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Shelter animal adoptions benefit from bottle returns

Expanding on a fun idea she started two years ago to donate spare change to animal shelters around the region, Merlin mother Christine Hoffschneider is stepping up her bottle-and-can-collecting game in memory of a special friend.

His name was Jimmy. An oversized black Labrador-pitbull rescue mix from a shelter in Wyoming, Jimmy’s previous owners had dumped him at a shelter as a rambunctious 1-year-old because he “grew too big.”

A fan of car rides, swimming and tennis balls, Jimmy spent 12 of his 13 years with Hoffschneider, her husband, Scott, and their kids before dying of cancer in 2018.

When she started to donate her can and bottle return money, it was an easy way to support animal rescue in his honor. Connected with a number of rescue and shelter supporters in the region, Hoffschneider decided in October that she wanted to focus on the dogs and cats who have waited the longest for their forever homes.

And then, with help from social media, the project began to take off.

“At first I just was doing this with my own bottles and stuff. We had rescued him, and I wanted to do something to honor his memory and to help other animals,” she said.

“People heard about what I was doing and wanted to give me their bottles and cans, too.”

In just a few months, proceeds from the bottle and can returns have funded the adoption fees of at least 10 dogs and cats. The menagerie of critters comes with stories not unlike that of her beloved pup — dogs that barked too much, grew too large or came with behavior problems from being mistreated; cats that were too old or perhaps needed a little extra help with diet or medication.

“I wanted the donations to go to the ones that have been at the shelter for the longest and were still needing their forever homes,” she said.

“It breaks my heart to think of them waiting and waiting while the others get picked and get to go home.”

To date, 10 cents at a time, Hoffschneider and her husband have raised $1,230 and helped with adoption fees at a half-dozen regional shelters.

Paying a visit to a pup with one of the sadder tales she’s heard, Hoffschneider showed off two-and-a-half-year-old mixed-breed Humphrey on a recent afternoon. She said he reminded her much of her Jimmy.

Humphrey has been at Southern Oregon Humane Society in Medford for over a year. He has been adopted and returned a handful of times — he’s not a fan of cats or small dogs, but bigger dogs are OK. His ticket home has been paid for, now he just needs to find his match.

Another long-timer, Hoffschneider said, is a black and white cat at Committed Alliance to Strays. Living at the shelter since she was born in 2018, the cat is so ready to “go home,” she frequently tries to sneak home with shelter visitors.

“Their stories are what keep me going,” Hoffschneider said.

Melody Spiegel, a SoHumane volunteer and animal rescue advocate, said Hoffschneider’s efforts are heartwarming.

“I think it’s amazing. Her and her husband taking the time out of their lives to take all those cans and bottles back and to go through the process of helping those most in need.”

Hoffschneider says it’s the least she can do to repay a beloved dog for his near-lifetime of loyalty.

“He had this personality about him. He was an old soul. He protected me and the kids when my husband worked and would never fully go to sleep until he got home, then he would snore until morning,” she said.

“He gave us so much that we feel this is a good start to keeping his memory alive.”

Dog adoption fees cost $150 or more, while cat adoption fees average between $60 and $90. Hoffschneider said shelters ensure the potential adopters are qualified to adopt before offering the adoption fee incentive.

Proceeds from Hoffschneider’s bottle and can collection effort benefit shelters throughout Southern Oregon, including Committed Alliance To Strays, Southern Oregon Humane Society, Jackson County Animal Shelter, Josephine County Animal Shelter and the Rogue Valley Humane Society in Grants Pass. Donations can be made on various shelter websites or by calling directly.

To donate cans and bottles to Hoffschneider’s effort, text (preferred) or call 541-450-4694.

Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at buffyp76@yahoo.com.

Christine Hoffschneider pets Humphey, a dog up she's helping to be adopted at Southern Oregon Humane. (Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune)