Humane Society of the Ochocos: Looking to the Future
Founded in 1995 as the inspiration and vision of former Prineville residents Gladys Logsdon and Donna Whitcomb, the Humane Society of the Ochocos (HSO), now operates as a no-kill shelter that has saved the lives of an estimated 10,000 animals in the past decade alone. Located in Prineville, Oregon, HSO has been the sole provider of animal sheltering services for all of Crook County for 24 years. With an approximate population of 22,000 people covering an expansive 3,000 square miles, the area has an estimated 8,000 pet owners with over 10,000 pets.
HSO provides an array of services including microchipping, feral cat TNR (trap, neuter, release), spay/neuter assistance, adoptions, and reconnecting lost and found pets with their humans. When called upon, they also assist law enforcement 24 hours a day with animal control issues, as well as providing support for large-scale animal rescue operations. Their pet food bank supplies pet food to community members in need.
This work is a tall order to fill for a vast area and its residents -- both 2-legged and 4-legged. All of this work has been accomplished out of a temporary building erected in 1995 that was only meant to last 5 years! The goal had always been to build a new structure. Now, 24 years later, the deteriorating building presents challenges to safety, health, efficiency, and comfort of humans and animals.
Bandit was owner-surrendered to HSO in 2009 and was their longest resident to date. Shelter staff did everything they could to find him his forever home, and a few times they were sure they had, only to find him back at the shelter within hours. Bandit was a very special boy with a difficult past who trusted few people--but if you were lucky enough to make his friends list, you had a friend for life. He was also not fond of other animals. Bandit was a very opinionated fellow.
Through his years at HSO, Bandit drew a loyal following, from staff and volunteers to strangers from afar. He even had his own Facebook page. For his birthdays staff and volunteers decorated the shelter with balloons and streamers and he would feast throughout the day on gourmet treats. The small lobby would be full of people wanting to love on him, meet him, bring him gifts and take him for walks. This all-day affair happened every year. Bandit was king for the day and celebrated his birthday in style—and the shelter angels wouldn’t want it any other way.
When it wasn’t Bandit’s birthday, he was not forgotten! Volunteers picked him up for day outings, strolls in the park or long drives with the windows down. He especially loved those days! In his final few months, with the mellowing of age and experience, Bandit even developed some four-legged friendships, which was great to see.
After 8 years at the shelter, Bandit developed a brain mass causing him pain, weakness and neurological issues. His last days were spent with his favorite people feeding him treats and showering him with endless amounts of love.
On June 14, 2017, Bandit crossed the Rainbow Bridge, and Executive Director Heather O’Daniel found herself asking “Why?” Why didn’t he find his forever home? Why did he have to spend his last days at the shelter?
And then it hit her: Bandit didn’t have just one person to love him; he had many who loved him, believed in him, and fought for him. Rather than a yard of his own he had over an acre to run and play in. O’Daniel realized Bandit was home. “HSO was his home and he knew it, though it just took us longer to realize that too.”
Heart of the Mission
The shelter staff, board, and volunteers lost a friend the day they lost Bandit, but they gained insight to reignite their drive to move forward with the mission of building a desperately needed new shelter for all of the Bandits of tomorrow.
Like many shelters across the country, the Humane Society of the Ochocos takes in the abandoned, the lost, the “no longer fits into the family,” the seized and the abused. They mend the broken, reunite the lost and rehabilitate the ones that have suffered physically and emotionally. Their difference as a no-kill shelter is that they give the animals as many second chances as it takes. It can take weeks and months. Sometimes it takes years. And that is what makes HSO so special—they don’t give up.
All animals deserve a place of comfort for the time they are in shelter. A warm place to lay their heads down at night and a quiet place to heal and rest. They need yards for playing and safe spaces to learn to be dogs and cats again.
In 2018, the HSO was awarded a grant from Facebook to hire the professionals of Shelter Planners of America, a leader in shelter planning and design, to conduct a feasibility study and preliminary design.
Having a design in hand provides a visual of the new shelter that donors and community members can see, support, and rally behind as the critical need for fundraising to build a new shelter begins. The design and function of a new shelter will operate more efficiently, effectively utilizing staff’s time and efforts to provide the animals the safe environment they so deserve. They will also be able to offer the community more resources, education and programs supporting them in responsible pet ownership.
A new shelter is not a want for HSO, it is a must and it is needed now. It is urgent and it is something that they are committed to do for the animals of Central Oregon.
How to help:
Join the Citizens Committee. Email HeatherDODaniel@yahoo.com
Attend an event. https://www.facebook.com/pg/hsonokillshelter/events/
Volunteer. Email HumaneSocietyOchocos@gmail.com