Judging by the number of leashed dogs seen frolicking on Hilton Head’s beaches and bike trails, it’s safe to assume a lot of people in this area love animals. That assumption is confirmed by the number of generous donations given each year to local nonprofit groups that care for and protect our four-legged friends and neighbors. Here are three groups with all paws on deck working hard to make life better for the Lowcountry’s cats and dogs.
The Hilton Head Humane Association, together with Beaufort County, recently approved plans for a new 21,136-square-foot facility in Okatie, near the intersection of U.S. 278 and S.C. 170 at Pritcher Point Road. The building’s interior area of 16,830 square feet includes Hilton Head Humane’s spay/neuter clinic, an adoption center and Beaufort County Animal Shelter & Control. Over 4,300 square feet of exterior kennel space is included, as well as separate “get acquainted” and exercise yards for the dogs.
Meet Pretty Girl. It’s easy to see how she got her name, and her story is one of triumph. She was found on the side of a highway, alert, but in clear need of help. She appeared to be deaf and couldn't do much with her back end. Her rescuer contacted Palmetto Animal League for assistance, and it was immediately apparent to the veterinarians at the league’s Community Clinic that Pretty Girl had endured severe trauma to her back and hind quarters.
Since 2008, Hospice Care of the Lowcountry has used its Hos-Pet program to bring joy to their patients and help them stay as active as possible. The all-volunteer program uses 85 specially trained “Good Citizen Dogs,” who go into patient homes or nursing facilities to provide love and companionship to the Lowcountry's hospice patients.
Hilton Head Humane Association will soon begin using a modified recumbent bike to exercise some of the shelter's high-energy residents.
“We have dogs here that are in need of regular bouts of physical activity to help them maintain their 'good dog' status,” said Hilton Head Humane Association executive director Franny Gerthoffer. “We noticed that when we had a few volunteers that ran with the dogs on a regular basis they were exceptional in their behavior. After the runners moved away from Hilton Head, we witnessed a significant decline in the dogs' 'good' behavior.”
When the employees at Tara's of Hilton Head began feeding a stray cat a couple of years ago, they couldn't have known that he'd become a fixture at Fountain Center, or that they'd play a role in sending the beloved feline on the adventure of a lifetime. Maybe they should have suspected, considering that the stray seemed to have no trouble charming his way into the hearts of the humans around him.
John and Amelie Ratliff — the father-daughter musical duo that comprises Strings for Strays — first got the idea to raise money for shelter animals a year ago, shortly after adopting the family's latest four-pawed member, Cosmo the pug, from Hilton Head Humane Association.
In 2006, a small group of Daufuskie Island residents banded together to deal with a growing population of feral cats living in appalling conditions and becoming a nuisance for residents and businesses. The large number of cats lacked the care and attention that we felt they deserved. We decided to take action on this shameful situation.
Tony Crosby of Hilton Head Island walks his dogs every morning. A few years ago, he noticed he kept seeing kittens that were obviously feral. So he started feeding them.
“There would be more and more cats and kittens, so I added a second feeding location. Then a third,” said Crosby, a hair stylist and makeup artist at Tara’s salon. “I went to Franny Gerthoffer, executive director of the Hilton Head Humane Association, and said, 'I see all of these events to help dogs. What about the cats? No one thinks about the cats.’ ”
Hilton Head resident Lisa Cleaver spent seven years helping her mother fight cancer, and when she lost that battle, Cleaver was lost as well. Luckily, a Crash saved her.
“I’m a psychotherapist, but I know that grief is a grand leveler. You respond to grief just like everybody else. I knew I needed to have a special soul and spirit to take care of — and that was Crash,” says Cleaver of her 3-year-old Mal-Shi, a Maltese and Shih Tzu mix. “Crash is such an uplifting, loving spirit, I can’t even call him a dog. I call him Crash of God. He really saved me from crashing and burning.”