Although there are many happy, heartfelt stories due to the hard work of the staff and volunteers at the Niagara Falls Humane Society, there are also daily reminders of the heartbreak they also experience… (main picture Hank, a three year old German Shepherd Husky mix up for adoption now at the Niagara Falls Humane Society).


“There are lots of things that break my heart at the shelter,” said Jen Wanless, Registered Veterinary Technician (RVT) at the shelter. “Sometimes you invest so much time and devotion trying to make a helpless animal become healthy again but sometimes you lose the battle no matter how hard you try.”

(Pictured below Jen and  Wilford Brimley)

Jen and Wilford Brimley

Wanless has been at the NFHS since 1995, and will soon be celebrating her 16 year anniversary there. The mother of two was working at a vet clinic as a technician when she heard about the opening at the NFHS. She has always loved animals and currently has two dogs of her own.

She does not regret her decision, and her favourite part of the job is “being able to be a part of the adventure of pets who were once thought of disposable and helping them become adoptable and then becoming part of a new and loving family,” she said.

Fulfillment comes from being able to help homeless and unwanted animals find new homes, she added. However, the job has its share of frustration too.

One of her main concerns is unneutered pets. Over and over she has seen animals abandoned because the owners didn’t bother to have them fixed and they chose not to keep the ‘problem’ any longer. Injuries and illness also make up a big part of Wanless’ job at the shelter and she said she is always trying to educate herself on shelter medicine.

(Pictured below Bubble Gum, a three year old Tabby, up for adoption now at The Niagara Square location of The Niagara Falls Humane Society)


“Shelter medicine is totally different than being in a clinic,” she said, and she finds it very challenging in trying to improve shelter life. She remembered fostering a two-week-old puppy after its mother had rejected it. It was around Christmas so she called him Rudi.

“I thought everything was going well but a couple of days after I got him home he decided to pass away on me. I thought no way this is going to happen to me so I performed mouth to mouth CPR on him. To my surprise he came back to life. What an amazing feeling that was to bring back a lifeless little body,” she said. Sadly, however, Rudi passed away a second time and was unable to be revived.

Wanless is adamant that the public can make a big dent in homeless and abandoned animals by taking responsibility in pet ownership and having them neutered. The numbers of discarded pets would drop dramatically by that one simple act.

In addition, Wanless said the public can help the shelter in many ways: volunteers are always needed, as are animal foster parents. There is always room for more helpers. She said her favourite mottos are: “I am only one person. I am not an octopus. There is always tomorrow.”

(Pictured below, Kicker a 5 year old lab mix up for adoption now at The Niagara Falls Humane Society)


“Becoming and RVT at a shelter can be a thrilling experience but also a very stressful one too. You never know what will be coming in from day to day and you need to develop a thick shell. Your emotions are always like a roller coaster. Some days you are so happy and laughing, others you are just simply defeated and crying. It’s a very tough job,” Wanless said, but one she loves nonetheless. The success stories make it all worthwhile.

(Below pictured is Speckles, a three year old Rottweiler mix up for adoption now at The Niagara Falls Humane Society)


To that end, the NFHS has started a brand new campaign: The Find Me Somebody to Love Campaign. This is geared to match senior residents to adoptable senior pets. Currently, it’s cats only, but expansion to include dogs is in the works. Donations can be made at the shelter or any Find Me Somebody to Love donation boxes throughout the city of Niagara Falls. Available cats in the program can be found on the website under the Pets In Need section or on Facebook at

This week’s submission written by Carol Hunt

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