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Monday, Apr 22, 2024

Homeward Bound cares for Addison County animals, offers connection for student volunteers

Sztachelski volunteered a few times per week at Homeward Bound while working on campus last summer and spent time with Gibby (pictured) before he was adopted in July.
Sztachelski volunteered a few times per week at Homeward Bound while working on campus last summer and spent time with Gibby (pictured) before he was adopted in July.

Homeward Bound is Addison Country’s only animal shelter, serving over 1,200 animals annually. The shelter’s mission is “to be a community-centered shelter that supports the human-animal bond through compassionate care, adoption, education, and advocacy,” according to its website. And volunteers, like the Middlebury students who spend a few hours there each week, are among the community members that make the organization’s mission a reality.

Founded in 1976, Homeward Bound shelters dogs, cats, birds, rabbits and other small animals at its site on Boardman Street in the town of Middlebury, in addition to providing a variety of services for animals and their caretakers. 

“Exposing the animals to people and different experiences is essential to helping them be their best selves as companion animals,” Vicki Coyle, interim executive director of Homeward Bound, wrote in an email to The Campus.

Their program PetFIX offers affordable spay, neuter and vaccination services for the dogs, cats and rabbits of Addison County and Brandon, Vt. residents. The organization also has a program called PetCORE that focuses on serving under-resourced pet owners in the area.

Homeward Bound is just a seven-minute drive from the college’s campus off of Route 7, making it an easily-accessible place for students to volunteer. Homeward Bound has a staff of thirteen, who work together with 125 volunteers to run the organization successfully, according to Coyle.

“We are a lean organization and have just enough staff to cover shifts,” Coyle wrote in an email to The Campus. “When we had some illnesses this weekend, we did have to close to the public on Saturday. It’s a tough line to navigate.”

Nikky Sztachelski ’25 has been volunteering at Homeward Bound for the past year because she believes in the importance of the organization’s mission.

“Animal shelters like Homeward Bound are incredibly important in providing a safe space to support animals in need while finding them a forever home,” Sztachelski wrote in a message to The Campus. 

Sztachelski volunteers with the dogs at Homeward Bound, walking them and playing with them at the shelter’s private dog park.

 “I love getting to meet all of the new dogs that are brought into the shelter throughout the year, and I especially love to see the more timid ones open up after a little bit of time,” she wrote. “Each dog has their own personality and I love getting to see what they are like when I meet them.”

In 2021, Homeward Bound received funding and land for its own dog park. The park project was completed by former executive director Jessica Danyow. 

Last spring, The Campus published an op-ed entitled “Why you should volunteer at Homeward bound.” Bella Burke ’23.5 wrote about how fulfilling volunteering and interacting with the animals at Homeward Bound was for her. 

“By volunteering, you can help improve these animals’ lives before they find their forever homes,” Burke wrote.

Sztachelski shared that shelters like Homeward Bound that are known within the community and have robust volunteer programs help push back against the negative stereotypes some dog breeds have.

“Some of the sweetest dogs that I have encountered at Homeward Bound have been Pitbull and Rottweiler mixes,” she wrote. “I love getting to share pictures and stories with my friends and family to show them that the bad reps they get as a breed couldn’t be further from the truth.”

Homeward Bound also provides support for Addison County residents who lack sufficient resources to care for their pets. The organization provides services such as supplemental pet food and access to affordable spay and neuter surgeries at Homeward Bound through their PetCORE (Community Outreach Resources & Education) program. Established in 2019, this service provides essential pet services for owners who live in Addison County and have an income at or less than 200% of the federal poverty level. 

In December 2023, the Addison Independent reported that PetCORE had over 100 clients with 200 animals altogether.

In 2019 Homeward Bound hired its own veterinarian to perform spay and neuter services. Community members can make spay and neuter appointments at the shelter at a low cost.

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“We offer low cost spay/neuter programs to help end unplanned puppies/kittens, which also drain the resources of a shelter system,” Coyle wrote.

While Coyle is currently serving as interim executive director of Homeward Bound following Danyow’s departure at the end of last year, she plans to move toward hiring a new permanent executive director later this year.

“It’s fabulous and stressful, and I’ve learned a lot since being here,” Coyle wrote.


Susanna Schatz

Susanna Schatz ‘24 (she/her) is the Senior News Editor. 

She previously served as Local Editor, Staff Writer, and Visuals Artist for The Campus. She is an English major and Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies minor.   

Susanna is the social media and marketing intern for a small business started by Midd Alums, Treeline Terrains. In her free time you’ll find her taking in the Vermont outdoors hiking, swimming, skiing, reading in an Adirondack chair, or painting the scenery.


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