The Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region was like an ark in a sea of evacuee worry and tears.
Beloved pets came Sunday, not just two by two, but in every possible family configuration — three dogs here, two cats and a dog there, and even Snoopy the ferret accompanied by three canine companions.
For hours, the driveway was filled with cars lined up to deliver their precious cargoes to the safe haven. At times there was hardly any space inside the intake office, filled with cages of glaring cats and barking dogs, and distraught owners hugging and kissing their animals and saying a temporary goodbye.
In the back rooms and basement there were cages of animals as far as the eye could see. Cats reached out with dainty paws to get attention. Some dogs cocked their heads questioningly. Other exhausted animals were asleep, oblivious to all the excitement.
There are so many pets housed there temporarily that by early evening, Erica Meyer, shelter spokeswoman, had lost count of how many they were housing. ‘Hundreds,” she said. ‘We are at capacity.”
On a normal day, there are 40 to 60 intakes a day. To ease the crowding, the Humane Society was offering shelter cats for free with no adoption fee. (Not those evacuated, of course.)
Officials plan to open another temporary shelter sometime Monday in Colorado Springs. They have not yet revealed the location because they want to complete work first. In the meantime, several other places are offering temporary shelter. For information call the Humane Society at 473-1741.
There have been more than 60 volunteers and staff members at work, many trained in disaster response. “It’s a good system and it’s working,” Meyer said.
Volunteers Sean Kinoff, 16, and his sister Sydney, 12, were busily cleaning cages .
“This is fun,” Sydney said.
Sean was impressed by the Humane Society’s altruism. “I think it is good of them to do this for people.”
In the parking lot, Henry Hess of Cascade had similar thoughts. “This place is a lifesaver,” he said. He had his hands full with his own caged cats and a leashed dog who was very interested in the bushes outside the intake center. Hess and his wife are staying with relatives. But he was worried about two cats who had to be left behind because they hid somewhere in his house.
Dawn Minto, who lives in Manitou Springs near Williams Canyon, arrived with Shirley, a calico cat, and three kittens. She had already farmed out two dogs with friends. She, too, was worried about a cat who had disappeared.
“Our pets are our babies. Our kids are grown,” she said, wiping tears from her cheeks.
Pam Koontz arrived with several children, three dogs and the ferret Snoopy in tow. Daughter Zoe was trying to make Snoopy stay in his carrier.
“He doesn’t like it,” Zoe said. The ferret kept peeking out to watch the goings on.
How did Koontz get all the animals rounded up? “It wasn’t easy,” she said with a sigh.
Eight-five-year old Lucy Dell, who walks with a cane, arrived with her cat Sugary. “I hate to leave her,” she said.
Dell has lived in a cottage in Manitou for more than 23 years but was more concerned about the cat than her personal belongings. “I’ve had him for a year and a half,” she said.
She was accompanied by her landlord, Firuz Labib, “Lucy has lived there for years before we bought the place,” he said. We don’t call her a tenant. She is our good friend and we wanted to help her with her cat.”
Those not bringing in animals came bearing gifts of food, blankets and empty cages. Kristine Ballou brought sodas and munches for the volunteers.
“I have three cats and a dog that I got them here,” she said. “They do wonderful work.”
Karen McDonough unloaded several empty crates she was donating to the shelter.
Her cat Mia, 9, died recently of kidney disease.
Tears welled up in her eyes. “I’m doing this for the other animals in honor of her.”
Contact Carol McGraw: 636-0371 Twitter @mcgrawatgazette Facebook Carol McGraw