COLUMBIA – Nine years ago, Maggie was an underweight, sick kitten waiting to be adopted from the Central Missouri Humane Society.
Columbia resident Christine Heidenreich lived alone at the time and had recently broken her back. She wanted companionship, something she said she found in Maggie.
“We kind of saved each other,” Heidenreich said. “I kept her warm and she brought me through some hard physical times.”
She said Maggie is like her third child.
Heidenreich came to the society's open house on Saturday to show her support for the new renovations. She wasn’t looking to adopt but she enjoyed seeing all the animals.
The renovation was awarded as a prize in a contest sponsored by Zootoo.com.
John Shrum, president of the society’s board of directors, thanked the audience at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
“This is the day that one chapter closes and another one opens,” he said.
Some of the renovations include:
- Glass doors on cages for the dogs.
- New “cat condos” – each condo includes a main room and two side rooms for the cats to live in.
- A better air circulating system that helps minimize odor and disease.
- A new epoxy floor in place of the old cement one.
Alan Allert, executive director of the shelter, said the renovations are great for both the animals and visitors.
“It’s a much more pleasant environment,” he said.
The funding came through the help of two local girls, Amanda Huhman, 14, and Libby Burks, 14, who entered the Humane Society in the ZooToo contest.
Both girls began volunteering at the shelter at a young age. Burks started when she was in second grade, and Huhman started in third grade after adopting a beagle basset hound from the shelter.
“We would always volunteer here and we saw it needed a makeover,” Huhman said.
The girls took part in the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
“We just want to thank all of the community members,” Burks said.
Allert said he has already seen improvements in adoption rates since the renovations.
“Adoptions have been up,” he said. “A lot of people come in to look at the improvements and they take an animal home.”
That was the case with Ben Hestir, 14, who came to adopt a cat at the open house.
“We came here looking around,” he said. “There’s definitely a need to adopt cats and dogs. You can’t take them all so I thought I’d start with one.”
Hestir started by looking around at the cats, playing with them and holding them to observe their mannerisms. One of the staff members suggested he take a look at Baxter, a white-and-black spotted cat playing in the exercise room. Hestir played with the cat for a few minutes before making a decision.
“Baxter is looking really good,” he finally told the staff.
Two animals had been adopted as of 2 p.m. on Saturday.