WATERVILLE — When officials at Humane Society Waterville Area looked out and saw a long line of cars waiting outside the animal shelter Saturday, they couldn’t believe their eyes.

“We were in tears, we were so happy,” said Joann Brizendine, a member of the Society’s Board of Directors.

It had been stressful at the shelter, which was full of dogs, cats and kittens that needed homes, and staff were worried about what would become of them.

“We were running out of places to put the cats,” shelter Director Lisa Smith recalled Sunday.

But the Clear the Shelters event held Saturday and Sunday at the 100 Webb Road facility changed all that. Animals lovers came from far and wide to adopt pets at reduced prices — and adoption fees were waived for special needs animals.

By 3 p.m. Sunday, 66 animals — 29 cats, 27 kittens and 10 dogs — had been adopted by loving families, according to Smith.

“The balance of seeing all of those wonderful people open their hearts and homes to a new animal — the staff is so relaxed today,” Smith said Sunday. “We’re celebrating the fact that all of those animals got new homes. The euphoria among the staff members today is so palpable.”

The shelter for the first time took part in Clear the Shelters, hosted by NBC Universal Owned Television Stations. Since 2015, 70,000 pets have been adopted as part of the annual event.

At the Waterville shelter Sunday, Glenn and Celeste Healey of China were doing paperwork to adopt Sarah, a 3-year-old husky or shepherd mix that had been rescued from Puerto Rico and fostered for about a week locally. The couple had agonized about whether to get another dog after their two, 17-year-old sibling dogs, Astro and Roxy, died late last year, leaving their owners devastated.

But Donna Laliberte, the couple’s good friend and a member of the Humane Society’s Board of Directors, recommended they come to see the dog, Sarah, on Saturday. The Healeys did so and found that the docile, gray and white dog tugged at their heartstrings. They returned to the shelter Sunday to adopt her.

“It’s always hard, because we just don’t think that there’s going to be another dog that will fill the void of losing cherished pets,” Glenn Healey said.

The more time he and Celeste spent with the dog, the more they felt an affinity for it, they said

“What is amazing is that she looks like Astro, who was our male dog, and acts like Roxy, which was our female,” Glenn Healey said. “It’s a perfect balance of both dogs.”

The couple, both 60, were smiling and hopeful Sunday as Laliberte photographed them with Sara and they left the shelter, heading for their horse farm in China.

Just before they left, Brian and Loretta Livingstone of Solon took their new 3-year-old pit bull terrier dog, Ginger, home. The Livingstones had fostered the dog for the last two weeks to see how it would acclimate to their three cats, Tiggles, Wiggles and Itty Buns, and it went very well, they said.

“She’s got separation anxiety — she can’t be left alone,” Brian Livingstone said of Ginger. “She’s nervous around people but not today — today she’s doing good.”

Loretta Livingstone said she “absolutely adores” Ginger.

“She’s one of a kind and she suffers with anxiety and so do I, so I get what she feels like,” she said.

The couple said they were happy to see so many animal lovers adopt homeless animals.

“It made me smile to see all of the animals find their forever homes and see all the people happy to find their babies,” Loretta said.

Scott and Stephanie Leclerc and their children, Edgar, 9, and Hazel, 8, of Hermon, came in looking for a dog but were attracted by the kittens sleeping in a room off the lobby. After petting the kittens, they went into the dog room where they visited several canines.

“We have two cats we adopted from the Bangor Humane Society,” Stephanie said.

Brizendine, the Humane Society board member, told a story about a special needs kitten named Thumper, which was the only kitten no one adopted on Saturday. The staff members were feeling sad about Thumper, who hops like a rabbit, as it has Manx Syndrome and has no tail, they said. But then on Sunday, a woman and her son from Augusta who had seen Thumper on the shelter’s website came in and asked to see the cat, according to Brizendine.

“I started telling her about Manx Syndrome and she said, ‘I know all about it — I had a cat with Manx Syndrome,’ Brizendine recalled. “She picked Thumper up and the kitten went right to her chin and started snuggling.”

Shelter officials said people came from as far north as Presque Isle and as far south as Casco to adopt pets over the weekend.

Smith, the director, said that after a story appeared Thursday in the Morning Sentinel about the Clear the Shelters event, people left 4-week-old kittens on the shelter’s doorstep. On Thursday night, staff members saw a cat in the shelter’s driveway and Smith and Brizendine went out, called to it, and it came to them from out of the bushes. Another cat that appeared to also have been dropped off at the shelter, however, was not so friendly and disappeared in the bushes so staff set a cat trap for it, Smith said.

She issued a plea to pet owners who may need to give up their animals.

“If they could just be aware and get their animals into the building, that would be great,” she said. “We’re here to do everything we can to re-home the animals. We’re a ‘no-kill’ shelter. We want to take care of all the animals.”

She said the shelter has animal “surrender” hours from noon to 2 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday and people are asked to call for an appointment before bringing their animals in on those days.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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