About 37 years ago, a local animal control officer who was running out of options asked the Fitzjurls family if they would take in a pair of dogs that were in need of a temporary place to stay.

"The animal control officer came by one day," Ken Fitzjurls told second graders at the Nickerson School Friday, Jan. 17. "He knew we had a farm, and he asked us if we would take these two dogs because he had no place to take them."

The deal was that if the Fitzjurls took in the canines, the animal control officer would give them a few dollars to go toward the cost of caring for them. They agreed, and soon the Fitzjurls had constructed a couple of enclosed spaces inside their garage, where the animals would be safe and warm.

As time went on, the animals kept coming, and little by little, Fitzjurls kept adding to the space used to house them.

"That was the start of the Townline Animal Shelter," he said.

The Fitzjurls' eventually donated the land where the shelter sits today, and when the building was completed, the family donated the facility to the Waldo County Humane Society. When that organization was no longer able to run the shelter for financial reasons, Fitzjurls said, his family took it over again.

Through all those years, though, the Fitzjurls have always been involved with caring for the animals that come through the shelter doors.

"My wife [Corrine] has worked there for the whole 37 years," said Fitzjurls.

These days, the shelter is home to 35 cats, four kittens and two horses. All of those animals, Fitzjurls said, will remain there for the rest of their lives or until they find forever homes.

"We're a no-kill facility," said Fitzjurls. "We don't care if they live to be 100, they'll stay there with us until they find a home or until they meet their maker on their own."

But that kind of long-term care can be costly — every three days, the Fitzjurls spend $19 on a case containing 24 cans of cat food. A $10 container of kitty litter lasts about five days.

On Friday, the second graders in Rhonda Bishop Wood's class presented the Fitzjurls family with a box of donated supplies including blankets, towels, food and toys to support the work of the shelter as part of a service-learning project. Wood also presented Fitzjurls with a $100 donation from the school's staff.

During Fitzjurls' visit to the school, the children asked questions about what it is like to operate an animal shelter.

Second grader Anthony Ward asked Fitzjurls if they name all of the animals who come to the shelter.

"We do name them," said Fitzjurls. "That's so we can tell them apart."

Fitzjurls said if someone adopts one of the animals, the new owner can change the name once the adoption is complete.

While considering more ways the students could help the shelter, Wood said the children have decided to write letters to The Republican Journal in the coming weeks encouraging the community to follow their lead in supporting the animals that call Townline Animal Shelter home.

Fitzjurls said he thought that was an excellent idea.

"That would really be a big help," said Fitzjurls. "Thank you."

For more information on the Townline Animal Shelter or to learn more about animals up for adoption, call 338-1403.