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Turning over the leash: Corning animal shelter has new caretaker

By Julie R. Johnson, Corning Observer, Calif.
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Dec. 17--There is no doubt Debbie Eaglebarger loves dogs. For 11 years this devoted woman has given her all to improve and update the Corning Animal Shelter as its on-site caretaker. This week she is turning over her "leash" to new caretaker, Toni Williams, who has been a volunteer at the shelter since May.

Eaglebarger notes that through the years, the community has watched the shelter grow and start new programs, such as requiring spay and neuter for dogs of age before adoption, low cost spay and neuter for pit bulls, basic dog obedience classes, a new roof over the outside pens, and much more.

"It's been a long journey. But I accomplished what I came to do," she said. "I've been searching for two years for someone to keep things going and found it in Toni (Williams). I'm happy that I can start to live a 'normal' life, but sad that I can't continue doing what I've been doing."

As well as being the caretaker, 58-year-old Eaglebarger founded Second Chance Pet Rescue, which became an enormous resource for the shelter's improvements through grants and donations.

Although sad about leaving the dogs at the shelter and the volunteers she has come to love, Eaglebarger looks forward to moving to Florida where she will be closer to family.

Following a Corning Police Department conducted background check on Williams and her husband, Steve Williams, on Dec. 10 the City Council unanimously approved the appointment of Williams as the new caretaker. She also received the recommendation for the position from Second Chance Pet Rescue's Board of Directors.

Williams and her husband will be moving into the city-owned mobile home on the animal shelter property on Rawson Road, where Eaglebarger resided for her tenure as caretaker.

Williams will not receive a salary from the city for her services, but will be compensated by living in the mobile home rent free. The city will be responsible for the structure's insurance.

She has lived in Corning for 20 years and has always had a love of animals. Eaglebarger said her compassion was very apparent from the time she started volunteering at the shelter. Williams has raised a variety of animals, including horses, cats, dogs, sheep, pigs, chickens and even a goose. Along with her husband, Williams will be joined as caretaker by her three dogs, Pixie, Lacey and Chica.

Since becoming a volunteer, Williams' enthusiasm has grown as she took a shelter dog through obedience classes, works individually with shelter dogs teaching them to be calm, shaping good behavior, and doing all she can to make them adoptable.

"Oh, my goodness," Williams said. "I am excited, I am thrilled, I am nervous, and maybe a little scared. I have big shoes to fill. But I will be doing my best and will do my best to take care of the dogs and keep things running as well as they have in the past."

By contract with the city, Williams responsibilities will include performing minor maintenance on the mobile home, and pay for the home's utilities.

As shelter caretaker, her list of responsibilities is significant, starting with taking daily care of the dogs, which includes feeding, cleaning, and providing fresh water. Williams must also make sure the dogs have adequate heating and cooling when necessary. She is responsible for making sure the shelter grounds are kept in order and keeping the facility secure at all times.

Second Chance Pet Rescue has taken on the job of adopting out the dogs at the shelter and Williams will play a large part in the process.

When Eaglebarger took over the shelter in 2002 it was consider a "high kill shelter," but over the past 11 years the adoption rate increased dramatically and the euthanasia rate went from 86 percent to 5 percent.

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(c)2013 the Corning Observer (Corning, Calif.)

Visit the Corning Observer (Corning, Calif.) at www.corning-observer.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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