The Hampshire County Sheriff’s office reports that it has processed 102 dogs found at Love Shack Dog Rescue when it executed a warrant on the site Monday.
Rescue owner Sabrina Droescher has relinquished ownership of several dogs, but is contesting the seizure of at least 12 others. She has 5 days to take the case in front of a magistrate.
The sheriff’s office says Love Shack will not be able to continue as a business under Hampshire County ordinance.
“It’s just turned into a hoarding situation,” Sheriff Nathan Sions said Tuesday.
He and deputies executed a warrant Monday on Love Shack Dog Rescue at 383 Cabin Road, about 4 miles north of U.S. 50 off Timber Mountain Road.
There they found more than 140 dogs in pens and the remains of at least 3 more. Sions said the carcasses were decomposed enough that the cause of death wasn’t apparent.
Neighbor Amber Sizemore Kesner said she was in tears because of the living conditions of the dogs.
“The commercials you see on TV have nothing on real-life situations like this,” said Kesner, who noted that she has helped break up fights between the dogs at Love Shack.
Nine dogs were removed from the 3-acre site on Monday. Sions said rescuers had a double challenge facing them.
First, he noted, each animal has to be tagged so it can be tracked.
Second, he said, is finding other rescue operations to handle the influx.
“We’re trying to do our due diligence and make sure these dogs aren’t going back into the same situation they’re getting out of here,” the sheriff said.
Rescue groups are being brought in to help because the sheer numbers are more than the Hampshire County Animal Shelter can handle.
“We’re not looking for people to call and adopt dogs,” Sions said. “That would be overwhelming. Our goal is to get these to rescues who will then take care of the adopting out.”
Spurred by neighbors’ complaints, the sheriff’s office began working last October with Sabrina Droescher, who is listed as the nonprofit’s contact on its business license at the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office.
“We have been trying to work with her to get the number of dogs down that she has,” Sions said. “She hasn’t been cooperative on her part.”
Monday’s warrant produced cooperation from Droescher, Sions said. The warrant will remain open until all the dogs are removed.
He said criminal charges could be filed as the investigation continues.
“She’s registered as a rescue in the county,” Sions explained. “She wasn’t meeting the guidelines required by the county ordinance.”
Love Shack’s website said it was founded in May 2012 with a mission of saving the lives of dogs in kill shelters.
Online information indicates that the rescue also had a facility in Chantilly, Va., but that site might not be in operation. Droescher licensed the 501(c)3 nonprofit in West Virginia in 2014.
The online presence, which includes a Facebook page, helped rescue groups in other states find a home for their overflow.
“Most of these dogs are from 2, 3 or 4 states away,” Sions said.
The huge number of dogs “kept on festering,” Sions said.
“Enough was enough,” he said Tuesday morning. “The conditions aren’t suitable for them to be staying.”
He saved a man’s life.
“I happened to be in the right place at the right time,” Taylor said.
The 2007 Hampshire High School graduate was honored for his efforts by the Red Cross along with 3 others who used their Red Cross training in saving the life of the heart attack victim at Shepherd University’s Wellness Center swimming pool.
“I was doing aquatic therapy like I do every Tuesday and Thursday,” Taylor said of the events of Sept. 3.
Taylor works for Pivot Physical Therapy, which rents space at the Shepherd Wellness Center pool on those days for the aquatic therapy.
That Thursday as he worked with a client, he noticed a man breathing heavy on the side of the pool.
“I didn’t think much about it,” Taylor said. “Then I looked over again and he’s under the water, under the ropes and not moving.”
The physical therapist walked over and found the man unresponsive. Taylor got the attention of lifeguards Isabella Tuzzio and Zach Pfaltzgraff, who jumped in the pool to help the man.
Tuzzio, who had just taken the lifeguard stand, swam to the unconscious man, then Pfaltzgraff arrived with a backboard.
Taylor headed into the office and told aquatics coordinator Andria Leach to call 911. He returned to the pool to help the lifeguards get the victim out of the water.
Tuzzio and Pfaltzgraff started chest compressions and rescue breath on the man. Leach grabbed an AED – an automated external defibrillator – and tried to shock the man’s heart back into action “2 or 3 times,” Taylor recalled. Pfaltzgraff continued chest compressions until the paramedic crew arrived and took over.
“The man was blueberry blue in his face and not responding to the shock,” Taylor said, “and I thought he was dead.”
A few hours later the 4 heroes were notified that the man had survived and was expected to make a full recovery.
“You never really think this stuff is going to happen,” Pfaltzgraff told the Herald Mail in Hagerstown. “You always want to make sure that you do remember what you are supposed to do in those situations.”
When the emergency occurred, Pfaltzgraff said, “I didn’t really think about anything; it was just happening,”
Leach agreed, calling herself on “autopilot.”
Late last month, the Greater Shenandoah Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross gave Taylor its certificate of extraordinary personal action for his role in saving a life. Leach, Tuzzio and Pfaltzgraff each received the Red Cross Lifesaving Award for Professional Responders for their use of their Red Cross training in the rescue.
Tuzzio said she was surprised by the honor.
“Honestly, it’s just kind of my job,” she said.
The virtual ceremony was part of the Red Cross’s National Lifesaving Awards program on March 25.
Around the time of the awards, Taylor got an even more important recognition at the Wellness Center’s pool while he was working with a student intern.
“A gentleman walked up and asked my student intern if he was the one who saved his life,” Taylor said. “My student pointed over at me and said that’s the guy.”
The meeting was brief, but heartfelt.
“He thanked me and said, ‘If you hadn’t been there, I wouldn’t be here now,” Taylor recalled. “We hugged and that was that.”
Sixty minutes. That’s 3,600 seconds.
One hour is how long it took to begin Rae Ellen McKee’s journey as National Teacher of the Year in 1991, and now, 30 years later, it’s just as exciting to see Hampshire County on the map for education.
President George H.W. Bush spent 1 hour at Slanesville Elementary School on Wednesday, April 10, 1991 to award Levels-native McKee with the prestigious award, which catapulted Hampshire County into national news.
Flashback 30 years: then-governor Gaston Caperton is attempting to create a “rebirth” of West Virginia’s public educational system.
McKee, a 33-year-old reading specialist at SES who won the national award is the gem in the crown of change for the schools in the Mountain State, and when President Bush visited the little rural community in 1991, he brought the eyes of the nation here.
McKee is a native of Levels, and she graduated from Shepherd College and received her master’s degree from WVU. She’s also a 5th generation teacher, so it’s basically in her blood.
President Bush participated in a 15-minute reading lesson led by McKee, where students read “When I Was Young in the Mountains” by Cynthia Rylant, and shared some of his own personal experiences from his youth, all while sitting between student Keith Johnson and McKee’s daughter Molly.
After posing for a group picture with the 26 students in the class, the president proceeded outside where around 1,000 spectators gathered to witness history being made in Hampshire County, and he awarded McKee with the honor.
In his speech, President Bush remarked that teaching is an “impact of mind upon mind and heart upon heart.”
Gov. Caperton announced that April 10 would be dubbed “Rae McKee Day,” to honor teachers across the Mountain State who devote their time to educating the youth.
After the President honored McKee outside SES that windy April day, she accompanied him to Marine One (the presidential helicopter) amid whoops and cheers from the onlookers, and they flew to the White House. There, McKee was able to meet the other 3 finalists for the honor, and her comment at the time was, “All persons who touch children’s lives should be heard and recognized.”
The National Teacher of the Year is contracted to take a year of leave from teaching so they can travel around the country sharing their experiences and “secrets” to making a difference. While the entire Hampshire County community was ecstatic to see one of their own win such an honor, seeing McKee go was bittersweet for some of her students.
Six-year-old Jesse Hall, an SES student at the time, said, “she’s the best reading teacher we’ve ever had. She’s number 1.”
The 1-hour visit was no easy feat to put on: security was tight. Extremely tight, even, in the wake of the attempted assassination on Ronald Reagan 10 years earlier. Over 800 people were ushered through a metal detector, personal items were hand-searched and banners were set up on the SES property to obstruct the view from the wooded area on the edge of the property. Safety was a top concern.
The entourage even requested 150 outside telephone lines from General Telephone, which serviced Hampshire County at the time. It was a serious operation.
The memorable event went off without a hitch, law enforcement officials reported after the fact.
“Everything went smooth, we had no problems and nobody so much as made a noise when the president was speaking, said then-state police First Sgt. R. L. Johnson.
Now, 30 years later, McKee is living in Houston, retired from her career in education, but the 1991 honor remains an incredible achievement in her life as a teacher.
“It was a really big deal for West Virginia, Hampshire County, Slanesville, the community, teachers, staff, parents and students, some who are now in their 40s,” reminisced McKee.
The award’s implications continue to be a shining light for Hampshire County Schools. Photos from the event are framed and hang in the Central Office on School Street in Romney.
It’s not every day that a small, rural community sees national attention, and because of McKee, Hampshire County was put on the map.
The FFA’s 2nd online ham, bacon and egg sale had even more success than its 1st a year ago.
The numbers still aren’t what the young farmers raised with their in-person sales in the years before the Covid-19 pandemic, but they show a lot of support.
“The community does support our kids greatly and we appreciate it,” FFA adviser Rachel Sulser said.
Sales of the students’ products totaled $67,416. That’s a decent jump from the $62,536.50 worth of prodcuts sold last year, but still down from the record $83,333.75 sold in 2019.
Again this year a couple of factors push up the amount of money changing hands from the online auction that ended 10 days ago.
First, community members donated items that raised an additional $1,100 that goes to the FFA itself, not the young producers.
And even more generously, Richard and Pam Smith, who own Liberty stations at Mountain Top, Frye’s Flat and Capon Bridge, again gave each of the 56 exhibitors $200 “for their hard work and dedication.”
More than 80 different buyers — individuals and businesses — ended up with products, which were being sliced and delivered this week.
Even without the hubbub and camaraderie of the live event, sellers were still nervous.
“I have never done the sale in person,” admitted Alexa VanMeter, who sold the Grand Champion ham. “Online I still made a good amount of money.”
Sulser said the online auction produced good results.
“Overall the kids were happy with their checks,” she said.
She noted that the counties to the east — Morgan, Berkeley and Jefferson — canceled their ham, bacon and egg sales this year.
Sponsors, students and buyers alike are looking forward to the excitement of in-person auctions.
That could come at the end of July when the livestock auction wraps up the county fair. Last year’s was held online, but hopes are that this year’s will be back in the barn.
Fair organizers are awaiting guidelines from the state on how fairs can be conducted.
Last year’s ham, bacon and egg auction was scheduled for March 14 at the Augusta Fire Hall, as usual. But Gov. Jim Justice closed schools the day before, and along with it canceled all school-related activities.
That threw the 2020 ham, bacon and egg sale into limbo, solved only by an online auction the 1st weekend in May. The 56-hour auction at cowbuyer.com came off without a hitch.
This year, organizers were better prepared for the online operation, moving the sale to an auction site operated by Sherrard’s in Capon Bridge and holding it closer to its usual mid-March date.
The 2021 auction ran from March 22-26.
“I would certainly hate to get this far into spring and see things reverse — and there goes graduation and prom,” she said Monday.
In 6 days, Hampshire County’s incidence rate — the percentage of positive cases per 100,000 population —mushroomed from 2.47 (last Tuesday) to 16.07 on Monday.
That pushed the county from green to yellow to gold to orange on the state’s 5-color map tracking the spread of Covid-19.
The county had 13 new cases on Sunday alone, bringing the active total to 25 with 1 person hospitalized. Two weeks earlier the county had only 5 active cases.
The good news Shoemaker sees in the numbers is that hospitalizations are not rising here, although they are across the state and nation.
The bad news?
“I’m worried about Easter,” she said. “There were a lot of large family gatherings like everything was just normal, no masks.”
If Easter turns out to be a super-spreader event, the numbers will be worse in another week to 10 days.
Shoemaker predicted that any surge in positive cases will be accompanied by more people getting tested.
“Most people, if they’re a contact being traced, want to come in and be tested,” she said.
Lowering the guard against the virus may be an inevitable result of the rising number of people being vaccinated.
As of Tuesday, 3,294 county residents have been fully vaccinated and another 5,400 have been partially vaccinated.
The Health Department is conducting weekly mass clinics for vaccinations, but Shoemaker said those may not go on for much longer.
With the number of new registrations for vaccinations starting to decrease, she said the model likely will shift to in-office visits at the health department.
In addition, Shoemaker noted, more pharmacies are offering vaccinations, including the Walmart in Keyser.
The expansion of vaccinating sites comes with another increase in vaccines being delivered to West Virginia.
As of this week, 78,000 doses are being delivered to the state each week, up from 52,000 a week ago. The state is targeting the Eastern Panhandle for increased vaccinations. As of Monday, Berkeley County was red status and Morgan and Jefferson counties were orange.
Shoemaker urged everyone to continue basic protections against the virus, wearing masks and socially distancing.
And, she cautioned, “If you start to feel under the weather, do the right thing and quarantine yourself so you can minimize that spread if you happen to have Covid.”