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Pets Large & Small

There are certain things in life I just donít get

Jennifer Vanderau
Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter

(2/2017) I will never understand wearing pants that hang down to your knees. I mean I try to get pantyhose to not do that and yet in some circles, itís a fashion statement. I mean, to each his own, but that just doesnít look comfortable. I donít get it.

I also donít understand crazy spicy foods. I mean a little heat from time to time is okay, but there are limits. I donít know how Iím supposed to enjoy a meal when my face is burning off. I just donít get it.

And I really donít get why Aiden is still at the Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter. Allow me to explain.

In November, we had some folks who could no longer afford to care for their 3-year-old lab/basset mix pup. They surrendered him to the shelter in the hopes of finding him another home.

His name is Aiden.

Oh my word, Aiden is EXACTLY what you would think of when someone says lab/basset mix Ė itís the cutest thing. He has the basset legs Ė short and kind of turned out Ė and the head and ears of a lab.

And his personality is just amazing. He loves to chase balls. The only issue is that heís a little on the pudgy side, but I mean, hey, who isnít? So the ball chasing will only go on for so long before he has to stretch out and rest. Itís hilarious!

I took him with me to visit with college students last semester to give them a break from studying for finals. What a ham he was! The kids tossed the ball for him all afternoon and he would chase it, grab it and turn around to see if everyone was watching. Heís quite a character.

Our shelter manager says if he were human, heíd be a stand up comedian. I can totally see it! Heís kind of the canine Kevin James.

Our friends at the Emmitsburg Journal were cool enough to use his photo on the front page of the paper last month. He had a ball in his mouth Ė naturally Ė and looked like the sweet boy he is.

So now to the part I donít get. I have no idea why he is still at the shelter. Itís odd. Sometimes this happens, though. We have amazingly awesome animals who when I first meet I think, "oh he wonít be here long," only to find heís still with us months later.

We also have some special felines who have been looking for homes for a while now.

We have five cats who arenít in our adoption area due to their, well, special nature.

First we have Griffin. He lives in our executive directorís office. When Griffin first arrived at the shelter, he threw a fit the likes of which we hadnít seen in a while. It turns out he just couldnít handle all the other animals. Once he was alone in a space by himself, he turned completely around. He loves attention and purrs all day. He sits high atop his cat tree and surveys his land. Heís quite the king.

Then we have Dingo. Dingo was in our adoption area, but he started being quite a devil when visitors and volunteers would try to put him back in his cage. No one could really blame him Ė I wouldnít want to be put back in a cage, either Ė but it started getting worrisome. He lives in our shelter managerís office and roams the halls. Heís kind of like the greeter for our office area. Heís quite a character.

Our office manager has a friend in her office named Hedwig. Hedwig actually looks like a spotted owl. No joke. Hence the name for you Harry Potter fans out there. She looks like someone took a wet paint brush and shook it over top of her. Hedwig can be incredibly shy when she first meets someone Ė shy to the point of hissing. Once she settles down though, she becomes an incredibly loving cat.

Hedwig is what cat people would know as a "bush dwelling" cat. I know it sounds made up, but there are some cats that donít like to be up high. They prefer to find cave-like places to hide and hang out. Hedwig is one of those cats. She absolutely despises being picked up. She actually shakes if you even try. Sheís never been up on the desk and the chair is as high as sheíll go.

Hedwig and Dingo are kind of dating. Heíll roam down the hall and hang out in front of her place and sheíll pretend to ignore him, but she keeps a close eye on what heís doing.

Smokey Mechu and Savannah live in our treatment room. Their inevitable partnership was quite a tale.

Smokey Mechu was surrendered to the shelter because he wasnít getting along with the new baby in the house. Heís a 3-year-old, all gray boy who is quickly becoming quite well-known for his "cat look."

Smokey put on a few pounds while he was here and kind of outgrew his cage. Also, we knew he needed exercise and just wasnít getting in our adoption area. He wasnít terribly fond of other cats that he could see, so he wasnít happy and getting more and more stressed.

A little gray-and-white girl came in around the same time as Smokey. We named her Savannah. For some unknown reason, she didnít get adopted and continued to stay in her cage. The longer she was there, the more upset this made her. She actually paced back and forth in her cage. It got to the point where we realized she needed space, too.

So both Smokey Mechu and Savannah came to reside in our treatment room. During the overnight hours, they each have their own large, stand-up cage, but during the day, they are free to roam the room wherever they wish. Now our treatment room is kind of the hub of activity at the shelter. Meds are dispensed there, charts are monitored; we even temperament test there on occasion.

Smokey and Savannah have pretty much taken over. They get involved in just about everything that goes on there. They "help" with the paperwork by trying to push the pen. Each morning, they have to play in the water in the sink Ė it must happen.

Theyíve actually become quite adept dog testers. By this I mean they seem to be able to tell how a dog will do with cats. If Smokey and Savannah are on the floor while the dog is in the room, the pup will be completely fine with cats. If they are on the counter, it may be questionable as to how the dog will respond to cats. If they are on top of the refrigerator, the pup is a no go with cats.

Isnít that wild?

Savannah is the escape artist. She gets out of that room and can be found wandering the halls. We think she feels the need to perform inspections every few days to make sure everything is running smoothly. Sheís even been known to wander into dog areas Ė nothing really phases this cat.

One of the most hilarious things about this set up is that during the day, Smokey will use Savannahís litterbox. Seriously. He wonít use his own at all. Weíre convinced this is so his will be clean at night time when he has to go back in his cage.

Only a cat, you know? That just cracks me up.

All of these special sweethearts are looking for their forever homes and the one way to make sure that it happens is to talk about them. So thatís what I plan to do and you can help.

If you know anyone who is looking for a special companion, please let them know about these babies.

There are a lot of things in life I donít get and likely never will, but when it comes to adopting animals, thatís one that I will always understand and want to help make happen.


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