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Sammie’s Friends celebrates 10-year anniversary of operating animal shelter

Victoria Penate
Special to The Union
Joining to celebrate 10 years of collaborating to run the shelter, from left, animal control officers Rachel Frantz and Stefanie Geckler, shelter director Lizette Taylor, co-founders Cheryl Wicks and Curt Romander, and Sheriff Shannan Moon.
Submitted to The Union

It all started when Cheryl Wicks began walking dogs at the animal shelter for two hours a week.

“One thing led to another, and now it’s huge,” said Wicks, co-founder of Sammie’s Friends.

Sammie’s Friends has a contract with the Nevada County Sheriff’s Department to run the Nevada County Animal Shelter, and celebrated 10 years of doing so Tuesday.

“Over the years, when I think about all the people who have donated money or time, fostered animals, and volunteered in other ways, it’s very encouraging,” said Wicks.

According to Wicks, Nevada County had a 68% rate of euthanasia for stray animals when she and her partner, Curt Romander, founded the organization. The rate is now less than 1%.

Sammie, the inspiration for the nonprofit’s name, was a Shar-Pei Wicks adopted as a 7-week-old puppy who lived to be 16 years old. Never having had a pet until adulthood, Wicks doesn’t consider herself to have had much of an “animal background” until Sammie, whom she calls “an amazing dog that will now have an amazing legacy.”

Wicks expressed that she would have enjoyed connecting with the community for a celebration of this milestone for Sammie’s Friends.

“We had a fundraiser celebration planned for April which we had to cancel, and assuming that things improve, we plan to have it next April,” she said, adding that this would make perfect timing to celebrate both this 10-year mark for operating the shelter and 20 years of Sammie’s Friends.

The local nonprofit has saved about 30,000 animals since 2001.

MAKING LIVES HAPPIER

As for the organization’s goals in the near future, in light of some restriction as to how much in-person outreach can be done through events, its leadership is turning attention to internal projects.

“The shelter itself is pretty old, and we’re looking to make it prettier and a bit more inviting,” said Wicks. “We try to figure out every possible way of making their lives happier while they’re in the shelter.”

Shelter director Lizette Taylor, who has worked with the organization since 2012, echoed this, saying, “While we’re waiting through this time, we’re trying to focus on how we can do more training, improve our systems, and polish the facility a bit more.”

Reflecting on this milestone, Taylor said, “It’s funny because 10 years is a long time, but when you’re doing this work, it goes so fast — it feels like we just got started.”

Taylor shared that one of the most impactful pieces of Sammie’s Friends’ work is the behavioral differences in animals after guidance and attention from dedicated staff.

“The staff drive so much into these animals on a daily basis to love them and help them back into a place where they can be adopted,” she said. “It feels amazing all the things we’ve been able to do in these 10 years, and all the animals that have been adopted, rescued, and worked with.”

Taylor said the community has continuously shown support for Sammie’s Friends throughout the years, but in especially high numbers throughout the last several months.

“Without the public and the county, we wouldn’t be here for 10 years,” said Taylor. “We’re very grateful for the outpouring of support we see on a daily basis. We really appreciate the support of fosters, volunteers, and people who just throw love at us whenever they can.”

Victoria Penate is a freelance writer for The Union.


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