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WXPR's We Live Up Here series is a home for stories that focus on the people, history, and culture that make the Northwoods of Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan such a unique place to live.

Pet Adoption Spikes During The Pandemic

Humane Society of Marathon County

Across the county, pet adoptions have seen a dramatic increase since the beginning of the pandemic. In areas where the virus is more prevalent, some shelters have even run out of dogs and cats for adoption. Although local Northwoods shelters still do have animals available, there has been a notable increase in the number of adoptions. Jim and Debbie Boman, of Merrill, recently adopted Delilah, a Labrador-Pitbull mix from the Humane Society of Marathon County.

According to Jim Boman, “We knew that the time was getting to the point where it was right to bring a new dog in the home.”

The executive director of the Humane Society, Lisa Leitermann, notes that there has been a 34 percent increase in the number of pet adoptions in March and April compared to last year. Leitermann also notes that their facility is taking in far fewer animals then usual.

Our intake numbers are down. We are usually not in the position of more going out than coming in. For example, we could probably have on a regular basis between 150 to 200 cats in our facility. Right now we probably have 50,” she said.

Although Leitermann notes that they are happy that the population of pets at the facility is very low, her staff have concerns that some of animals may be returned once things get back to normal. According to Leitermann, people adopt pets for the social, psychological, and even physical advantages they can bring to a home. Boman has been trying to get more exercise to lose weight but walking alone did not interest him.  

“I tried to go walk by myself and it was not the same. I told my wife, other than the health aspect, when I have a dog I have a purpose for walking as opposed to getting out there and walking on my own.”

Besides the encouragement to exercise, Delilah brings the Bomans much needed companionship during this time when they have been unable to see family and friends.

“With the pandemic and shutdown and everything, all of our family as far as our grandkids live up in Woodruff so to be on the safe side, we don’t see them as often as we like anymore. We just needed some companionship. We don’t have our grandkids. We normally get them and keep them for a week or so we now have another companion in our home.”

Delilah has been with the Bomans for just a few weeks, but she has already become a part of the family.

According to Boman, “When you adopt a dog, you adopt the responsibility along with it. The dog needs you as much as you need it. They bring something spiritual to your life. They are also happy to see you when you come home. They are just a good companion to take for walks, just to talk to.”

Although the Humane Society of Marathon County has been finding homes for many of its pets, it has had to change the way it fundraises. It collects most of its funds through public events, and most of these events had to be canceled.  On May 30th , it has a 5K fundraiser scheduled, “Run For Your Life.” Leitermann and her staff have decided to go forward with a virtual 5K. 

“Instead with a virtual run, we still have people register and you still receive a shirt and a running bib. It is just not a chipped time race. You map out your own 5K route like in your own neighborhood, at your favorite park. Wherever you want to do it and you can track your time and then submit it. We will compile all the results that have been submitted and metals will still be awarded.”

Leitermann is hopeful that the Humane Society will still get lots of runners in their virtual race.

Although the stay at home orders have been lifted in the State of Wisconsin, the Humane Society of Marathon County has decided to keep its doors locked and continue to take care of adoptions by appointment only.

James M. Skibo is Emeritus Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at Illinois State University. He is the author of five books, including two written for the general audience, Ants for Breakfast, and Bear Cave Hill. In 2021 James moved to the Madison area and is now the State Archeologist.
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