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By Laurie Vierheller

Executive Director, Avery County Humane Society


his week, as I stood in front of the new Avery County Adoption and Humane Education Center, I looked at the substantial wood timbers framing the entry and thought about the first cats and dogs that will enter that bright and beautiful space in just a matter of days. The homey atmosphere of the new 21,000 sq. foot center belies its commercial underpinnings. It feels as if we are bringing the animals home, to the kind of healing and supportive place they deserve. I also felt humbled. This was not my journey. I was only a last minute participant in this extraordinary relay. The cobblestones leading to the new entryway are permanent reminders of the extraordinary individuals who brought Avery Humane into existence and those who kept Avery Humane in operation for the last 24 years. I thought about Sally Sutherland, Alice Sudderth, Bud Pyatte and all those who walked by their side or in their footsteps. I thought about their struggles with frozen plumbing on icy winter mornings and perseverance through sweltering July afternoons when the humidity was high and the breeze would not blow. I thought about outbreaks of contagious disease in the kennels and the heartbreak these men and women endured again and again, for animals that could not be saved. I thought about the shelter workers’ constant exposure to dirt and germs, parasites, cat scratches, dog bites and the ever-present and haunting face of abused and neglected animals. And, I thought about how, for each one of them, there were times when the weighty responsibility of trying to save them all, when there are just more animals than homes, brought them figuratively, if not literally, to their knees.

I thought about how something simple, like a kind word, the forgiveness of a friend, the smile of a stranger, or an extra dollar someone donated for dog food, was sometimes enough to give them the strength to get up and go again another day, even when they thought they could not go another step. I am glad they did not give up. And when I think how hard it must have been, I thank God for silly things like youthful enthusiasm and people who are just naĂŻve enough to think anything is possible and that tomorrow will always be a better day. But it is the future that draws us. We are counting on dedicated individuals, like yourself, just as Avery Humane has done for so many years, to keep us moving forward. You are the future. We need volunteers for all areas of animal care and customer assistance. We hope you will join us to hike or walk with dogs, socialize kittens, prepare treats, teach a class, groom a kitty, plan an event, man the reception desk, staff the pet boutique or raise some funds and more. And we need foster families to care for animals that are still too young or too sick to be adopted. The act of sharing your special talents, even 30 minutes a week, can make a difference. The staff of Avery Humane is necessarily small and lean. This is your Adoption and Education center. It was built for the animals and people of Avery County and it is the people who live, work, visit and play here who will make it great. Visit our website at or stop by to sign up to volunteer. To share your ideas with me or Charlene Calhoun, call us at our new number, 828-7332333 or contact us at PO Box 1213, Newland, NC 28657 or by email at


May 2012

High Country Magazine


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