MACOMB, IL -- When Western Illinois University social work student Grace Sill learned the fate of a puppy who was living on borrowed time at the McDonough County Animal Shelter, the junior from Moline knew she had to act.
During a visit to the shelter, Sill saw the pup, a four-month-old female German Shepherd mix, who was suffering from a condition called Entropion, which is the inward rolling of the bottom eyelid that ultimately causes visual impairment. Without medical intervention, the dog was facing euthanization. Sill immediately jumped into action, raising $400 from friends, families and strangers to save the pup.
“My fiancé, Jason Meinhardt (a junior supply chain management major from Bettendorf) , and I are huge animal lovers. Back home in the Quad Cities, we go to the Milan shelter to play with the animals, so we decided to do the same here. We met this puppy a few weeks ago and we were told she was getting a home, but when we recently returned we learned that she wasn't adopted,' Sill explained. 'We asked to take her home to see if a friend would want her and the shelter director let us, but he told us up front the reason she wasn't adopted was because of her eye condition and the surgery necessary to correct it.'
Sill said she knew right then that she couldn't let this dog -- which was already housebroken and well-behaved, even getting along with Sill's and Meinhart's pet rabbit -- be put down.
'I knew I had to raise this money so she could get a home,' she added. 'No dog this amazing deserved to be put to sleep because people don't have money for the surgery.'
Sill went to work, putting out collection cans and taking the pup with her so people could see her for themselves.
'We started collecting money on April 28 and she had surgery on May 2,' Sill said.
Dr. Chuck Lotz of Animal Medical Center in Macomb performed the necessary operation to save the puppy’s sight -- donating much of his services -- and Sill and Meinhardt, have brought the puppy into Meinhardt's home to give it the attention and care it needs, but they are seeking a good home for the pup with a new lease on life. An added bonus is that Sill had some money left over after the surgery due to the vet's generosity and the public outpouring that she used the extra funds to pay for the pup's first shots, immunizations and heartworm medication.
'The staff at Animal Medical Center could not have been any better,' Sill added. 'And we wouldn't have been able to do any of this without all the students, parents and the community. Anyone interested in adopting this sweet girl should contact the Animal Shelter immediately [309/837-2989]. I encourage anyone looking for a pet to check the shelter first. There are so many wonderful animals that need loving homes.'
Social Work Chairperson David Iacono-Harris said that this kind of caring act was no surprise to him because students, faculty and staff in the department are continually seeking ways to help individuals, families, groups, organizations, communities and society become 'a more caring, peaceful place.'
For example, Associate Professor Rusty Orwig has been a Red Cross mental health volunteer for several years and has been assigned to hurricane- and flood-ravaged areas several times. He has also volunteered as a counselor at a summer camp for young burn survivors. Associate Professor Karen Zellmann serves as a member of the Board of Directors of Big Brothers Big Sisters of McDonough County, while Professor Mike Fimmen has been and continues to be involved in several activities in the Macomb community. Assistant Professor Janice Whitfield serves as a Big Sister and is involved in political and charitable activities in Macomb, and Krista Skien, the department's office manager, is active in the Bushnell community.
In addition, individual social work students and the two social work student groups have contributed countless hours of volunteer work within the University, Macomb and McDonough County and their home communities, Iacono-Harris said.
'These hours are beyond the required volunteer hours needed to become a social work major and the minimum of 450 hours required in their practicum experience,' Iacono-Harris said. 'Since the social work program was accredited in December 1995, our majors have contributed more than 212,000 hours to the social service network in Illinois. That is an enormous amount of caring.'
Sill's volunteer efforts aren't just limited to helping wayward animals. She has served as a volunteer at the Western Illinois Regional Council in Macomb, a safe house in Rock Island and Heartland Healthcare in Moline. She has also helped with numerous service activities, including Project Santa, and as a resident assistant in Washington Hall she has coordinated numerous educational programs for her floormates.
'The profession of social work has a set of six core values, the first of which is service,' Iacono-Harris added. 'I am proud to say that the entire department implements this value, usually quietly and unnoticed, in the volunteer activities of all of its members.'