Last weekend, big news broke on the island: Henry, the small dog missing for nearly three months, was captured and returned to safety.
The news made a big splash on social media, where hundreds of people commented on the announcement that he had been found. Several said they cried at the news while others suggested someone write a song about him and that Feb. 16 be declared an official holiday on Vashon. The fact that Henry’s capture came after the stress of the recent snowstorms only added to the relief.
We share in the collective joy about Henry’s recovery and think this big news provides a good opportunity to recognize and support Vashon Island Pet Protectors (VIPP) for its work 365 days a year — work that frequently does not come close to making headlines.
VIPP has been part of the fabric of island life since 1984. It’s mission is “no homeless pets on Vashon,” but as animal lovers can attest, when people or organizations intervene to help a pet, they typically are also helping a human.
That help comes in a variety of ways, including services that saved Henry: VIPP’s lost and found program. While Henry stole the spotlight, he was far from alone; VIPP fields about 200 calls for lost cats and dogs each year, according to VIPP President Geoff Fletcher.
In addition to working to reunite animals and owners, VIPP assists with making spaying and neutering affordable though Fix-a-Cat month and a voucher program for use on Vashon and in Tacoma. Last year, through VIPPs programs, islanders had 69 cats and 29 dogs spayed or neutered.
Also central to VIPP’s work is its cat shelter, where about 30 cats live at any time — some for a short time, some for years. VIPP does not have a dog shelter, but relies on boarding and fostering arrangements. Last year, VIPP adopted out 26 dogs and 148 cats.
Additionally, VIPP provides funds for vet care in emergencies, and with stalwart volunteer Kay Farris and Pandora’s Box, provides pet food to island food bank clients through the No Hungry Pets on Vashon program.
VIPP operates on a $240,000 annual budget and has between 60-70 volunteers working every week, Fletcher said. Like most nonprofits, VIPP could use financial donations and more volunteers, including fosters for both dogs and cats — from kittens to geriatric cats who would be happier outside of a shelter setting.
Henry is now off the streets, and many people captivated by his plight asked what they might do in his honor. VIPP is asking for donations to its No Hungry Pets on Vashon Program. VIPP’s website provides additional ways to support the organization, including donating island grocery receipts as part of the stores’ receipt programs, volunteering in a wide range of capacities, attending a VIPP event or adopting a cat or dog.
Science has shown that both pet ownership and volunteering are good for mental and physical health. It is a safe bet that volunteering or donating would be time and money well spent.