It was Monday, April 14, 2020, a day that began just like any other day at the Humane Society of the Nature Coast. But it was the day everything changed. At 9am, a call came to the front desk from Sara Marek at the Cat Cottage.
“I think we’ve been robbed,” she said.
Director of Development Susana Arneson went back to the storage sheds to assess the damages. She saw the busted latch. Then she opened the doors. Nothing could have prepared her for the reality on the other side.
Except for the ransacked heaps of stuff the thieves didn’t want — or didn’t have time to grab or room in their vehicle to steal — everything else was gone. Stacks of dog and cat food, cases of bleach, laundry detergent and hand sanitizer. Gone. Our towels, blankets, dog and cat beds, the crates of leashes and collars. Even the box of dog hats and clothing. Gone.
They took our lawn equipment, our event tents, our gas grill, a pressure washer and two generators. They took our wheel barrel. Of course they did. The Scum Bags needed something make stealing everything else easier. These heartless degenerates even took the hose we used to fill water bowls when the dogs were out in their play areas, took it right off the spigot. It was like the Grinch, snapping up that last can of Who Hash. Who steals from a non-profit that cares for innocent animals… on Easter Sunday, no less!
When a Sheriff’s Deputy arrived, he investigated the scene. He discovered that the thieves gained entry by cutting through the chain-link fence behind the property. Shoe and drag prints showed they how they first pulled things from the sheds and dumped it into the trees. Then they loaded the items into vehicles, which were parked on Wiscon Road during the night. This robbery was planned. This robbery was coordinated. This robbery took hours to complete.
When the deputy concluded his investigation, Susana returned to the main building. She went into her office and shut the door. She broke down. She never closes her door. She never breaks down. Like I said. It was the day everything changed.
We all cried that day. We felt helpless, useless… angry. Who could do such a thing? Thank God we had just placed our last dog into foster care as part of our COVID 19 protocol. Who steals food from innocent animals during the middle of a deadly pandemic? It terrified us to think of what these people might have done to our sweet fur babies. Our cats, locked inside the Cat Cottage, were unharmed.
At 1PM, the post hit our Facebook Page.
Someone broke into our shelter last night and wiped our barns out almost completely.”
Moments later, the phones began to ring. People wanted to help. So many people. At times, I had phones at each ear. The callers were crying. I was crying. It was such an outpouring of Love and Amazing Grace.
Then they came by car. First one. Then another, and another. Within an hour, cars were lined up at our gate on Mobley Road as far as we could see. Dozens upon dozens of surgical-masked strangers were patiently waiting in the car line, entering past the gate and popping their trunks. They brought donations from as far away as Orlando. They handed us cash. They handed us checks. They gave us love and strength.
Within 24 hours, the people of our community – many of whom had been laid off due to the COVID 19 pandemic — rallied to our side. Along with individuals from the community, Walmart (Broad Street and Wiscon Rd.) donated a cart full of supplies and Lowe’s replaced all of our lawn equipment.
Within that same 24 hour period, Sheriff Al Nienhuis announced that an anonymous tip lead to the arrest of two suspects. They had confessed. They sold the items we had to care for over 150 abandoned, abused and surrendered dogs and cats to get money for drugs and to pay off their traffic violation fines.
By Friday, we had received such an abundance of food for cats, dogs, kittens and puppies we reopened our Little Pet Pantry, where those in our community who are struggling financially can come and get free bags of food and treats for their own little fur babies.
It was Monday, April 14, 2020, a day that began just like any other day. But it was the day everything changed. Who would have thought that a robbery, during the middle of a deadly pandemic, could be such a blessing? During a time of economic strife, people gave. During a time of social distancing, thousands came together. During a time when we lost everything, the beautiful people in our community replaced everything, including our faith in Mankind.
And I think to myself… What a wonderful world.