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January 30, 2008 > The Journey of a quarter century

The Journey of a quarter century

By Nancy Lyon

A journey starts with the first step and it was to be a journey of discovery and growth for those who would one day be known as the founders of the Ohlone Humane Society.

A quarter of a century ago this year, a group of caring Tri-City residents responded with horror to a daring local newspaper article that featured graphic pictures of dozens of dead dogs and cats piled in a dumpster at the isolated and dilapidated animal shelter in Newark. In those days, it was a place of despair and death that flooded in the winter and where frightened cats were placed in cages over the dog runs, a place where compassion had worn thin and hope was long forgotten.

These good people said "no more"... and took that step and the journey began. It took five years of fighting an uncaring City Hall with many petitions circulated and attending seemingly unending city council sessions that went into the wee hours when the issue was often placed near the end of the agenda...perhaps to discourage these passionate advocates from staying. But we were tougher than that and we stayed and prevailed.

Animal shelters are often considered unimportant and a low priority by governmental agencies relegated to remote industrial locations, away from public access or citizen overview. We would not accept a shelter that was only a holding place where animals had less than a maximum chance of being found by their guardians or being adopted. Anything less was not acceptable. It would be in a high visibility location where families could easily visit and where there would be more adoptions.

We suggested that Fremont's Central Park, with its large open spaces, would be ideal. However, the suggestion that an animal shelter would be placed in the jewel of the Fremont crown was unthinkable to the powers-that-were.

The grassroots group had formed a nonprofit organization called the "Friends of the Tri-City Animal Shelter" and with public support, more meetings and negotiation, the bureaucratic resistance was finally overcome. In 1987 the shelter was built in the heart of Fremont. To show our support, we raised and donated $40,000 hard-earned dollars toward the building fund.

With the battle seemingly won, some who had grown weary during the long haul to success, retired from the playing field. There was, however, a core group that had grown in awareness that a building without a humane organization to work with the community's still existent animal problems was only a part of the answer. With that vision moving the group forward, we re-incorporated as the Ohlone Humane Society... there was still much work to be done.

As with any journey there have been both triumphs and hardships. It has not been a path for the uncommitted or faint of heart. Many wonderful people have given valuable time from their busy lives to help OHS grow into an organization that not only cares, but as the saying goes, "walks the talk."

Through its many service programs such as spay/neuter assistance, aiding and rescuing thousands of companion animals and wildlife not only in our immediate area but from Central California to the Oregon border, creating and maintaining a regional rescue resource list for numerous species that is provided to all Northern/Central California animal shelters as a service, financially assisting with veterinary emergencies, and providing humane education for many including local elementary school children OHS has helped the community. OHS' list of accomplishments also includes establishing a wildlife rehabilitation center that has saved thousands of our wild creatures including endangered and threatened species, advocating at the local and state levels for the protection and humane treatment of animals, reaching out with care and support for area senior citizens and others with our Hug-A-Pet animal assisted therapy and Pet-Meals-On-Wheels for companion animals, and supporting the Tri-City Animal Shelter in many, many other ways.

The list is long and I'm proud to say filled with compassion and action for all animals and for the people in their lives.

On this our 25th Anniversary, we continue in our mission "...to inspire respect and compassion for all animals, advocate for their interests and welfare, and instill in our community that all living beings have a right to be treated humanely." As we enter our next quarter of century with its many challenges, with your support, OHS will strive to meet them. The momentum will continue, and as a volunteer-based organization, the faces may change but the work will continue.

We invite you to join us on the path of living consciously, responsibly and humanely... and to take that step.

If you are interested in any OHS program, please call our advice line at (510) 792-4587 or contact the OHS Wildlife Rehabilitation Center at (510) 797-9449. The OHS website is www.ohlonehumanesociety.org.

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