Shelter founder calls new Tuscarawas County Humane Society facility 'fantastic'
Rachel Silverstone said she was given a special gift recently.
The 84-year-old Dover resident toured the new Tuscarawas County Humane Society facility on Tall Timber Road, built 36 years after she took on the task of organizing the county’s first shelter.
With her husband, Dr. Irwin Silverstone, at her side, Silverstone marveled at the cheery, clean, new building that can house up to 80 cats and 33 dogs. She and her husband fed treats to the animals available for adoption.
Silverstone recalled that the first shelter was an open kennel, giving animals no protection from the weather. Animals routinely were euthanized.
The current facility is a no-kill shelter. Its goal is to rescue and find homes for abandoned animals.
“I’ve been a passionate animal lover all my life,” said Silverstone, recalling a story from childhood. While growing up in Spain, she helped her cousins with a milk route. “If I saw that someone had left an animal outside,” she said, “I would open the door and sneak it into the house.
“I couldn’t stand the way the animals in the first shelter were being treated,” she said. “No one was feeding them on weekends, and they were not well taken care of. I took ‘a few’ animals into our home. We never bothered to count how many,” she said with a smile. “It was enough just to love them. I decided to start a campaign to help get rid of the abuses.”
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
Tuscarawas County Dog Warden Karen Slough called Silverstone a mentor and friend. “We met years ago at a dog show in Tuscora Park,” Slough said. “Rachel was a judge, and I had an old decrepit dog with me that didn’t win anything. As I was leaving, Rachel came running across the park and said she had a trophy for me. The trophy said, ‘For a most beloved pet.’ We have worked together ever since. None of this would have been here if it hadn’t been for Rachel and her efforts.”
Silverstone was responsible for getting the non-profit status for the new county shelter, according to Slough, and was serving as president of the society when a portion of the estate of Dover resident Wilma Briggs was donated to the cause.
“That was the impetus that moved us in this direction,” Slough said. “It means everything to have Rachel here to see what her efforts have spawned. The building is fantastic.”
Silverstone replied, “The building is fantastic as long as it’s not just a building, but a place to save animals. The most important thing we did was to make people aware of the conditions and needs. I would do it all again in a heartbeat.”
Lindsay Lewis, director of the county humane society, praised Silverstone for her 30 years of work. “Look at us today,” she said. “In the last six months, we have processed 106 dogs, about 200 cats, four horses, guinea pigs and hamsters. In a year, we might see as many as 500 cats and 250 dogs. Many people are coming here to adopt now. The organization operates solely through donations and does not receive revenue or help from municipal, county or state government. What a difference Rachel has made in the lives of our animals.”
Silverstone, a native of Spain, has never lost her Spanish accent. She met husband, Irwin, in Switzerland, where he was using his GI Bill to study medicine. He served as head of the radiology department of Twin City Hospital in Dennison until his retirement.
The couple’s legacy of helping people and animals continue with their children: Andrew is a veterinarian; William, a social worker; and Aileen Silverstone is a Hollywood movie producer who has worked on projects, such as the Emmy Award-winning television production “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea.” Aileen Silverstone said she got her start researching her mother’s animal-welfare cases.
The Silverstones’ recent visit to the county humane society was made possible through Crossroads Hospice and its Gift of a Day program. Steve Rondinella, provider-relations director for Crossroads, said the group tries to provide the “gift of a day” to someone who has something they have always wanted to do, and help them accomplish that wish. He said the idea came from the book “The Ultimate Gift,” by James Stovall.