Every year thousands of pets are abandoned because their owners just can’t handle them any longer.

Shiloh overcame loneliness and abandonment before finding a caring foster home with Gwen and Mark Steckler, and then her "forever home" with Judy and Jim Eisenmenger (pictured above).

Some are fortunate and make their way to shelters and find their forever home. And yet many others are left to the streets.

Yankton County is fortunate to have the Heartland Humane Society and a great group of volunteers to help their abandoned and neglected animals. The majority of them turn into happy stories, while others are not so fortunate.

Shiloh’s Story

It was a hot summer evening in August 2010, when a caring woman found Shiloh at her grandfather’s farm. The dog was so thin and hungry that she was trying to enter a chicken coop.

Knowing her grandfather would probably shoot the dog, the woman carefully approached and was able to get her on a leash.

She fed the frightened, yet happy, dog as she made phone calls to find someone to take the dog. She was able to reach Nancy Teachout, wife of local vet Dr. Bruce Teachout. Nancy then called Gwen Steckler — she and her husband Mark had fostered dogs before for the Heartland Humane Society (HHS).

“That night I sat in my barn with her, shocked at her sad condition.

We have fostered many dogs, but I had never seen such a skinny dog before,” said Gwen. “Her ribs and hip bones stuck out severely, even under her long hair. Her hair was matted over much of her body, with dried mud on it. The bottom of all her paws had open sores on them, hurting her to walk. This poor girl must have been a stray for a long time.”

Gwen says her heart went out to this poor puppy. That night, as they sat in the barn, the dog that would become known as Shiloh snuggled up next to her. Gwen lovingly brushed and trimmed the mats from the dog’s coat, and talked to her gently.

“As I gave her a bath in my home that night, she sat so quietly for it, seeming relieved that someone was taking care of her.”

Over the next few days, Shiloh received vet care, which was paid for by donations to the HHS. It was estimated that the golden retriever mix was about a year old. When she gained enough weight she was spayed.

Shiloh lived with the Stecklers for the next couple of months as she gained weight, recovered and received some training.

“We enjoyed watching her become healthy and beautiful, seeing her trust us, and seeing her personality come out,” said Gwen.

Then the time came for Shiloh to meet her forever family — Jim and Judy Eisenmenger.

Jim and Judy are avid dog lovers. They have owned several dogs over the years, most recently a golden retriever and an elkhound.

When their elkhound passed away they wanted to find a companion dog for their golden retriever, Buggs.

“I went online to the Humane Society and there she was,” says Jim. “So I called. We had adopted another dog for our son in Wisconsin, so they knew who we were already.”

Jim says the HHS does a very thorough job of checking out potential homes for adoption.

When they brought Shiloh to the Eisenmenger farm Jim says they got acquainted and she hasn’t left their sides.

“She wasn’t too keen at first leaving the people she knew so we put her on a leash in the back yard. Within a day she was home,” said Jim.

“She can run out here. But her favorite thing is to go down to the lake for walks,” said Judy. “And she loves playing in the water.”

Shiloh fits right in with the couple’s other golden retriever. They play and have so much fun playing.

Gwen says saying goodbye to Shiloh was hard, but she remains in touch with Shiloh’s new family.

“She is now a house dog and has a dog to play with too. I know they love her very much. They still send me photos and email updates on her, expressing how much she is loved,” she adds.

Shiloh’s story isn’t much different than the hundreds of other dogs and cats saved each year through the Heartland Humane Society.

And while they can’t help every one that comes to them for assistance, they do their best to find foster families and “forever homes” for as many as they can.

Gwen says there are many more dogs and cats that need to be saved, and not enough foster homes.

“All fostering cost us was our love and time. And my husband Mark and I found we had enough of that for foster dogs. And we were paid back by their unconditional love. I think they know what we did for them,” said Gwen.

Becoming a foster home is easy and rewarding, says Jannette Kaddatz, Fostering Coordinator for the Heartland Humane Society.

“There is no cost to fosters, unless they choose to buy little things like toys and such. We provide the food, unless they want to buy it,” Kaddatz adds. “Vet care is also taken care of.”

Right now the Heartland Humane Society is in need of foster homes for dogs.

“The more we have (foster homes) the more we can help,” Kaddatz said.

If you have any questions about fostering, volunteering, donating or adopting, you are encouraged to call the Heartland Humane Society at 664-4244.

This holiday season if you are thinking of adopting a pet, Kaddatz says it’s best to wait until after the holidays to bring a new pet into the home.

“This is always a busy time of the year, and bringing in a new pet can be stressful on the animal,” she said.

Kaddatz recommends buying some of the things the new pet will need and present that as the gift along with a card that says once the holidays are over you can bring home your new family member.