Breakfast Time at Our South Elgin Shelter

Nov 28, 2022

It’s 8am at Anderson Humane’s South Elgin shelter and you can hear the excited barking from the parking lot. That’s because it’s time for breakfast.

In the back dog room, known as the Doggy Den, Marissa is standing with a scoop in one hand surveying the dry erase board on the wall containing each resident’s name. The dogs with an “F” next to their name have already been fed. After they’re done eating, each one gets walked by one of the many volunteers and staff members buzzing in and out of the shelter.

Marissa gets to Zander’s name, which has an SD next to it, indicating he gets a special diet. “Zander’s been here for a while so he’s pretty stressed,” Marissa explains. She puts his dry dog food in two paper bags, rolls them up, and places them quickly in his pen before shutting the door again. Zander tears into one bag right away, finding the food inside and digging into his breakfast. The extra step gives him some mental stimulation, something desperately needed the longer dogs stay at the shelter.

“About 40 percent of our dogs are special diet,” Marissa explains as she dips her scoop into the big container of dry dog food again, its level getting lower and lower. “Some are trying to gain weight or lose weight. Some aren’t eating or need meds.” Staff members change the diets to address each dog’s needs as best they can.

That’s no easy feat with patients who can’t speak, and when there are so many of them. The shelter is currently over capacity. All the pens are full, each staff member’s office in the building is currently housing a dog, and several pop-up pens line the common areas. Each of those dogs needs to be fed. Twice a day. Some of them three times.

By the end of the 8am feeding, the staff will have gone through one 18-pound bag of dog food. That’s two bags a day, 14 a week, 56 a month, not counting wet food or the dogs in our other adoption centers. Unfortunately, the supply room is sparse these days as donations are down, unfortunate timing when the shelter is over capacity.

Down the hall in Meow Town, Jamie is showing off her super-fast cat food can opening skills. “They just think I’m a can opener,” she jokes about all the cats in their individual condos looking at her with rapt attention. Several meow their eagerness for their morning meal. Adoptable Cher reaches a paw out as if to tap any passersby on the shoulder in a plea to hurry up.

Each cat gets a quarter cup of dry food and three ounces of wet food at each of two daily feedings. Today’s menu is mostly Tuna Tuscany, as well as some chicken and some sardine cutlets. “We give them whatever has been donated,” Jamie says, adding that chicken is always a big hit.

When one of the volunteers helping Jamie reaches into Romeo’s condo, she has to take out yesterday’s food before putting today’s food bowl in. “Romeo’s been on a hunger strike,” she explains with a laugh, adding that he’s been eating only a little bit of dry food each day. Romeo is FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus) positive, which can lead to a lack of appetite.

But today, the tides turn. Romeo immediately digs into his wet food. “Romeo loves chicken!” Jamie exclaims, excited that one of their challenged eaters is chowing down.

In the next room, Feline Fairway, where the cats with medical needs stay, Oscar gets fed his special diet. Past urinary issues and stones mean he’ll be on special urinary food forever. Like in the Doggy Den, there’s another chart in this room with all the special needs and each day’s tracked feedings.

This room also houses the kitten food. They’re fed pate, as the bigger chunks in regular wet food would prove too difficult and even dangerous for them to chew, Jamie explains. When she opens the cabinet door where the kitten food is kept, it’s nearly empty. Just a handful of cans line the far back wall of the cabinet. Their other supply cabinets look the same.

“We go through more than a case of cat food a day,” she says. In fact, they go through roughly 35 cans a day, which is 245 a week, and 980 cans a month. That’s not counting the dry food. Or the need to feed the cats at our North Aurora, Bloomingdale, and Algonquin adoption centers. Given these numbers, what’s currently in our cat food cupboards won’t last a week.

“We’re desperately in need of donations right now,” Jamie says. A cat in a nearby condo meows loudly, as if in agreement.

If you’d like to donate much-needed pet food for our shelter animals, learn more at AHconnects.org/wish-list. Thank you!

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