Misha Anderson, Nickee Sillery, Sally Gooden and Chelsey McCloud are part of the good things going on at the AWL.

Photo courtesy of DeAntha Wright
Misha Anderson, Nickee Sillery, Sally Gooden and Chelsey McCloud are part of the good things going on at the AWL. Photo courtesy of DeAntha Wright

Compassioniate. Tender-hearted. Sensitive. Sympathetic. Oh, the list goes on and every one of these synonyms holds true for Nickee Sillery and Misha Anderson, two co-workers at the Montgomery County Animal Welfare League. There are many others there, too but I’ve just recently met Nickee and heard so much about her co-boss, Misha. Their job is not an easy one, full of emotion and frustration, yet they both do it with a flair. These gals can not get enough praise for saving so many fur babies.

In fact, their work has literally turned the whole aspect of the “dog pound” into almost puppy heaven. Just a few short years ago 85 percent of the animals going to the pound never walked back out. These two and their fabulous workers believe that “no adoptable pet should ever be put down,” and there are few who aren’t adoptable. Yet, listen up. The savable rate is now 88 percent. Wow figures, huh?

Lots of wonderful changes took place in the last half decade, including a remodeling of the office to have a real lobby with a visiting corner, many wonderful volunteers to walk the dogs and a lot of support from board members, friends like the Thornburgs and Bob Surber as examples.

Nickee told me that Social Media has helped considerably. They have a wonderful Facebook page with many wonderful comments, “such a friendly staff; animals are loved and well cared for; they don’t euthanize except in extreme cases.”

When I interviewed Nickee not long ago, they had more than 200 cats and kittens, plus 40 dogs, but she seemed to have no worries, understanding that they would get those darlings out into public homes. I specifically asked her about microchipping. She noted that they could do that for $35 but make an appointment. It is a life-time registration and it’s a quick shot and really doesn’t hurt the animal. That way, there is always proof to whom the animal belongs.

Another question was what could the public do? Knew about walking dogs, as that has gotten a lot of press and my daughter, Reilley (I took her and helped a few times) did that for a few years until she got her own wonderful pup. Nickee said they always need bleach, kitten and cat food, paper towels and Dawn dish soap (need Dawn as it doesn’t hurt the animals and does a beautiful job getting rid of fleas). Although their adoption fees are reasonable, they do run specials so keep an eye out for those.

Nickee noted that owner education is an important aspect of keeping a pet. “Often, pet owners aren’t bad, they just don’t know how.”

One younger man was about to give up on his dog, but they talked to him, helped him, and he and the animal worked it out. The girls were exceedingly happy over that one, as Nickee laughed, saying, “Yes, and he even brought us a big bouquet of daisies!”

Most animals are adoptable, but occasionally they are not. Some of those they make their office pets. One was Payton, a beautiful Black Lab/Great Dane mixture. Everyone loved Payton but because of serious sickness that was never going to get better he was sent to the Rainbow Bridge (pet heaven).

There was a great love for one of the volunteers, as well as Payton. That was Bob Surber who had passed away not long before Payton had to be put to sleep. When the girls (even one of the workers came in all her day off to be with Payton as he crossed over) waited the time out, they told Payton to “Tell Bob we’re doing his work!” I thought the world of Bob, so I got pretty teary-eyed just hearing about it!

The whole stigma of the “dog pound,” is gone in Montgomery County. Before it was, “We don’t want to be around that place, you know what goes on there,” but now, people are in and out all day, bringing in donations, walking the dogs, checking to see what they can do to help. This is not to say it was a bad place back then, we just all needed educated. Misha and Nickee complement each other and are spreading the word that the Montgomery County Welfare League shelter is a happy place! All it takes is a bit of compassion and a few awesome workers!

Karen Zach is the editor of Montgomery Memories, our monthly magazine all about Montgomery County. Her column, Around the County, appears each Thursday in The Paper of Montgomery County.