “Now, you’re throwing it into this big scary world of having to pop out of a box with cameras going off and strange people. That puppy is going to be scared.”
Instead, Smith urges anyone looking to give a dog as a gift to forgo the element of surprise in favor of preparation. She suggests giving the person who will get the dog a number of small gifts leading up to Christmas — for example a leash, food and an age-appropriate book on caring for a dog. “All that stuff comes first, and then whoever’s getting the puppy or the dog gets to go and meet it,” she says, stressing the importance of pets and their prospective owners bonding. “If you’re going to get a pet — because it is for life — you should get the pet that you want.”