Please note: The following article is based on newspaper clippings and S.H.A.I.D. Newsletters.
“I found this stray cat along the side of the road. Do you know of any place that takes in stray cats?”
Julie Fach answered “No, I don’t know anyone who would keep strays.”
The lady replied “Maybe I should put it back where I found it.” To this Julie replied “No . . . leave it here, and maybe I will be able to find a home for it.”
So it began, even though no one knew it at the time, S.H.A.I.D. Tree Animal Shelter was about to be born. Ms. Fach, a S.P.C.A. Agent at the time, lived in Crousetown, and used the modest home and buildings on her property as a place to house stray and abandoned animals. It soon became known that she was a good person to leave the homeless animals with, and with the help of her family and friends they cared for the creatures financially, emotionally, and physically.
Some animals roamed free on her property, while others were caged on the porch. Dogs were kept in the house or barn, and tied to stakes outside on the nice days. Her barn was also used for geese, goats, and horses, which also showed up from time to time in need of aid and shelter.
On a wintery day in November of 1985, Julie and a few of her friends and helpers were sitting in her kitchen discussing the dilemma of how to continue caring for the growing numbers of animals being “dumped” at her home. They decided they would build a shelter and form a group dedicated to the care and well-being of helpless animals. In February 1986, S.H.A.I.D. became incorporated in accordance with the Societies’ Act of Nova Scotia.
Also, at the beginning of 1986, Julie Fach had successfully applied for the job as dog control officer for Lunenburg County. A group of S.H.A.I.D. supporters, as well as Julie, went to work to change a by-law stating that the life span of any stray animal was limited to four days, and if not claimed at that time, they would be put down.
This group knew that this was unfair to these animals, as many of these cats and dogs stood a very good chance of having new homes if the County would change the by-law. Luckily, after some persuasion, they did change the by-law and this made not only dog control, but also S.H.A.I.D. free to adopt animals to good loving homes. The original founders were now able to concentrate on the real business at hand. They wanted to educate the public about how many animals were being left as strays, and how spaying or neutering their pets would help control these numbers.
The group, which consisted of Julie Fach, Dolly Wamboldt, Beth Kent, Doug Himmelman, Dot and Phil Evans, Len Harmes, Carl and Jean Stretch, Marie Doyle and Debbie Croft, as well as a few others, sat down and decided on the best plan of action to help the animals who came into their care each day.
In 1986, more than 600 animals passed through the doors of this little known shelter facility, and there were many, many more to come. By the end of 1986 and early 1987, the demand for room was on the rise, leaving the group with limited space from the growing demand. Hoping to rectify this, Julie Fach donated a parcel of land to be used as the site for a new shelter.
The shelter volunteers had been working hard to raise funds to keep the facility running. Many of the same fund raisers we attend today were conceived during these early years – Ticket raffles, bake sales, and the still popular Christmas Open House, were held and were instrumental in raising funds for the new shelter.
They also had some assistance from celebrities – none other than Rita McNeil and General John Cabot Trail. Rita McNeil held a benefit concern for S.H.A.I.D. in October 1986 and raised $6,000 for the cause. General John Cabot Trail did the same in the spring of 1988. (Unfortunately I am unable to obtain records of the amount raised from this event.)
The first official yard sale was held at Rafuse Equipment, LaHave Street on July 26, 1986 with Doug Himmelman at the helm. Doug had picked up items and other donated items, and with help from many raised $1,000 by the end of the day. The following year, they raised $2,900.
Another challenge S.H.A.I.D. volunteers faced was to help people understand why the work we were doing was so important.
By 1987, Beth Kent, secretary at the time, spearheaded, with help from others like Debbie Croft, a pet visitation program and educational visits to classrooms. This helped educate our youth on the importance of responsible pet care and training. Pamphlets and various handouts were printed up and given out at various events and functions in an attempt to help educate why there was the need for such a facility in our area, and what the goals of the group were.
All they had was $53 in funds, and a few old rusty cages, but they had a million dollars worth of enthusiasm and spirit. In spite of no power or running water, they wanted to improve the existing facilities and saw the potential for the things they had to work with.
There were a lot of skeptical people with plenty of negative feedback telling them they would never get the shelter off the ground. With the number of animals coming in every day and with the S.P.C.A. not having shelter facilities available, this group knew there was a need to be met and they could do it. After all, hadn’t they already been doing just that in rather primitive conditions for the last six months.
At long last, after receiving financial assistance from longtime animal lover and S.H.A.I.D. supporter, Dolly Wamboldt, they started to clear the site in Crousetown. The need for the new building was ever present and by the end of 1988 more than 20 dogs and 400 plus cats had been relinquished to S.H.A.I.D. in that year alone.
In February of 1989, the taping of the “Shelter Report” shows by Ray Wile and Beth Kent was in full operation and $31,000 had been raised toward the new facility.
As 1988 rolled into 1989, the volunteers had added to their work load by clearing the site at Crousetown. This turned out to be a major undertaking, involving long days of hard physical work, clearing brush and cutting trees to open up an area large enough for the building foundation.
Even though the work was demanding, many insisted on doing their part. Among the workers were such well-known S.H.A.I.D. supporters as Dolly Wamboldt and her sister, Marie Sarty, Len Harmes, the Stretch’s, Doug Himmelman and Beth Kent. Of course, there were many others who dedicated much of their time to seeing this project through, but as they worked on, it was soon realized this site posed a problem. The land was quite uneven and sloped, making any building project an expensive endeavour.
By the fall of 1989, many fund raisers had been held to raise funds for a new building, and S.H.A.I.D. was earning a respected reputation all across Canada. Beth Kent and Dot Evans had travelled to a meeting of the C.F.H.S. held in Moncton in June of 1989, and found word was spreading about the little shelter just outside of Bridgewater.
The rest of the year continued along with everyone working hard towards making the dream of a new shelter come true. That changed with the coming of the next year. Tragically, Julie’s son had been involved in an accident and his recovery was going to require extensive therapy and time. In order for Julie to give her son the help and support he needed she was going to be forced to step down as S.H.A.I.D.’s president, as well as closing her property as a base for the shelter.
With great sadness, early in April 1990, the moving of S.H.A.I.D. began, taking the shelter’s residents to their temporary home. In spite of the upheaval in the shelter routine, adoptions continued, and vice-president at the time, Ian Tufts, stepped in to act as the Society’s president until the next annual meeting.
All fund raisers and programs offered by S.H.A.I.D. continued, but the shelter would remain closed for over six months. This meant that large numbers of strays and abandoned animals would be turned away over and over again until a permanent home could be found for the new shelter. The municipality suggested a few sites to us, even the site of the present day Osprey Ridge Golf Course had been offered as a possible site.
Trying to find a location not too far from Bridgewater, but not directly in town, Phil Evans and Len Harmes set out to check suggested sites. Not too much time went by before they came across the site at Whynott’s Settlement where the present shelter stands. The lot was perfect and ready to build on. Based on ideas from other shelters, floor plans were drawn up. Using the previously drawn up plans, Phil sat down one evening in the Evans’ home with guidance from Dot Evans, Beth Kent and Marie Doyle. The floor plans were revised to fit the budget and actual needs the shelter would have in the future.
The building was to have ten dog runs (indoor/outdoor), a receiving room, three cat rooms and an isolation ward. They also decided on some luxuries which, compared to the previously facility, were indeed frills…hot running water and an indoor bathroom.
By September 1990 approximately $60,000 had been raised towards the building fund, and Honourary Life Board Member, Dorothy (Dolly) Wamboldt had officially turned the sod at the building site. The building committee asked a few local contractors to look over the plans, and a contract was awarded to Nauss Brothers, who, over the course of time, did a few final touches and added extras “on the house” to help keep our costs down and make our shelter more suitable.
Len and Phil alternated overseeing the project each day, just in case any problems should arise. With hard work, perseverance and many tired dedicated volunteers’ support, the shelter was completed by early winter…all 2000 square feet of it!
Everyone found a way to help in the completion of the shelter, all the final painting, for instance, was done with the assistance of the Harley Owners Group.
It was, and still is to this day, a true community shelter. Growing with the shelter was interest in our group as well, which led to increased numbers in membership, and volunteers at the shelter itself.
By the late summer of 1991 the shelter was into a routine but still needed more money for various items. Already burdened with a loan at the bank, a private donor, and avid animal supporter, loaned us the outstanding balance needed of over $40,000. Even though it meant S.H.A.I.D. would be committed to loan payments, it was going to be well worth it if each and every stray and abandoned animal would finally have a shelter to call its own.
Just in time too, by the end of September 1991, 124 dogs and 713 cats had been admitted to the shelter since the first of the year. As 1991 came to an end a routine was in place, and over 800 animals had come through the door of our new facility.
By the Spring of 1992, admissions had increased by 50%, probably due to the shutdown during the previous summer. There were hopes of a spay/neuter assistance program being set up in the future but chances at this point seemed remote. The Fund-raising Committee and volunteers had been scrambling just to keep things up and running.
Unfortunately a contagious illness settled in during the fall of 1992 which shut the shelter down for almost two full months. With patience and determination the shelter was back on its feet in no time.
The next years were average for the shelter, with everyone working hard to educate the public on the importance of spaying or neutering their pets. The year of 1995 was a year of changes.
At the end of March our first and major change occurred. Marie Doyle, who had been with the shelter for ten years, decided it was time for a well-deserved change. The stress of years of euthanasia had taken their toll! Catherine Hole-Smith, an animal health technician from Halifax, became the new shelter manager. Cathy had many years of experience with the S.P.C.A., and the shelter was lucky to find someone with technician’s papers.
S.H.A.I.D. also started the Cat I.D. Tag program so that each cat adopted from the shelter would be identified by the collar’s tag number.After spreading the word throughout the “animal community” S.H.A.I.D. finally was able to initiate the spay/neuter fund hoped for so long.
This was made possible by the Metro Animal Relief Clinic, who donated $15,000 to be invested and named after their organization’s founder, Myrtle Quigley. This now makes funding possible for those who wanted to do the responsible thing for their pet but were unable, financially, to commit to spaying or neutering their pet.
The winter of 1995 also contained a few more events. We, as a group, over the last five years finally paid all monies owed for the shelter’s construction, and celebrated a “Birthday Burning Bash” during our Christmas Open House. Later in December, Callie Slauenwhite also left S.H.A.I.D. after ten years of dedication to our shelter.
The following year Debbie Croft, a long time supporter and volunteer, was hired as part of the changing shelter staff, and the Myrtle Quigley Fund had a kick-off in the Bridgewater Mall in February of 1996.S.H.A.I.D. has grown in leaps and bounds over these last few years with the help of dedicated individuals who truly believe in S.H.A.I.D., and in spite of anything, will do what it takes to make life worth living for the shelter’s residents.
So let’s remember back to the first day, time and place, when the very first cat and dog were left in the care of a special person; a person who decided there could be hope for “helpless animals in distress”.
We, the editors of S.H.A.I.D. News hope you have enjoyed this brief look back into the history of the shelter. Many names and events, large, small and in-between, were unfortunately not mentioned.
As much as we would have loved to name each and every one, we are afraid it would end up being a 25-part series instead of four.
Thanks for all your comments and questions about this series of articles. We hope that for those of you who are new to S.H.A.I.D. you will have a whole new appreciation for our shelter’s origin.
Written By Cathy Acker and Joan Lilley, 2000