By JEANNIE WILEY WOLF
Agnes is obviously top dog at the Humane Society & SPCA of Hancock County this particular afternoon.
The 8-year-old beagle is snuggled up with a green patterned fleece blanket on a comfy couch, waiting for someone to scratch her behind the ears. Agnes is one of the pups who has been enjoying the humane societys new serenity room, decorated to replicate a living room, where stressed animals can calm down.
The goal is to make it look like home, said Natalie Reffitt, a kennel supervisor.
Animals often exhibit stress in kennels, possibly because of the noise, she said.
If a dogs getting out to go for a walk, that triggers other dogs to bark, she said.
That noise can make certain dogs anxious, nervous and stressed out, and some of the animals cant handle it, she explained.
A large room near the front entrance of the agency is now home to the serenity room and Reffitts office. The special retreat is being enjoyed by both dogs and cats staying at the shelter.
The cats run around. Its so funny, said Reffitt. I think its going to be a wonderful addition in placing dogs and cats. And for the animals, their mental health, its really good for them. They do need mental care.
Reffitt and Stephanie Rupe, another kennel supervisor, had been talking about a quiet room for awhile.
We have so many ideas and they kind of get pushed back and pushed back, she said. But we saw on Facebook that Toledo had done a real-life room. We thought, Why not? Why cant we do that?
They asked Facebook friends for donations We asked and we received within weeks, Reffitt said.
A soft, blue recliner was contributed first. It became a favorite sleeping spot for Leo, a 2-and-a-half-year-old boxer mix.
He was so stressed in his kennel. He would spin and spin and bark at people, so he just got overlooked, said Reffitt.
A few Saturdays ago, she and Leo were in the room.
He loved it. So he was just sleeping in it and a woman and her dad came in. Leo got off his recliner and he went up to the window, then he went back to his recliner, Reffitt said.
The woman asked if Leo was available for adoption. When she learned he was, she went in to visit with him. The two sat together on the recliner, said Reffitt, who was watching from the front desk.
And my eyes are getting watery and my throats closing up because I knew she was going to adopt him, and she did, Reffitt said.
More donations have added a couch, coffee table, bookcase, basket of toys and even a television set to the quiet room.
The dogs love it, Reffitt said. It is such a great room.
She often brings Rascal in for a visit. A former cruelty case, he is now looking for a home.
When I brought him in here for the first time, it was like he never saw furniture before. He was just, like, very timid, just walking around. Within hours, this was like his home, she said.
Although they try to make each dogs kennel comfortable with extra bedding, its no match for a nap on a couch, Reffitt said.
They all love their time in here. And it does work, she said. You can definitely tell their personalities. Theyre more comfortable.
She said all of the animals have had a chance to visit the room, and they usually come in by themselves.
Agnes actually comes in sometimes with a blind dog named Scruffy. Hes also about 8 years old, and they get along, said Reffitt.
Animals will spend hours at a time in the room.
When they go to sleep its just so sweet, or when they snore, its just, like, theyre relaxed. Thats why we named it serenity, she said.
Reffitt said theyd like to have a DVD player so they can play movies.
Families can also visit with animals in the serenity room, she noted.
We still have the getting acquainted rooms and theyre significantly smaller than this. But this is a place where people can meet their potential new family member, she said.
Reffitt admitted its sometimes distracting trying to get her work done when the animals visit.
Ive got to take this cute picture (of them). Ive got to take this cute picture, she laughed.
Theres also a wall mirror in the room to entertain the dogs and cats.
Agnes loves looking at herself. It is really funny when they notice themselves for the first time.
She cant get enough of herself, she said.
Reffitt added that the individual attention is good for the animals.
Some of the boys come in. They tear around, she said. Agnes doesnt much care for toys. But she does love (all the) love (she gets).