Josh Forester is the new executive director of Humane Society Waterville Area. He is shown with adoptable cats at the facility located at 100 Webb Road in Waterville on Monday. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

WATERVILLE — Josh Forester owned the largest dog training business in North Carolina for six years before selling it and traveling around the country in an RV.

The place he loved the most was Maine, and he moved to Cornville.  He recently was hired as the new executive director of the Humane Society Waterville Area and started the job earlier this month.

Forester, 48, who also boarded dogs at his former business, said that when he took the Waterville job he was impressed with the nonprofit’s board of directors and staff. The staff of 12 is mostly younger people who work in sometimes stressful and challenging situations and in a faced-paced environment, but they adapt, he said.

“They don’t look at it like a job; they look at it like a lifestyle, and it’s actually amazing to see,” he said. “There’s no ‘down’ time. This isn’t an environment where you don’t have anything to do. That’ll never happen.”

Forester succeeds Rae-Ann Demos, who was hired as executive director in 2021 and stepped down from the position Dec. 1, 2023. The shelter faced a number of challenges prior to Demos’ arrival, including overcrowding and animal illnesses that led to the shelter closing temporarily. Officials have also warned in the past that the shelter faced closure without more contributions to sustain operations.

The Waterville animal shelter at 100 Webb Road operates on about $1 million a year and contracts with 17 communities, according to Forester. The number of volunteers varies, depending on the day. Some days, one or two volunteers may show up, and sometimes none, according to Forester.


But Monday was a particularly fortunate day, when 15 employees of the Lockwood Hotel in downtown Waterville showed up unannounced and worked for two hours, cleaning animal cages, scooping animal waste, helping to organize rooms and doing other chores, Forester said.

Elise Theriault, right, holds her mini doodles Chloe, right, and Zoey, center, during the “Paw-tio” fundraiser for the Humane Society Waterville Area on June 2. The event was held on the patio at Front & Main, the restaurant at the Lockwood Hotel at 9 Main St. in downtown Waterville. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel file

“It was amazing,” he said. “I didn’t expect that to happen. It was such a huge help to us.”

Earlier this month, the shelter benefited from a “Paw-tio” fundraiser that was held on the patio at Front & Main, the restaurant at the Lockwood Hotel.

At one point, Forester looked up and saw one of the volunteers cuddling a puppy, an enrichment activity that animals need, he said. “It was great — it’s heartwarming to see it,” he said.

On Monday, the shelter had 19 dogs, 70 cats and three rabbits, according to Forester, who said the numbers don’t reflect those animals currently in foster care. This time of year, there is always an influx of cats, but the shelter has not reached capacity yet, he said.

The numbers at the shelter can vary day-to-day, he said. For instance, many animals can suddenly come in from a hoarding situation, boosting the population.


All animals adopted out are neutered, spayed, microchipped and fully vaccinated before they leave the shelter, according to Forester, who said the society must fund all those procedures. Adoption fees are listed on the humane society’s website.

The Humane Society Waterville Area, located at 100 Webb Road in Waterville, has named Josh Forester as its new executive director. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel file

The humane society does not received any federal funding. The towns that contract with the shelter have no shelters of their own and pay annual fees to Waterville’s shelter.

Funding is always challenging, according to Forester, who said the main reason for that is, “there’s always more we can do for the animals.”

The shelter’s largest fundraiser of the year, Woofstock, will be held starting at noon on Saturday, July 20. Live music, food, and animal events will be held on the large field next to the shelter. Forester said volunteers and vendors are welcome to sign up for the festival.

Those wanting to donate to the shelter or volunteer may do so via the website or call the shelter at 873-2430. Checks also may be sent to the shelter at 100 Webb Road, Waterville, Maine, 04901.

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