September 9, 2011

Donors give $35,000 to build dog run at shelter

By Amy Calder acalder@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

WATERVILLE -- Dogs penned up at the Humane Society Waterville Area will get plenty of space to romp and play, thanks to a $35,000 donation from a Louisville, Ky., couple.

click image to enlarge

Darien Acero, 17, a senior at Waterville Senior High School, plays with Zeus, a shelter dog, on Friday in the field behind the Humane Society Waterville Area on Webb Road. When two Kentucky residents learned that Acero was raising money to build a fenced-in running area in the field for dogs at the Humane Society, they decided to fund the whole project.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

Mimi and Marshall Heuser, who spend summers in Wells, donated the money after reading a newspaper story about a Waterville Senior High School senior's efforts to raise funds for outdoor dog runs at the Webb Road animal shelter.

"I just happened to see this story," Marshall Heuser, 68, said Thursday from his home in Wells. "It touched me right off."

Shelter volunteer Darien Acero, 17, launched an effort last year at Waterville high to raise money for the dogs. He had raised about $1,000.

He wanted the shelter to have areas for dogs so that they could exercise and release their pent-up energy. When prospective owners walk by the kennels, they typically see dogs pacing, jumping or barking and think they are not well-behaved when actually they need exercise, according to Acero.

Acero has seen dogs euthanized at the shelter because they were too aggressive and deemed not adaptable, and he hoped the dog runs would help prevent that.

A Morning Sentinel story about his efforts appeared Aug. 27 in another MaineToday Media newspaper, the Portland Press Herald, and Marshall Heuser happened to see it. Right away, he knew he wanted to donate to the cause.

"Our philosophy is, no dog in the world needs to be euthanized, so I let Mimi read this," he said Thursday. "I knew what her answer would be, but I just wanted her to hear it. She said, 'Book it.'"

Marshall Heuser said he spoke with Acero on the phone and told him what he planned to do.

"I was astonished," Acero said Thursday.

Acero recalled talking to his mother and his grandmother about his fundraising effort, and his grandmother said that maybe someone would come forward and donate a large amount of money to help. That dream apparently came true.

"When I got the call, I was speechless," Acero said. "It was amazing."

Laura Guite, treasurer of the Humane Society's Board of Directors, was similarly struck by the Heusers' generosity.

"They're truly dog lovers. They do not believe in euthanizing dogs," Guite said. "They read this story and wanted to help. It's beautiful. It gives me goose bumps when I talk about it."

Scott Towers, a member of the Humane Society's Board of Directors and chairman of the fundraising committee, said the entire project will cost about $50,000 and fundraising efforts continue.

He said 27 runs will be built measuring 6 feet wide and 50 feet long -- longer if money permit. Two more 50-foot-by-60-foot areas will be built for dogs to meet each other in a neutral place. Picnic tables and benches also will be installed and a couple of trees planted, Towers said.

Paula Mitchell, the Humane Society's executive director, was thrilled with the Heusers' donation.

"It's amazing," she said. "This was a project that Darien came up with, and bless his heart, he's been trying to raise money for it. It means that we can complete the whole project and not just do it piecemeal."

Marshall Heuser, who speaks with a strong Southern accent, said he and his wife, Mimi, 66, love dogs and have three West Highland terriers. He said they hope to visit the shelter and see the dog runs when they are completed.

"When things calm down, we're going to take a field trip," he said.

The couple is able to make the donation because his family owned the Henry Vogt Machine Co., the largest manufacturer of Ford steel valves and fittings in the country, he said. The company also made industrial boilers, ice machines and heat exchangers, he said.

The couple, who have three children, said their philanthropy support the arts and humanities and all sorts of causes they are passionate about, including the Louisville Zoo and Vermont Institute for Natural Science.

"You can't take it with you," Marshall Heuser said.

Amy Calder -- 861-9247



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