BANGOR — “Wake up! Wake up!” 2-year-old Devon Lovett called Saturday to a quartet of puppies snoozing away in a kennel at the Bangor Humane Society’s animal shelter.
Despite the Hermon toddler’s efforts to rouse them, the litter of part-Lab, part-husky puppies continued their afternoon nap. Devon moved on to another kennel, this one filled with about half a dozen wide-awake pups of an attractive mix of spaniel, shepherd and Labrador retriever.
“Mama! Pet it!” Devon urged his mom, Darlene Lovett, as he hunkered down for a closer look at the frolicking pups.
“He loves them,” the boy’s mother said. “We house-sat my sister’s [dog] for a week, and he fell in love with it.”
Similar scenes undoubtedly took place here and abroad during Pet Adoptathon ’97, an annual event that brings together homeless pets and potential adopters.
Modeled after a successful pet adoption marathon conducted by the North Shore Animal League in 1995, the event exploded to 700 shelters last year. This year, more than 1,000 shelters in the United States, most Canadian provinces, the Bahamas, South Africa, Venezuela and England signed on.
The Bangor shelter, which participated for the first time, was among 14 in Maine to organize adoption days.
As part of the event, the Bangor shelter extended its hours, staying open until 8 p.m. Saturday, said Debra Melnikas, one of the shelter staffers who organized the event.
Ice cream, popcorn, raffle tickets and helium-filled balloons helped create a fairlike atmosphere. Nine newly trained volunteers took shifts helping with tours, paperwork and other tasks aimed at smoothing the adoption process.
The adoptathon also kicked off Be Kind to Animals Week, according to Lesley Lichko, another shelter staffer.
In the room set aside for kittens, cats and rabbits, Lorelei St. Germain fell under the spell of a gray Maine coon kitten. The Mount Desert Island woman ended up taking it home.
The kitten was not the first she has adopted.
“I had one that lived 19 years,” the woman said of Fonzi, who also came from a shelter.
Fonzi was among a group of kittens she was observing. Then, like a ham actor, “He stepped foward. I think he wanted to be adopted,” St. Germain said. Strangely, once Fonzi got home, he rarely ever called attention to himself in such a manner again.
The kitten that St. Germain brought home was one of 32 to be adopted during Bangor’s adoptathon, a total nearly double that of even the busiest Saturdays, Menikas said at the end of the night.
As St. Germain prepared to take her kitten home, Devon’s mom seemed torn between the mostly black pups romping in the cage before her, and the still-sleeping, buff-colored puppies across the aisle.
“I love these, but they won’t wake up,” she said. Mom and son ultimately were won over by a black male pup with a biblike patch of white on his breast and a white dab on one paw. It was with this pet that they later left. The other pups were still napping.
The easiest pets to find homes for are small-breed dogs and puppies, said Lichko, the shelter’s operations manager. Unfortunately, relatively few are attracted to mature dogs and adult cats.
Many of the pets that end up at the shelter are given up for reasons that might have been resolved, with some planning or effort. A move to a new home, undesirable behavior and unplanned litters are the most common reasons pets are given away.
The local shelter has taken steps to remove the first barrier to pet ownership, Lichko said.
“We’ve compiled a list of places that allow pets,” Lichko said. The list, developed with the help of “animal-friendly” realtors and building managers, lists rental units which accept cats, dogs or both. It’s available at the shelter.
Lichko recommends that pet owners who are frustrated by their pets’ behavior or bad habits attend obedience-training classes. Contrary to popular belief, the classes are not designed to teach pet tricks or how to jump through hoops.
“It teaches you how to think like a dog,” Lichko said. Human participants learn why their dogs act they way they do and how to deter naughty behavior.
“We get a lot of litters of puppies and kittens,” Lichko said. “A lot of people just don’t realize [that] we just don’t have enough homes.
“Some people discard cats like they’re getting rid of an old sweater,” she said with a flash of anger, “with little remorse.”
Having pets neutered brings an end to unplanned litters, said Lichko. The humane society in Bangor helps adopters with the cost.
The latest addition to the Lovett household was faring well Saturday night, Darlene Lovett said. Devon and his two older brothers named the pup Happy.
“They love him. He’s sleeping right now. He’s had a very full day,” she said. Happy spent the day meeting his new family, exploring his new home and getting acquainted with the family cat.
St. Germain’s kitten also settled in nicely. The woman said she would continue to observe the feline’s quirks and personality traits before settling upon a name. On Saturday night, she was wavering between Bobcat and Tracker, the latter due to the kitten’s tendency to try to sneak up on things.
The kitten quickly warmed up to St. Germain and her friends, but was still making a wide berth around St. Germain’s dog. She predicted that the skittishness won’t last long: “Once they touch noses, you watch, they’ll become best buddies.”