Though it's nestled off the beaten path in a sleepy corner of Penacook, the Concord-Merrimack County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is hardly a quiet place, what with the daily soundtrack of dog barks and cat meows and the bustle of other assorted critters.
(Never mind the high-octave baby-speak from prospective owners to pets. Don't snicker, we know you do it, too).
Over the last few months, though, even the normal routine has started to seem calm.
Activity is picking up as the SPCA plans both its most lucrative annual event and a long-anticipated move to a brand-new location on Silk Farm Road, just off Clinton Street.
Suddenly it's not just the four-legged residents getting antsy around the joint.
"We want this to be our last winter in Penacook," Heather Faria, the organization's executive director, said. "It's gotten very busy around here. It's becoming very real. We love Penacook and we have some great neighbors here, but obviously it's not the most accessible location."
Though no official dates have been established for the move, the plans to build a much larger, more efficient and modern facility are well under way. And the Sept. 16 Walk for the Animals benefit, the longest-running SPCA fundraiser set to enter its 17th year, will help that process along.
The walk begins at Northeast Delta Dental at 10 a.m., and those interested can walk for one or three miles to help raise funds for the shelter by having their steps sponsored. Pets, of course, are invited to join.
Activities after the walk include a children's corner, a demonstration from Granite State Disc Dogs, free samples from a handful of local pet services and rescue groups and refreshments available from several food vendors.
There will also be an opportunity to have your dog's nails clipped, and a low-cost microchip clinic.
The day will also feature a 50/50 raffle, with all of the proceeds from that promotion going to the Katy Fund, which is used to cover immediate medical expenses for pets brought to the shelter.
Special events throughout the afternoon include a presentation by Helen Nicholls of No Monkey Business Dog Training, a blessing of the animals, and a trio of canine contests - terrific tricks, best costume and the pooch smooch, in which owners vie to share the best kiss with their furry buddies.
"It's so cool to see dogs of every shape and size just hanging out and getting along," Faria said. "Every year we have great sponsors, and every year we try to find ways to make it better."
They are trying to do the same for the shelter itself, which has stood in the same location since the 1950s and is cramped and, how do you say, rustic? Let's just say if you are taller than 6 feet, all of you won't fit on the second floor of the office.
The real power, of course, lies with the animals. We spent an hour or so taking pictures, and it's a minor miracle that the Insider pod doesn't have a half-dozen new furry occupants (and as far as the boss knows, it doesn't).
But the quest is to provide a more suitable space for those animals, a space that is both contemporary in terms of equipment and supplies but also convenient in terms of location.
That's no small feat. Though Faria said some people seem reluctant to believe it, the SPCA receives no state or federal funding. As in zero. There are only 13 staff members at the SPCA, five of whom are full-time, but somebody is at the shelter every day, and the organization works with close to 200 volunteers per year.
Speaking of misconceptions, the SPCA does a lot more than send Fido to a new home a few times a day. In touting the benefits of the microchipping clinic at the upcoming walk, Faria noted that the first thing the shelter does when an animal is brought to them is scan for a chip. Approximately 200 animals per year are reunited with their families by the shelter, because of microchips or otherwise.
All pets are kept for a week before being put up for adoption, in case they are claimed. But Shannon Camara, manager of communications for the SPCA, said they once located a cat's owner after almost a full year.
"Obviously the happiest endings are when stray animals find their home," Faria said.
The shelter employees spend plenty of time getting to know those animals that aren't lucky enough to return home immediately. All animals are evaluated medically upon arrival, getting spayed or neutered if necessary and caught up on all vaccinations.
But they're also evaluated behaviorally, particularly dogs. Dogs are observed in a crate, interacting with children and adults, and are faced with people entering the room wearing various clothing items, such as dark glasses and hoods to see how they respond.
The behavioral knowledge allows the staff to find the right fit for each animal.
"If we know the background, we're able to establish who they are and what they are about so we can find a better match for your home," Camara said.
"We want people to know when we ask questions about their lifestyle or their home, we're not being nosy," Faria said. "We want it to work out. When we know our animals well, we can talk to people accurately, and that's when matches really come together."
Whatever the process, it's working - Faria said the shelter successfully fosters between 800 and 1,000 adoptions per year, with some years closer to 1,500. There are "a couple adopted every day we're open," she said, and a good week results in 25 to 30 matches. (next page »)