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Gainesville resident works to find homes for sheltered animals
Allen fosters animals
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Susan Allen takes one of the Hall County Animal Shelter’s dogs out for a walk Wednesday afternoon during her volunteer time at the shelter. She has been volunteering at the shelter since the facility opened on Barber Road.

Hall County Animal Shelter

The Hall County Animal Shelter has 90 kennels for dogs and about 204 cages for cats and puppies. The shelter house 8,000 animals each year. Volunteers are needed as dog walkers and cat playmates, as well as to assist with mini-adoptions, with rabies clinics and fundraising events. For more information about volunteer opportunities, visit the website or contact Adoption Specialist Gwen Trimmer at 678-450-1587. The shelter is located at 1688 Barber Road, Gainesville.

The giving spirit

This holiday season, The Times each day will spotlight a person or couple who give of themselves to help others in the community. Today, meet Susan Evans, who has been volunteering at the Hall County Animal Shelter since it opened on Barber Road in Gainesville about two years ago.

 

Susan Allen is a self-described "animal lover."

That love for all animals led the Gainesville resident to volunteer for the Hall County Animal Shelter about three years ago, where she works to find families for sheltered animals.

"There's a lot of self-gratification to knowing that you have taken an animal that somebody was willing to throw away or that was doomed," she said.

The animals are not the only benefactors either, she said.

"There's gratification in knowing that you not only help the animal, sometimes you're helping the people, too," Allen said.

Allen cherishes the moment an animal is adopted. She said only about 30 percent of sheltered animals are so lucky.

"Being a person who helps facilitate animals get adopted, I guess that appeals to the caregiver in me," Allen said. "Seeing them find another home, a happy home where they're going to get love — that's the biggest thing."

Whether at the animal shelter or at home, Allen is always surrounded by animals.

She operates a farm where she sometimes fosters horses. She also has six cats and six dogs of her own.

Working at an animal shelter, though, has its down sides. Some pets may never find permanent homes and many times are required to be euthanized.

"It's just heartbreaking to see for a variety of reasons," Allen said. "These animals are there at no fault of their own, and it's just heartbreaking because you can't find homes for all of them."

To reduce the number of animals being euthanized, Allen takes a strong role in finding permanent families. That includes posting weekly photos and descriptions of animals to adoption sites.

Animals are brought to the shelter for a variety of reasons including strays and owners unable to care for them or having to move.

Allen also helps transport dogs to adoption events.

Whenever animals are transported they are required to be out of the shelter for a period of two weeks due to health regulations.

That means Allen and other volunteers must find people to foster the animals during that period.

The shelter doesn't often have to go far to find caregivers. Sometimes Allen will foster animals herself.

She's also the go-to for sick animals.

"If they have sick animals, they call me because I'm a nurse, too," Allen said.

Last month she took in a litter of Labrador cocker spaniel mix puppies that had been exposed to parvo.

Because the shelter can't quarantine and treat all of them, puppies with parvo are typically euthanized.

However, Allen fostered the puppies, cared for them and they all survived and were adopted.

She is a semi-retired registered nurse and previously worked at Gwinnett Medical Center with a plastic and reconstructive surgeon.

Her medical background provides experience in the kind of atmosphere that can quickly become overwhelming.

"It's almost like working in a critical care area of the hospital where sometimes you just have to step away because it becomes so overwhelming and you feel sometimes that you can't do more," Allen said.

"No matter how much you do you can't save them all, and it's a hard pill to swallow," she added.

It's inevitable that Allen will will feel a bond with animals at the shelter, but that's when the job becomes difficult.

"Once you make eye contact with them, you feel like ‘OK I've got to do something to help this dog," she said. "Some days I just can't even go in the back."

Despite the heartache of seeing animals euthanized, Allen refuses to give up on them regardless of how tough it may become.

"You could walk away and not do it but then there's nobody to help them. You just have to keep it in the back of your mind that you just have to do what you can," she said.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Allen.

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