JANESVILLE — The Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin is set to honor some of its volunteers as PetsGoHome Heroes, including one Beloit couple who has fostered 76 cats and kittens, a volunteer involved with almost every aspect of the shelter and a group of students who make weekly visits.
They will be honored at the Humane Societys Annual Meeting and Casino night on May 6.
Michelle and Anthony Weirich have been fostering mama cats and tiny kittens that may have been euthanized at other shelters since May 2015. This includes kittens who are bottle babies that have to be fed every two hours. Though Michelle Weirich jokes about the bags under her eyes because she and her husband have to wake up through the night, theyre up for the challenge.
Volunteer and foster honoree Faith Phalin has been volunteering with the shelter for the past seven years. Phalin started as a kitten foster and is now helps with transporting animals, events, cleaning and began fostering pregnant dogs two years ago.
Washington School teacher Kim Hayward and the Washington Whisker Whisperers will be awarded the Community Partner Honoree during the Annual Meeting and Casino Night.
When fostering, Michelle Weirich said the first eight weeks of a kittens life are crucial to their development. The kittens need their mothers to develop their immunity to diseases and such, so they may struggle to live. “Were both committed to doing this,” Anthony Weirich said. “Without us, they wouldnt be alive.”
At most shelters, Anthony Weirich said the bottle babies would be euthanized due to how difficult it is to care for them. Though the Humane Society is a no kill shelter, the shelter doesnt always have the resources to provide all of the care these kittens need during the first eight weeks.
Michelle said that for the two of them, its not about being recognized as one of the PetsGoHome Heroes, though they are honored.
“Its something that we do and enjoy,” Michelle Weirich said. “I dont see an end in sight.”
The pair assign a letter to each group of kittens that come into their home and have reached the letter “U,” numbers 75 and 76 that are currently in their care called Ulysses and Unity. Once they finish the alphabet later this year, they plan to create a picture book called “Fostering Kittens from A to Z.”
“We went in blindly and ‘A and are still going in blindly at ‘U,” Anthony Weirich joked.
“Its a learning experience for sure,” Michelle Weirich said.
She said one particularly challenging few days was last summer, when they were fostering 20 kittens with two mama cats.
“For a mother cat who just gave birth, its stressful to be in the shelter,” Michelle Weirich said.
She said the mothers can hear and smell nearby cats, and their instincts are to protect the newborns.
With Michelle Weirich teaching at Blackhawk Technical College and Anthony working at home, they said fostering the felines fits in perfectly with their schedule. They have had three “foster fails,” in which they adopted three cats.
Phalin said she took her passion for helping animals a step further by helping the Humane Society with rescue animals.
She grew up in the area on a farm with various pets that even included monkeys and growing up planned to open her own animal rescue. However, since she lives in the city she thought helping at the shelter would be a more realistic option.
“I cant do enough for the animals,” Phalin said. “They need a lot, and they need someone to stand up for them.”
She currently owns three dogs and three cats, though one cat that she owns she intends to put up for adoption once its fully domesticated.
Though shes honored to be recognized for her award, Phalin said she does the work for the animals.
Kim Hayward and the Washington Whisker Whisperers
Hayward is a fifth grader teacher at the Janesville school, and she created the Washington Whisker Whisperers after school group as a way for students to nurture reading skills beyond the classroom.
For the past three years, students have brought along their favorite books to read to attentive shelter cats while also socializing with them. The comes after school weekly during the school year.