WAYNESBURG – It was almost a month ago when heavy rains fell, the river waters rushed and, in the dark, Greg Katchmark of Rices Landing heard a faint bark coming from the direction of the Monongahela River.
“I went outside to check on our cat to make sure it was in its shed. I knew the river was high because I have docks on the river and I had anchored them down, and it was rising then,” Katchmark said. “I was calling the cat, and Stormy (as he has been named) must have heard me.”
Katchmark said he could tell the bark was too far away for it to be coming from the shore.
“I ran to my deck and grabbed a flood light and shone it onto the river. When I saw him, he was doing everything he could to fight against the current,” Katchmark said. “It was between 50 and 100 yards up river fighting and fighting with no headway.”
Katchmark, unprepared in flip flops, ran and slipped on his dock before holding tight and yelling for the dog.
“He could hear my voice and turned and started to swim toward me. I never thought he would make it. I was already planning what to do next,” Katchmark said, noting a nearby neighbor had a pontoon boat that seemed like the next option of where to run to in his efforts to save the dog. “I got a piece of its collar when it was being rushed by and dragged it to an area where I could pull it out.”
Stormy was panting and shaking uncontrollably, Katchmark said. In the morning after the Katchmarks had toweled him off, fed him and placed him in front of an electric heater for the night, Stormy rebounded.
“I really didn’t think he was going to make it. He was so skinny,” Katchmark said. “He just wolfed down the hot dog and chicken we gave him. He was a real lovable dog and wagged its tail.”
Jane Gapen, director of the Greene County Humane Society, said the 16-year old dog that Humane Society staff has named “Stormy” is nearly blind and hard of hearing, which makes his rescue all the more miraculous.
“He was suffering from hypothermia when Greg pulled him out. We are giving him a lot of extra special tender loving care. He has all of his shots, food, a bed and Dr. (Jennifer) Behm checks him every week,” Gapen said. “He has had a full good life, but he does look every bit of his age. It would take someone with a special heart to care for him.”
Gapen said Stormy has a home at the Humane Society regardless of whether he is adopted or not.
“There have been some residents here for two years. We are a no-kill shelter. The only time we euthanize is for suffering animals or dangerous dogs,” Gapen said. “That has been our goal for over 20 years.”
Gapen said the society’s connections in Pittsburgh have helped the animals brought to the Greene County shelter find homes.
“We are like that little engine that could,” Gapen said.
Gapen said they do what they do for animals like Stormy and Bouncer, a cat with a bad eye that she finds endearing while others may not.
It isn’t an easy task to feed, doctor and care for the dogs and cats that are placed in the care of the shelter. Donations are down in a time when the cost of everything has risen. There are a few very dedicated donors, according to Gapen, but not enough to cover expenses each year.
“We operate on a budget of about $250,000. This year, we had a lot of facility maintenance. Our building is now 10 years old, and there are things we have had to replace,” she said. “We currently have 80-plus cats in the building and close to 40 more in foster care. Our dogs move rapidly, which is great.”
Gapen said the lack of laws concerning cats is why there is always an abundance of them available for adoption, whereas there are “loads of laws for dogs.”
As the holiday season approaches, Gapen said her hope is that the community at-large will find it in its heart to remember the animals placed in the society’s care. Santa’s wish list hangs on a nearby wall with requests for quality canned and dry foods for cats and dogs, feeding bowls for both, pet beds, cat litter and boxes, small pet carriers and “loving, forever homes for all our cats and dogs.”
Gapen turns to volunteer Nicole Ferencak when she addresses the many cats that are at the shelter. Ferencak and her mother, Toni Ferencak, came on board two winters ago and made it “their specific mission to place cats,” something Gapen said they are passionate about.
“There are stocking wish lists on each cat cage and if someone supplies them with something on the list it goes into their own personal stocking,” Nicole said. “When they are adopted, it goes home with them.” Nicole made the stockings herself.
The Ferencaks also are in charge of the annual calendar sales that last year brought in $15,000 to the Greene County shelter. It was so successful that the number of calendars produced will go from 1,000 to 1,200 this year. At $30 each, they make nice Christmas gifts that keep on giving in more ways than one. Each calendar has a three-digit number printed on it that pays out a monetary amount daily from Jan. 20 to Dec. 31, 2013, when that number is the same as the Pennsylvania Daily Lottery’s Daily Number in the evening.
“If somebody doesn’t have room in their home to adopt a pet, there are several other ways to help, like purchasing a calendar during the holidays,” Ferencak said. She and her mother will be selling the calendars, cotton candy and chances on a gift basket with certificates for various opportunities at Nemacolin Woodlands during the Waynesburg Prosperous and Beautiful Holiday Open House Friday.
Gifts for shelter pets can be dropped off from noon to 5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Saturday at the Greene County Humane Society, 183 Jefferson Road, Waynesburg. For more information, call 724-627-9988 during business hours.