The stray dogs picked up wandering the streets each week are rarely “show dog” material.
They are generally homeless and a mishmash of breeds. They enter the Summit County Animal Control with fleas, worms and matted, unkempt, dirty fur.
After medical attention, a soothing bath can work wonders, say longtime volunteers Jeannette Michel and Darlene Abbott. The two have shown up at the shelter each Wednesday morning to bathe dogs since 2010.
Aware of a dog’s fears from life on the street to being caged in unfamiliar surroundings, the women are sensitive to the canine’s needs and don’t rush it into anything that makes it uncomfortable.
The volunteers take their time giving a dog what may very well be the first bath of its life while trying to make the experience as enjoyable as a day at the spa.
“We’re trying to go slowly on purpose,” said Michel as she gently coaxed a Shar-Pei-mix dog named Lizzie into the steel tub.
“They are thinking, ‘You’re some crazy person pulling me out of my cage. What are you going to do to me next?’ ” Michel said as she empathized with the frightened animal.
As usual, the two Firestone Park neighbors who have been friends since the first grade, reported for work Wednesday to help staff members get more than 90 dogs at the shelter ready for the fourth annual Summit County Pet Adopt-a-thon from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at 250 Opportunity Parkway in downtown Akron.
All dogs and cats will be available at the event for $10.
Adopters will also be required to purchase a $14 Summit County dog license. The animals will be fully vetted and have all vaccinations, inoculations, medical attention and be spayed or neutered.
Michel and Abbott are two of a 40-member team of volunteers who work at the shelter, said Summit County Animal Control Director Christine Fatheree.
“Some are here once a week, some every day. They spend hours here, not just 15 minutes and then leave,” Fatheree said.
The volunteers are a huge asset, said Summit County Executive Russ Pry.
“We recognize the importance of community involvement and would like to thank the volunteers for their efforts and time. Your caring has improved the lives of the animals in our care,” Pry said.
The shelter, which reached its capacity for the number of dogs it could take last month, is once again full, Fatheree said.
The adopt-a-thon will help clear out kennels and allow it to continue accepting dogs without having to euthanize any of the animals. Summit County has not euthanized a healthy, adoptable dog in four years.
A study of Ohio’s county shelters by the Columbus Dispatch last year indicated Summit County stayed well below a statewide average of 30 percent of dogs that are euthanized in shelters each year. Summit County figures show an 81.2 percent live rate.
Many of the dogs that are destroyed are owner surrenders, sick, elderly animals, and unfriendly animals including pit bull-type dogs that are required to be euthanized by Akron law. While the state changed its breed-specific law last year, the city has not followed suit.
Even so, many of the canines people will find for adoption at the shelter Saturday may look as if they have bully breed genetics, said Craig Stanley, director of administrative services for Pry. “We offer them for adoption, but we will follow Akron’s ordinance for pit bulls for people who live in Akron,” said Stanley. Special rules, such as fencing, insurance and muzzling are required for Akron owners of pit bulls.
There was no breed discrimination evident as volunteers walked and played with every imaginable breed in the grassy areas around the building. Nor did the pit bull mixed breeds on their list deter Abbott or Michel in their mission to primp them for Saturday.
“We’ve had the best luck. There has only been one dog since we started that we have not been able to bathe,” said Michel.
The two can bathe six to 10 a day.
“Those are the grown ones,” added Abbott. “We can do a lot of puppies faster.”
Kathy Antoniotti can be reached at 330-996-3565 or firstname.lastname@example.org.