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Pets Large & Small

It does, sometimes, take a village

Jennifer Vanderau
Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter

(7/2012) Does anyone out there remember the immortal words of Wilton Knight during the final tag of the first few episodes of Knight Rider? Michaelís driving KITT out a lonely stretch of desert road and the voiceover says, "One man can make a difference."

And itís all echoey and booming, kind of like a Transformer. Aaahh, nostalgia. Where would I be without it?

And good old Wiltonís words were true, as far as it goes Ė one man can make a difference. It takes a heck of a lot of perseverance, patience and time, but it can happen.

However more often than not, thank you Hillary, it actually takes a village.

Sorry, I know thatís become unbelievably trite and clichť, but it illustrates my point, so Iím using it.

It does, sometimes, take a village. And truer words were never spoken in relation to the Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter. And our village has been overwhelmingly generous.

We've had a number of events for CVAS recently that brought in not only crowds of people, but also money to help us with our cause. We had a 5K Run, a Hike for the Homeless, a Howl to Heal Memorial Dog Walk, a Rabies Clinic and a Pooch Party.

Combined, these shindigs raised more than $7,500 for the shelter. I have to say, there are many moments when I get overwhelmed with my job and realizing the support we have is definitely one of them.

And once again, our village needs to be thanked.

When it all comes down to it, the bottom line is that the Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter wouldnít be in business if it werenít for the donations from the community.

I occasionally fear that the folks who truly help us with yearly donations donít know how appreciated they really are. Itís quite similar to when I last saw my grandmother. I felt as though I couldnít tell her that I loved her enough. I wanted her to understand how much she meant to me because I recognized with that innate sense you donít question, that I wouldnít see her again. I still to this day feel I didnít adequately express myself.

The same is true in the case of the people in the community Ė sometimes nameless, faceless, "anonymous" donors Ė who continually help the shelter out. I feel as though I canít possibly say thank you enough. In fact, it seems at times, that a simple thank you really doesnít cut it.

Look, itís no real surprise that Iím a pretty sizable cynic. My parents are reading this and with mocking gasps, clutching their chests, they sarcastically quip, "Nooooo." Yeah, I get no respect even from those who sired me. Sigh.

When approaching the daily grind with this type of cynicism, a true act of altruism can leave a person utterly speechless.

Have you ever had moments in your life like that? Where another person does something for you just out of the kindness of their heart and you feel as though "thank you" just doesnít suffice?

The cynic in me is rolling her eyes going, "Oh yeah, when in the world does *that* ever happen?" but the director of communications for CVAS who witnesses this type of benevolence gets a warm feeling in her midsection.

I think itís pretty obvious with these columns that the only sugar-coating I enjoy is on doughnuts. I try to tell it like it is. And working at an animal shelter is a really tough gig. Most people who do so have a deep love for animals and unfortunately, this kind of career allows you to see the horrors and atrocities committed by human beings against the very creatures you love so much.

Some days I leave here quite depressed and despondent about the nature of people.

Thatís why when our supporters step up to help us with our fundraisers, Iím so thrilled I approach delirium. When many of your days are surrounded by the dark aspects of life and humanity, a small spark of light can be as bright as a ray of sun.

Hereís the deal: this shelter is in the business of saving lives. And while Iíll always wish we could do more, we do what we can. We rescue animals from accidents, bad situations and tough living conditions and find them homes where they will be loved forever.

We have bulletin boards throughout the shelter that hold photos of our "happy endings." Canines and felines and sometimes even other critters who are clearly thrilled to be out of a cage and in a home. These are who we fight for every day and we can't do it alone.

While the staff comes in when the alarm goes off and takes care of the animals and works for the shelter, itís honestly the people who give that make it all possible.

Itís the school that gathers donations from our wish list; itís the community member that gets sponsors for our dog walk; itís the person who receives our Christmas Open House flier in the mail and sends in a donation; itís the local business that donates prizes for our fundraisers or supplies to the shelter; itís the member of CVAS who continually sends in money every year to renew that membership; itís the volunteer who spends countless hours walking our dogs and cuddling our cats; itís the person who recently lost their best furry friend and donates the remaining pet food and supplies to the shelter; it's the person who falls madly in love with one of the furry souls in our kennels and comes in to adopt; it's the various media outlets who help us get the word out; itís those folks who keep this shelter going.

There are a ton of people on that list and that's why sometimes a simple "thank you" doesnít seem like enough, but from all of us at the shelter Ė both two-legged and four-legged Ė itís meant with the deepest sincerity.

Wilton Knight was right, one man can make a difference, but most times it takes an entire village.

To all of those who help Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter throughout the year and are a part of our little village: thank you so very much.

Jennifer Vanderau is the Director of Communications for the Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter in Chambersburg, Pa., and can be reached at The shelter accepts both monetary and pet supply donations. For more information, call the shelter at (717) 263-5791 or visit the website

Read other articles by Jennifer Vanderau