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Pets Large & Small

Thoughtful gifts

Jennifer Vanderau
Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter

Gracious sakes, could someone please explain to me where time goes anymore? I swear it was just the beginning of June yesterday, wasnít it?

Wasnít it?

Alas, I see that it is actually November and I feel a little old in the fact that time seems to be moving faster and faster for me.

Iím clearly a little shocked to realize the holidays are approaching and as per usual, I have nothing even remotely prepared or planned.

My siblings and I have a tradition each year where we shop on Christmas Eve. Itís just the three of us and we start out as early in the morning as they can get me out of bed (Iíll admit it Ė Iím the one that holds up the event) and we go pretty much all day in the insane crowds.

Now, my sister and I usually have some idea of what we want to purchase for people, but my brother Ė my dear, fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants brother Ė comes with nary an inkling.

In the morning, heís usually quite calm and relaxed, but the fear settles in around 3 p.m. and he freaks out on both my sister and me because he hasnít purchased anything.

Keep in mind, throughout the day, we will point out various items that would be perfect for the people on his list, but because he doesnít have the time crunch, he passes them up.

Itís actually a lot of fun.

Figuring out what to get family members and friends, not so much. When we were kids, we were super easy to buy for Ė GI Joe, Cabbage Patch Kids, Transformers, Jem and the Holograms dolls, pretty much did it for us.

But now, it a can be a little tougher. I like to go for practical gifts that people really need or can use, but sometimes when youíre on a budget, thatís not terribly feasible.

So, I start thinking about thoughtful gifts. The kind that give the receiver pause or maybe a warm feeling in his or her heart.

One great way to give to the person who has everything is by making a donation in his or her name to the Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter.

This kind of present actually gives more than once. You give to the person whoís getting the honorarium and you give to the homeless animals who find themselves spending the holidays in a kennel.

We have a number of people who opt for this kind of gift and it always does my heart good to see it.

The holidays, after all, should be more about altruism than consumerism and a donation in someoneís name is a fantastic way to keep that tradition going.

At CVAS we have an annual budget of $600,000. I can hear the gasps now. I realize that sounds like a lot, but from a non-profit standpoint, we really do try to keep our numbers low. We look for as many cost-saving measures as we can at the shelter, but our main concern is the health and well-being of our animals, who often come to us in varying degrees of illness.

Youíd be surprised from what a stray dog or cat can suffer.

Weíve had a dog come into us with a compound fracture of his back leg and a cat with a tail almost completely severed in half.

Those are just two cases out of more than 2,000 who come through our doors every year.

In a lot of respects, running an animal shelter is a lot like running a hospital or nursing home. Our "residents" are simply four-legged.

In addition to the physical injuries, animals also arrive at CVAS with various illnesses, including but not limited to upper respiratory infections, kennel cough, eye and ear infections, lack of vaccinations, worms, fleas, and a variety of skin infections and problems, all of which need to be treated.

In addition to the cost of the medicine required to get an animal healthy, we also need to consider the environment in which our pets are housed. Crates in an open building would be less expensive, but would lead to the spread of disease. The lack of disease control and management would require the animal to be on the costly medications for much longer, thus bringing our costs up in the long run.

Our goal is to get an animal in to CVAS, get him healthy, get him into our adoption area and get him home.

In order to do that, we need to choose quality over a quick fix. We need strong flooring and superior ventilation in order to maintain a healthy environment.

We need specific cleaners made for animals, most of which are not inexpensive.

Every animal in our adoption kennels is also spayed and neutered, a surgery that is reflected in our annual budgetary figures. Our animals also have needed surgery for cherry eye and hernias.

We have factored all of this into our annual budget so that we can ultimately keep our costs low.

We also need people ó trained employees ó to care for the pets, give the medications, provide food and monitor their well-being. Itís not an organization where someone can come in for two hours and leave the animals alone for the remaining 22 hours in the day.

In order to reach our budget goals each year, we rely on the help from our supporters and donors. We receive very minimal funding from our local government and state. We receive no funding at all from the county. Tax dollars are not coming to us.

We are a non-profit organization that still continues to save animals because of the people who help us financially each year.

With the holidays upon us, if you have someone on your list who may be a little tough to buy for, why not consider giving a donation in his or her name to CVAS?

I promise you, the four-legged souls in our kennels would be very, very grateful.


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

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