Wanderer’s Rest helps animals and strengthens communities

Published Mar 22, 2015 at 9:00am

CANASTOTA — Whether its sheltering animals and caring for them until their adoption or fostering programs that help keep pets in their homes, Wanderers’ Rest Humane Association prides itself on its innovative programming.

Executive Director Linda F. DeMuro said Wanderer’s Rest goes above and beyond to foster partnerships with local organizations and provide humane education outreach with the goal of not just providing for warmth and comfort for animals and owners but of strengthening communities.

The shelter at 7138 Sutherland Drive is gearing up for its annual fund-raiser, the 2015 Bone Appetit event to be held Saturday, April 18 at The Whitetail at WoodCrest, 6200 Cheese Factory Road in Manlius. There will be silent auctions, raffles, wine tastings and hors d’oeuvres.

Donor tickets, for those attending the event from 7-9:30 p.m., are $50, while Patron tickets, attendance from 6:30-9:30 p.m., are $75. For tickets, go to www.wanderersrest.org or contact DeMuro at directorwanderersrest@gmail.com or call 607-316-3748.

Last year more than $20,000 was raised so that WRHA could continue its vital programming.

“These events are so important because they allow for us to share the activities we are doing each day to support the WRHA mission,” DeMuro said. “Basically, that’s saving, caring for and finding forever homes for animals while teaching humane education to build stronger communities. Our full-time humane educator is in the community every day with one or more of our four therapy dogs. And our partnerships are broad — businesses, schools, mental health clinics, libraries, colleges, fairs, events, shows and nursing homes to name a few.”

DeMuro said WRHA was the first animal shelter in the region to offer a food pantry that is open to anyone. The canines and felines at the shelter eat Science Diet brand food, but it will accept other brands. Those goods are then used through a partnership with the Karing Kitchen in Canastota to prepare special holiday baskets for pets to be distributed during Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter.

You also do not need to reside in Madison County to utilize the pantry. The pantry is open to residents of Oneida and Onondaga counties, and the surrounding area as well. And besides food, the WRHA food pantry will also provide collars, leashes and some toys if they are in stock.

As the only animal shelter located in Madison County, WRHA also has three off-site adoption centers in Onondaga County and contracts with two municipalities in Oneida County for rescues — Augusta and Sherrill.

“We’re always in need of items to help keep pets in their homes,” DeMuro said. “While we are an animal shelter, the last thing we want is for someone to have to surrender their pet because they can no longer afford to care for them — whether it’s because they just lost their job or some other emergency came up.”

If someone requests to use the food pantry, “there’s no questions asked,” she said. “Our pantry is the one thing that really sets us apart. We do have dogs and cats that we care for here and that is part of our mission, but we also want to provide support to the communities that support us.”

Last month WRHA took in 19 animals. WRHA has three off-site adoption centers in Onondaga County: Petco, Pet Supplies Plus and Pet Express shops. So far only cats have been adopted through the stores, but DeMuro hopes to build on the success of the program in the coming months.

“We feel like we’re on the cutting edge when it comes to our innovative programming,” the executive director said.

Humane Educator Dee Schaefer and her team, which includes service dogs Stuart Little and Rosie, travel throughout the area to local libraries, senior centers and counseling centers, spreading messages of respect for animals and anti-bullying.

Both canines are shelter animals. Rosie, a chihuahua, was rescued from a puppy mill. She was only 2 and pregnant with her fifth litter when she almost died, Schaefer said.

As part of a new program, Stuart Little and Rosie participate in counseling sessions at Oneida Family Counseling Services — Rosie works in group counseling and Stuart in individual counseling.

If people are holding and petting a dog, “they’ll forget they’re opening up and they’ll just start talking,” DeMuro said. “We’re hoping to grow this program and open it up to other folks who are challenged.”

As part of the Reading with Rover program, Schaefer tours area libraries and has children read to her canines. Stuart and Rosie also make stops to the Colgate University book store where they serve as stress relief for students studying hard for mid-terms.

Schaefer recalled her shyness as a child and how difficult it was to open up and read in front of her peers. She said her dogs have helped several children overcome their fears and challenges.

“If a child reads to a dog, they’re not judgmental,” Schaefer said. “They just sit and listen. I had one boy who was hesitant about reading eventually sit down and read seven books to Stuart one day.”

Schaefer also started a program at Oneida Public Library that meets every Thursday. It began with four children and within the last 4-5 months has grown to 22 participants, she said. Her team also works with high school students.

“We travel around and talk about animal abuse and how that is linked to bullying and domestic violence,” the humane educator said. “If we can make a difference in just one young person’s life, then it is well worth it.”

Stuart and Rosie also travel to Elderhaven, a care center in Canastota for Alzheimer’s patients and those with dementia. It’s been proven that patients’ blood pressures and monitored breathing have gone down when the animals are at the facility, DeMuro said.

“Our programs have proven to be working,” DeMuro said. “Our humane education is primarily done in Madison County right now, but we want to branch out to Oneida and Onondaga counties and other areas we serve. We want to seek grant funding and with the support of our donors, we hope to make that happen.”

For more information about WRHA’s programs or the upcoming Bone Appetit fund-raiser, to go www.wanderersrest.org.