Entering their third year of rescuing and finding homes for animals, personnel at the Heart of Idaho Animal Sanctuary are looking forward to a busy summer.

The big event of the season is the third birthday party set for Saturday, July 6, said HIAS CEO and founder Tirzah Stuart. A four-hour bash starts at noon. A free lunch of hot dogs and chips will be served. People can indulge their sweet teeth and cool down with an ice cream cone from a real ice cream truck.

During the weekend of the Braun Brothers Reunion a “tacos and tattoos” event is planned at the sanctuary. A tattoo artist from California will be on hand to give you the tattoo you’ve always wanted in exchange for a donation to HIAS. Afterwards, you can chow down on a taco. Of course, you can just show up for the taco and sign up to help HIAS as a donor or a volunteer. No cat tat is necessary.

A mutt strut to raise money for spaying and neutering dogs and cats is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 7 in Mackay. HIAS is teaming up with Mackay Friends of Animals. It’s pretty much what it sounds like: show up with your dog and strut around. There will be a parade, fashion show and costume contest, Stuart said.

“It’s going to be almost like a carnival,” Stuart said, as well as an educational event to teach people the importance of spaying and neutering their pets.

Kristy Bricker of Challis rescued Rusty, an Australian cattle dog and red heeler mix, from a neglectful situation in Utah. She wanted to keep him, but had just started a new job with long hours and didn’t feel it was fair to leave him alone, so Rusty took up residence at HIAS.

“He was very shy at first,” Stuart said, “then as we handled, loved and walked him, his personality changed.” He was so shy and scared he never made a sound. “It took him two weeks to bark.” About the same time that Rusty’s spirits revived, a Boise woman who’d seen his photo online called, interested in adopting him.

“She’s just lost ‘Sophie,’ a dog of the same breed as Rusty,” Stuart said. When the woman first met Rusty, she knew he was the dog for her. “She started crying. It was an instant bond. He just loaded up in her car like he’d always known her.” Rusty is in doggy delight at his new home, Stuart said, with acreage to roam and a human companion who is retired and has lots of time to dote on him.

Although you’d never hear HIAS staff using the term, there is more than one way to skin (or find a home for) a homeless cat. Marlee, the ginger-colored, affectionate, deaf cat had been at the no-kill shelter since November and had only one person interested in adopting her. That woman changed her mind when she realized that for Marlee’s own safety, she needed to be an indoor-only cat with a protected enclosure outdoors. Since Marlee couldn’t hear and was bold and trusting, she might have wandered into the path of a vehicle she couldn’t hear and been run over.

Switching to Plan B, Stuart and staff arranged to have some of longer-term resident cats, including Marlee, taken to the new Mountain Humane animal shelter in Hailey. There, on her first day, Marlee met her future family. They fell in love with her and adopted her despite her disability, Stuart said.

Not every story is a feel-good one, but another that started out badly ended happily. In March, Stuart and husband Greg made a fast dash to the Coeur d’Alene area to rescue 16 potbelly pigs from a neglectful ranch home where they’d been living in snow and ice with no shelter or food. The pigs and other farm animals including llamas, sheep, goats and chickens, were shivering, sick and starving when the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office confiscated them from the owner who “wasn’t all there and wanted to live off the land,” Stuart said.

The Stuarts picked up the pigs up at the Kootenai County Fairgrounds, where the Sheriff’s Office, an animal welfare officer and volunteers had impounded and were feeding them. They drove back to Challis, where 14 pigs were immediately sent home with adoptive families. Tirzah had been busy on the phone and posting the pigs’ plight on social media, lining up adoptive families, before making the run up north.

Two of the sickest pigs were held back to recover in foster care and are now ready for adoption, Stuart said.

Such heroic and other ordinary rescues have put HIAS on the map in the regional animal welfare world, Stuart said.

The biggest need is still for volunteers to walk dogs daily and play with cats, Stuart said. Socialized animals are much more likely to find homes. The no-kill sanctuary also needs volunteer receptionists to help answer phone calls.

“We continue to operate solely from private donations,” Stuart said. The shelter staff has tried to apply for grants but found them to be few and far between.

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