by Ellen Thompson
Havre Daily News
Ten years ago, a group of Chinook residents saw the need for an animal shelter and filled it, often opening up their homes to lost and sick animals. Now the group, Pets Are Worth Saving, or PAWS, needs a permanent home too.
Members plan to build one at the Blaine County Fairgrounds, but need $30,000 to do it. A raffle of a painted buffalo skull and a mailing campaign called the Don't Come Banquet are two methods they are trying to raise money.
PAWS has $5,000 in its coffers, but club members hope to have the rest raised and work finished by wintertime so that animals and volunteers can keep out of the cold.
The organization began in 1993 when several Chinook business owners noticed a large number of strays in the area.
"Mainly we were concerned with stray cats at the time," founding member and Shore's Floral owner Bonnie Weber said. "Then there was this dog we knew of, and we decided something needed to be done."
The club grew and members each took in a few animals. Before long they found a landowner willing to let them use his property for a kennel. That location was home to about seven dogs at a time until the kennel was moved to a parcel owned by someone else, club member Heather Nesslar said.
Last fall, members were told by that landowner that they would need to find a new location because he had plans for the spot.
The Blaine County Fairgrounds loaned out space in its horse barn, and that housed the animals through the winter. By the end of that period, all the dogs had been adopted out, Nesslar said.
PAWS stopped taking dogs in the winter until it has a new home, which, thanks to the Blaine County Fair Board, will also be at the fairgrounds.
The new PAWS building will be located on a vacant spot at the northern edge near the livestock barns.
The club does not take cats, but helps arrange homes for stray felines, Nesslar said.
PAWS is generous with its help for dogs.
"We treat everything," Nesslar said. "If they're injured, we'll treat it. We try to help them out as much as we can."
Nesslar has adopted three PAWS dogs in the five years she's been involved. The first one, Prancer, seemed to have been abused. The dog would avoid people at the kennel, Nesslar said. One day she took Prancer home because the kennels were being repaired. At Nesslar's home, Prancer began to come out of her shell, Nesslar said, approaching people and socializing.
And so Nesslar's home became Prancer's home, and then Stella's home, and then home to a puppy PAWS couldn't take.
Weber said several members have shown similar dedication to strays and to the club. But the club gets by without putting a financial burden on its members, she said. Donations that keep PAWS running come from the company PETCO, the Sands Memorial Foundation in Havre and from private donations. The club also raises some money from an adoption fee.
Raffle tickets for the buffalo skull, painted by Dodson native Joe Rattey, can be purchased at Shore's Floral. Raffle tickets are $1 each or 6 for $5.
Others are involved in helping PAWS raise money. Michigan resident Doug Graber, who has strong ties to Chinook, has donated a wooden vase and bowl he made. Those are for sale at Shore's Floral along with a CD Pol Haldemann recorded of his music. Half the proceeds from sales of Haldemann's CDs will go to PAWS.
Prospective donors are invited to a Don't Come Banquet to raise money for PAWS. Instead of showing up to an event, people are asked not to come, but to send a donation by check, cash or credit card. To be added to the guest list, people can contact Shore's Floral.
PAWS can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com. More information about PAWS can be found on the Web sites www.chinookpaws.petfinder.org or www.montanapets.org.