County Faces: Betsy Hallett of Mars Hill
MARS HILL, Maine — Betsy Hallett, manager of the Central Aroostook Humane Society in Presque Isle, is no stranger to a life that revolves around animals. She has always been a pet owner and at one time owned eight cats as well as several dogs.
Now Hallett, of Mars Hill, has only three cats and one dog at home. But she keeps herself busy at work with many other animals, whom she hopes will find owners that care about them as much as she does.
Hallett spent much of her early childhood on a dairy farm near Dexter. She thinks that her love for animals comes from many of those experiences on the farm as well as her father’s passion for helping animals.
“I grew up wandering in the pasture with the cows and having tons of cats around because that’s the way it was back then. Barns were always filled with cats,” Hallett says.
Hallett began working at CAHS in 2001 as a part-time kennel technician and has been the manager for nearly 10 years. She is responsible for everything from answering phone calls and ordering medication to handling adoption of the shelter’s dogs and cats. Though she works with another full-time employee and two part-time employees, CAHS is always looking for volunteers.
Any volunteers, Hallett says, would have plenty to assist with before the shelter opens at 10 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Her other full-time employee arrives at 6:30 a.m. to start cleaning kennels and litter boxes and finish other small chores. Hallett and her part-time employees arrive at 8.
She encourages people who are interested in volunteering at the shelter or at the shelter’s annual fundraisers to call (207) 764-3441 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. The shelter also has a Facebook page.
“Volunteerism for us is absolutely everything. Somebody coming in and cleaning one cat room in the morning can change how our complete day goes,” Hallett says.
Community members who want to help the shelter can also do something as simple as stopping by and playing with the animals. Hallett says that volunteers are always welcome to bring family members and friends.
“I get some cats in that are a little bit scared of children, so we’ve got a few volunteers that are pretty faithful. One in particular brings in her twin granddaughters,” Hallett says. “It just gets the cats more used to it, more likely to go into a home and stay there.”
One of Hallett’s jobs as manager involves educating people about the mission of CAHS and how they can get involved. Hallett often visits area schools and appears on WAGM-TV’s “Pet of the Week” segment every other Friday morning with a shelter animal that is up for adoption.
“I would have to say 75 percent of the time whatever animal I put on the news that morning will end up being adopted by the end of the day Saturday, if not by the end of the day Friday,” Hallett says.
Hallett is thankful for all the support that the shelter has received from the community over the years. Just this past Christmas Eve, so many people donated items such as pet food and cleaning supplies that the shelter’s lobby was full. She believes that the work ethic and dedication that she shares with her employees and the CAHS board members are great reasons for the shelter’s success.
“No matter how you look at it, it’s everybody. It’s the community, it’s the board, it’s the employees,” Hallett says. “There is absolutely no way that we could do everything that we do if it wasn’t for the group effort.”
The biggest motivation for Hallett is helping the dogs and cats at CAHS find good homes.
Not every story is a happy one. Hallett has taken in many stray animals who arrive at the shelter so frozen from the northern Maine winters that they cannot survive. But seeing animals leave the shelter with a loving new owner reminds Hallett of why she is so passionate about her work.
“Right on Christmas Eve, I placed a Pomeranian with a young lady whose mother was completely alone. She posted a video of her mother petting the dog and crying and just being so happy,” Hallett says. “It’s things like that that really make the job so rewarding.”