Maranatha FarmBob and Linda Heise of Sun City Hilton Head are excited to bring home a new member of their family in a few weeks. They’ve got a bed for her, and some toys, and plenty of treats. Plus a brand-new leash and collar.

Cody, a 7-year-old Shih Tzu-schnauzer mix, will be coming home with the couple in a few weeks, after she finishes treatment for heartworms. Her adoption fees are waived as part of Maranatha Farm’s Seniors for Seniors program, which places older dogs with older people.

While riding through the beautiful Lowcountry, occasionally you will see a cat running by. Most of the time, the cat is domestic and close to home, and it is just taking its daily route thorough well-known territory. There are, however, significant numbers of homeless cats that most of us ignore. They may be feral, sick or injured, and may live together in several cat colonies around Hilton Head and Bluffton. One of the problems with ignoring the stray and feral cats that roam the streets is over-population.

Sometimes, home is where you are instead of some place you are trying to get to. A shelter dog can teach us a lot about that.  A shelter dog named Heather taught us that.

Working at an animal shelter is filled with many joys. There is no greater joy than finding a new home for a pet.  There is no greater satisfaction. You come to work every day with that goal: find homes for these pets.

Hundreds of readers sent in photos of their cute pets for our annual “Cutest Pets” issue. This year’s contest was decided by the number of “likes” each photo got on our Facebook page.

In a heated battle, Jackson came out on top. The 14-week-old German shepherd is the proud puppy of Kristen Cyrilla and Jason Nearen.

Judging by the number of leashed dogs seen frolicking on Hilton Head’s beaches and bike trails, it’s safe to assume a lot of people in this area love animals. That assumption is confirmed by the number of generous donations given each year to local nonprofit groups that care for and protect our four-legged friends and neighbors. Here are three groups with all paws on deck working hard to make life better for the Lowcountry’s cats and dogs.

Hilton Head Humane

The Hilton Head Humane Association, together with Beaufort County, recently approved plans for a new 21,136-square-foot facility in Okatie, near the intersection of U.S. 278 and S.C. 170 at Pritcher Point Road. The building’s interior area of 16,830 square feet includes Hilton Head Humane’s spay/neuter clinic, an adoption center and Beaufort County Animal Shelter & Control. Over 4,300 square feet of exterior kennel space is included, as well as separate “get acquainted” and exercise yards for the dogs.

Pretty FaceMeet Pretty Girl. It’s easy to see how she got her name, and her story is one of triumph. She was found on the side of a highway, alert, but in clear need of help. She appeared to be deaf and couldn't do much with her back end. Her rescuer contacted Palmetto Animal League for assistance, and it was immediately apparent to the veterinarians at the league’s Community Clinic that Pretty Girl had endured severe trauma to her back and hind quarters.

hos petsSince 2008, Hospice Care of the Lowcountry has used its Hos-Pet program to bring joy to their patients and help them stay as active as possible. The all-volunteer program uses 85 specially trained “Good Citizen Dogs,” who go into patient homes or nursing facilities to provide love and companionship to the Lowcountry's hospice patients.

Hilton Head Humane Association will soon begin using a modified recumbent bike to exercise some of the shelter's high-energy residents.

“We have dogs here that are in need of regular bouts of physical activity to help them maintain their 'good dog' status,” said Hilton Head Humane Association executive director Franny Gerthoffer. “We noticed that when we had a few volunteers that ran with the dogs on a regular basis they were exceptional in their behavior. After the runners moved away from Hilton Head, we witnessed a significant decline in the dogs' 'good' behavior.”

cat plane

When the employees at Tara's of Hilton Head began feeding a stray cat a couple of years ago, they couldn't have known that he'd become a fixture at Fountain Center, or that they'd play a role in sending the beloved feline on the adventure of a lifetime. Maybe they should have suspected, considering that the stray seemed to have no trouble charming his way into the hearts of the humans around him.