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Dog Days of Summer

By Barbara A. Preston l August 20, 2021

SAVE Animal Shelter Celebrates 80 Years (1941 - 2021)

SAVE Animal Shelter is full! During the lockdown phase of the pandemic, SAVE nearly ran out of inventory as the demand for pets soared. This summer, more than 100 cats and 20-plus dogs are waiting for a forever home.

Heather Achenbach, executive director of SAVE, A Friend to Homeless Animals, with two of her rescue pets: Dalton “the mutt of mutts” on the right and Rocky the Malti-Poo.

Heather Achenbach, executive director of SAVE, A Friend to Homeless Animals, says the Skillman-based shelter struggled to keep enough pets in stock for adoption during the the height of the pandemic, (March to July 2020). Now, pets are staying in the shelter longer than usual.

"Hopefully, as people return from summer vacations and get back into their regular routines, adoption numbers will go up again,” she says.

Achenbach has a fine selection of dogs and cats, vetted for personality and temperament. She matches the pet to the potential family, ensuring a good fit for both. Because of her match-making abilities, no one who adopted a pet during the pandemic has called to surrender them, she says.

With so many pets now at SAVE, Achenbach adds that extra funds are necessary to help keep them. Not only are pet adoptions down this summer, donations are are also down. Fundraising is important. She asks community members to consider adopting, or donating now.

“I love these animals and I want them to have a good home,” Achenbach said during an interview with The Montgomery News on a hot July day.

She says she also has a staff shortage, same as many businesses at this time. She is especially thankful for the "tremendous staff of professionals and volunteers" who are working extra hard to fill the gaps.

SAVE employees Salina Salas, Marie Garot, and Jennifer Hayward.

Meanwhile, SAVE is celebrating its 80th Anniversary this year. Achenbach, who lives in Montgomery, has been directing SAVE since 2017.

The pet welfare business is, unfortunately, filled with sad stories of pets that are abandoned, mistreated, or end up with owners who simply cannot care for them. Some owners become sick, or lose their jobs, making it impossible to keep their pets. Achenbach shared stories of miraculous efforts put forth by volunteers and staff members to rescue these poor pups.

Recently, she told about a volunteer who grew up in Princeton who drives all the way to Arizona to rescue stray dogs in the Navajo Nation. Molly Cutright, MD, the volunteer, is now an ER doctor in Brooklyn. She is an animal lover who has brought multiple pets to SAVE over the years. Cutright first helped out by finding homes for a few puppies with her family in Princeton.

This year, during the height of the pandemic, Cutright reached out to SAVE “to see if we could take in five puppies from Arizona if she could find a way to transport them to Skillman,” Achenbach said. “Stray dogs in the Navajo Nation often die from diseases, starvation, freezing, or parasites.

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“After hearing about their plight, we had to say yes,” Achenback said. So Cutright drove the puppies in what was a 36-hour trip in a rental car. She stopped only to feed and care for her precious puppies along the way. “Everyone arrived safely at SAVE,” Achenbach said, and reported in the SAVE monthly newsletter. All of the Navajo pups have been adopted.

SAVE provides for the health and welfare of more than 1,000 animals each year, including care for the lost and stray pets for 10 local towns. Achenbach dispelled rumors that have infiltrated social media about pandemic pets. “Not a single dog or cat adopted from SAVE has been returned since people have returned to work and school,” she said with pride.

Muffin, a Collie-mix, traveled to SAVE from Texas. Her owner became ill with cancer and could no longer care for her. Muffin is gentle, walks well on a leash, and is good with people, kids, and other dogs. Muffin gets hot quickly and enjoys cooling off in the pool.

Jeff Behm, board president, adds that SAVE “provides a safe and temporary home for dogs and cats, and works to re-home them. “When the dogs and cats land here, they’ve really won the lottery,” Behm says.

The shelter is bright, clean, and airy. Every animal has a view of the outdoors. While Achenbach and her team work to give animals a second chance at life and love, she says SAVE receives no funds from the state, local, or federal level.

“Donors keep the bills paid, and a roof over our heads,” she said. More than 1,700 dogs and cats are killed in America’s shelters every day simply because they don’t have homes. SAVE successfully adopts out about 750 animals annually.

Visit SAVE at or on Facebook.


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