Morriss runs haven for dogs, cats
2:23:01 PM CDT - Friday, March 11, 2005
By Chase Willhite
With a pet chicken named Kentucky Fried and hundreds of dogs and cats on her property, Mary Morriss obviously loves animals.
Even when the fur starts to fly, this lifetime animal devotee and former nun is always eager to help a four-legged friend find a place to stay.
As the owner of Hallmark Kennel and Lifeline Animal Rescue Shelter that primarily serves cats and dogs, Morriss constantly works to convince someone that one of her animals would make the perfect pet.
"I've always had a love of animals, and this allows me to be with them all the time," said Morriss, telecourse coordinator for WSU's Media Resources Center. "I really feel sorry for a lot of these animals, and I want to see them end up at a good home."
Mary Morriss, telecourse coordinator with the Media Resources Center, calls her kennel and animal rescue operation a 24-hour job. Morriss is currently providing shelter for about 120 cats and 100 dogs.
Photo by Inside WSU
Although she didn't set out to own a kennel, a growing collection of personal pets led her to buy the kennel operation eight years ago. Four years later, Morriss gained a license to allow Hallmark to also be a rescue shelter.
"We are strictly a 'no-kill' shelter because we're really all about saving the animals," Morriss said. "Some shelters are only for 'adoptable' pets, but we try to take in anyone we can."
That policy has led to major growth over the past few years. The shelter is regularly near or at its capacity. Currently, Morriss said, the shelter has about 120 cats and 100 dogs.
With those kinds of numbers, it's no wonder Morriss finds herself in an ongoing battle to keep the animals safe from the elements.
"The kennel itself is actually about 80 years old, so it is far from modern," Morriss said. "We are constantly battling all of the elements. The dirt runs when it rains, it gets so hot during the summer and so cold during the winter. It doesn't ever end."
January's ice storm provided a real challenge for Morriss. It took Morriss and several women friends using handsaws three hours to cut their way through icy limbs that had fallen and blocked the door to one of the cat shelters. With limbs crashing into doghouses and knocking down fences, she spent four hours moving the canines into indoor boarding areas, her office and even her house.
Despite her weekday job at WSU and weekend duties writing obituaries for The Wichita Eagle, it is the kennel that Morriss describes as a "24-hour job."
To keep up with the growing number of animals, Morriss relies heavily on volunteers willing to give up a few hours to walk a dog or feed the cats.
According to Morriss, the kennel currently has about 10 regular volunteers and about 30 others who can help out at different times.
She said a number of people from WSU have volunteered at the kennel. Registrar Bill Wynne once spent nearly an entire holiday closedown period helping at the kennel, Morriss said.
"Anyone with a love of animals is welcome to come and volunteer, because we can always use the help," Morriss said. "A lot of times it may be a lawyer or a business person (who) just wants to get out, spend the day and maybe get a little dirty while doing it."
Even with the ongoing need for volunteers and facility upgrades, the ultimate goal in Morriss' eyes is finding a new home for every one of the animals.
Whether it is a volunteer who has grown particularly fond of one of the felines or a family looking for a new dog to play with the kids, as long as it's someone who'll take care of the pet, Morriss couldn't be happier.
"We're very serious about finding the right match for our animals, and we've been getting about 20 cats and 10 dogs adopted per month," Morriss said. "We've got an Internet site now where people can go to try and find the perfect one. But we still always check people out before allowing them to adopt an animal, and we always do follow-ups later to make sure they're still happy with their choice."
It can be a long, tiring process from the time an animal is first rescued until it finds a new home. Nevertheless, for this animal enthusiast, it's simply a labor of love.
"These animals and this shelter are really a passion of mine," Morriss said. "I wouldn't do it if I didn't love it, and seeing someone with a new pet to love is a special feeling."