Small Shelter: Big Hero

One of the 16 dogs that were rescued by the Venango County Humane Society. (By Gabe Dresbach/Student contributor)

Student contributor

“Have you ever seen so many dogs smiling?” My mom tearily asked me as we pulled out of the Venango County Humane Society parking lot.

On Saturday, Sept. 26, I headed to the humane society with the intentions of collecting sufficient material to write a concise piece about the delivery of 16 outsourced dogs.

After arriving, I hesitantly walked toward the chaos of leaping dogs and playful volunteers. It was six o’clock on a Saturday night, and interviewing for journalism was not my first choice of activity. However, one hour of discussion and four pages of notes later, I could not imagine missing the event.

Laura Prechel is a humble woman. The vice-president of the Rural Animal Rescue Effort (RARE), she transports animals that are saved from around 20 high-kill shelters in Tennessee and Kentucky. This year, alone, she has been instrumental in the salvation of two thousand animals from facilities where euthinasia occurs on a weekly basis.

Every month, Laura saves nearly three hundred animals, a feat she modestly, but proudly, explained. Though she made a 660 mile commute to Seneca, it is atypical for Laura to travel beyond Illinois, Indiana, Virginia, and South Carolina.

Laura did not take up this challenging trip single handedly, however; Dina Hsu, Laura’s business partner, was also crucial to the transportation of Seneca’s new arrivals.

The dogs’ journey to Seneca began with Katie Parsh. A passionate animal rescuer and lead dog kennel attendant, she took to reading “One Hundred Dogs and Counting,” a book discussing dog fostering.

Katie reached out to Cara Achterberg, the author, who connected her with Laura. Cara is an active foster parent in Operation Paws for Homes, an organization that works with initiatives like RARE to give shelter animals another chance.

Through the website Petfinder, Katie chose the sixteen dogs that traveled with Laura and Dina. She laughingly explained how she picked dogs that had a friendly look, but also could be quickly placed into loving homes.

Because of the high demand in our area, Katie also sought out many Pitbull mixes, a breed that experiences a 93% euthansia rate.

The humane society shelter also took on the challenge of three dogs with various health concerns, including heartworm and skin conditions. Due to treatment and recovery time, these dogs will not be available for adoption until their health has improved. However, if given a clean bill of health, the other 13 rescues will be available for adoption soon.

Through their hard work, Parsh, Prechel, and Hsu have given these dogs – Peanut, Rainy, Kane, Sol, Luna, Krunk, Dillon, Banner, Tiny, Belle, Amber, Posey, Bentley, Asa, Little Ear, and Sampson – a new chance at life.

I will be eternally grateful for attending this event, as I experienced joy and hope in their truest forms. It is an honor to know that our small shelter was able to be a hero in these dogs’ lives.

As the partnership between Venango County Humane Society and RARE continues, this gift of a fresh start will extend to many more dogs in need.

The world can always use more of dogs’ contagious smiles and happiness.


Brooke Whitling and Gabe Dresbach are students at Cranberry High School and members of Cranberry Chronicles, the school’s journalism/publications class.