“I’ve always been an animal lover,” explains Sheila, one half of the lovely marital team that makes up our  Volunteers of the Month.

“But never had time to volunteer. And never wanted to see abused or neglected animals. It was too painful to me.” But a funny thing happened to Sheila and Ed on their way to retirement in Florida. “Ed knew how much I wanted a little dog when we moved here, so he surprised me with a little Shih-Tzu pup (Winston) four years ago. Since then, he became a bigger animal lover than I. One day he suggested that we both volunteer at the Humane Society/SPCA. So we went to the orientation, filled out volunteer applications, and have gone every Monday since.

Like many of our volunteers, Sheila and Ed, who used to live in New Jersey, are residents of The Villages. And like so many Villages residents, Sheila and Ed are lifelong dog lovers, who not only maintain an active retirement lifestyle, but dedicate a regular portion of their time each week to supporting the needs of our shelter. “We walk the dogs, play with them, clean their cages and change their bedding. But most of all, give them plenty of love and kisses.”

Over time, it is not uncommon for our volunteers to develop special bonds with certain animals, and Sheila and Ed are no exception.

“Every week we fall in love with a different dog, but one stands out in our minds. Her name was Emily. Emily was a Redbone Hound and she came into the Humane Society/SPCA skin and bones and very frightened. She would hide in the corner of her pen, wouldn’t walk on a leash and wouldn’t even take snacks.” Sheila and Ed would sit in the pen with her and try to make her feel trusting enough to come near them and take a cookie. “After several weeks of us doing the same routine, Emily finally became unafraid and very friendly towards all the volunteers and other dogs.” And in what everyone at the shelter was hoping would prove to be a happy ending, Emily was, ultimately, adopted. Sadly however, somehow the sweet pup managed to slip away from her new owners and, in a terribly sad turn of events, was hit by a car and fatally injured. “Ed and I cried.”

But even experiencing what amounted to a personal loss for them as volunteers did not make Sheila and Ed shy away from continuing to work with our animals in need. Clearly, the connection they had managed to make with Emily at the shelter in those preliminary months played an integral part in getting Emily adopted. And that is, above all else, the ultimate goal at HS/SPCA. Which is precisely why Sheila and Ed wiped away their tears and used what they had learned with Emily to continue bonding with other dogs in need at our shelter. They shower them with all the love they can until these animals find their forever homes.”

After all, the bottom line is: none of us can predict the future. But at our HS/SPCA we do all we can- using every resource available to us- to at least give these forgotten animals a future with love and kindness.

“My advice to anyone that says they can’t volunteer because they can’t bare to see abandoned animals?” Sheila remarks, knowing all too well how easy it is for people to just shy away from volunteering. “Stop thinking about yourself and your feelings and think about the animals and how you can make a difference in their lives. It’s a wonderful experience.”

For Sheila and Ed, the reward for their dedication beams back at them through the ebullient, excited faces of the canines they play with each week at the shelter. Whether our rescued animals were abused, neglected, or tragically lost their place in a loving home with their loving owner due to outside circumstances, the company of trustworthy humans means everything.

So, as we collectively take our first steps into the new year and resolve to make this world a better place for both humans and animals alike, it is our sincere pleasure to highlight Sheila and Ed for their unwavering dedication. We understand that volunteering is not always emotionally easy or logistically convenient. (If it were, everyone would be doing it, right?) And we greatly appreciate folks like Sheila and Ed for stepping up to meet the needs of our animals.”