Finding Good Homes for Furry Friends

A photo of Bella made such an impression on the Virginia Beach SPCA online gallery of adoptable and foster-care dogs that Tricia Miller just had to go see for herself.

That led Miller to sign up to provide foster care for Bella, a three and a half-year-old high-energy Lab mix recovering from a rear leg amputation and heartworm.

“I already had two dogs, but after just three hours of watching Bella interact with my Peanut and Penny, I knew I just had to adopt her. They were having so much fun,” Miller said about taking Bella into her home in December 2020.

“She doesn’t really have any special needs that make us do anything different,” said Miller who lives in Chesapeake with her husband, Jack. “She jumps on our bed and sofa. She goes up and down our deck stairs without any trouble. The only thing is that if she’s zooming on parts of the floor that are not carpeted, her back end can flop under her. We have to remind her to slow down.”

After winning Miller’s heart, Bella joined the ranks of some 2,600 animals adopted in 2020 from the VBSPCA, which has received grants from the Hampton Roads Community Foundation’s Alfred L. Nicholson Fund since 2011. Founded in 1966, the nonprofit VBSPCA raises public awareness about ending animal homelessness as well as provides shelter and care for abused pets.

The Nicholson Fund, which promotes humane treatment and care of animals, honors the bequest of Alfred Nicholson – nicknamed Captain Nick – who died in 1997 at age 93 after serving on the boards of several animal shelters and had owned the Canine Country Club in Virginia Beach.

The 2020 grant of $115,000 included money to improve sound insulation in the dog kennel and cattery areas.

“When animals show up in a shelter, it’s obviously a big change for them. Reducing the noise will be a big step in reducing their stress,” explained Mandi Kowaleski, VBSPCA’s communications and marketing manager. “A calmer environment is also better for showing off our animals for adoption.”

The 2020 grant included an extra $15,000 to help offset fundraising challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The agency had to cancel its spring gala and Halloween-style masquerade, Kowaleski said.

“We’re very grateful for the support of the Hampton Roads Community Foundation. It’s had a significant impact on our organization,” she said.

Over the years, other upgrades to VBSPCA facilities through the Nicholson Fund have included:

• Increasing the number of dog yards from 10 to 26, which added more than 8,500 square feet of outdoor space where dogs can safely enjoy fresh air with sunshine and shade.

• Providing cats with more space, better ventilation and multilevel housing.

• Enhancing canine and feline postoperative areas and adding more medical equipment.

Adopting Bella was Miller’s first involvement with VBSPCA but not with rescue dogs. She adopted Penny, also a Lab mix, from the Elizabeth City, N.C., SPCA. “I have a soft spot for animals because they don’t have a voice,” she said.

Miller also has Peanut, a Boston terrier, and she often hosts Fendi, a French bulldog belonging to her grown daughter, Jordan.

“It’s organized chaos at times, but it’s entertaining,” Miller said. “Whenever I look at each dog, I think, ‘I love you so much! What would I have done without you in my life?’”

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