Story and Photos by Rebecca West
What if you had a business and you needed to promote your oldest product or least-selected service in order to move them off the shelf? What lengths would you go to, to make that happen? Would you step into a kennel or other enclosed cubicle not intended for human use and stay there until you found a buyer? It’s doubtful because few people have that kind of dedication to make things happen.
Michele Figueroa, a 15-year veteran with Pima Animal Care Center (PACC), on the other hand, does have that kind of fortitude, and she’ll do just that on February 10, 2020, at 5 p.m. when she enters a kennel on the PACC premises for a slumber party with the facility’s oldest canine resident.
But why is she doing it, and how long is this sleepover intended to last? Because Figueroa and the rest of the PACC team are committed to finding homes for the least adoptable residents, meaning senior pets. Just like human adoptions, members of the public are more often than not looking for younger pets to welcome as new family members. Sadly, this leaves the most vulnerable animals stranded for extended periods with no forever homes in sight.
As far as how long “Fig” (as she’s known by her colleagues) will stay in the kennel, that all depends on how long it takes for an adoption to occur. You see, she’s not coming out until her slumber buddy finds a home. While she and her co-workers sincerely hope that will happen in time for Valentine’s Day, she’s fully prepared to hang tough until it does. That’s right. This isn’t a one-and-done deal. She’s going to be moving a bed in and a few other accouterments necessary to make her new living arrangements more habitable during her stay.
One of those items will, of course, be her laptop, so she can livestream the event as it’s happening. In the interim, she’ll be supplied with eats and a few other creature comforts, and will obviously be able to exit the kennel when nature calls. But other than that, she’s staying put with her four-legged friend until adoption is secured.
Short of continually reminding the community of the need for homes for these animals and periodically hosting ingenious events like this to keep the problem at the forefront of the public’s consciousness, there’s little else that can be done. Fortunately, PACC and other groups in Tucson, like Friends of PACC, refuse to give up. They recognize the quality of life these animals still have in them and how much they can offer to people willing to adopt them.
Special needs pets are in the same under-appreciated boat. If they’re elderly and special needs, their prospects are even dimmer. It takes a special kind of fur baby-loving angel to take on the responsibility, but Tucsonans have huge hearts and aren’t afraid of a challenge.
According to Figueroa, the inspiration for this first-ever slumber party has produced some creative “home décor” ideas for the kennel.
“This is the very first time we’re trying this, but I’ve already got some ideas for transforming the kennel. I want to put up a big doghouse front on one end of the unit, where the public will be able to look inside through the opening of the doghouse door itself. I think it will be really fun, and we’re hoping the public will like it, too,” Fig noted.
If you’ve never been, the Pima Animal Care Center is one of the finest animal shelters and care facilities in the state. After a brand new building was erected and a recent remodel of the old facilities, the kennels are clean, roomy, well-ventilated and brightly lit. There’s no depressing pall hanging over the buildings or its inhabitants, and the high-stress levels commonly seen in most shelters are nowhere near that at PACC. There are plenty of exercise yards and organized playgroups and the animals receive daily enrichment treats to support nutritional and mental health.
While the highest population rates are seen during the summer months, on any given day there are between 500 and 700 residents under their care. When asked what message, if any, Fig wanted to share, she had this to say:
“I just want the public to realize that a shelter is not where an animal should be living. I want to have this conversation with them because it’s important, and as a community, we can do something about it.”
As an added incentive to adopt, anyone who comes to visit Fig and her canine companion between the hours of 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. on February 10 will be gifted a free adoption coupon for one of the many animals in need of a home. If you could use a little guidance in your selection, workers there can help, and PACC’s website contains useful “awareness and educational” information as well. Also, if you would like to support Fig’s efforts, you can donate to www.friendsofpacc.org
The staff are always willing to give their time and energy to help the ones that need it the most. Won’t you help, too, by adopting or volunteering in some capacity soon?
4000 N. Silverbell Rd.