This article was featured in WYDaily on 5/3/24
Dogs like Howl Holloman are unicorns at The Heritage Humane Society. Like Howl, these particular pups usually haven’t had the best start in life, but the shelter isn’t giving up on them, and with the help of human unicorns right here in the community, there’s hope.

From the depths of depression to thriving

Howl lived his life under a shed and the only person he finally began to trust passed away. Howl’s fragile, budding trust in humans shattered. As the shelter team enveloped Howl with continuous care and trust building, they knew Howl needed an immersive experience in a foster home that understood trust and skills training could not be rushed while nurturing Howl’s tender, tired soul.

His biggest requirement was that his foster family must have another confident dog to help teach him the ropes. Howl is at his best when he can follow the lead of another dog.
Enter: unicorn matchmaking!
The shelter team then matched up Howl with foster Stephanie Sword. Having fostered 17 dogs, Sword shares, “Howl would be my first foster through The Heritage Humane Society, and wow what a great group of people they are. The dedication toward Howl by them is heartwarming. They aren’t just trying to ship Howl out the door to a random situation, they are totally invested in his well-being and doing what is necessary to help ensure he gets a happy and healthy second chance at the best life.”
Sword loves to share weekly updates on Howl’s process. From being greeted upon arrival by three dogs and two cats who found Howl ready to join in on their fun, to Howl’s extremely timid and slow warm-up to Sword, fosters often provide details about shelter pets that can only be learned through a foster experience. Today, Howl thrives with the companionship of his foster dog siblings (he’s not so interested in cats!), even lets Sword pet him a little, gives her a brief hello and goodbye, and relaxes in the open while staring at birds and squirrels.
“This special boy needs a very special someone who can provide a forever home with all the things previously stated,” says Sword. He would make a great companion for another dog needing a buddy. He needs someone soft-spoken and kind and of course a very comfy bed with all the comforts of indoor living. I am very happy to have Howl here in foster care and will do all I can to help him flourish.”

National pet crisis hits locally

Across the country, the same scenario is playing out. Since pre-pandemic 2018, The Heritage Humane Society has experienced an unprecedented 105% increase in dogs in its care. Over the past few years, the strays and surrenders finding their way to the shelter are far outpacing adoption rates.
In one day alone last week, there were 13 surrenders, seven being dogs. The shelter is overflowing with more animals than permanent kennels. The Heritage Humane Society is currently receiving an average of 15 calls a day from pet owners asking to surrender their pets. Surrenders can only be done by appointment and those are being booked three to four weeks out due to severe space constraints. Often these pet owners do not want to give up their pet, rather they think that is the only option. The shelter deeply understands and provides pet owners with alternatives to keep them together with their pet.

Existing support for pet owners in times of hardship

For those experiencing financial hardship, the shelter’s Kibble Kitchen & Beyond has pet food and basic necessities available to residents in Greater Williamsburg — the City of Williamsburg, James City County and District 1 (Bruton) of York County. The shelter also often finds that a lack of training can create communication barriers between owners and pets. The Heritage Humane Society offers a full selection of affordable dog training classes right on sight. The success rates are high when would-be surrenders have the right training for leash and litter manners, basic obedience training and socialization.

Local unicorns searching for unicorns

With more than 80 dogs currently in the care of The Heritage Humane Society, there is a desperate need for more fosters. Every pet has a story as individual as they are, however, there are some who need even more TLC, socialization and at times medical care. Fosters often remark how fulfilling it is to help a once shut down dog become a joyful companion or a neglected stray build trust in humans.
The shelter has several unicorns in need of, well, human unicorns, who will help them thrive and prepare for finding their fur-ever homes.
  • Woofi Goldberg. This shy six-month-old puppy arrived on April 5 as a stray. Given the name Woofi Goldberg, the shelter team believes there’s a spirited little personality just waiting to be unlocked by a dedicated foster. Ideally, Woofi will go to a foster home that already has a confident dog that can help show her how to live in a home.
  • Jonesie. Living in a kennel for almost 11 months is no place for any pet, especially Jonesie. This lovable two-year-old mixed breed has a playful spirit and a penchant for long walks. While Jonesie is the ideal companion for an active individual or family with older children looking for a furry friend to share adventures with, he’s in need of being the center of attention in a foster home right now.
  • Rio. As photogenic as his personality is vibrant, Rio sadly hit the one-year mark of living in the shelter this past March. Rio is ready for someone to spring him, even if it is temporarily. He has a zest for life, loves going on adventures and knows basic commands. Who will rescue Rio?
  • Riggs. This young lady loves to have a good time as her superlative attests: Play Group Superstar! Her angel face is quickly becoming a staff and volunteer favorite. Riggs is always ready with a big smile on her face to greet new people and new dogs. She would love a foster home with another dog that enjoys playing. Her previous foster recommended no cats.
Temporary dog foster relief is desperately needed. Those interested can learn more about becoming a foster volunteer.

Adoptable pets ready for a forever home 

The shelter is filled with homeless pets who are eager to have forever homes. Nearly 180 dogscats and small pets are currently in its care. Adoptable pets are available to meet during The Heritage Humane Society’s visiting and adopting hours from noon to 4:30 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday.
To learn more, visit, call 757-221-0150, or visit The Heritage Humane Society located at 430 Waller Mill Road, Williamsburg, VA 23185

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