Forty-five dogs are watching impatiently for families who will visit the county animal shelter this week and decide to take them home for the holidays and keep them forever.

Three of them have been waiting for more than a year for a new home.

To increase the likelihood of such wishes coming true, an anonymous donor is paying half the normal $120 adoption fee so families are able to bring home a pet dog for half price, or $60.

The special offer on dog adoptions at the Bartholomew County Humane Society is good through the end of December. Cats are not included in this year-end adoption special, as a special event for them is held in the spring.

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“You can make a difference in a dog’s life that cannot be measured. And, in turn, a dog can make a wonderful difference in your life,” said Jane Irwin, the longtime shelter director.

Irwin and her staff of six employees have gone to great efforts to make the shelter a happy place for the holiday season.

Every room inside the 8,000-square-foot building has a decorated Christmas tree and a nativity scene. Sparkling lights line the hallways and an individual red Christmas stocking hangs on each animal’s cage.

“The dogs have it good here, they do,” Irwin said. “For some, it is the best they have ever had it in their lives.”

Thanks to the shelter staff and volunteers, and the new facility, the animals have a warm place to sleep, healthy food and they are free from abuse.

“But that is not enough. Dogs need people,” Irwin said. “They need to feel useful to people.”

The shelter routinely houses around 35 stray or abandoned dogs, and twice as many cats.

Although the regular price for families adopting a dog is normally $120, the humane society’s actual cost to prepare one for adoption is $280, she said.

That includes the expense of spaying or neutering a dog, distemper shots, parvovirus vaccines, Bordetella shot, rabies vaccine, heartworm test, embedded microchip, identification-tag leash and flu vaccines.

“The Humane Society routinely pays half the cost of an adoption so more families can afford to adopt,” Irwin said. “Our donor is making it even more affordable for Christmastime.”

A pick-up in the number of adoptions would also help the shelter.

“We barely have room for any more, so we are all hoping this sale will encourage more people to adopt,” volunteer Carrie Riley said.

Riley is especially hopeful that the three dogs who have been at the shelter for more than a year will be adopted during the special offer.

“Sadly, many people think a dog that has been here that long … is not a good animal. That is just not the case with any of these three,” Irwin said.

Sizing up opportunities

Small dogs are more likely to find permanent homes faster than medium- or large-sized dogs, Irwin said. That has been a factor working against the three dogs with shelter seniority.

Lettie, a large brown Labrador Retriever mix, has been at the shelter for more than a year-and-a-half. “I would love to take Lettie home, but I just don’t have room for another dog,” Riley said. “She was very high strung and withdrawn when we first got her, but our volunteers worked with her and she is just a great dog now.”

A Boxer mix, 8-year-old Buddy #1, has been at the shelter for a year. “He is a strong dog that needs a strong handler, but he is a great dog that loves to give love back,” volunteer Jeff Riley said, as Buddy greeted every person in the room.

Liv, a 3-year-old pit bull mix, has also been at the shelter for a year. “Liv is famous for her toys. She just loves to play with toys,” Carrie Riley said.

“Each of these dogs had issues when they came in here, but with love and a little work, each of them grew into a wonderful pet and I hope they each find a home in time for Christmas,” Irwin said.

Key info about humane society shelter

Bartholomew County Humane Society

Location: 4415 E. County 200S, south of State Road 46 East, Columbus

Hours: Noon to 6 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday; 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday; closed Tuesdays and Sundays

Adoption fees: Dogs, normally $120, but special pricing of $60 through Dec. 31; cats, $110; application fee, $20.

Mission: The humane society is a privately funded non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and protection of dogs and cats and some other domestic animals.

For more information: 812-372-6063 or visit bartholomewhumane.org