Animal control warden Eddie McClure from the Secaucus Animal Shelter told him he had the perfect dog.
"I get down to the shelter and there's this monster dog," said Voli. "I was looking for something smaller, but he turned out to be really nice and gentle."
McClure had found the 70-pound Labrador Retriever-Rottweiler bundle of fur and affection known as "Skeeter" tied to the gate one morning at the municipal animal shelter located at the marshy end of Meadowlands Parkway. There was a note attached saying that the owners had fallen on hard times and could not keep the dog.The abandoned 4-year-old turned out to be not only user-friendly, housebroken, and well-trained but quiet, to boot. "When we first got him, he never even barked for the first month," Voli said. "I kept waiting for him to do something aggressive. When the kids would go near him, I'd get nervous, but nothing ever happened. He only barks every so often, when he wants a bone or something."
A place for everybody
Skeeter isn't the only happy, adoptable pup at the relatively new shelter.
The sweetness of "Puppy Face," a 7-year-old pit bull terrier, can be seen from across the facility's yard. He is a large, striped dog with not a trace of meanness in him. McClure handles the adult dog with strict, loving-kindness. In fact, all the animals at the shelter exude an odd amount of buoyancy for caged animals.
The original building was an old sewage plant built 30 years ago. Renovations were made in 2000. There are about 25 animals currently at the shelter.
"Most shelters suffer from overflow. We don't have that here," he said.
McClure comes from a long line of animal lovers. In 1988, his father Alfred McClure became the first animal control warden for Secaucus. When he retired three years ago, McClure left his job at the Associated Humane Society in Newark to take over his dad's position.
"We try to keep everybody happy - the residents and the animals," said McClure. "This is a balance between people and nature."
The shelter is open 24 hours a day. It is staffed by McClure and Department of Public Works driver Kevin Kessler, who works part-time. McClure handles the day shift from Wednesday to Sunday and Kessler works Monday and Tuesday. The two men split the night shifts.
John Thompson, a three-year-veteran, works part-time as a kennel attendant.
Part-time trainee and Secaucus native Dennis Earle, 22, said he wants to be an animal controller someday. "As long as I have animals around, I'm happy," said Earle.
The shelter consists of a single cement-block building with tall ceilings and accommodations for abandoned domestic or wayward wildlife. There is a veritable cat-heaven at the back of the front office. Behind a floor-to-ceiling chain link fence are cat beds arranged in ways only felines could love. There are toys and play stations where well-fed fur balls stretch and scratch.
In the anteroom, rambunctious barkers can chose between indoor or outdoor confines. There is a half-acre yard where McClure and company let the pooches run individually.
Outside the building is a makeshift feral cat motel, where wild cats can retire from city life and exit at will to the Meadowlands. Each cat becomes part of a spay, neuter and release program.
McClure said many times wildlife like possums, groundhogs, skunks, raccoons and the feral cats annoy residents. They are rapidly retrieved and relocated to more uninhabited spots of Secaucus.
"While we're not a no-kill shelter, we rarely euthanize," McClure said. "We pick up the wild ones [and] put them where they can work on keeping the rodent population down."
You gotta love the animals
Mary Ann, a volunteer at the shelter for the last six months who did not wish to give her last name, said the Secaucus animal shelter is unique. She said the individual attention makes the environment great for the animals so that people are more likely to adopt. Mary Ann had volunteered for many years for at other area shelters. "I stayed away from shelters for a long time," she said. "The bigger places just aren't able to let the animals socialize. This place is really good."
McClure said many residents give donations of money, time and supplies. The Secaucus town government also is very active in keeping the shelter going. Funding comes from a combination of donations, grants, and the municipal budget. Last year, generous residents donated $11,000. A $15,000 grant came from from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation that contributes to the welfare of animals. Salary revenue comes from the town operating budget.
"People are pretty good here, especially when it comes to supporting the shelter," said McClure. "We couldn't do what we do here without the support of the mayor, town administrator and council, as well as the Department of Public Works."