BY JULIE GRAY
This past summer, if you paid a visit to Bloomington Animal Care and Control, chances are you would find Zeus, a 1-year-old white pit bull mix, sprawled in the office of Emily Herr. Zeus isn’t the first dog to find his way into the office of the shelter’s outreach and behavior coordinator. Herr seeks out shelter dogs who need a little extra attention to make them more adoptable. Then she makes sure they get it.
When Zeus was first surrendered to the shelter, he didn’t seem to like other dogs and most men. Somehow, Herr realized the truth: underneath it all, Zeus had a supernatural power to love. “My heart is filled with misfit animals,” Herr says of her ability to see Zeus’ true personality.
In order to help Zeus become the dog she knew he could be, Herr kept him in her office while she worked. Additionally, she, the shelter staff, and volunteers took him on outings and drives. Herr says all of that attention allowed Zeus to reveal his innate, sweet nature. After a few false starts—and an escape while on a visit in Ohio that took over social media for a few days—he’s found his forever home with a local couple.
Herr, 35, began her current position in 2012, concentrating on community outreach. “Today I focus more on helping dogs with behavior issues before they get into a home,” she says. “Kennel stress is really detrimental. When dogs are barking and growling at the front of their kennels, it makes it hard for the public to want to visit them.”
Herr makes the dogs happier by enriching their lives with puzzles and toys, arranging play groups, and finding volunteers to sit in the kennels and to take the dogs on outings. She also established the Sit, Stay, Adopt program in which she accompanies dogs on visits with potential adopters in their homes or in a park. And once any animal is adopted, Herr is ready to help families with the transition.
In her own home, Herr has two dogs, three cats, and 20 chickens, along with three children. Asked how she resists bringing home more dogs, Herr says, “Well, I have a husband I would like to keep.” Even so, she admits that she doesn’t rule out adding a third dog one day.