The Blaine County Journal News-Opinion - We've Got The County Covered

Alissa Hewitt enjoying her new role at P.A.W.S.


June 24, 2020

Alissa Hewitt stands in front of the new monthly calendar task board inside the shelter. This helps maintain a schedule for the volunteers, vet appointments as well as receiving/pickup times for the dogs and puppies.

In April of 2019 the Blaine County Journal ran an article regarding the future of the P.A.W.S. Animal Shelter in Chinook being forced to close its doors due to a lack of volunteers. The founding members, having jobs of their own, were burning out and didn't have the time they used to have. After reading the story, Chinook resident, Alissa Hewitt was determined to fill the need and contacted Bonnie Weber and Laura Kleinjan immediately.

In August of 2019 Bonnie invited Alissa to a P.A.W.S. Board meeting and the next day she was on board volunteering, "I quickly understood why more volunteers were needed. There were two dogs there at the time, and only one volunteer, a school age girl that had limited time for volunteer work. Although strong in foundation, the shelter itself needed a lot of work," said Alissa.

"In September when we had our first P.A.W.S. Clean Up Day. About a dozen volunteers came out to help. We painted, pulled weeks, did general deep cleaning, my husband (Edwin) got the wash tub running again, and fixed one of the walls that had a three-foot hole in it," she added. The pandemic certainly didn't help, "Corona virus restrictions and the lockdown slowed our donations greatly. We couldn't think of asking for monetary donations while so many were losing jobs. Even still, we received donations of dog food, towels, and dog treats. We also had a few events that we wanted to try, but canceled them to abide by social distancing standards."

Alissa has always had a fondness for animal shelters and lost her own dog last summer, so she was looking for something to fill that loss. "When I first went down to the shelter and seen all the beautiful dogs, I wanted to adopt them all. I realized that really wasn't an option and decided to volunteer my time instead," she stated. "Getting the opportunity to spend time with all the dogs makes it easier to adjust to life without my dog." Typically, the P.A.W.S. shelter in Chinook has about 3-5 dogs, but currently is empty as the facility is being remodeled. Completion of the remodel is currently wrapping up and the shelter will begin accepting dogs this week.

Alissa previously lived in Great Falls before moving to Chinook seven years ago. She married long time Chinook resident Edwin Hewitt and the two started a family in his hometown. The couple have two children, Charlie and Edwin Jr. and both help out at the shelter. "The kids are still pretty young, but they like to come down and hang out with me and the dogs. I think it's really important for them to learn how to do something for someone else who can't repay the favor," said Alissa.

The shelter was empty, and the lockdown restrictions were in place, so she saw the down time as an opportunity to spruce things up a bit and after the encouragement from a visitor picking up a dog she moved forward with the plan. "Vincent Valentine adopted a dog and while visiting, commented on how the building was getting run down. He said he was going to come down and do some painting and sure enough two days later he was back with paint and brushes and started taping things off." The act of kindness jump-started a remodel that improved the facility in so many ways. One of those improvements was replacing the dirt in the outside kennels with the bulk of the work and material being done and donated by Cody Kissner of Rock Bottom.

The adoption process is very manageable and begins with potential adoptees filling out an application to adopt. That application is then forwarded to a group of volunteers to look over for any red flags. Those could include no fence in place at their residence, prior adoption history or a negative review from one of three veterinarian services used by the shelter. Those are Chinook Vet Clinic, Blaine County Vet Service or Eastside Vet Clinic. If everything looks good with the application then the family, children included, are invited for a visit with the dogs and puppies. The way they interact with the animals and vice versa is monitored and a decision on adoption is made.

After receiving approval there is a $100 adoption fee that is paid. If the dog/puppy has already been spayed or neutered, then the family can take the animal home that day. If these procedures still need to be done, then P.A.W.S. will pay to have them done at one of the vet clinics. The family can the pick their adopted pet up from the vet and take them home the same day.

Alissa Hewitt, along with her husband Edwin Hewitt and their children Charlie and Edwin Jr. pose for a picture in front of the outdoor kennels at the P.A.W.S. shelter located on the Blaine County Fairgrounds. Alissa is the new manager of the shelter and has a true passion for the job.

The whole process of volunteering and helping ensure the future of P.A.W.S. is definitely something Alissa takes great pride in, "Our group of volunteers is the most solid, helpful group and I am beyond blessed to work with them. Our group includes Beth Munari, Laura Kellam, Anjanett Hawk, Kailey Kleinjan and Amy Connor along with her son, Micah. We are looking forward to unveiling a new logo and inviting people to come see what we're all about during our open house at the fair this year."

Alissa concluded by saying, "It's a place of true relaxation for me, extremely therapeutic and rewarding. We get to see the best, and sometimes the worst in people here at the shelter. Some dogs come in and are literally so terrified that they hide in a corner and just bark constantly. When you get that dog to a place where he or she is jumping on your lap, eating out of your hand, playing and truly happy, there is no feeling in the world as rewarding as that moment, so when you do say good bye it's hard but knowing that they will never see a shelter again and are with their forever family gives you the strength to do it over and over again."


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