Suzanne Tobias

Shelter animals are safe but they are not home

If happiness, as Charlie Brown so eloquently put it, is a warm puppy, you'd think a whole building full of pups and kitties would have you gliding across the floor doing a Snoopy dance.

That's what my daughter and I figured when we signed up to volunteer at the Kansas Humane Society.

Hannah loves animals, especially dogs, and needed community service hours for school. I love Hannah and dogs, especially the one we adopted a year ago, so we both took the required classes and now volunteer together.

For several weeks, we have walked dogs, scooped poop, cleaned cages, cuddled kittens and rolled around with eager, bouncing puppies at the new Murfin Animal Care Campus in northeast Wichita.

We leave happy. And tired. But also a little sad.

It's one thing to be vaguely aware that more than 18,000 animals are lost, abused or abandoned in Wichita every year. It's another to see those animals up close — sometimes barking for attention, sometimes cowering and shaking.

"What's wrong, buddy?" Hannah asked one recent morning, squatting down to comfort a curly black dog that was shivering in a corner of his run. "You wanna go out?"

We attached the leash. He gazed up at us but didn't move. So I gently scooped him up and carried him outside, where he transformed into what we assume was his happy, prancing, normal self.

"Look!" Hannah smiled. "Is this the same dog?"

Not really. One thing we've learned in our time at the shelter is something Dayna Boso, the volunteer trainer, told us upfront: These dogs are safe and cared for, but they're not at home.

They need homes. Real homes, like the one Izzy, our golden retriever, got when we adopted her a year ago.

In our first month volunteering we've grown to love other dogs — Boo, a sweet collie mix, and Sammy, a scruffy terrier, and Ally, a German shepherd puppy, and Jasper the Jack Russell. And we've celebrated when they appear on the Web site with a big red "Adopted!" stamp.

Then we see others, like Jackie — a Labradoodle with a mohawk — who are still in their runs, week after week.

On Saturday you can help, even if, like Hannah, you've promised your dad you won't adopt any more animals: Woofstock, the Humane Society's largest annual fundraiser, runs from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Sedgwick County Park.

Bring your pup, or just yourself. Make a donation. Walk around. Buy some treats. All the money raised at Woofstock keeps the Humane Society running and its animals cared for until they find a forever home.

And that, my friends, is worth a Snoopy dance.