A kind heart for animals
09/21/2017 03:32PM ● Published by Richard Gaw
Tugging at his leash with boundless enthusiasm, Balto found a new home on Sept. 9. Leslie Hunt took one last photo of the squirming puppy with his new owners and said goodbye, noting on the adoption paperwork the number 2,193.
That's 2,193 little lives that have been saved through CompAnimals since 1999.
For Hunt, who lives in Elkton and works full-time at nearby Crestview Animal Clinic, running Companimals is a big commitment that grew out of her soft spot for animals – particularly the ones who were down on their luck.
With a chorus of barking in the background, Hunt recalled how she got started. “I had a home daycare in Elkton and one of the kids had a stray dog show up at their house. I love dogs, so I volunteered to take it until I could find it a home,” she said. “I put signs up, and instead of people calling to adopt her, they called to dump their animals with me. Finally, in 1999, there was someone who had died and had two senior cats. The next-of-kin was going to euthenize them, and the next-door neighbor gave me $50 to take care of the cats. We took the cats in and found them a home relatively quickly, and I thought, 'This is easy.' But it hasn't always been easy.”
The rented kennel space that's next door to the landmark Hill's Auction House is nothing fancy. But Hunt does a lot with her meager resources. “We get puppies because they get adopted quickly and pay the rent, but our hearts are with the senior pets and the pets that are not going to get adopted because of physical problems or behavior problems,” she said. “But they usually do get adopted. It's very rare for one of them to pass away from old age here. We can only have 25 dogs per year come through here because of licensing. The rest go through foster homes. We average a couple of adoptions a week, of both dogs and cats.”
Some of the cats and dogs at CompAnimals have medical issues, or they're older, or they have personality quirks. But they don't get turned away. “Our mascot, Rusty, has been here for six years,” Hunt said. “He's about 11 or 12. When his license is up at the end of this year, I'll take him home on Jan. 1. He gets along well with people that he knows.”
Hunt has four older dogs of her own, plus a couple of foster dogs. She runs CompAnimals with a core group of five volunteers, aided by 15 to 20 people who come by to help out now and then. Nobody gets paid. Many of the animals come from a busy Baltimore shelter that handles some 11,000 animals each year. “We get the ones no one wants from Baltimore,” she said. “We work a lot with Delaware because we're so close to the state line. Delaware Humane Society will offer senior animals to us. Faithful Friends, too.”
In addition to fostering opportunities, CompAnimals has a “Pen Pal” program in which people can be paired with an animal at the shelter, providing day trips occasionally and shelter visits each week, without having the animal at home with them.
There are three rabbits and about 25 cats up for adoption as well, Hunt said. She credited Concord Pet for their unwavering support. “They give us pet food donations of things that may have changed their labels, or maybe coming up on their expiration dates,” she said.
CompAnimals also gratefully accepts donations from the public, such as dry food, canned food, and blankets or towels. “I'll come here sometimes in the morning and find that people have dropped off food or supplies by the door for us, which is great,” Hunt said.
There's a careful adoption process at CompAnimals, and the fees range from $100 for a senior dog to $350 for a purebred puppy (including spay/neuter, vaccines, heartworm test and microchip). Adult cats and other animals are $25. Those prices don't come close to paying for the food and care for an animal that has lived at the shelter, sometimes for years.
Hunt's rapport with animals is clear as she patted Dixie, a sweet-faced bulldog that would like nothing better than to take short walks and cuddle with a new owner, she said.
As she was talking, Darlene, a volunteer, walked up with Leroy, a slow-walking brown dog who has recovered from a skin condition that had caused hair loss. He still requires treatment for the skin condition, but his gentle, easygoing manner was immediately disarming.
“He's so friendly and he loves everybody,” Hunt said, patting Leroy's sturdy flank. “Darlene picks him up once a week and gives him a bath, and establishes a nice bond. He's the kind of dog I'm drawn to – special-needs animals that nobody else will take on. We've had him for several years. But he's doing great now.”
For more information, visit www.companimals.org. Open visiting hours are Saturdays from 1 to 4 p.m., at 1497 Flint Hill Rd. Adoptions are by appointment.
To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email email@example.com.