By Anne Reed Special to Published Feb 18, 2013 at 12:14 PM

In animal sheltering work, it’s easy to think of each adoption as a "happy ending" to that animal’s story. That’s one way to think about it – but it’s just as true to think of it as a "happy beginning." The love that begins between a person and an animal when they leave our shelter often lasts for many years. It doesn’t just save the animal’s life; it shapes the person’s life, forever.

I’m always reminded of this when we hear from adopters years later, often to let us know that their beloved shelter animal has passed away. Here are two samples we’ve received lately:

  • From our Facebook page: "I just wanted to share with you a puppy success story, many years ago a single mother and four kids adopted a German Shepherd/Collie from you. I just wanted to thank you for rescuing him and bringing Chives into our lives, he passed away two years ago and we couldn't have been happier with the memories we had with him. Thank you so very much!!"
  • In my e-mail: "I fell in love with a mutt named Midnight in March, 1999. His first two years with us were very challenging. I worked with him-retraining, reconditioning, rehabbing, for those two years because I loved him so much, I could not let him go. He was a brilliant dog. We put him to sleep last night. And I felt like sharing an old WHS story with you today."

Even better are the notes we get when a shelter animal has passed on ... and the family has come back to bring another shelter animal into their lives. Like this one from Facebook:

"Back in December, we lost our wonderful 15-1/2 year old Bailey, a Dalmatian/Border Collie mix. After just one week, we decided to visit WHS for some fuzz therapy. We ended up leaving that day with a new family member. Here is Mocha (formerly Moose) with our youngest daughter. He is such a great dog and he has fit perfectly into our family. Mocha has helped our hearts heal and helped us not miss Bailey so much."

Now that is a new beginning. What a privilege to hear that our work has helped animals and people in such a powerful way.

(We love it when people share their own happy beginnings on our Facebook page – just search "Wisconsin Humane Society" on Facebook. And keep your fingers crossed for a happy beginning for Phoebe, the beautiful 12-year-old cat at our Milwaukee Campus. She’s in the picture, and at this link.

Anne Reed Special to

Anne Reed became the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Humane Society in January of 2010. Before joining WHS, Anne spent almost three decades as a corporate litigator at the Milwaukee law firm of Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren SC.

At the Wisconsin Humane Society (WHS), Anne stepped into the leadership of Wisconsin's oldest, largest and most recognized animal welfare organization. For more than 130 years, WHS has been saving the lives of animals in need, and carrying out its mission to build a community where people value animals and treat them with respect and kindness. WHS helped to pioneer the idea that every animal available for adoption in a shelter could be free of time limits, taking as long as needed to be adopted. WHS operates shelters in Milwaukee, Saukville and Racine.

Anne serves on the board of directors of the National Federation of Humane Societies (NFHS), Wisconsin Federated Humane Societies, and Shelter Animals Count, a national database initiative. She also chairs NFHS's 2020 Vision Initiative. Anne also served as president of Meta House's board of directors from 2005 to 2007 and served on the board from 2001 to 2010. As a lawyer, she was named one of the Wisconsin Law Journal's "Women In The Law;" was named to the list of "Wisconsin Superlawyers," and authored a law blog which was twice named one of the 100 best in the country by the American Bar Association's ABA Journal.