By RUSSELL JONES
The Rutland County Humane Society celebrated their 60th anniversary on Saturday with a cookout and animal get-together. Despite the soggy ground and the weather threatening more rain, many area residents showed up to enjoy hamburgers, hot dogs and cake.
The celebration, which included a good number of dogs, reflected on the six decades of service to the Rutland County community. During that time, the humane society has placed over 100,000 animals into homes throughout the county.
It all got started with a bookstore and a dairy barn. Two local women, Ellen Holrock Porter and Olive Smith, started the county humane society using a list Porter made of people who came into her Rutland bookstore and petted her cats. They invited folks on that list to attend a meeting to discuss the benefits of forming a local group.
After the society was formed, they began housing animals in volunteer’s homes with the assistance of veterinarians, but it was quickly abundant that more space was needed.
In 1959, the RCHS secured the use of part of Ed Wheeler’s dairy barn. The barn didn’t have any heat, but the body heat of the cows was enough to keep it warm for the animals. The animals were kept in the barn in wooden cages Wheeler inherited from the Rutland city pound until the animals could be adopted.
Work began to build a new facility in the 1960s and in 1969, RCHS moved into the building on Stevens Road in Pittsford where they are still located.
Community support has been a staple of success for the RCHS over the years. In 1963, the RCHS asked for donations of coffee cans to be used for food and water bowls. They got so many they had to ask people to stop dropping them off.
The humble yet innovative thinking that helped to create the RCHS was just a stepping stone that launched new and creative ways to assist humane society workers find homes for stray and abandoned animals. In the 1970s, the RCHS was the first in the state to provide an education program to the area elementary schools. They also began Pet Facilitated Therapy, where regular visits were scheduled offering nursing home patients a chance to enjoy an animal companion, a program that has spread across the state and the nation.
Because the demand for animals in the area is so high, RCHS has even begun importing animals from states in the south that have more than they can get adopted. Many of the dogs at RCHS have come from Arizona and Texas.
The next 60
RCHS executive director Beth Saradarian said that that they have done a lot of good work over the years, and hope to continue in the future.
“It’s just amazing when you think back on it,” said Saradarian. “The numbers of volunteers over the years and the number of animals rescued is just incredible.”
The Saturday celebration featured live music from Rick Redington and many folks who have donated or adopted animals in the past came out to enjoy the music and food.
Former executive director Tom Browe came to the celebration and said he was very pleased with the turnout.
“I was with RCHS for 25 years,” Browe recalled. “One of the things that has always stood out in my mind was the great support we got from the community.”
The overcast and threatening rain in the sky didn’t stop the celebration, though Saradarian said she had hoped for a sunny day.
“I was looking at the forecast and I just kept thinking, after 60 years I just want three hours of sun,” she laughed. “But that’s Vermont spring for you.”
Saradarian said that RCHS is moving into the future and plans to utilize new technology in creative ways to help get animals adopted.
“We are going to be using the Internet more and getting the word out about these great animals as well as the programs we have here,” said Saradarian.