Carol Neff sat on a concrete curb, bouncing her attention from a panting gray dog on a leash behind her to a reddish puppy resting its head on its paws inside a kennel.
“Last year was a very sad year for us,” she said, looking to her husband, John Neff, standing nearby. “We lost family members, and we lost both of our last two dogs that we had.”
She and John have each only ever been without a dog when they were in college, she said. So when their last two, a pair of cocker-spaniel brothers, died from health issues shortly after they got them, she didn’t think she could bear to get another.
But then Carol Neff heard about Clear the Shelters, a national pet adoption drive in August, and she thought they could take a peek.
As the speckled puppy settled into her arms like a baby, resting its chin on her shoulder, she was close to convinced.
“I don't know what we'll do," Neff said. "Our brain says this is not logical, it is not the right time, but I just can’t put this little guy down.”
The Tulsa Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, 2910 E Mohawk Blvd., waived adoption fees on Saturday in conjunction with Clear the Shelters but accepted donations to offset the average $1,000 it pours into each animal in basic care, shelter and veterinary costs.
Nearly two dozen animal shelters in northeastern Oklahoma took part in the nationwide event, which has directed more than 250,000 animals to their “furever” homes since it began in 2015, according to a Tulsa SPCA news release.
The event ran from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and by 2 p.m., Jen Bladen, Tulsa SPCA’s director of communications, said more than half of the 40 dogs ready for adoption had been taken home.
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Bladen said a morning rush of adoptees preceded another one after lunch, but one family beat them all by arriving outside the shelter’s gates as early as 5 a.m. for a specific puppy.
Puppies and smaller dogs tend to go faster than older or larger dogs, Bladen said, but they’re all chosen in due time.
Meagan Robertson said she wanted her family’s home to be more kid-friendly after Diesel, their dog of 8 years, died.
Jessica Robertson, 15, said dogs are "always happy," and Kelsey Robertson, 12, said they bring "happiness and love" to a home.
“We had (Diesel) since he was a puppy,” Megan Robertson said. “He just passed from old age, and it was time to fill the house with another puppy.”
“Or two,” Jennifer Robertson added, looking to the black and golden puppies, Archie and Buddy, they adopted.
Bladen served on Tulsa SPCA’s board of directors for four years before she became an employee, and she said she underestimated “the sheer joy of watching a dog go home.”
As for any that might be left after the adoption rush is over, Bladen said they can make her feel distraught.
“It’s such a human thing to feel like that dog was isolated,” Bladen said.
In reality, she said, that dog probably has no idea, and he or she will be adopted soon enough.
Most animals at Tulsa SPCA are surrendered by owners or are strays that have spent more than the required 72 hours in holding at Tulsa Animal Welfare, but some are plucked from other shelters that are ready to euthanize to create space for more animals, Bladen said.
Those wishing to adopt must be approved, a process which Bladen said can be done online at tulsaspca.org before arriving at the shelter.
Bladen said she was hopeful all the dogs would be adopted before the day was through, and posted continual updates to the shelter’s Instagram page, @tulsaspca.
Among the social media tiles of smiling faces and dogs of all shapes and sizes sat Carol and John Neff, grinning with a reddish, speckled puppy named Toto.
Lorene Bible on the newly resumed search for her daughter Lauria Bible