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The Little Shelter That Could

April 20, 2018
When Chloe first moved to Crestwood in the summer of 2014, she didn't like it much. On just her second day in the neighborhood, moving here after her family had to give her up, she had a bit of a meltdown and ran away, igniting an all-out search and a Facebook campaign.

"It took almost that entire summer," said Mary Balles, one of a group of volunteers who searched undaunted for the Vizsla-lab mix dog. "We'd get sightings as far as Lakeshire so we'd set traps, and then we'd get a call that she was spotted on the other end of Grant's Trail, by 44 and Big Bend. It was crazy."

The group finally tracked her down and brought her back to the shelter, where she became a long-term resident because, as Balles recalled, she had a lot of anxiety because of what had happened.

"And then one day out of the blue, a family from Illinois called after seeing her picture on our website, and we took a four-hour drive to meet them," Balles said. "Now she is their beloved family member."

Chloe's story is one of hundreds of successful adoptions over the years at the Crestwood Animal Shelter, the Little Shelter That Could — and still does, thanks to 60-plus volunteers and donations from the public.

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Next Saturday, April 28, the shelter will have one of its two big annual fundraisers, a "Bark-B-Que" at the Affton Elks Lodge from 3-7 p.m. In addition to regular barbecue fare, a few of the animals will be on hand if the weather is nice, with their "Adopt-Me" vests on, greeting guests. A menu and more information is available at www.crestwoodanimalshelter.org.

The shelter is yet another hidden gem in South County. For about five years now, it has been run completely by donations and volunteers like Balles, who do it because pets are their passion.

Balles, who now serves as president of the shelter, got involved a little bit at a time. She said she and her family were regulars at the Crestwood Aquatic Center, and her kids kept asking if they could add to the family cat collection. She figured she'd take them over to the shelter and pet a few cats to get it out of their system. They all fell in love with the place.

"That's pretty much everyone's story," she said, of the volunteers who keep the place running. "We are especially grateful to have so many retired folks who can do day-to-day work like check on the animals, pick up supplies or take a pet to the vet if needed."

Each day, it's all about the animals.

"In 2017, we adopted out 79 pets — which was our highest yearly total yet," Balles said. "We're quite proud of that."

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