COCHRANE— Honouring the animals that pass through their care and the volunteers who help along the way, the Cochrane and Area Humane Society debuted its new memorial garden on Sunday (Oct. 4).
“In the industry, we are in, you know, we have loss,” said Humane Society operations manager Karla Bennett. “We wanted some way to honour the animals that we’ve had in our care and lost, and a place also for volunteers, staff and the community to have a peaceful place that’s close to the shelter.”
The garden speaks to a core belief at the Cochrane Humane Society, Bennett said, explaining, “We care for animals from the beginning to the end.”
The completed landscaping project is a lovely and peaceful spot that serves as a place to unwind and reflect on life, Bennett said.
The garden has been in the works for several years, she said, and the non-profit overcame many hurdles to make it a reality.
Momentum for the garden began to grow in 2019 and became a reality when the Humane Society was able to secure the Community Spirit grant from the Town of Cochrane.
They collaborated with Humane Society staff and volunteer member Kim Kada who has a passion for gardening. Kada helped design the space for the garden.
“She gave us a little bit of a push,” Bennett said.
Volunteers and staff put in a lot of hours to create the new space, she said, adding Cochrane Landscape Supply also donated mulch and dirt for the project.
“They took this idea or vision that we had, and our community in general basically, came together to make it happen,” Bennett said. “We’re really pleased with it.”
They have already had people using the garden, and many appreciate having a quiet spot to enjoy a lunch break or find a moment of peace, Bennett said.
In designing the project, the Humane Society brought in natural objects to fill the space and carefully selected plants including bleeding hearts, weeping caragana, dogwood, poppies, daffodils and tulips. They also added garden boxes that will have flowers to attract pollinators and grow vegetables for small animals.
“There was thought put into the plants that are in there as well to stick with the theme of the memorial garden,” Bennett said.
The signature feature of the garden is a rock provided by Set in Stone, “Dedicated with love to all the animals who have touched our lives and live on in our hearts.”
Communications coordinator Lisa Kedian said the Humane Society has received incredible support from the community during COVID-19.
“A lot of businesses and non-profit organizations have suffered through all this,” Kedian said. “We have been so lucky that our community has been so generous. Anytime we’ve needed anything … The community has responded and quickly.”
She cited a recent example of asking for laundry detergent on Wednesday (Oct. 8). Before they knew it they had an anonymous donor drop of 15 large bottles of detergent on their doorstep. Bennett added one of her favourite moments from the year was a request they made for peanut butter. They expected one or two jars, she said with a grin, and they ended up getting more than 30.
It has been incredible to know Cochranites are always listening and willing to help when the shelter is in need, Kedian said.
“Everybody has such a big heart in our community and we really, really appreciate it."
She added she enjoys the creative ways people are embracing to fundraise for the non-profit in the era of COVID-19. An especially exciting event has been a donation drive launched by a group from Bow Valley High School, paired with a virtual fundraiser designed by a group from SAIT.
“That’s something different that we’ve never done before,” Kedian said. “People are thinking differently about how to help because I think a lot of people realize this has been such a struggle this year.”
The Humane Society is always accepting donations or goods in kind and always welcomes volunteers for the shelter or foster program. Another great way to support the animal community is to adopt from shelters.
Bennett added the Humane Society is often home to new moms and their babies, be it dogs or cats, and it can be a struggle to find a placement for them in foster care.
“It is a considerable amount of work and we are looking for a specific home for that,” Bennett said. “The shelter is no place to raise babies. We want to get them into a home environment as soon as possible and then bring them back when the puppies are old enough, same with moms and kittens.”