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Woof you be mine?: Local animal shelter residents have lots of love to give

Sylvia Ziejewski poses with Sheldon, an adopted pit bull mix that spent almost a year at The Marshmallow Foundation. Ziejewski says he "is now a forever member of our family." (Submitted photo)1 / 4
Adopted dogs Claire and Carmen became "instant friends," according to owner DelRae Chivers. (Submitted photo)2 / 4
A cat awaits adoption at The Marshmallow Foundation in Detroit Lakes. (Meagan Pittelko/Tribune)3 / 4
Marshmallow Foundation volunteer and adopter Sandy McCartney poses with a new kitten brought into the shelter. "I think I found my eighth cat today, too,” she joked." (Meagan Pittelko/Tribune)4 / 4

Love is in the air — well, love and a little bit of fur.

Approximately six dogs and 30 cats are currently awaiting adoption at The Marshmallow Foundation in Detroit Lakes, hoping to find their human soulmates.

However, according to Shelter Manager Cassi Ohman, this is the quietest the shelter has been in the eight years she's spent there.

"It's kind of a shock to me," she said. "But we've been working on getting the word out about us more and we're getting more people who want to adopt these days — they find more fun in it. We also have a lot more help from rescues, which are foster-home based and have more resources to help the animals — especially the ones that are special needs, so to speak — so that helps us a lot, too."

Animals come to the shelter from seven surrounding cities, according to Ohman, as well as animals found outside of those areas. Some animals are found by concerned citizens, some are found by city officials and some are surrendered by owners who can no longer care for them.

"We are the city pound," she explained. "So, city officials have a key so that they can bring animals in and we have to take in any animals found within those seven cities. We're also totally non-profit — the only money we get is from animals that come from within city limits, which is a very small amount."

Ohman, who has six dogs herself, said that the application process for adoption is thorough and includes a background check, references and home visits.

Despite wanting to find homes for all of the animals as soon as possible, Ohman suggests that those looking to adopt take their time so that animals and their potential owners are the best possible fit.

"Don't rush into it," she said. "Be patient. We're all just trying to make sure that the animals are in the right home. Take your time with it."

Ohman said that The Marshmallow Foundation is always looking for donations and volunteers, and that they are currently seeking part-time employees. However, that hasn't stopped the shelter from growing.

"Of the two volunteers that review the applications, one lives in the cities and one lives in Perham, and they do have full time jobs in addition to reaching out to people," she said. "It's crazy what we do with the small amount of people we have. In the past two years, it's bloomed into this amazing group of people, and it's really amazing to see how far we've come."

'The right animal will choose you'

Sandy McCartney, otherwise known as AreaVoices' 'Crazy Cat Lady,' has adopted nine different cats from The Marshmallow Foundation.

"I adopted two of them knowing they were terminally ill," she said. "Like Cassi (Ohman) will tell you, finding homes for them is next to impossible."

McCartney currently has seven cats and spends her spare time volunteering at The Marshmallow Foundation.

"I think I found my eighth cat today, too," she joked. "You can train (cats) if you're consistent about it, but I've gotten tired of trying so they share my home now."

McCartney said that, when she moved to the area from Texas, she got involved with the Marshmallow Foundation because of her love of animals; she had six cats in Texas, so she said that she knew she would continue to have cats in Minnesota. One of the best parts of volunteering at the Foundation, McCartney said, is meeting like-minded people.

"You get to meet people who love animals as much as you do," she said. "I've met so many nice people, and I built a house out in the country so I can have as many cats as I want. You're never bored. Ever."

According to McCartney, volunteering is the best way to get to know the animals at any shelter if you're considering adoption.

"You really get to know the animals," she said, "and the right animal will choose you."

McCartney said that she couldn't imagine not having her cats around — even though they constantly keep her on her toes and occasionally knock bowls of veggies off of her kitchen counter. "Animals fill a part of your soul that no human can ever fill," she said. "It's just unconditional love."

'A second chance at life'

Sylvia Ziejewski has adopted three dogs and has fostered over 30 dogs in her lifetime, from dogs who could live normally on their own to dogs who needed a little bit of extra love.

"I fostered one special little guy named Lennon, who needed a special wheelchair," she said. "After providing him with his new mode of transportation, he later got adopted by the best family possible and I still follow his journey on Facebook."

Many of Ziejewski's dogs have come from the Marshmallow Foundation, a shelter that she said is extremely passionate about caring for animals of all shapes, sizes and breeds.

"The Marshmallow Foundation is such a positive attribution to the Detroit Lakes community and we can learn a lot from them as a shelter and from the animals that are getting second chances there," she said. "The shelter staff there are so dedicated to the care of those animals that it inspires me to do more."

Ziejewski comes from a family of adopters, stating that her family has adopted a total of seven pets. One little pup stood out to her above the others, though.

"My most proud moment as a "foster-mom"-turned-adopter through the Marshmallow Foundation was with our handsome pit bull mix, Sheldon," she said. "Sheldon was in there for almost a year, yet the Marshmallow Foundation never gave up on him. To this day, I still can't thank them enough for taking such good care of our four-legged family member until we were able to meet him, fall in love with him and call him ours forever."

'She was going to be our new girl'

DelRae Chivers has known about the Marshmallow Foundation for almost a decade, having taken her dogs to daycare in the same complex for nine years.

"We lost our two schnauzers, Leo and Sig, a year ago, leaving (our dog) Claire alone," she said. "She needed a playmate, so by spring of last year we were on the lookout for a new dog. My husband, Jack, and I long decided that we wanted to keep our search to animals that come through Marshmallow, and along came a young mother with her puppies."

After a brief nursing period before the puppies could be adopted out, Chivers and her husband officially found Carmen in May.

"I fell in love with one of the pups' smokey eyes after seeing her picture on the Marshmallow website," she said. "She was going to be our new girl."

According to Chivers, adoption is an important option for the community to consider.

"There are many wonderful, furry friends needing a home that are so willing to love a family," she said. "I see the overwhelming inundation of neglected, abandoned, and abused animals that come through the Marshmallow doors in desperate need of its help, and the staff at Marshmallow continue to persevere despite limited resources."

In the end, Carmen adjusted well and became an instant member of the family.

"She quickly fell in love with her big sister, Claire," Chivers said. "We are so happy with our girls! Carmen has a big personality, bringing energy to our home with her love and enthusiasm."