Dog days of summer

By GARY WILLOUGHBY
Aiken SPCA executive director

For those of you who enjoy going out to dinner and being able to bring your dog out with you, we’re happy to announce the third Dog Days of Summer to benefit the Aiken SPCA.

This year, the venue has changed, but the purpose is still the same: helping raise funds to feed our dogs and cats while feeding ourselves at the same time.

This year, Rose Hill Estate, one of Aiken’s most treasured and historic destination spots, is offering the Aiken animal-loving community the opportunity to dine out with our pets beginning Wednesday, June 2, and every Wednesday evening thereafter for the duration of the summer.

There also will be a room at Rose Hill dedicated to displaying information and materials about the new shelter project and available naming opportunities for anyone interested in knowing more about it. If you want to purchase a brick or tile in memory or honor of a loved one or pet, you can learn more about it at Rose Hill all summer long. A portion of all proceeds from the Wednesday dinners will go directly to benefit the animals waiting for their permanent homes at the SPCA shelter. And with nearly 200 hungry mouths to feed right now, every little bit helps.

Built in 1900, Rose Hill is the first property in Aiken listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and is the most originally intact former Winter Colony estate.

If you have visited Rose Hill, you already know it as a quintessential expression of old Aiken and Gilded Age architecture. If you’ve not yet had the chance to enjoy this beautiful Aiken gem, come out and join fellow animal lovers on Wednesday evenings.

Rose Hill Estate is located at 221 Greenville St. in downtown Aiken between Barnwell and Edgefield avenues, just north of Richland Avenue and a little east of Laurens Street. Use the parking lot at rear located at the corner of Greenville and Edgefield.

Dining begins 5 p.m. and will take place in the Beer Garden and courtyard by the Stable Restaurant. Bring your pet. Menu will be casual fare, and no reservations are needed. However, if planning to bring a large group, give the staff a heads up. Call Rose Hill at 648-1181. For more about the SPCA, visit www.aikenspca.org or call 648-6863.

Donations needed:

As we enter the beginning of kitten season now, we are in desperate need of canned cat food. Any brand is fine and you are welcome to bring it to the shelter at 401 Wire Road or at our thrift store at 404 Richland Ave. E., whichever is more convenient. We also have donation bins at SuperPetz on Whiskey Road and Boots, Bridles & Britches on Pine Log Road. We are also always in need of Whiskas dry cat food, Pedigree dry dog food and any brand of canned dog food.

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Animals in need of homes, TLC

Some special animals at the Aiken SPCA need some special owners.

The SPCA is caring for a mostly-blind poodle named Dynamo, a horse and a pot-bellied pig, and staff would love to see them go to good homes. The three were recently transferred to the nonprofit shelter from the Aiken County Animal Shelter after Animal Control picked them up as strays.

Each need a little extra TLC.

Dynamo is about 8 to 9 years old. He is neutered, and Adoption Coordinator Sybil Altman said she suspects he can see just a bit as he has shown he can navigate around Altman’s office fairly well.

“He was obviously someone’s dog. He is very friendly. I haven’t heard him bark, and he does seem to be house trained,” she said. “I probably wouldn’t recommend a household with small kids.”

The horse, who is about 25 to 30 years old, was found wandering around Aiken County. Altman said County Animal Control responded after receiving several calls.

The mare is thin, and Altman said her coat, hooves and teeth need some attention. There is a chance her owners may show up to claim her. If not, she will available for adoption in a few weeks.

Every morning, staff members take her from the stall at the back of the SPCA’s property to the canine agility field for exercise. Dogs have been in the fenced-off field next to her, and she does not appear to be skittish around them.

“She has definitely been alone for a while,” Altman said. “But she is as sweet as can be.”

The pot-bellied pig was found abandoned in a trailer with a number of dogs. She was spayed Wednesday.

Altman estimates her age at 5 years.

She also needs special care as her physical condition is relatively poor.

For more information, call the Aiken SPCA at 648-6863.

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Stamp series advocates for local shelter animals

Aiken SPCA staffers brought dogs to the Aiken post office on Laurens Street for the debut of a stamp series honoring shelter animals just like them.

Aiken Postmaster Joseph Hart III and Summerall Station Site Manager Vince Robinson uncovered a poster with the “Animal Rescue: Adopt A Shelter Pet” stamp series Friday morning on the sidewalk outside the Laurens Street post office.

“I think they’re very cute,” said Hart. “I hope we sell enough of these stamps to benefit animal rescue charities and the local SPCA. I hope it will help find some of these animals homes.”

Gary Willoughby, SPCA executive director, and the SPCA’s Sybil Altman and Joan Irvine brought along a Jack Russell terrier mix, a black-and-white Lab mix and a mixed-breed golden dog to attend the ceremony and remind post office patrons that the SPCA has many fine animals in need of good homes.

“I think they’re great,” Willoughby said of the new 44-cent stamps. “It’s another opportunity to remind people of the importance of adopting animals. These are 10 examples of dogs and cats adopted from shelters. Also, the canceled stamps will have another message stamped in ink, so there’s another reminder. On top of that, the Postal Service has partnered with Halo Food Co. to donate a million pounds of pet food to shelters across the United States.”

The stamps were created by photographer Sally Anderson-Bruce, who shot photos of 10 adopted shelter animals in her hometown of New Milford, Conn. The stamps are being sold in cards of 20 for $8.80.

“I think they’re going to be great,” said post office patron Skip Townsend. “They’re for an excellent cause and helping excellent people. I think the post office is to be commended.”

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SPCA seeks donations for new Willow Run facility

The Aiken SPCA’s new 20,000-square-foot facility on Willow Run Road, which plans to offer a multitude of animal-centric services, will not be possible without the community’s support, directors said Tuesday.

SPCA Board of Directors President Barbara Nelson, Executive Director Gary Willoughby and General Gifts Committee Chair Sharon Brown officially launched the animal welfare organization’s capital campaign to fund the construction of the $4.2 million facility.

They gathered at the dog park, which opened last fall, and pointed to adjacent acres where the adoption and regional spay/neuter clinic will be built.

“This will become a community destination,” Nelson said.

The SPCA has raised $3.2 million so far in donations and pledges, and Nelson hopes to have the remaining balance secured in another year. The capital campaign rests on the sale of memorial bricks and tiles.

The bricks will be placed in public areas around the exterior of the facility, and photo tiles will be mounted on the walls inside the adoption and education center.

SPCA directors anticipate the new facility will increase the capacity to house homeless pets by 50 percent, and the new spay/neuter clinic will perform more than 12,000 sterilizations per year, compared to the current average of 2,500 sterilizations.

Nelson said dogs available for adoption will no longer live behind chain link fencing in kennel runs. They will instead live in “suites” that are a minimum of 8 feet by 8 feet and enclosed with glass.

“The dogs will not be able to look at each other directly, which cuts down on territorial behavior and barking,” she said.

Cats will live in “colonies” complete with benches, climbing trees and access to enclosed, outdoor rooms. The two colonies will house up to 15 cats each.

The new facility will be built with durable materials to ensure it will be “serviceable for a very, very long time. We want to build a shelter that is here 50, 60 years,” Nelson said.

A geothermal loop system will cut down odor, and low E-glass solar panels will cut down on utility costs.

On top of all of that, the new building will also house a humane education center for school-age educational programs and tours, classes for new adopters and training for assistance and therapy pets. The SPCA will also introduce two new programs upon completion of the facility – a pet protective custody program and prison cell dog program.

Brown said the new facility will be “absolutely marvelous.”

“It seemed to me that this is a project we can all share in,” she said.

For more information on the memorial bricks and tiles, call the Aiken SPCA at 648-6863.

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Pets to hit track during annual Paws For Cancer dog walk

The Aiken Relay For Life will get a helping hand from its four-footed friends Saturday at the 11th annual Paws For Cancer dog walk.

Dogs and owners will gather for Paws For Cancer at 8 a.m. Saturday at the H. Odell Weeks Activities Center walking track, and the walk will begin at 8:30 a.m. Dogs less than 50 pounds will walk at 8:30 a.m., and dogs more than 50 pounds will walk at 9 a.m. There will be refreshments and snacks for sale, and all proceeds go to the American Cancer Society.

Registration is $25 per dog, which includes a Paws T-shirt and a goodie bag. Forms for advance registration are at local veterinary clinics and PetSmart, according to organizer Kathy Iwert. Iwert is team captain of the GlaxoSmithKline Relay team, which takes over the event management this year from 2010 Relay Co-Chair Holly Woltz.

“It’s a chance to get out with your dog and interact with other dogs and dog owners. I’ve been a walker in Paws For Cancer for probably the past five years, but he’s no longer with us,” Iwert said, referring to her dog.

It’s not all dogs at Paws, either; Iwert said they have one cat among the 45 to 50 animals registered for the walk. All animals, canine or feline, must be on a leash during the walk.

Southern K-9 Solutions will give dog obedience demonstrations at the walk, and Iwert hopes to have the Aiken SPCA and Molly’s Militia on hand with adoptable animals.

For more information about Paws For Cancer or for registration forms, call Iwert at 541-6398, or e-mail kathleen.r.iwert@gsk.com.

The Aiken Relay For Life will be from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. Friday, May 21, at Aiken High School. There is still time to register a team and raise funds for the event. For more information, visit www.relayforlife.org/aikensc.

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Celebrating 75 years of animal welfare in Aiken

This Thursday, April 22, the Aiken SPCA celebrates its 75th birthday. The organization was founded in 1935 by four women who were seasonal residents from New York City.

Mrs. William Breese, Miss Louise Ford, Mrs. Fitch Gilbert and Mrs. Arthur Iselin saw a need for helping animals in Aiken and created the Aiken County Society for Preventing Cruelty to Animals in an effort to find homes for homeless pets in the county.

In their hometown of New York City, they were familiar with the ASPCA, the group that runs commercials nationally that you’ve likely seen, and they took some of their ideas to start a group here in Aiken.

Everyone might not realize that the Aiken SPCA isn’t affiliated with the ASPCA, and the Aiken SPCA receives no funding from the ASPCA.

The timing was not the best for starting a charity back in 1935. The country was right in the middle of the Great Depression, with unprecedented poverty and unemployment.

Thankfully, these ladies found other people to help through fostering and adopting, and this laid the foundation for the organization we have today.

In the early years, some of the Aiken events were even featured in The New York Times, highlighting our annual dog shows in the Times’ social pages as far back as 1938.

The Aiken SPCA was actually the sponsor of what was billed as the largest polo pony show of its kind, held in Aiken in April 1939, with well-known Aiken names participating, such as Pete and Dunbar Bostwick, William Chisholm and Thomas Hitchcock Jr.

In the early years, many animals in shelters weren’t even spayed or neutered, rather just kept there to keep homeless pets from wandering the streets as a public safety issue. Some, but not many, were adopted out to homes, unaltered, with the hopes of at least keeping the girls and boys separated.

Through the decades, technologies improved and pets that were adopted began to be “fixed” and tattooed for identification in their ears. More and more people brought their dogs and cats inside their homes to join the family. People started fencing their yards, so “Fido” didn’t wander off.

For many years, the Aiken SPCA was located on Banks Mill Road, a little south of South Boundary.

Some of you reading this story may have been to this site, where today a beautiful home and stable sits. One of our supporters recently told me about a nice donkey that just passed away a few years ago which she adopted from the Aiken SPCA at that location in 1979.

In 1981, we moved up to our current site at 401 Wire Road by building a new shelter and a small spay and neuter clinic thanks to some generous donors.

In 1989, we added a three-stall horse barn on our site thanks to even more help from local philanthropists.

At our new site, we moved from tattoos to microchipping pets, helping make it much easier and faster to reunite a lost pet with its owner.

Fast forward to present day and we’re looking to soon build the new Aiken SPCA shelter and regional spay and neuter clinic that is designed to last 60 years or more.

You’ve likely heard about many of the wonderful components of this project that will improve the quality of life for homeless animals and for others coming through the clinic.

More than 400 residents have signed up dogs to come out and play at Aiken’s first dog park, a great partnership among the City of Aiken, the Aiken SPCA and private supporters.

Seeing all of the dogs playing in the splash pool or chasing a tennis ball down the hill is always a great sight to see.

Looking back at our history, thinking about the thousands and thousands of dogs, cats, horses, pigs, goats, rabbits, birds and others that we’ve found homes for through the years, gives us a great sense of pride.

The support of our wonderful volunteers and generous supporters are the main reason we have lasted all these years.

We’re excited about the future of animal welfare here in Aiken and beyond.

Thank you all in your efforts to help the Aiken SPCA help animals these past 75 years.

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SPCA sets up barn tour

The SPCA’s Annual Barn Tour is this coming Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. This year’s event will go to a new part of Aiken, the southern equestrian corridor, where you will see nine lovely barns on roads with names like Boyd Pond Road, Gone Away Lane and Storm Branch Leg. As unique as the road names are, the barns are even more special.

The best part is that you get a perhaps one-time chance to see these privately owned barns, graciously offered to the SPCA for this fun event.

You’ve probably driven by many of these farms and wondered what they were like on the inside. This is your chance to find out firsthand, while benefitting the animal shelter and spay/neuter clinic.

Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at the main shelter at 401 Wire Road, at the new downtown Aiken Thrift Store at 404 Richland Ave. or Southside at Auto Tech, 460 Silver Bluff Road. Tickets can also be purchased over the phone by calling the shelter at 648-6863 or at the barns the day of the event.

With your tickets, you will also receive a map of all of the barns, plus a description of what to expect to see at each location, along with a booklet filled with the day’s schedule of events to see.

There will be a freestyle dressage demonstration and a display of natural horsemanship, and even some arena polo will be available for viewing.

For those who want to see a glance into the future of animal welfare, there will be an informational display about the new Adoption Center and Regional Spay and Neuter Clinic to be built soon on Willow Run Road. Complimentary lunch and dessert can also be found along the route, in case your stomach starts to rumble.

There will be a variety of interesting things going on at each barn. They can be seen in any order.

There will be nine beautiful barns to tour, exciting events, good food, fantastic animals to meet and mingling with hundreds of fellow animal lovers all supporting a great cause while having fun at the same time. It doesn’t get much better than that.

The SPCA also still needs a few more volunteers the day of the event to help with parking and checking tickets. For more information or to help out, call the shelter at 648-6863.

Don’t miss out on a chance to help the Aiken SPCA in a fun way. You’ll be talking about the sites you see for a long time afterward.

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Barn Tour aids SPCA animals

Explore several barns on Aiken’s Southside and help the animals at the Aiken SPCA.

The nonprofit organization presents its third annual Barn Tour on Saturday, April 17 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and invites the public to tour at their leisure nine barns in the equestrian corridor off Silver Bluff Road to benefit the dogs and cats that call the SPCA home until they are adopted.

A map of the tour is available upon ticket purchase with proceeds going to shelter operations.

“We just say, ‘Go enjoy the barns,'” said Ann Kinney, who helps with marketing at the SPCA. “They can go in whatever order they want or follow the suggested route on the map.”

Kinney said a person does not have to be a seasoned horse person to enjoy the tour. They can simply be interested in the architecture of the barns or intrigued by a farm’s operations.

New to the tour this year are equestrian demonstrations and complimentary lunch, coffee and dessert.

Specific barns on the route will show arena polo, natural horsemanship or freestyle dressage.

Stop five is Sharer Dale’s Greystone Farms, where lunch will be served. Other barns will offer coffee or dessert.

SPCA Executive Director Gary Willoughby said several hundred people have attended in previous years, much to the delight of Aiken SPCA staff.

“They (the barns) are impressive to a lot of them because of their detail,” Kinney said.

Tickets include a $5 coupon to the SPCA Thrift Store on 404 Richland Ave. E. Tickets are $25 each and are available at the SPCA, 401 Wire Road, the thrift store and Auto Tech, 460 Silver Bluff Road. For more information, call 648-6863.

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Fun at the Dog Park

The Aiken Dog Park has proven to be very popular, in spite of opening it during a time of year when the weather never seemed to cooperate. However, it appears that our dogs don’t mind a little cold weather, rain or mud when they get a chance to run around and play with new friends in a big park.

So far, around 200 people have purchased a tag for their pets to come out to our more than 2-acre dog park on Willow Run Road in Aiken, the site where our new facility will be built. The park is open to anyone regardless of where they live, and so far more than half of the memberships are from outside of Aiken City limits in places such as Graniteville, New Ellenton, Barnwell and Ridge Spring.

The splash pool has turned out to be a favorite feature of the park. Dogs are diving in the pool, chasing a tennis ball or playing with a buddy they just met. Some dive in even when part of the pool iced over during our last cold snap.

Three o’clock in the afternoon seems to be “prime time” during the week. I’ve counted more than 20 dogs and their owners at the park at one time. We’ve been very happy that so far, everyone has behaved and played nice. It is a lot of fun to watch big groups of dogs running up and down the hills, diving through the pool, all in pursuit of a ball or Frisbee. We see a lot of regular visitors that visit nearly every day.  Full Story…..

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Aiken park opens to pet owners, pups

Aiken’s dog park is open to the public though the formal ribbon-cutting ceremony and pet fair have been postponed until next year.

Already, dogs and their owners have been taking advantage of the park’s fenced-in terrain and shallow splash pool and about a dozen people have purchased the dog park membership tags, which are required to be worn by all canines when they visit the park.

“The park is officially open,” said Gary Willoughby, executive director of the Aiken SPCA. “The pool is up and running, the City of Aiken has put out the trash cans and benches, but it’s still pretty muddy because it’s been raining so much.”

Inclement weather, including heavy rains and cold temperatures, is what pushed back the grand opening ceremony and pet fair, which was scheduled to happen earlier this month.

The Aiken SPCA Board of Directors is looking at March for the event, when the weather might be more suitable. The pet fair will also be held at the time of the grand opening ceremony.

The Aiken Dog Park is a joint project between City of Aiken and Aiken SPCA. It is located at 199 Willow Run Road, behind the Willow Run Industrial Park.

The park is open seven days a week from sunrise until sundown.
Full Story…..

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