More than 200 people flocked to the Humane Society of St. Thomas’ Barefoot Brunch with the Butterflies Sunday morning at Havensight to play with the puppies and watch the butterflies flirt at the Butterfly Farm on Havensight Dock.
Despite the name, shoes were allowed at the event, which was co-sponsored by Barefoot Wines and the Butterfly Farm. A glass of Barefoot wine or champagne was included in the $15 ticket, and tables were piled high with treats from the Grill Room at Mahogany Run prepared by board member Chris Macken, breads from Bread and Cakes Bakery and Barefoot Buddha, and healthy fare from the Fruit Bowl.
Folks crowded into the Farm lobby, gobbling the treats and lining up for tours of the farm.
T-shirts, bath towels and license plates were going at a brisk pace, and three adorable puppies were on display by shelter manager Erika Leckinton, who didn’t seem at all discouraged.
Society board president Joe Aubain said the Animal Care Campus is still about $460,000 short of becoming a reality.
"We’re about 82-percent complete," he said. “But we have had delays, labor problems."
With a determined smile, Aubain added, "We are continuing fundraising."
The new opening date may be concealed in the current humane society newsletter, headed "Almost Home." Ground was broken for the new campus, directly across from Market Square East on the Weymouth Rhymer Highway, in June 2006. At the time, the opening was projected for 18 months — early 2008.
The cost for building a modern shelter in the Caribbean is high – about $350 per square foot, according to the society newsletter. The new shelter will include cutting-edge sound- and odor-contained kennels, where each dog will have complete privacy; dog play areas; a real cat house complete with window sills; dog runs; a dog-walking path where members can bring their own dogs; an on-campus animal-treatment center; and an area for the Police K-9 unit, a spiffy new flea market.
That is to say nothing of the iguana sanctuary, aviary and bunny hutch, dog-walking trails and cat cabana, and the Corinne E. Lockhart Education Center. The Lockhart Companies donated land that made the $5 million project possible.
Getting to the reason for all of the above was the star of the morning, a beguiling four-legged fellow named Ernie. The gray-eyed dog was enjoying his first formal outing since being adopted by society board member Andrea Martin and her husband, Steve.
The abused six-month old dog received some special attention right away.
"We were having a July board meeting when Erika, our shelter manager got an emergency call,” Andrea Martin said. “She went out to pick up the dog and brought him back to the board meeting. He had a severe laceration on his throat from where he had been chained. It took four hours of surgery."
Erika asked the board member for funds to take him to the vet, Martin said, and one member donated the money to save his life.
"We decided to take him as a foster dog," Martin said. "We have four other dogs, but after awhile we just said, ‘We might as well take him.’"
That was fine, Martin said, except he didn’t seem to respond to Trooper, which Erika had named him.
"I tried all sorts of names, until he cocked his head at Ernie," she said.
There was a more serious problem than the name, however.
"He was coughing, so I took him to the vet and discovered he only had one lung,” she said. “The other had collapsed. But he can live with one lung."
With one lung, two loving parents and four siblings, Ernie seems set for a happy life.
For a tour of the new campus, visit http://www.hsstt.com/about.htm.