As Mary Helen Boatman, of South Williamsport, walks the kennels of the Lycoming County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, 2805 Reach Road, she carries a bag full of goodies to give to the animals there.
She stopped and looked up at the profile sheet at the top of a tiny Jack Russell terrier’s kennel.
“Ahhh, hi, there sweetie,” she said to the dog.
“Snowy here,” she said as she fed a small dog biscuit through the bars of the kennel.
Boatman, 85, has been coming to the shelter once a week since 1991 to hand out treats to the dogs and cats there.
Helping animals at the shelter has become an important part of Boatman’s life.
“I love it. It’s important to me because I love animals and I feel I can bring a little sunshine into their lives,” she said.
One can usually find her there each Friday, continuing to spread her sunshine.
“I would miss two here or there in later years, depending on the weather,” she said.
Boatman also is a pet owner and has been for many years. She said her dogs always have come from the shelter.
“I would bring my dog in. He can’t be alone,” Boatman said. “They would babysit him for me.”
She recently had to put down her pointer, Dexter, due to health issues.
Boatman spends about an hour to an hour and a half on Fridays going one by one to each kennel in the dog area.
She stops at every one, learns their name and talks to them.
“As she walks through the shelter giving the animals treats, I have often overheard her say, ‘I just love you’ to the animals. Not only does she give them treats, but she also gives the cats crumpled balls of paper that they enjoy batting around,” Vickie Stryker, executive director of the SPCA, said. “In addition to her love of the animals, she is always complimentary to the staff, telling us what a wonderful job we do.”
“They start to bark as soon as they see me,” she said. “Of course, they bark when they see anyone come in.”
She moves onto the cat kennels and there she talks to them and hands out treats.
“I have paper balls I make, about 20 of them, and give them to the cats,” she said.
“Sometimes my back hurts when I leave,” she said, due to all the bending down to give the dogs treats and picking up the paper balls the cats may have hit out of their cages.
Each week, Boatman spends about $10 of her own money to buy the cat treats and dog biscuits.
“They have biscuits here and I said ‘no I want to buy my own’ because I get four different kinds,” she said, which is very important to her.
“Her generosity and caring is obvious to all of us at the shelter,” Styrker said.
Boatman tests out all sizes of treats with the dogs, trying to find something they like.
“The pitbulls, they like the big ones,” she said with a smile.
“I just love them,” she said of the animals that she hopes only stay at the shelter a short time. “I wish more people would adopt from the SPCA instead of going to breeders.”
Boatman favors the pointer breed, but all her dogs have come from the shelter.
“They have purebred animals,” she said.
She added that the shelter will help one find a dog breed they are interested in, too.
“So many people say, ‘oh, I want a little dog,’ and I say go to the SPCA and if you don’t find it, go back and go back until you do,” she said.