Friends Forever

In a back room of the Robin I. Kroogman New Haven Animal Shelter, Dottie the pit bull terrier is trying to hop out of a bath tub. Her breath is coming in huffs; the chain attached to the wall is rattling; her toenails are clicking against the smooth, white basin.

Then Anna Schildroth speaks to her in loving tones, pulls her in for kisses and rubs some more soap into her short brown-white hair, and Dottie’s bath is back on track.

Dottie (pictured first) is an adoptable dog, having passed NHAS’s various suitability tests, and Schildroth is a dedicated, longtime volunteer with the Friends of the New Haven Animal Shelter, a non-profit that provides people and funds for activities—certain medical treatments, facility improvements and outreach efforts—that city officials can’t or won’t finance. She organizes FNHAS’s adoption and fundraising events, in addition to myriad other tasks that might need doing.

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Joe Manganiello (pictured fourteenth) knows the feeling. For the past two of his eight years on the NHPD, he’s been the officer in charge at the shelter, which has meant wearing many hats—investigating animal neglect and cruelty cases, performing building maintenance, supervising four permanent staff, working with the animals, of course, and interviewing potential adopters “to get an idea of which animal might fit into their lives.”

Fit is an important consideration, and it merits extra emphasis during the holiday season, when big, happy Christmas smiles at giving the kids a dog or cat—dancing like visions of sugar plums in parents’ heads—might push out more important considerations, including the commitments that go along with responsible pet ownership. A dog or cat should be a “forever” pet, as flyers posted here and there within NHAS say, and to help ensure successful adoptions, Manganiello says he insists on having the entire household—canines included—of the prospective adopter meet the prospective adoptee at the shelter. Every would-be adopter also goes through an application and interview process, to determine whether he or she would make a good pet owner.

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Walking through NHAS’s adoption alley—a hallway with chain-link cages on both sides, each cage attached to an outdoor pen through a doggie door—is a little like being a star on a red carpet: there’s jostling and clamoring on either side, and it can go on for several minutes. It’s loud and startling, but if you’re sensitive to what the dogs are saying, you can tell that while some are hopeful, many are fearful. They don’t know who you are or why you’re there, but they know you’re powerful and they know they aren’t.

They’re much more themselves outside the cages. Isabelle (pictured tenth), a trim, energetic, brindle-coated, one-year-old hound mix, pushed a purple plastic ball too big for any dog’s mouth around one of the shelter’s larger outdoor enclosures. When her human playmate put the ball into a hanging basket meant to be out of reach, she jumped several feet into the air trying to knock it loose, and would have been successful if not for a more mouth-sized distraction thrown across the grass. It’s probably due to her size, energy and athleticism that FNHAS recommends her for a family with kids aged 14 and up.

And of course, there’s Dottie, who, like most, was tense in her cage at the approach of a stranger—me—but on the whole quite relaxed during her bath with Schildroth.

Keep context in mind, along with everything else, should you go to the New Haven Animal Shelter hoping to give an animal a home for the holidays and beyond. They’re like people: offer them time, care and understanding, and they’re friends forever.

Robin I. Kroogman New Haven Animal Shelter
and Friends of the New Haven Animal Shelter

81 Fournier St, New Haven (map)
Visiting hours: Mon-Sat 12:30-4:30pm
(203) 946-8110
NHAS | FNHAS | Upcoming Events

Written and photographed by Dan Mims.

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