By DARLA HIGGINS
The toughest part of Caroline Wedding’s job as director of the Dixie Humane Society is, of course, seeing pets that have been traumatized.
“It’s not just the labor and all the animals that have to be taken care of,” she says of the shelter, which she helped to open in 2006. “The hurtful part is all of the pain you see in the animals that we do take in.”
But Wedding does her best to turn that pain into a promising future for each one. When a dog or cat is about to be adopted, she sits down with them for a heart-to-heart chat.
“I pull their little face up to mine and look them straight in the eyes. I say, ‘This is your chance at a piece of heaven. Make it count.’ And it’s almost like they understand.”
What started as the Humane Society of Marion County received a new name, Dixie Humane Society, Inc., in 2010, when a local family donated 15 acres of land to the shelter. The family, who wishes to remain anonymous, simply had one request.
“They had a beloved dog that passed away some years back, and they asked that if we ever changed names that we’d change it to this,” Wedding says.
Dixie’s likeness will also be on the new building, which is now under construction and is scheduled to be operating by early 2019. The 5,000 square-foot facility will be home to at least 70 animals and will include a clinic for low-cost spaying and neutering.
“And if someone doesn’t have the money, we’ll let them come in and volunteer,” she says. “There’s no reason any male or female animal should not be altered.”
As of now, the shelter is operated out of three separate buildings on the property, which will eventually include a dog park. Of the 88 animals that call Dixie home at the moment, 26 are puppies, 5 months or younger.
That’s a whole lot of cute, so the shelter is planning to take advantage. On Aug. 25 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., the pups will be frolicking at a Puppy Rama, which will take place in the courtyard at Made in the Shade in downtown Jefferson.
“We’re going to have play pens, babyblue balloons, pink balloons – we’re really playing it up,” Wedding says. “Now is the perfect time for these animals to be adopted.”
Although Wedding tends to work tirelessly at the shelter – she currently also acts as the manager, living on the property – it’s something that fulfills her, she says.
“When my husband passed away, I was trying to decide what direction I’d like my life to go in,’ she adds. “I decided it was time to give back, and this is what we did.”
The non-profit shelter, funded solely on donations and fundraising, professionally screens everyone who comes in looking for a new family member to take home.
“I want their lives to be better because they have come through the shelter,” she says of the animals. “My reward is seeing them adopted and getting them into their forever homes.”
Related Content: How Sam Found a Forever Home
By MICA WILHITE
I have many fond memories of Thanksgiving with my aunt Debbie Wilhite (note spelling) and uncle Lum Wilhite in Conway, AR. I would often wake up to the tap-tap-tap of their dogs crossing hardwood floors on Thursday mornings. They have had multiple dogs, but my favorite was a Sheltie named Sofie. For years, I looked for one I could afford and that fit my living arrangements.
Sam was born in January 2007 in Okmulgee, OK. and I adopted him on February 23, 2007 after locating him on PetFinder.com. He had five siblings and when I walked up to the Humane Society, all six puppies were outside on a concrete slab inside a wire fence. Five were horseplaying with each other, but Sam was a few feet away just lying on his tummy taking it easy.
He had sarcoptic mange, was a tri-color German Shepherd & hound dog mix instead of a Sheltie, grew to 70 pounds instead of the predicted 40 pounds I was told, and peed and pooped in my car seconds after we drove away. He was terrified because he had just been given up to a human who had no experience taking care of dogs!
I learned how to take care of him as fast as I could and often had a lot of help doing so. He was born knowing how to fetch and jump up and catch a ball mid-air with his mouth. He has never been sick or needed to be rushed to the vet, which is God’s grace for a first time dog companion, the politically correct term for the more possessive phrase “dog owner.”
People always ask me what breed he is. My father says he is a “Mica breed.”
I’ve learned the downside to adopting a mixed breed rescue dog is you do not know what you are getting and you cannot replace them when they are gone. Better said, they are one-of-a-kind and irreplaceable.
When I called the Okmulgee Humane Society, they told me it would cost $50 to adopt him complete with all shots. However, when I arrived to pick him up that February Friday morning, they gave him to me for only $10. And quite notably, upon my arrival, the volunteer introduced herself to me by saying, “Hi. My name is Debbie Willhite.” (note spelling)
As I think of Sam and how we came to rescue each other, an American author’s words resonate with me.
“I am not a smart man, particularly, but one day, at long last, I stumbled from the dark woods of my own, and my family’s, and my country’s past, holding in my hands these truths: that love grows from the rich loam of forgiveness; that mongrels make good dogs; that the evidence of God exists in the roundness of things. This much, at least, I’ve figured out. I know this much is true.” ~Wally Lamb
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