DIXON – As they chatted in their front office at Granny Rose Animal Shelter on Friday, Shannon Eastman and Phoebe LeTourneau stopped to listen as they picked up on the familiar barks and yips coming from a few doors down.
“Is it Levi? Maybe it’s Chief,” the two said as they tried to sort out which dog, or maybe both, was showing excitement after hearing unfamiliar voices coming into the shelter.
Eastman is the shelter’s new executive director, LeTourneau its assistant director and K-9 manager. Together they work alongside employees and volunteers serving Lee, Ogle and Whiteside counties, taking care of animals in need and with the hope of finding each a forever home.
On Friday, Chief and Levi were among the dogs and cats waiting for a special person or family to walk in, fall in love and adopt them. Until that happens, Granny Rose shelter employees will feed, clean and care for them.
A large schedule hangs on one wall, breaking down the schedule of what each animal needs and when they need it, be it food or medicine.
Daily work starts early at the shelter: Three hours before the doors open for the day, staff members are at the shelter carrying out chores such as cleaning. All of the employees are animal lovers; most started working at the shelter in the past few months.
Eastman stepped into her role in February, doing so after years of working in nursing home management in Wisconsin and making a life change that brought her to Dixon two years ago.
After arriving in Dixon, she worked for a time at a wedding venue, but with a background in equine rescue and wildlife rehabilitation, she took notice when seeing Granny Rose was looking for an executive director. She applied and landed the job.
“This is the dream,” she said.
She now is looking forward to leading the shelter into the future.
There is the day-to-day work, but with that comes fundraising to keep the shelter’s doors open.
“We run solely on the kindness of the community,” Eastman said. “It is 100% donation based.”
She said that as a private shelter it receives no funding from the state or county, operating from money collected through adoption fees, generous donations and fundraisers.
One such fundraiser will be a craft fair that includes pictures with Santa from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec. 2 at the Granny Rose K-9 Enrichment Center, which is next door to the shelter at 613 River Lane, Dixon.
The 150-foot-by-80-foot structure, with AstroTurf flooring and state-of-the-art agility equipment and jumps, is 7 years old and is used for shelter events, 4-H shows, obedience and agility training, as well as therapy dog classes.
Eastman said she hopes to create a kennel club and to be able to host American Kennel Club-sanctioned events there. The revenue that could be raised at such shows would have a large positive effect on the shelter next door.
To get to that point, Eastman has to submit a 64-page application and have chair members in place, among other requirements.
Her plan is to continue the work started by the late Mark Knie, who served as president of the shelter’s board and developed the enrichment center, Eastman said.
Currently, the shelter is replacing a 30-year-old ceiling in its kennel area after receiving a $10,000 award from the Sterling Federal Bank Charity Challenge.
The shelter also boasts a pet pantry where people in the tri-county area can get assistance with pet food. The pet pantry is open during shelter hours and also from 1 to 3:30 p.m. Dec. 2 for those needing extra assistance.
The shelter has recently started a barn cat program, in which someone who needs a cat to mouse in their barn or greenhouse can adopt one at the shelter. The new owner is trained on how to responsibly care for the cat.
Also in the works is the construction of a Rainbow Bridge that will be set up on the front of the Granny Rose shelter property next spring.
Eastman’s hope is that people will visit the structure – which will be 5 feet wide and 12 feet long, with gravel on both ends – when they are grieving the loss of a pet, and that they will leave something memorializing the animal’s life.
“It will be a structure where people could leave their favorite collar or their favorite toy, write something on it,” she said, “whatever helps them grieve.”
In the meantime, Eastman and the shelter crew are trying to get the dogs and cats at the shelter into a home as the Christmas holiday approaches.
Although the usual cost to adopt a dog is $200 and a cat $100, someone donated money to cover all adoption costs, so all adult dogs (there are two puppies) now at the shelter can be adopted at no cost.
“We want them all to be home for Christmas,” Eastman said. “My feeling is I want their days to be furry and bright. I want them to be happy and furry, and to furry up somebody’s home for Christmas.”
For information, call the shelter at 815-288-7387.