Helping get the word out

Published 5:51 pm Friday, February 26, 2021

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Students from Winona State University turn to art to help get MCHS animals adopted


During COVID-19, one of the biggest questions has been mental health. Having to be shut in and not being able to socialize has taken away a part of life that often defines humanity.

However, during this time, pets can be a source of companionship and four students from Winona State University took that to heart during a class project.

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Robin Woodhouse, who is from Austin, along with Kiri Sannerud, Megan Cichosz and Brittney Huisman, set out to bring awareness to pets in need of adoption, specifically at the Mower County Humane Society.

The four conceived the Underdog Project, which involved making posters for animals in need of adoption, including those pets who may have been at the shelter for long periods of time.

“We were kind of thinking during COVID, because we were doing our project at that time, we were thinking about all these people that were feeling isolated and lonely,” Woodhouse said. “We all have these pets helping us through it.”

The foursome took the feelings they got from their own pets providing companionship and applied them to the project that also entailed creating 12 eight-by-eight inch canvases of the pets they chose.

The portraits, which are currently at the Humane Society, can either be hung up there or even given to the people that are doing the adopting as a keepsake.

Either way, Woodhouse hopes the project continues to raise awareness of pets at shelters like the Mower County Humane Society, especially given her family’s history with the humane society.

“We actually got our first family pet from them quite a number of years ago,” Woodhouse said. “A cat named Angel. A year before the pandemic, she passed away.”

From this the idea came the project. Once it was hatched, Woodhouse contacted Kelly Rush of the Humane Society.

“I think our group was pretty flattered they thought about us,” Rush said. “To promote the art element is a cool project and it’s something different.”

The project comes at a good time for the Humane Society. Often forced to deal with an overcrowding of cats, Austin’s Humane Society has seen a sizable decrease in those numbers. Just before the shutdown, they were at close to 138 cats, but that number dipped as low as 80 and is still hovering at around 100 cats.

Still, Rush and volunteers are expecting that number to rise at some point. When Gov. Tim Walz’s executive order shut things down in the state because of the coronavirus, the spay and neuter clinics were among those closings.

With no special clinics coming to town, that left an opening for more cats.

Still, it’s hard to argue with the current number of adoptions.

“Appointments are going very well,” Rush said. “We’re getting people from Minneapolis and Wisconsin. That’s a boon for us.”