Settling in nicely at her new home, Bella is busy playing fetch, bonding with her family and exploring more than 50 acres of farmland. The nearly 2-year-old German shepherd mix was adopted by Paul and Marcy Pugliese of Kingston from the Etowah Valley Humane Society March 21 in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak.
“There are several reasons why we felt the time was right for our family to adopt a dog,” said Pugliese, who serves as the Bartow County Extension coordinator. “My wife’s employer recently gave notice that Kindred Hospital in Rome was closing at the end of March. In some ways, the timing of this announcement was a blessing, since she has been able to stay at home with our kindergartner during the recent school closings. We knew that if we adopted a dog, that she and our son would have plenty of time to bond with our new addition.
“Another reason relates to my love of gardening. Last year, our summer vegetable garden was demolished by deer and raccoons. We knew that having a guard dog to protect our garden would be the most effective way to deal with this problem. We could also use a good farm dog, since we live on my dad’s beef cattle farm.”
With their son, Luca, turning 6 in late April, the Puglieses felt he possessed the maturity to care for a dog and a four-legged friend would make a “great birthday present.” Father and son are both partial to Bella’s breed, since Pugliese’s family had German shepherds during his youth and Luca’s favorite character on the animated TV show “Paw Patrol” is Chase — a German shepherd puppy.
“When we saw the picture of Bella on the EVHS adoption page, we knew we needed to make a trip to town for a visit,” Pugliese said. “Within about 30 minutes of Bella playing with our family, we knew she was the dog for us. She’s a very smart, obedient dog and the previous owners did an excellent job of training her. We’ve only had her home with us for a few days and are finding out that she is actually training us.
“We’ve visited EVHS before and felt that the staff do a great job with keeping the facilities clean and making hand sanitizer available throughout [the] building to keep both the animals and their visitors safe. Although COVID-19 was at the forefront of our mind, we took extra precautions to wash our hands thoroughly and had minimal interactions with the EVHS staff.”
Noting Bella was a “fun surprise,” Luca agreed with his dad that Bella is a playful new member of their family. Along with enjoying their water hose and blue squeaky ball, she also performs tricks, such as shaking hands with people.
“Based on her interactions so far, she appears to be very happy with her new home and family,” Pugliese said. “She has eaten every morsel of food we put in her bowl.
“She sits quietly and stares at the cows from our backyard when they come down to the well for water every day. She might be the luckiest dog in the world with a 54-acre farm to explore.”
With a bevy of area residents staying home due to COVID-19 temporary shutdowns and social distancing guidelines, the Puglieses are among many who are deciding this time is ideal for bonding with recently obtained four-legged friends. In March, 61 animals were adopted from the Etowah Valley Humane Society in Cartersville.
“By any standards, it was a very good month – the best month by far this calendar year,” EVHS Director Bryan Canty said. “Foot traffic has been steady as well. It seems that a higher percentage [of] folks are serious about adopting and not just beginning to look for their next best friend. We also got another 157 transferred to other licensed rescue organizations.”
Like the Pugliese family, Emilee Pyle is enjoying getting to know her new dog, who is “super playful and loves to snuggle.” The Cartersville resident adopted Emmett, a 4-month-old shepherd mix, from EVHS March 31.
“I have always heard good things about adopting from EVHS so I thought I would give it a try,” Pyle said. “I wasn’t that worried about the COVID-19 when I was looking to adopt. What drew me to adopt Emmett was his sweet and playful personality and I knew he would get along perfectly with our other dog, Ellie.”
Along with extensive cleaning procedures, EVHS is striving to curb the spread of the respiratory illness by enacting new rules for visitors. The organization also has slightly curtailed its hours of operation and now is open to the public Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“EVHS has very strict protocols pertaining to the intake, cleaning and disinfecting of the shelter,” Canty said. “All of our measures exceed Georgia Department of Agriculture guidelines and shelter best practices. Every enclosure must be scrubbed daily regardless of whether it’s occupied or not.
“… Rules for entering the shelter are posted on the door. We ask that anyone who has been outside the country in the last 14 days or who has any flu-like symptoms to remain outside the shelter. At this time, we are also limiting visitors to the shelter to one family/group member at a time and only 10 people under the roof at any given time. Every surface touched is disinfected and sanitized using FDA approved virucides. We simply cannot afford to take any chances.”
Established in the mid-1990s as the Bartow County Humane Society, the organization changed its name to Etowah Valley Humane Society in 2006, the same year it opened the 4,928-square-foot shelter at 36 Ladds Mountain Road. Costing about $300,000 per year to operate, the facility consists of two staff offices, a quarantine room, two visitation rooms, temperature-controlled kennel runs, a cat room with about 24 cages, a puppy room with more than 20 cages, outdoor kennel runs and an on-site dog park.
“Most days, we are doing multiple placements of great homeless pets into loving forever homes,” Canty said. “Our biggest concern is whether any of the ‘powers that be’ will issue lockdown orders that would eliminate visitors to the shelter.
“Of course our prayers go out to the Bartow County community and those who have been affected by this pandemic. We have not allowed hysteria to infiltrate EVHS. We are prepared. Our great homeless still get the best care. As I’ve posted before, social distancers are welcome at EVHS. And besides, can you think of a better time to bring your new ‘best friend’ home and get it acclimated to its new environment than now?”
Looking ahead, Canty is appealing to the public for its continued support.
“Even though adoption numbers are up, we do not know what the future holds,” he said. “EVHS is by no means on easy street financially. A lockdown could paralyze EVHS and jeopardize the lives we are entrusted with saving. Margins off of adoption fees only comprise about 25% of our operating budget. The rest is supplemented by private donations, occasional grants and fundraisers — two of which have already been canceled/postponed due to the outbreak.
“We need financial support now more than ever. I’m calling on our community to help us continue our mission of saving lives and placing the homeless pets of Bartow into forever homes. They’re counting on us and they certainly deserve second chances.”
For more information about the EVHS, visit http://etowahvalleyhumane.org or call 770-383-3338.