Stories from intrepid reporters attending the Illinois Press Foundation Journalism Workshop at Eastern Illinois University
By Francesca Spizzo
For almost 17 years, director Debbie Dix has been running the Robinson Humane Society; however, this full time shelter takes much more management than people think. On average, Dix’s summer staff (four full time workers and three volunteers) still needs help maintaining the building and its inhabitants. An average day consists of cleaning out bowls, disinfecting surfaces, walking the dogs and feeding the animals, all of this done before one pm. After one, the shelter is open for visitors and hopeful adopters.
Most of Dix’s volunteers are hands on learners. They are thrown into the hustle and bustle of care-taking and learn mostly on the job. At the Robinson shelter, there are about 50 to 60 animals being housed. The outdoor cats, however, are in the hundreds. When asked about the number of animals regularly housed indoors, Dix said, “It just comes and goes”. With regular fluctuations in animal drop offs and sporadic adoptions, the numbers vary often. Dix also notes that cats seem to be dropped off in abundance during the spring and summer seasons, whereas dogs are dropped off throughout the year.
Being that there are so many animals to take care of, costs are high. Dix stated that, “It costs thousands to run this place [per month]”. With so many animals coming in, and little going out, the costs keep rising steadily. Dix’s shelter relies on gracious donations,such as dog food, in order to keep their organization running. Dix commented, “I’m hoping to find someone who would help us write grants”, when asked about plans for raising funds. Fundraising used to be a common occurrence for the Robinson Humane Society, but the rising costs and lack of attendance has led to the termination of spaghetti dinners and the ‘hairball hoedown’. However, despite the lack of funding Dix is still one of the rare shelter directors that does not put a time limit on her animals’ stay. While not technically classified as a “no kill shelter”, Dix’s shelter is still pretty close.
In addition to the hard work of being an animal caretaker, Dix has also had to deal with unkind comments from online spectators. People have rudely commented their opinions, but without knowing how hard it is to maintain the shelter. Despite being put down by others, Dix goes to work everyday knowing that she makes a difference.