At the heart of every successful animal rescue organization are its volunteers.
Whether caring for an abandoned pet, making room in the basement for an additional litter box or assisting in fundraising efforts, their collective dedication has a lasting impact on both animals and the communities they serve.
The volunteers of Arrowhead Animal Rescue in Cook County are a prime example of the commitment it takes to care for animals. The non-profit has operated without an official shelter for three years.
In 2021, the former small-animal shelter building, commonly referred to as the “Found Pound,” in the Grand Marais Recreation Park, was removed to make way for improvements to the boat launch. Since then, any abandoned animal or surprise litter of kittens has found its way into the arms and foster homes of willing Arrowhead Animal Rescue volunteers.
After two years of working tirelessly raising funds and meeting with city and county officials to secure a location for a new shelter, rescue volunteers have reason to hope the search is over.
It’s been a long road. In June 2021, shortly after the old pound closed, the Cook County & Grand Marais Economic Development Authority (EDA) approved allocation of a lot in the Cedar Grove Business Park for a new shelter. But the EDA board did not formally convey the lot to the city, the required next step.
Discussion followed, and in October 2022, city and county officials reached agreement with Arrowhead Animal Rescue on the business park location. The city and county each earmarked $25,000 for the new animal shelter and asked that the Arrowhead Animal Rescue focus on continued fundraising.
Dale Peterson, chair of the Arrowhead Animal Rescue board, said fundraising efforts have been successful. The non-profit has raised $125,000 toward the new building. With the $50,000 from the city and county, the total allocated money for the project stands at $175,000.
Unfortunately, local governments have not made similar progress.
Not until Dec. 19, 2023, did the EDA board officially convey the animal-shelter lot to the city of Grand Marais. Peterson said until the property was officially in city ownership and the city took action to move the project forward, the non-profit remained in limbo, unsure of how to formulate budgets and construction plans without an officially approved location.
However, recent conversations have shown significant promise. City officials have met with Arrowhead Animal Rescue to explore building options, including a trailer currently used at Great Expectations School in Grand Marais. Given the cost of constructing a new building, Peterson said, the trailer offers a financially feasible option for the new shelter. The school currently uses the trailers as classrooms and has agreed to sell one to Arrowhead Animal Rescue at the end of the 2024 school year.
“We decided right away that the brown one that’s closest to the Gunflint is the one that we’d like,” Peterson said. The 28-foot by 70-foot trailer includes two ADA-compliant bathrooms. Arrowhead Animal Rescue plans to convert one of the bathrooms into a dog-washing area. “I’m hoping now that the holidays are over, we’re going to be able to sit down and put together a floor plan,” Peterson said.
With many details yet to finish, Peterson said she hopes that Arrowhead Animal Rescue can come to an agreement with the city before spring on who is responsible for clearing the property, hiring a contractor, and moving the trailer, among other tasks. “Nothing can happen until the property is cleared and the kids get out of the classroom,” she said.
Peterson said she hopes that by the fall of 2024, the Arrowhead Animal Rescue will host a grand opening event. In the meantime, the volunteers will continue to host adoption events, fundraise, and check items off the to-do list.
In mid-December 2023, Peterson said the non-profit had 13 cats in foster homes, and towards the beginning of the New Year, six of the kittens were adopted. However, Peterson is making room for a pregnant cat with another batch of kittens on the way. Peterson said that more volunteers aren’t needed at this time, but once they get the building up and running, “There’ll be plenty of things for people to do.”