A forever-home for the holidays

Published 1:06 am Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Hawkeye and Deacon have a lot to be grateful for, cited a recent Hampden-Sydney College (H-SC) press release. They both have new homes, thanks to Hampden-Sydney’s Animal Rescue Community (ARC) and one very dedicated animal lover, ARC President Shaun Everson, a junior at H-SC.

The release noted that last week, Hawkeye, a feral and malnourished kitten, was found in Farmville with a severe wound to his eye. Jennifer Cochrane, H-SC communications and marketing administrative assistant, had already rescued him, taken him to the vet and begun nursing him back to health when she remembered that Hampden-Sydney has its own student organization committed to domestic animal rescue.

She contacted Everson to see if ARC could help, officials stated in the release. Coincidentally, one of ARC’s priorities this year is to gain control of the feral cat population in and around Hampden-Sydney — by capturing them, having them spayed or neutered and then re-released — so Everson was eager to offer Cochrane support.
Pleasantly surprised with his response, Cochrane said in the release, “My family would have taken care of Hawkeye no matter what, but the Animal Rescue Community alleviated a big financial burden so we could focus on providing him with the best possible care.”

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As it turns out, Everson and the other ARC members know exactly how much care and responsibility is involved in rescuing domestic animals — it is a full-time job, school officials noted. They added that with a goal of lowering the kill rates of abandoned dogs and cats, ARC fosters and cares for animals throughout the academic year. This semester, with a full load of classes, the biology major and chemistry minor has been caring for Deacon, a boxer suffering from heartworms.

The release cited that the required care includes giving him treatments and taking him to vet appointments, in addition to the normal feeding, cleaning, training and socializing involved in preparing him for his new forever-home. It makes sense that Everson has taken a special interest in Deacon — when he graduates, he hopes to become a veterinarian, officials highlighted.
Because of the special care that Deacon has required, ARC members have not taken in as many dogs this year as they have in the past, the release cited, noting that last year, ARC rescued and re-homed five dogs. With a current membership of around 25 student volunteers, ARC has its own campus house that accommodates four members and is equipped with indoor and outdoor space to foster rescue animals.

College officials said Everson has been committed to developing relationships with the Prince Edward County Animal Shelter and Animal Control Sheriff, is re-establishing ties with the Southside and Richmond SPCAs and has a working relationship with Ridge Animal Hospital where John Boswell, a 2008 H-SC graduate, has been providing services at a reduced cost. No doubt a result of the relationships he’s developed, Everson will be a veterinary technician intern at Ridge Animal Hospital next semester. But he knows that it takes a village, and he hopes that this village will remain in place long after he has graduated.
ARC was originally founded as Sigma Nu Hampden-Sydney Animal Rescue Community (SHARC) in 2008, when brothers of Sigma Nu began a community service project at Prince Edward County Animal Shelter, the H-SC release cited. It added that what started as weekly visits to the shelter grew into a community-wide initiative generously supported by students, faculty and staff, so SHARC was later shortened to ARC.

Officials noted in the release that Dr. Julia Palmer, ARC adviser and associate professor of modern languages, believes that ARC is one of the things that makes H-SC distinctive.

“Every time the Hampden-Sydney community is aware of a need they respond generously,” she said in the release. “They are really receptive to our mission.”

Over the years, many professors and administrators have adopted ARC dogs and cats, the release stated. Dr. Palmer’s guidance has been invaluable to Everson and his work with the club, but she said in the release that she has never met someone as hardworking, dedicated and willing to sacrifice as Everson, describing him as “a force of nature but extremely humble.” Without hesitation, she said, “He’s a delightful student, and I am confident about sending him out into the world.”

Shaun hopes that in the future, ARC can get back to some of its founding concepts, including an animal education component at Prince Edward County Public Schools, college officials said in the release. Realizing that the barrier to adopting a pet is often financial, he would like to establish a fund that pays for the sheltered animals’ medical treatments so they are more adoptable in the Prince Edward County community.

The release concluded by noting that Shaun is happy to report that Deacon would finally be well enough for his new home on Thanksgiving. Indeed, both Hawkeye and Deacon would be spending their first Thanksgivings warm and well cared-for with their new families, which is definitely something to be thankful for.