EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Throughout her 20 years in the U.S. Marine Corps, Shelley Thurman always took the time to volunteer. While in San Diego, she took the opportunity to clean up beaches. In Hawaii, Thurman spent a great deal of time volunteering at the thrift store. When she came to Edwards as a civilian in 2005, it was only natural that she would continue to give back to the community.
Still new to Edwards, she made the decision to give animals a second chance - every cat and Airmen's best friend that came through the door; she was determined to help them find a new family. After more than six years with Adopt-A-Pet, she continues to serve as the organization's president.
As president, Thurman oversees all organizational activities and volunteer efforts, maintains schedules, coordinates funding, schedules veterinarian appointments, manages medical records and ensures that all medical conditions are properly handled. All of which is done in her spare time away from her family and her job as a supervisor who conducts helicopter inspections for Marine Aircraft Group 41.
"When I first came here, my husband found out there was this place. He emailed the president and received all the information. I stopped by, filled out the paperwork, took the tour, and I've been here ever since," said Thurman. "Now, I'm very busy. I work 40 hours every week with the Marines on base and then probably close to 30 hours with A-Pet. It's so worth it."
At any given time, Adopt-A-Pet provides a safe haven for between 22 and 25 cats, as well as five to eight dogs. The waitlist to surrender pets at the facility is approximately four to six weeks, with first priority given to owners preparing for a Permanent Change of Station.
The enormous responsibility assumed by Thurman and the additional volunteer force costs an estimated $22,000 every year.
"People sometimes think that because we're located on base we receive government funding," said Thurman. "The truth is that we don't receive any funding from the Air Force or Federal Government."
Most of the costs can be attributed to veterinary care, ensuring that all regulations are upheld, as well as the health of the animals.
"Most costs for the Adopt-A-Pet facility are vet bills. We are required to ensure every animal has all its shots and is spayed or neutered before leaving, unless of course they are too young. We also microchip all the animals even though we are not required to. Another thing is that we test cats for feline leukemia and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, even though we don't have to. It really is a good thing to do, so we do it."
All funding for Adopt-A-Pet is received through private donations and collected adoption fees. The Combined Federal Campaign is another opportunity for the organization to receive the financial support to continue giving cats and dogs the chance to find a loving family.
Adopt-A-Pet will wait as long as it takes for each animal to get their second chance.
According to Thurman, there have been animals that temporarily resided at the Adopt-A-Pet facility for more than four years. All that time, the volunteers spend learning the unique personalities of the animals to make sure each animal that gets adopted meets the specific needs of the families.
For nearly two years, Sandy Berry has volunteered at Adopt-A-Pet, working mornings Monday through Friday to ensure that the animals' needs are met. For Berry, the joy of volunteering is having the chance to care for the animals as well as having the opportunity to spend time with them and learn their personalities.
"I think what I enjoy the most is taking care of these cats and dogs, which are essentially homeless. I like the fact that we're giving them love and showing them that humans are kind, while they're waiting to go to their next home. They really have such cute personalities," said Berry. "Most importantly, the animals always know that we will be here for them."
After nearly two years of volunteering, she has become quite familiar with the animals' various personalities and according to Berry, the organization has a pet to match all personalities, as well as family structures.
Adopt-A-Pet is a place where civilians and the active duty military can join forces to put the animals first and give them an incredible opportunity to find the perfect family.
Senior Airman Mai Harris, 95th Aerospace Medical Squadron, has volunteered with Adopt-A-Pet for more than two years.
"I absolutely love animals and I saw this place when I was looking for somewhere to volunteer. I typically spend between two and three hours a week, every week volunteering here. I really enjoy playing with the animals and giving them special attention and quality time," said Harris. "I am always encouraging Airmen to volunteer, even just once. We always need more volunteers."
The Adopt-A-Pet organization was created to accommodate the needs of families preparing for a PCS, who were unable to take their pets with them to their next duty location. Today, although families preparing to PCS are top priority for the organization, they also accept animals from Animal Control and the general public on a space-available basis.
"For PCS, we need notification at least a couple weeks in advance. Families need to diligently try to find another home for their animal, because that's obviously the best solution. If they cannot find one, they need to let us know and get on the wait list," said Thurman. "If they find a home for their animal while they're on the waitlist, we can always take your name off the list. Don't wait until a day or two before, because we can't do the last minute thing."
Adopt-A-Pet requests at minimum, one week of advanced notice, so they can make space for the animal.
"There will always be a need for this place and with that, volunteers willing to help the animals find new homes," said Thurman.
For more information about animal adoption, volunteer opportunities, or making a donation, please contact Shelley Thurman at 258-9525. Additionally, log onto www.petfinder.com/shelters/ca913.html or www.facebook.com/APETRescue to view animals available for adoption. The facility is located at 615 South Forbes Ave., Bldg. 5550.
Hours of operation are Monday through Friday, 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. as well as Saturday and Sunday, 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.