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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Furry Friends Feature: Year in Review: 2022

As 2022 draws to a close, The Heritage Humane Society looks at the highlights of a busy year that was life-changing for thousands of pets while eyeing the pressing needs carrying into 2023.

Celebrating a one-year anniversary

Greater Williamsburg’s largest animal shelter became even bigger with a much-needed expansion project completed in late 2021. December marked The Heritage Humane Society’s one-year anniversary of the ribbon-cutting of its facility expansion. The project expanded and upgraded shelter that includes 2,550 square feet of space added to the front of the facility. Additionally, an 820 square foot multipurpose room is used for dog training classes, meetings, and can be reserved for community gatherings and birthday parties.

Heartwarming adoptions

Stories of abandoned pets and daring rescues tug the heartstrings and often pull hard on emotions. When these same homeless pets find their forever homes through The Heritage Humane Society, it is cause for heartwarming celebration.

As of this publishing, The Heritage Humane Society had 1,393 adoptions in 2022 – a 29% increase over 2021. Every single adoption is a story to remember including the following.

Meet Nectar. Sweet Nectar arrived as a stray. The one-year-old hound mix came through the shelter’s doors with a broken spirit, almost completely shut down and afraid of people. Through The Heritage Humane Society’s foster program, she began opening up more in her foster home. With exposure to positive reinforcement such as treats and praise, she became more comfortable and started to show her curious side. Nectar’s foster shared, “Her entire body, including her head, wiggles with excitement when she sees her safe people.”

Nectar’s Gotcha Day, or adoption day, was July 3, 2022, by Amanda Gray. Nectar is now known as Sadie, and while she continues six months later to settle into her new home, it has been baby steps. Gray is the first to share that she was looking to foster only to foster fail, which is affectionately known as just that – a volunteer who commits to fostering a pet only to end up adopting.

Gray shares, “When Sadie first came into our home, she would not move from her safe spot in the house for at least a week. I had to carry her to go outside and had to bring food to her. She would only eat at night when we weren’t looking. Sadie was only comfortable being outside in the woods. Wherever she was, if people were there, panic set in and she was always looking for a way out. She’d shake with anxiety. While we were unsure of her previous life, it was clear she was not familiar with a home or people. It took very slow baby steps over these past few months – nothing changed by magic, but it has been so rewarding helping her find her confidence, discover joys we take for granted, and come into her own. Time, work, and trust had to be at Sadie’s pace.

I share all of this because I think it’s important for fellow adopters to know that it takes work. Adding a dog into your family is not always sunshine and rainbows. Each dog in the shelter has its own history, and it’s our job to make sure their new history is a positive one. The amount of love Sadie has to give continues to shine through every single day. The hard work we have put in is being reciprocated ten-fold. This process is worth it! Thank you to The Heritage Humane Society team for all you do to love on each and every dog at the shelter until they find their forever homes. You guys see the potential and the beginning of a new life for these dogs. The hard work and dedication you put in should not be overshadowed. It starts with you. We are eternally grateful for the love you showed Sadie, it was her first step in knowing that this can be a good life! Thank you, thank you, thank you!”

Meet Little Bit. Who needs four legs when three is plenty? Little Bits was a seven-year-old gray tabby mix with stunning green eyes when she was transferred in from Virginia Beach Animal Care & Adoption Center in Sept. 2022. After arriving at The Heritage Humane Society, she had to receive a leg amputation due to an old leg injury that was causing her a lot of pain and discomfort.

Little Bit spent a few weeks recovering with a foster family. She loved being in the mix and particularly enjoyed being chatty. The only thing louder was her purring. She recovered quickly and eventually enjoyed settling in briefly in one of the cat colony rooms at the shelter. Within a week, Little Bit had captivated the attention of her adopter, quickly chatting him up. That day Little Bit went to her forever home where she reigns.

Schwartzy’s Cat Cove

Williamsburg’s popular new adopting spot, Schwartzy’s Cat Cove, opened in July 2022. Showcasing adoptable cats and kittens from The Heritage Humane Society, the decorative open setting is within The Nautical Dog in New Town, Williamsburg’s only independently owned and operated pet market. Area residents have proven they love visiting the Cat Cove where they are guests and cats roam free. In the short five months of being open, more than 100 cats have already been adopted.

Owner and Animal Advocate Amanda Wilbourne posted in celebration, “And just like that 100 cats have been adopted from Schwartzy’s Cat Cove in less than 5 months. We knew every would love the Cove, but honestly y’all love it more than we ever imagined. This started as a tribute to Schwartzy, Nautical Dog’s first mate and original shop cat. It was intended to be a place that shelter cats would love to be at and for people to see what awesome animals cats are. In fact, many of our adoptions have come from “non-cat” people or those who were not looking to add to their family. Thank you to everyone for coming to the Cove and for supporting Nautical Dog so we can continue to fund the space and care for of the cats. And also thank you to HHS for trusting us to care for your adoptable cats. We have the best community! Cheers to adopting more!”

Animal Camp

This was the first summer The Heritage Humane Society was able to host school-age campers in the new classroom. The shelter hosted five one-week camps for a total of 84 campers who were rising first through sixth graders.

Designed to inspire the next generation of animal lovers, this unique camp opportunity in Williamsburg offered a diverse curriculum cultivating responsibility, compassion, and awareness, and plenty of fun. Campers enjoyed meeting animal welfare staff and interactive presentations for the campers. They enjoyed hands-on care of adoptable pets including a first, which was seeing the x-raying of a pregnant dog. Additionally, they enjoyed welcoming a visit from alpacas from Fox Wire Farm Alpacas. The 2023 camp weeks registration will open after the new year.

Kibble Kitchen

The shelter’s Kibble Kitchen & Beyond Program works to keep pets with their families in times of hardship. This program provides pet food, litter, and other resources to community members in need. Proving vital, the Kibble Kitchen helps families so that they don’t have to surrender loved members of their family just because they fall on hard times. The Heritage Humane Society staff and volunteers assist families at the shelter’s Adoption Center and partners with Williamsburg House of Mercy and Grove Christian Outreach. Many pets-in-need in the community benefitted from this service so far in 2022. This outreach program is dependent on donations from the community and is always open to businesses and organizations looking to support local homeless pets.


Special events

The Heritage Humane Society’s special events were highlights throughout the year for Greater Williamsburg. The sanctioned FURever Homes Race was enjoyed by serious runners and fun runners alike. More than 240 dogs perfected the art of the belly flop for Drool in the Pool. Two of the championship golf courses at Kingsmill Resort were completely filled with foursomes driving the greens for the Make Par for Pets Golf Classic. Kicking off the festive season was the Holiday Bazaar where the area’s top chefs and restaurants donated their signature soups and community members could purchase items for pets and pet-lovers. The shelter is gearing up for another big special events year in 2023. We look forward to continuing these events and many more in 2023.

It takes a village

The Heritage Humane Society has a dedicated staff bolstered by volunteers. In 2022, there were 530 active volunteers. The active and impactful HHS Auxiliary had 63 volunteers and always welcomes more HHS Auxiliary volunteers. To date, volunteers have topped 17,000 hours of work encompassing everything from shelter operations, animal care, community outreach, and special events.

For those looking to join in the active shelter community, visit, call 757-221-0150, or visit The Heritage Humane Society located at 430 Waller Mill Rd, Williamsburg, VA 23185.

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