What an exciting day it was Wednesday at Sierra’s Haven, as Dr. Gail Counts was surprised with the honor of being chosen as one of the top five unsung heroes for animals and presented with a check for $10,000 from the Petco Foundation. The grant was written and submitted Connie Weaver and Brenda Kallner volunteers at Sierra’s Haven.
Victoria Stilwell and a full camera crew from Petco, were at Sierra’s Haven to film a video of Counts both Wednesday and Thursday of what she does for animals there at Sierra’s Haven and the Shawnee Animal Clinic. This video will then be in a Petco video that will be seen all around the world.
Weaver said the Petco Foundation has agrant called, ‘Unsung Heros’, and the grant is for extraordinary lifesaving efforts on behalf of animals. Petco chose the grant proposal and Counts will be receiving $10,000 and then after all of the top five have been videoed and shown sometime in April, there will be a vote, the public around the world can vote for the one video that they like the most. If Counts’ video is chosen as the best, she will receive another check for $25,000 for the shelter, and Counts will get to attend a gala in San Diego, Ca.
“We wrote the grant, Nicki Taylor did a short video and Terry Craft narrated it,” Weaver said. “Then they sent an email that we had won, but we couldn’t tell anybody.“
Weaver said of receiving the grant and award, “We were so surprised, we knew she deserved it, but we weren’t sure if she’d get it. It is wonderful what she does.”
Stilwell is a Dog trainer and behavior consultant who used to have a show on Animal Planet called, ‘It’s Me or the Dog,” and now works for Petco. “We heard a lot about what you do and the sacrifices you make to help the shelter out and to save animals’ lives. The Petco Foundation want to honor you for the work you do and everybody who works here at Sierra’s Haven” Stillwell said. “When I heard your story and I had learned how hard you work, I was like, yes, she personifies what an Unsung hero is all about. those people who go above and beyond never really ask for anything in return, don’t seek the limelight, don’t need it.”
Terri Boldman and Bev Merideth, board members were the original people who helped cut the trees at the very beginning of Sierra’s Haven and were in attendance to watch Counts receive the award.
Counts said they tricked her about Wednesday’s event and award, but then she went on to answer Stilwell’s request to tell why she does what she does. “I guess since I was nine-years-old, I wanted to do everything I could for animals in my blood in my heart and I decided at that point even that young that I knewwhat I was going to do with my career and my life and I’m just completely devoted to it,” Counts said. “I’d rather be doing this than anything else in the world. There’s so many animals out there that are homeless and don’t have any help or someone throws them out they get lost, there’s gotta be someone somewhere that they can go and get help and I’m proud that we did this and built this and the community supports us. It’s gone way beyond my wildest dreams that it would ever get. I love doing it and I love what I do for a living. There are very few people who love to go to work, but that’s me.
Stilwell asked Dr. Counts what it meant to her when she saved an animal’s life. “You get such a rush, it’s almost like somebody who does extreme skiing or something like that,” Counts said. “I feel that way when I can actually save an animal and see it got to a new home and gets loved. That means everything to me.
“I’m proud of that, it makes all that she has done and sacrifices worth it. One thing I have to say is I could not have done this without all these people behind me,” Counts said. “Especially all the people who work right beside me and make less money than they could somewhere else, but they are devoted and I appreciate them so much.”
When the media was asking her questions, Dr. Counts answered how she was feeling she said, ‘higher than a kite, I’m just flabbergasted.”She also talked about how Petco has been so good them by giving them grants, helping with spaying and neutering, and just helping out. Counts then spoke of the journey to get to where she is. “I thank my brother, that I started this for in his honor, would be completely happy with me and how much the community has helped us out each year, I’m just speechless. I can’t believe out of five people in the nation.”
Cathy Strickland is Counts’ sister and she added about how the Sierra in Sierra’s Haven came from the name of her brother, Bern Counts Jr.’s cat, who they took in after his passing.
All of those employees at both Shawnee Animal Clinic and Sierra’s Haven kept a very good secret as Counts said that she truly had no idea about what was going to happen. The looks on all their faces as Counts walked in the room and was told all about this honor she had received.
Reach Kimberly Jenkins (740) 353-3101 ext. 1928