Story: A visit to the Somerset Regional Animal Shelter

I’m a lucky dog

Several months ago, I sat in a the Merrick Pet Care booth at the BlogPaws conference to record a short video on why my dog is the Best Dog Ever.

Kinda hard to do when I have three dogs–and am very careful not to play favorites. Plus several other pups who live in my heart if not on this earth.

I couldn’t choose, so instead I offered a simple sentiment: that every dog whom I’ve had the honor to live with is the Best Dog Ever. Because each one gives so much and asks for so little.

I stumbled over my words as I spoke, and I probably sounded a bit silly. (I’m hoping that recording has since been lost.) But the emotion was true–and maybe that’s why the Lucky Dog Spirit was with me because the good folks at Merrick randomly chose my name–from among all those who stopped in that photo/video booth–to win a year’s supply of dog food.

A year’s supply of dog food can make a difference

I called my husband later that day to tell him the good news. The night before, while enjoying Italian ice at a nearby store with my son, Brain had been handed a flyer about our local animal shelter. “Save Our Shelter,” read the headline. The Somerset Regional Animal Shelter was in danger of being closed; they were rallying local residents to keep it open.

The shelter has been integral part of our community for dozens of years. My Pasha–a furry ball of Keeshond love–was adopted through them so many years ago.

“I want to give the food to the shelter,” I told Brian. “What do you think?”

It had to be a family decision. Brian had been out of work for more than a year; keeping our three dogs fed for a significant period of time would certainly help us out.

Rescuing a rescue

But here’s the thing: we could still afford dog food, and there were so many good things the shelter was doing. They didn’t just rescue dogs, and cats, and ferrets, and other pets, but they were also working hard to help families that were in much worse shape than us–families that might have to give up their beloved pets because they couldn’t afford to keep them–by donating pet food to the food pantry. Dozens of community volunteers helped socialize the pets. The shelter saved feral cats through Trap Neuter Release. A Pets at Home program offered behavioral training to address problems that might have otherwise resulted in surrender. Spay and neuter surgeries were offered at low cost.

In the end, there was such an outcry against the possibility of closing, there were so many people packed into the town council’s meetings in support of the shelter, that the contract was renewed and “the little shelter that could” was able to continue saving lives.

So it really was a no-brainer; about a half-second of consideration was all it took before Brian said, “Let’s do it.”

Special Delivery: 12 bags of dog food

It took a little bit of coordinating with Merrick (and a lovely bout of Lyme Disease had me sidelined for awhile), but Brian and I delivered a dozen 30-pound bags of Merrick’s Chicken and Brown Rice dog food to the Somerset Regional Animal Shelter this weekend, and got a first-hand look at the great work they are doing.

Nancy Gedbaw, kennel manager for the shelter, was thrilled with the donation. “We were down to our last three bags of food,” she said. ” This was perfect timing.”

Nancy Gedbaw (NEED TITLE) is thrilled with the donation. "We were down to our last three bags of food," she said. " This was perfect timing.

Nancy Gedbaw begins unloading the food.


Nancy’s smile grew even broader when she saw the bags of Merrick kibble. “It’s important to feed our animals high-quality food,” she said. Animals in a shelter are stressed as it is; giving them the best diet possible may make a difficult situation just a little more bearable.

We stacked the bags and took a few minutes for a photo op. I asked Nancy how long she thought twelve bags of food would last. She was quiet for a moment, as if she was attempting to do the calculus. “We were down to two dogs,” she said. “Then we brought in some more last week. Now we have 24 dogs.” She hoped some would find homes soon.

What I hadn’t known is that Somerset Regional takes in animals from other shelters in the state–ones that have run out of room, or maybe a dog has languished too long in one place and may have a better chance at finding a home in new surroundings.


A dozen bags of dog food are donated to the Somerset Regional Animal Shelter

Nancy and I posing outside the shelter


While Brian helped Nancy stack the food in the storage area, I took a look at some of the current (and hopefully very temporary) residents.


Some of the dog food donated to the Somerset Regional Animal Shelter

Brian lends a hand.


When they were done, Nancy saw me looking at the sweet doggy faces. “I want to introduce you to somebody,” she said, and held an office door open for me. “This is Baby Girl.”

A somewhat chunky marshmallow of a dog greeted us, her tail wagging nonstop.

Nancy told me Baby Girl had been at the shelter way too long.

I hesitated for a moment, the unasked question hanging in the air between us. “What’s her story?”

Baby Girl had spent most of her years locked in a closet, her only purpose to produce puppies. When she could no longer breed, her “owner” (the only circumstance under which you’ll see me use that word to describe a human-animal relationship), didn’t want the dog anymore. (For a little more on Baby Girl, read my featured post on her.)

I watched as the dog hugged Nancy. Baby Girl is a real sweetheart who’d been dealt an unlucky hand. A “pit bull” mix. A black dog. Unloved. Ears cropped too close (I won’t even think about who did that to her).  Yet anyone who took the time to really see her, anyone who spent a mere minute with her would get a glimpse of her gentle soul.


Baby Girl hugs Nancy, the kennel manager at the Somerset Regional Animal Shelter.

Nancy gets a hug from Baby Girl.


Before we left to visit the other animals in the shelter, Baby Girl stood up, put her paws on my legs, and looked me straight in the eyes. “I can’t bring you home,” I told her, “but I promise I’ll help you find one.”


Baby Girl, one of the dogs up for adoption at the Somerset Regional Animal Shelter

“Can you please take me home?”


“We call this Beagle Heaven,” said Nancy as she introduced me to a trio of happy pups. That’s Reno, Gizmo and Twinkle.”

I had grown up with a beagle-poodle mix named Twinkle. That was in the days before designer mixes existed.

Three adorable noses poked through the gate.


Three beagles up for adoption at the Somerset Regional Animal Shelter

The beagle trio, from left to right: Reno, Gizmo and Twinkle.


A pile of sleepy pitty puppies were occupying every last inch of the bed in a pen nearby.  “We call them the True Blood brood,” said Nancy. As is the case when a litter of nameless pups comes in, the staff has to come up with monikers for each, and in this case, they were based on the popular HBO show. “The white one is Sookie,” she said. She couldn’t remember the other names; my guess is she wasn’t an avid fan of the show.


Four tired pups waiting to be adopted at the Somerset Regional Animal Shelter.

I love that tangle of puppy paws.


In the next run was Meatball. With a new baby on the way, his family felt they couldn’t keep him–not because he wasn’t good with children or they didn’t trust him. They just gave him up, or gave up on him.

Meatball was having trouble adjusting to his new environment. No wonder. The dog had gone from a home with rooms and beds and people to a tiny run in a place full of barking dogs. His back was turned to us.

“Hey Meatball,” Nancy called softly. He barely looked up. According to Nancy, he wouldn’t look at anyone his first few days at the shelter. She grabbed a bag of treats, and at the recognizable sound of a treat bag being opened, Meatball stood up and walked slowly to the gate. He took the treat and stayed for some extra love.

He reminded me of my Pasha, with his long brushy tail and a calm demeanor.

Nancy with Meatball, one of the adoptable dogs at the Somerset Regional Animal Shelter.

Sweet Meatball is a bit depressed; he doesn’t understand why he’s not home. Pups like him can be overlooked; but whoever winds up taking Meatball home will have a loving companion for life.


A thin black dog with a ropy tail peered at us from the next run. “That’s Gilly,” said Nancy. “One of the sweetest dogs I’ve met. She’s so housebroken that she won’t go in her pen or even outside on the cement.”

We decided to take Gilly outside for some relief.  Brian fell in love with her floppy ears, and gave her some love.


Brian with Gilly, one of the dogs at the Somerset Regional Animal Shelter.

Brian spends some time with Gilly.


By then, people were starting to arrive at the shelter, asking questions about dogs or cats they saw on Petfinder, looking at the faces who were looking back at them from behind the fencing.

Other shelter workers introduced us to a few more of the animals.

Chris Morello posed with a gorgeous brindle pit mix named Thor.


Chris gets some love and kisses from Thor, one of the puppies at the Somerset Regional Animal Shelter

Chris holds a snuggly, wiggly Thor.


Lora Muckin brought us to meet some of the cats. Like Doobie, a well-mannered and incredibly loving mancat with beautiful green eyes.

Doobie, one of the adoptable cats at the Somerset Regional Animal Shelter.

Look at those gorgeous eyes on Doobie.


Apparently Doobie loves to be held, and enjoys snuggling up to his people, whereupon he sets his purr motor to high.


Lori and Doobie, one of the adoptable cats at the Somerset Regional Animal Shelter.

Doobie snuggles into Lori, purring away.


In one of the cat rooms, kitten Earthshine climbed the cat tree, and tried to cheer up Randall who was hiding. “He’s depressed,” said Lora. She worried about him; he really needed a home and some love. Black cat Muffy sat on the bench, doing her best panther impression. She didn’t quite pull it off, as her friendly purr-sonality shone through.


Earthshine, Randall and Muffy are some of the adoptable cats at the Somerset Regional Animal Shelter.

Little Earthshine kitten trying to make friends with Randall, while hangs out, looking regal.


More people were coming through the door, so it was time for us to leave and let the good people of the Somerset Regional Animal Shelter do what they do best–help find homes for these lovely and befurred souls.

As we left, we saw Chris handing a clipboard with adoption forms to Janice, a woman who came to the shelter with her children–all of whom fell in love with Gilly.

Filling out the paperwork to adopt a dog at the Somerset Regional Animal Shelter.

Chris helps Janice with her paperwork.


The two kids posed with their new family member. Everyone smiled–even Gilly. She knew she was going home.


Gilly smiles for the camera, along with her new humans Hannah and Sam.

Portrait of a happy family.


How you can help

Somerset Regional Animal Shelter is a municipal organization providing animal control services to several towns in central New Jersey. They care for about 1000 lost, abandoned and surrendered animals each year. Because is is funded by municipalities, the shelter is not considered a nonprofit.

However, the organization Friends of Somerset Regional Animal Shelter (FOSRAS) is; these folks do everything they can to support the shelter and the animals they serve.

To help the animals of Somerset Regional, you can

  • Adopt! I can’t guarantee the animals in this post are still there (like lucky Gilly!), but the shelter is full of dogs like Meatball and cats like Doobie that need homes.
  • Buy items on the shelter’s wish list through
  • Donate money to FOSRAS. The money goes to buy medical supplies and prescriptions, pay for veterinary care, and to purchase items that wouldn’t normally be donated.
  • Show your support by attending a FOSRAS event. There are two coming up:
    • Fundraiser Night at Houlihans on Wednesday. September 10.
    • Heart & Sole Shelter Walk on Sunday, September 28.
    • For more info and sign-up forms, stop by the FOSRAS website.
  • Volunteer to help socialize the dogs and cats of the shelter.
  • Follow the shelter on Facebook, and share their posts.


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28 Comments on "Story: A visit to the Somerset Regional Animal Shelter"

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  1. Earl Lover says:

    How lovely 🙂

    Lots of Woofs from Earl, Ethel and I at Earl’s World!

  2. easy rider says:

    I hope they all will find a furever home soon. Specially Baby Girl won my heart immediately and I hope she will find the one who loves her furever :o)

  3. Sandy says:

    Congratulations on winning the dog food, but a super thank you for donating the food even if you could’ve have used it. I did a few happy tears at how good that must have felt. Sending good thoughts to Somerset and to the animals who I hope will find homes soon!

  4. Brian Frum says:

    That was just the most wonderful gift and timing and congrats to that great win!

  5. Leona Barad says:

    Bravo you guys! Love this story!

  6. Georgette Madak says:

    The efforts that SRAS make go a long way to serving animals. The shelter is open to the public every day of the week. I really appreciate how the staff involves school children and high schoolers in their programs and in hands-on experiences. And keeping those kennels filled with homeless animals from other regions is community service at its best.

  7. Kitties Blue says:

    You were so thoughtful and generous to donate all that food, and to post about all these sweet animals needing homes is even better. Bet your hearts leapt when Gilly was adopted while you were there. We send purrs and prayers. XO, Lily Olivia, Mauricio, Misty May, Giulietta, Fiona, Astrid, Lisbeth and Calista Jo

  8. Emma says:

    What a great gift for the shelter!

  9. What a pawesome donation for the shelter! The pets they are rehoming look like they’re in good hands until they find their forever homes.

  10. Paws up to you for donating that food to the shelter. We know how much shelters can use food…’specially this one. We purr that the animals all find homes soon.

  11. meowmeowmans says:

    What a wonderful thing it is for you to donate that much needed food. Thank you for helping Somerset, and the animals there. We are purring and praying for forever homes for them all.

  12. I hope that Baby Girl and Meatball find a home soon. What a couple of cuties. You did a great thing by donating the food. Thanks for such an awesome act. ♥

  13. Marg says:

    We so hope that they all find a great home and soon. That certainly was a great post about all those animals. Happy Wednesday to you.

  14. Such a great story. I live in Calif but was immediately trying to figure out how I could long-distance adopt Baby Girl. I have sent this story on to numerous peeps with big social media followings who are also BIG pet lovers. I have a feeling that Baby Girl will be adopted soon. In the meantime, clicking the links to donate!

  15. Wonderful story!! How awesome that you had the opportunity to help the shelter out. Sounds like a great organization. Still purring and praying that Baby Girl finds her furever home and family very soon!

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