By Baylee Pulliam
The Herald Bulletin
ELWOOD, Ind. —
In a filthy kennel behind the Elwood Street Department, there’s an old dog with no name.
She’s in bad shape; almost as bad as the building where she’s housed — a dilapidated, four-kennel shack with no heat, and no electricity due to a fire last summer that gutted its insulation and wiring.
There’s no water, which makes cleaning difficult. As a result, it emanates a rancid stench covering several yards in any direction. And it’s infected with canine parvovirus, a digestive disease that gradually starves dogs aged less than a year.
The building isn’t fit for people, nonetheless animals, many of which are transported to shelters in Anderson or Kokomo.
The city isn’t about to let sleeping dogs lie.
Last month, the Park Board approved plans to break ground this spring on a new, 2,240-square-foot humane center, with room for 30 dogs and 39 cats.
“We have a large group of residents here who are animal lovers,” said Mayor Ron Arnold. “They want to see this happen.”
The facility, which will be built in the park on North 14th Street, will have rooms for grooming, meet-and-greets with potential pet adopters and quarantining sick animals.
All told, it will cost about $100,000, a quarter of which has been fronted by the city. A committee of volunteers, led by 2Guyz pet boutique owners Matt Spivey and Marty Bevington, will help raise the remaining $75,000.
The committee will also serve as an informal board of directors, assisting in planning and occasionally volunteering at the center.
“We’re up for just about anything,” Bevington said. “Raising it (the money) should be fairly easy. This is something we really need.”
The city also plans to offer low-cost spaying and neutering clinics, Arnold said, which addresses a serious issue among animals the city takes in.
“We already have a lot of strays and when they’re not (fixed), it just compounds the problem,” he said.
Bevington said there may also be opportunities for educating the public on the issue, which “would really help reduce the number of unwanted pets,” he said. “And while we’re at it, maybe we’ll get a few (of those unwanted pets) adopted.”
Walk in the park
While the new humane center is sure to set many-a-tail wagging, it also has benefits for the community’s human residents.
Mayor Ron Arnold sees the shelter a starting pistol, that would set off a long-overdue revitalization in the city’s worst satellite park, currently rundown, with chipped-paint play equipment and a baseball diamond in desperate need of weeding.
“When I was growing up, that (neighborhood) was the place to live, with all those nice homes and Little League games,” Arnold said. “Fast forward to today, we have a park that should be an asset but instead it’s a liability.”
In addition to the animal shelter, the project would involve a fenced dog park, covered pavilion, revamped athletics playing field and 2.1 miles of fitness walking trails, that wind through the city’s parks system.
The trail would belt the North 14th Street park, then run along the river through the Rock Garden, before circling back around the larger Callaway Park.
When the project was in its planning stage, Arnold knocked on doors along 14th Street to explain what was happening to homeowners.
“The response was great,” he said, adding the revamped park would greatly improve property values.
Although there’s been some concern about putting loud, barking dogs in a residential neighborhood, Bevington assured the building would be soundproof, and “shouldn’t be too big a deal.”
Arnold added that, “this is great for dogs, but it’s also great for the community as a whole.”
Many people, including some who work in Elwood, choose not to live there because of quality-of-life issues, such as its poor park system.
“We need people not only to work here, but live here, too,” Arnold said. He hopes this might be another step in the right direction, following a retool of Callaway Park and the city’s swimming pool.
But it will be a group effort: “Our community is very giving and compassionate,” he said. “If they want to see this done, it’ll happen.”
Find Baylee Pulliam on Facebook, @BayleeNPulliam on Twitter or call 648-4250.