Kirby animal shelter employees attended the city’s Dec. 17 City Council meeting expecting to hear about the cost of installing a heating system for the shelter’s large dog kennel area.
Employees from Jon Wayne Service Company stood behind the council chamber podium Thursday and described the type and size of heating and cooling system the city would need for the kennel.
Sitting in the audience waiting to hear the cost — and to gauge the council’s reaction — was Kirby animal control officer Ashley St. Denis. But instead of her watching the council, it was the council that was watching her.
“They showed up and were up front doing their presentation. At the end of it, they said, ‘We would like to gift this to you as a donation.’ That was it, that’s all it took. I started crying,” St. Denis said.
Jon Wayne representatives surprised the shelter employees with the announcement on Thursday and were hard at work the next morning, installing the complete $15,000 HVAC system.
David Herrera, an engineering specialist with Jon Wayne, said the firm’s marketing team first reached out to Kirby about sponsoring some shelter dogs “in an effort to get them adopted a little bit quicker,” he said.
While Jon Wayne representatives were on a visit, he said shelter workers inquired about putting AC and heat into the kennel area.
“That’s when I became involved. They asked me to go out and survey the site,” he said.
In reviewing the magnitude of such a job and in speaking with the animal control officers, Herrera said the decision was made to go ahead with the free install.
“We have a lot of animal lovers that work at Jon Wayne, so we thought it would just be a great idea to go ahead and give them the entire system,” he added.
Initially, St. Denis said, the staff considered looking into purchasing some gas heaters to set up outside in order to “pipe some heat” into the kennel, to keep the dogs warm.
When Jon Wayne reps arrived for that initial meeting, St. Denis said, “I thought, ‘Well, it wouldn’t hurt to get a quote, to see about actually getting a system put in for the dogs.’ That way, we wouldn’t have to worry about putting in the gas heaters.”
Little did she know how much her request meant to Herrera and his co-workers.
“It definitely wasn’t our original plan,” Herrera said. “What really touched us was the animal control officers. They are very dedicated to what they do, and they were extremely gracious.
“I remember them saying they thought the dogs deserved better than what they had,” he said. “At night, when it got very cold, they just wanted for them to have a little bit of relief in there. That really touched us, and that’s what really drove us to want to do this for them.”
The shelter’s office, lobby, and medical and cat rooms already had heating and air conditioning — just the large dog kennel area remained without heating and cooling.
“It’s a wide-open bay that’s cold, and concrete,” St. Denis said. “And in the summer, it definitely is stifling out there. We try to put fans out there. We put buckets of ice out in front of the fans, to try to make it cooler for them.”
Herrera said first intentions were to see if a smaller unit would suffice.
“They thought that maybe just a very small system could go in. It would be something really simple, really easy we could put in for them,” he said.
“But once I got there, I realized this was going to be a very big job. It’s a very large building with no insulation in the walls or ceiling. It was going to call for a very large system.”
Workers arrived the next morning to begin installing an HVAC system that St Denis said she was all but certain would be out of the shelter’s price range. Jon Wayne employees worked late into the Friday night to get the job done.
Now, St. Denis will be able to put away those buckets and keep the ice in the freezer where it belongs this summer, as her “hot dogs” will now be “cool canines” thanks to Jon Wayne.