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Here in the Black Hills we had a little extra excitement in the days leading up to the year-end festivities. You could even call it a miracle,  which I’m proud to say, is typical of our part of the woods.

On December 20, the Black Hills Humane Society was asked to take in 75 abused and starving animals found in a nearby rural community. By nearby, I mean 75 miles away. That’s the way things work here in the West. Our residents are few and isolated, but when an emergency beckons we roll up our sleeves and go to work.

The Humane Society has had emergencies like this before, sometimes involving horses and other large animals. But 75 at once? And added to the usual busy adoption season in December?  They said, “yes”.

Within 24 hours the animals were rescued: 45 dogs, 14 rabbits, 15 cats and one bird. The story hit the airwaves – heart-breaking photos appeared on Facebook – and donations started pouring in.  Not surprising.  But at this season, the response was especially fulsome. A local hardware store offered a $15 gift card to customers when they donated a 30-pound bag of pet food specially formulated for starvation conditions. Humane Societies in neighboring states began accepting emergency donations. Food, blankets, cat litter, pillows, towels, toys and more piled up in the lobby, and the Society’s director soon had to request that donations be made online. Local businesses stepped into the breach and offered to accept and store donated items temporarily.

The staff and volunteers were understandably under a great deal of stress. But food and goodies poured in for them as well.

There was so much to do: matted hair had to be washed and brushed, shots administered, eyes treated, stomachs filled and nerves soothed. Not one of these animals could be adopted until 1) charges were brought and resolved against the previous owner and 2) these animals were all restored to health and adjusted to their new reality. It will be months before that happens, but thanks to some quick action by law enforcement and the generosity of hundreds of good citizens, these animals are going to make it.

Why did this happen in Rapid City, South Dakota? Not because our residents are any more compassionate than those in any other small American city. But because of the raison d’etre of our Humane Society:

“We are a guaranteed adoption Center. 100% of our adoptable animals find forever homes”.

I thought we could all use a heartwarming story to begin the New Year.  Best wishes to you and yours for the coming year.