Going out the the animal shelter is dangerous for me. It never fails — there’s always at least one animal I want to pack up and take home with me, usually more.

I found myself in that situation Tuesday afternoon as I headed over there to do my quarterly photos of some of the animals for Ottumwa Life. I was given the rundown on the animals we were going to be photographing, such as their breeds, ages, likes and dislikes, to publish in the short bios that run with the photos. Then I got to meet the animals.

From the moment the first dog was brought out to me, I was in trouble. His name was Skipper, and he was very loving and friendly, not to mention he had some of the softest fur I’ve ever felt on a dog. There I was, wishing I could take him home with me.

I knew that would get me in trouble, though. We’ve had cats for a long time, and while we didn’t get them from the shelter, they were animals in need of a home. However, it took me 10 years — a whole decade — to convince Jason to get a dog. I don’t think showing up at home with one unannounced would be a wise idea.

Then out came Big Boy, and that reasoning briefly went out the window. His name might sound like trouble, but he was anything but. That dog just wants to cuddle and give love, and he won me over immediately. The whole time I was taking his photo, he was either trying to hug me or Heartland Humane Society Manager Kaci Aschenbrenner. Maybe instead of being called Big Boy, he should be Big Heart.

Once the photos were done, as the dogs were brought back to their kennels, I gave them each a hug and whispered to them, “I hope you find a great home. You deserve it.”

Next came the cat sanctuary, where it was evident with the cats that they were wanting to find someone to love. As I was taking pictures of the cats, I would feel the tops of my boots moving around. Sure enough, there were kittens down there pawing at them, trying to get some attention.

As I was getting ready to head back to the office, I had the pleasure of speaking with Ed Schmitt, a dedicated volunteer at HHS who has walked more than 500 miles with the shelter dogs. His dedication and commitment are impressive, and something he said resonated with me: “I get attached, but there’s nothing I love more than saying goodbye.” That means, he said, they’ve found a home.

I get it. In the short time I interact with the animals, I feel for them and wish for the best for them. I love it when I return in three months and hear, “All the animals from the last time got adopted.” It doesn’t always happen that way, but when it does, it makes me happy.

The whole idea with the Adoptable Pets section when we started Ottumwa Life was helping pets in need find a home. I always hope in my heart that it helps. I got confirmation last spring as a group of teenagers came through the office for a tour. One girl stopped and said to me, “I got my cat because I saw him in that magazine, and I went out and adopted him.”

Hopefully, it’s something that happens over and over again.

Tracy Goldizen is the Courier's features and magazine editor, leading production of the award-winning "Ottumwa Life" and the Courier's other magazine offerings. She began work with the Courier on the copy desk.

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