By Amy Lukac
The Animal Welfare Society of Monroe County (AWSOM) Animal Shelter in Stroudsburg, PA is a no-kill shelter that brings hope to the homeless animals of Monroe County. They have adopted, and/or returned over 6000 animals since opening in 2009!
As soon as I walked into the AWSOM Animal Shelter in Stroudsburg, I instantly wanted to help out. To the right, a glass window slid open. The secretary asked if I needed any help, then kindly found Sandra Fellin, and let her know that I had arrived for our interview.
While waiting, I couldn’t help but to admire the cats to the left of me. One was black, another was black and white, and the one that started to meow in my direction reminded me of mine. I wanted to adopt them all.
I wandered more to the left and saw a glass case of AWSOM shirts and sweatshirts. The animal shelter is run on donations, so selling apparel and other items is one way of raising money.
Shortly after I browsed through the shirts, Sandra Fellin found me in the lobby and introduced herself. She was wearing a winter hat and warm clothes, and had just been out walking one of the dogs. She took me into the part of the building the dogs are kept in when they are inside.
“This one is Mike, Jake, Delilah, Alice…,” As we walked down the isle, she told me what each dog’s name was, and they were all so excited to see me. He seemed so happy, and I can only imagine how happy he is now. I recently noticed that he made it on the “happy tails” section of the website, which mean that he has been adopted!
After exploring the property, visiting the dogs in their room, and the cats in theirs, Sandra and I sat down to talk about her and the shelter. Not only does she love working with animals, but she has a past in the education world as well.
“I actually have a doctorate in education. I used to be a superintendent at a school a few years ago,” she said.
The AWSOM shelter wasn’t the only one in the area. The SPCA used to have a shelter in Monroe County, but they decided to relocate some time ago.
“Way back in the SPCA, I’ve always adopted animals. I have committed to give back, and my passion followed through,” she said.
As Sandra then describes to me a typical day for her at the shelter: “Well, workers start arriving around 7:45AM to 8:00 AM. Before doors open at 11:00 AM, workers need to go through all of the kennels, walk the dogs, feed the animals, give medicine to the ones that need it, clean the litter and boxes, and make sure fresh linens are down. We take good pride in keeping our facility clean. Did you notice a smell when you walked in? That’s because cleanliness is important. We basically keep the cleanliness and the animals as they would want it to be in a home.”
“We are open to the public from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM. The final walks for the dogs are around 5:00 PM.”
Sandra also told me that everything is done manually. They clean about 100 bowls twice a day. She compared the repetition of her days to that of Bill Murray’s Groundhog’s Day.
One of the board members from the shelter also works at ESU. He has brought some sororities to help, and the lacrosse teams have done volunteer work there in the past as well. It is great that some of the ESU community is helping out, but the shelter needs more consistent help.
“If anyone wants to volunteer, they would just have to call or come in. Whoever they talk to will be sure to put them in touch with the right person,” Sandra added.
There are so many animals at the shelter, and Sandra told me the more you are in the building, the more you fall in love with them. I can see how working there, or even volunteering all of the time, would make you think of those animals as your own. I then was curious if Sandra had any fur children of her own.
“I have 5 animals at home: 3 cats and 2 dogs. The breeds of dog I own are a Cattle Hauling Leopard dog, which I rescued from a high-kill shelter in Louisiana, and I just adopted a Sheltie.”
There are so many high-kill shelters out there today. Many people have mixed feelings about them, but it is difficult to be impartial about them.
“I can understand high-kill shelters. It’s always an emotional issue. We get people sending us things all of the time about animals going down. It’s tough, but it’s understandable. AWSOM is a no-kill shelter, but when we are full, and can’t take an animal, it’s hard to see them go and wonder where they’ll end up,” Sandra explained.
AWSOM is in the process of developing and opening a low income/no income clinic. Here, owners of pets that cannot afford to get their dogs or cats spayed, neutered, or medical attention in general, can bring them over to the shelter, and they will take care of them.
Not a lot of shelters partake in such clinics, so I think that is an extremely smart, and wonderful thing to do.
The last question had to do with service dogs. I have seen so many dogs for the blind, for the men or women vets after war, and for many other disabilities.
“We’ve had police come take some of the dogs to do training. They would train them to be police dogs, and drug dogs,” she said.
On February 21 at 12:00 PM, AWSOM will have a new volunteer training class. I will be there along with several other students.
The shelter needs more volunteers, even if it’s just walking a dog down the street. Every little bit helps. Also, the shelter needs any kind of linens! Pillowcases, blankets, sheets, towels, anything along those lines, the shelter will take.
The animals have to stay comfortable and clean just like us!
There will be many events coming up to raise money for the shelter.
If you visit their website you will find them, and you will also be able to see the animals that are up for adoption.
AWSOM is located at Godfrey Ridge Drive in Stroudsburg, PA. It’s about 6 minutes from ESU!
They’re open Monday-Sunday, and the number is (570)-421-3647. For more information, visit awsomanimals.org
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