PARIS — “If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans.” So said renowned British veterinarian James Herriot.

The animals at Responsible Pet Care exemplify this sentiment. Fortunately for them, they have a team of animal lovers providing care, training and a profound determination to help these animals live their very best life.

The alpha of the team is the Director of Shelter Operations Mitchell Shaw. Shaw, 39, of Paris, is a familiar face in the Oxford Hills most recently guiding youngsters as the School Resource Office at the Guy E. Rowe school. The former Norway Police Department officer also worked in law enforcement in Denver, Colorado.

Shaw, who grew up on a dairy farm in Paris, has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology with a minor in criminology. However, he says,  he went to RPC to “refocus in a different direction.” He began there as a canine handler and was soon made assistant manager. Now, as director of the site, he many ideas for saving money, improving the quality of care and ensuring placements work well.

The first thing Shaw has done is to bring on Dawn Marie Reynolds. Reynolds, 29, of Bridgton, is a trained veterinary technician and owner of Libra Dog Training. Reynolds left Naples Veterinary Clinic, an extension of the Norway Veterinary hospital, to come to RPC to oversee the canine portion as canine operations director.

With a number of years experience in shelters – both Harvest Hills in Fryeburg and RPC – “I knew I wanted to focus more on training,” she says, “and helping dogs be better versions of themselves.” To do this, she works with the dogs to help them overcome fears and aggression (which is often rooted in fear) in order for them to become adoptable.

She will also work with potential adopters before they choose a dog to help them determine what dog is the best fit for them, their lifestyle and their family.

Both Shaw and Reynolds agree that having an adopted dog returned to the shelter because things were not working out is beneficial to no one.

RPC President Shirley Boyce says (of Shaw and Reynolds) she is “impressed with what they have been able to accomplish in the short time they have worked together.”

Boyce lists new dog procedures, introducing new thoughts on housing and “improving the lives [of the animals] in our shelter.”

Canine Operations Director Dawn Reynolds and Responsible Pet Care’s Director of Shelter Operations Mitch Shaw enjoy Angel, one of the many pups looking for a family at RPC. A.M. Sheehan

IDEXX

One of the major changes the two have brought to RPC is the purchase of an IDEXX lab testing machine that enables RPC to test any animal for health issues.

IDEXX, which is both a laboratory and manufacturer of the machines used to test blood and fecal matter amongst other things, works with shelters to help them save money doing their own testing.

“I knew about the shelter program from when I volunteered at Harvest Hills,” says Reynolds. The program works around veterinarians who update their own analysis machines, can donate refurbished equipment to the shelter program which allows shelters across the US to purchase a machine at a much reduced rate, allowing them in-house diagnosis capabilities.

RPC can now analyze blood and urine and for those samples they cannot analyze in-house, they can send samples to IDEXX for analysis at a reduced rate.

“This allows in-house services,” says Boyce, “and allows us to know more about the health of our animals prior to adoption.” Because RPC only releases healthy spayed/neutered animals that are up to date on all shots, this also helps adopters to save money on potential health issues that might not have been diagnosed in the past.

“This means we can send a dog to its new home with a full blood and fecal workup allowing us to know the dog’s health better,” Reynolds added.

Reynolds noted that what had cost RPC about $180 for a blood panel –a group of tests that evaluate the cells that circulate in blood, including red and white blood cells and platelets. The panel or Complete Blood Count (CBC)  can evaluate the overall health and detect a variety of diseases and conditions, such as infections, anemia and leukemia in the past, now costs them $40 doing it in-house. “Plus,” she adds, “there is no exam fee!”

Boyce and Shaw agree that in the first month of having the IDEXX equipment they have saved several hundred dollars.

“This enables every dime donated to be spent in a frugal way,” Boyce explains.

 

Goals

To increase the quality of care and increase the quality of life for both adoptees and adopters are some of Shaw’s goals for RPC . “We want to increase the efficiency of our operations and implement the best procedures so that every person and every animal has a better adoption experience.”

“We want the adopter to get the best animal possible,” adds Boyce.

Reynolds, whose focus is on the canine guests, says her goal is to ensure “dogs get the best quality of life possible in the shelter, which improves their quality of life in their forever home.”

She has plans to progress the training of all dogs in their care for “consistency, and so new owners can continue the dog’s training after adoption.”

“By having an in-house trainer,” explains Boyce, “she can come up with an individual plan for each dog based on what each individual dog needs.”

Another pet project of Reynolds, is diet. A firm believer that an animal’s diet plays a huge role not only in their health but in their behavior, she says, “by putting dogs on a more appropriate diet, with better quality food, we will not only eliminate diarrhea (a common problem in stressed dogs) but help them with their emotional health.

“We are now taking a holistic approach,” added Shaw, “mental, diet and health.”

RPC’s wish list can be found on Chewy. (On the Chewy site click give back, then donate to a rescue, then put Paris, Maine and RPC will show in the list. Click on it and its wish list will show.)

Reynolds notes that when people who donate food learn of the need for higher quality food, they are responding and donating better food. She says anyone wishing to find out what they can help with can find RPC wish lists on Chewy. She offers Hill’s Perfect Digestion as RPC’s preferred dog food.

Some future goals Shaw says include options for low-cost neutering and spaying, increased communication with education and resources for the community and building a roster of vets who are willing to come to the shelter to spay and neuter in the shelter’s surgical room.

“We would also like to be able to do DNA testing,” says Reynolds and hope people might be willing to donate money toward this. “Then we are able to tell prospective owners exactly what breed(s) their new dog is.”

Fostering/Volunteering

With the temporary wane of COVID this summer and the lift of the eviction moratorium, as well as the increase in the number of people going back to work, Shaw says RPC has seen a rise in the number of surrenders recently.

“There is never enough money or space,” Boyce adds.

I wish people would realize that animals are totally dependent on us, helpless, like children, a trust that is put upon us.  James Herriot

Currently, there are about 13 dogs at RPC in Paris plus a number in foster homes. RPC has more than 100 cats. “We want to develop a larger foster program,” says Reynolds, “which will enable us to focus on the dogs who need more help so they can be ready for adoption.”

“We have people who can help foster homes navigate the foster program,” adds Boyce. “And Dawn can also help keep dogs in their [original] homes.”

Shaw addresses the need for more volunteers. “We are trying hard to build our volunteer program.” This might be once or more a week dog walking, cat and dog care techs, dropping off or picking up an animal from a vet and laundry help. A few hours a week from each volunteer can make a big difference, they agree.

Anyone interested in learning more about the foster program or to volunteer, can contact RPC at 743-8679. The shelter’s public hours are Friday, Saturday and Sunday, noon to 4 p.m. or by appointment. More information can be found at RPC’s website,  responsiblepetcare.org.

RPC is a no-kill, non-profit shelter located at 9 Swallow Road, Paris, across from Paris Elementary School.

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