Fort Leavenworth Stray Facility volunteers Leslie Wiltbank and Marine Maj. Davina Evans chat as they dote on adoptable dog Nyla April 24 outside the facility. Nyla has since been adopted, as has every other pet at the facility, with the exception of two Labrador retrievers still needing homes. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp

Katie Peterson | Staff Writer

Loki, an 8-month-old orange and white tabby, had been at the Fort Leavenworth Stray Facility for about two months when he was adopted by Rylie DeLong and her family March 27.

“Due to my son being a toddler, I knew a kitten would be too fragile and an older cat may not be in the mood to deal with his energy, so we were looking specifically for a young, but not kitten, age of a cat,” DeLong said. “Online, Loki fit the bill, and he was super cute. When it came time for us to meet him, I was pretty much already set on him, but his personality when we hung out with him was exactly what I was looking for. He was curious, wanted attention, and most importantly, wasn’t scared of my son, Eustice.”

Sixteen-month-old Eustace DeLong cuddles with adopted cat Loki last month. The young cat enjoys receiving treats from Eustace and he hangs out with the toddler in the toy room while he plays. The DeLong family adopted Loki from the Fort Leavenworth Stray Facility March 27. The FLSF has had as many adoptions during the stay-at-home order as the organization usually sees in three to four months. Submitted photo by Rylie DeLong

Loki is just one of 17 animals — 11 cats and six dogs — that have been matched with families and adopted from the FLSF since the end of March as opposed to the average five adoptions per month. Additionally, six dogs and one cat have been reunited with their owners, and another dog was adopted via a courtesy listing on the FLSF Petfinder page. The upswing in adoptions is believed to be a result of the stay-at-home order in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“People are feeling a bit lonely at home and feel they need a pet to take care of. Adoptees wanted a pet but didn’t have time to take care of them nor had time to integrate them into the family until this pandemic,” said Bettina Moncus, FLSF volunteer. “I am completely overjoyed with the number of adoptions and hope and pray that this continues for all our future strays and relinquishes.”

DeLong said the pandemic is why she started to look for a cat.

“We got inspired after seeing a news briefing from Kansas City talking about how, due to the quarantine, some shelters were not getting the volunteers they needed, so we started looking locally,” DeLong said. “I was absolutely impressed with the professionalism and thoroughness of the FLSF process, and when it came time to meet Loki, we were given all the time in the world to spend with him to make sure it was a right fit.”

With the increase of pet applications and inquiries, FLSF volunteers agree that it couldn’t have been done without volunteer Marine Corps Maj. Davina Evans, Command and General Staff College student, who has been helping out since September 2019.

“With the direct efforts of Davina during this pandemic, (FLSF) adoption rates have skyrocketed in just a few weeks,” Moncus said.

Fort Leavenworth Stray Facility volunteer Marine Maj. Davina Evans pets adoptable dog Nyla April 24 outside the facility. Since the stay-at-home order began in March, every dog and cat in the facility, including Nyla, has been adopted, with the exception of two Labrador retrievers still needing homes. Several lost pets have been reunited with their owners as well during that time. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp

During the stay-at-home order, Evans stepped into the role of adoption counselor — reviewing submitted adoption applications, meeting with potential adopters and finalizing adoptions when the match was right for both the pet and the adopter, said Prudence Siebert, FLSF volunteer.

“Due in large part to Davina’s dedication and conscientiousness, we went from a fairly full facility to empty in just a few weeks,” Siebert said. “We’ve been able to find homes for all but two of our pets … since this stay-at-home order started.”

Evans said she got the idea to volunteer at the FLSF after seeing a brief asking for volunteers in the Fort Leavenworth Lamp.

“As I am a geo-bachelor attending CGSC, I wanted to dedicate some time toward an organization aboard the post,” Evans said. “I love animals and wanted to do what I could for them while attending school this year.

“I hope the families continue to love and appreciate their pets. They brought us so much joy while they were in the shelter. At the same time, I hope the pets continue to show their new families the love and joy they brought (the FLSF volunteer staff),” she said. “The FLSF is a great organization to be part of. Not only are the pets terrific, but the volunteer staff is amazing as they are devoted to ensuring the pets are cared for.”

Evans said she’s always had pets ever since she was a child.

“I currently have four dogs and two cats back home. I miss them terribly,” Evans said. “Thankfully, the pets at the shelter help fill that void.”

Another animal that Evans helped find a home for was 6month-old Russian blue mix, Oliver. The kitten came to the FLSF April 1 and was adopted by Maj. Caro Gray, CGSOC student, April 22.

“He melted my heart on the website picture because of his eyes, and the fact that he is gray, like my last name, with four white socks,” Gray said. “Oliver brightens my days, even though we are still getting to know each other. We are establishing routines for playtime, feeding and naps.”

Fort Leavenworth Stray Facility volunteer Leslie Wiltbank grooms adoptable dog Nyla April 24 on the facility’s porch. Nyla has since been adopted. Since the stay-at-home order began in March, every dog and cat in the facility has been adopted, with the exception of two Labrador retrievers still needing homes. More than a half dozen lost pets have been reunited with their owners as well during that time. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp

Gray said Oliver has filled a void in more than one way for her.

“My husband and I are a dual military couple and have been geographically separated going on three years. My husband Ed is the ‘single parent,’ and he takes care of everything while I have been away. Unfortunately, one of the things he had to handle by himself was the loss of our pet cat, Sooty, earlier this year,” Gray said. “My two youngest daughters were devastated by the loss, and I was not there to be able to comfort them through the process. When I went home for spring break, both of them begged me for another kitten. They let me know, in a very convincing way, that they are ready to welcome another cat into our family.

Fort Leavenworth Stray Facility volunteers Marine Maj. Davina Evans and Leslie Wiltbank chat as they dote on adoptable dog Nyla April 24 outside the facility. Nyla has since been adopted, as has every other pet at the facility, with the exception of two Labrador retrievers still needing homes. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp

“Upon my return to Fort Leavenworth, and, given the circumstances in which we find ourselves nowadays, I felt somewhat alone and stressed. I had time to consider my daughters’ request and after talking to my husband, we decided to give it a go,” she said. “(Oliver) is my company while my family is away and will be an amazing surprise for my daughters upon my return. … I have no doubt that he will fill the void Sooty left when he passed. He is making our home whole again.”

FLSF staff and volunteers said they are happy to see the animals finding homes.

“Glenn Hewitt, (Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation director), myself and all the great volunteers take great pride in assisting pets find their new homes. The facility would not be successful without all of the great volunteers that put in so much love and passion for the pets from the moment they arrive at the facility until the day they go home,” said Jeff Honey, FLSF chief recreation officer. “Just the passion that this group shows to want to keep the facility open and functioning makes you want to do more for them to make sure they are set up for success.”

“It always warms my heart when I see a family adopt an animal,” said Janet Dick, FLSF volunteer. “I especially love seeing an animal that you know came from a bad situation and flourish in a new home.”

For the latest information and listings of available pets at the FLSF, visit flsf.petfinder.com.

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