Thanksgiving isn’t just for those who walk on two feet.
Two groups came together last week to host the first “Fur Feast” for homeless pets at Johnston County’s animal shelter. The Johnston County Animal Protection League joined the county’s Animal Services department to give cats and dogs a special Thanksgiving meal on Nov. 27.
“We’ve realized we can’t save them all, but surely we can love them all,” said Stephen Wolfe Jr., vice president of the Animal Protection League.
The animals definitely felt loved. Along with the meals, volunteers took the animals out of their cages for an extra playtime. Dogs ran from person to person with thumping tails, trying to lick faces. Kittens mewed at the people petting them gently on the head.
The group tailored the meals for cats and dogs while keeping the foods in line with the season. The Thanksgiving-themed menu included turkey meatloaf, cornbread biscuits for dogs and tuna puffs for cats. The food was good enough for humans too; people tried some of the food to make sure it was good enough for the animals.
“They loved it,” Wolfe said. “When they’re limited to just getting out once a day and there’s a whole host of people to interact with, it’s a new adventure with each person.”
Ernie Wilkinson, the shelter’s director, said he was excited when the Animal Protection League approached him with the idea.
“Not only does it help the animals with their social skills, it brings people in the community to the shelter,” he said.
The meal also spread the warmth and joy of the holiday season to both the animals and humans, Wilkinson said.
“They are truly forever friends,” he said. “Sometimes we don’t take our critters as a blessing.”
Events like this one build bridges between rescue groups and the shelter, Wilkinson said, and collaboration is important.
“It takes a group to make it work,” he said. “We have limited resources, so the more people we can involve, the more successful we can be.”
“And all these animals want is just a little bit of love,” he added. After feeding the animals, the shelter’s staff also cooked lunch for the volunteers.
The Animal Protection League hopes to make the “Fur Feast” an annual tradition.
Jodie Priemer, a volunteer who lives in Smithfield, said helping with the Fur Feast was a lot of fun.
“It gives them a lot of attention, which is what they deserve,” she said. “There’s nothing better than a wagging tail and a big smile on an animal. It gives me a smile.”