COLUMBIA CITY — Abbi Ogden is a familiar face at the Whitley County Humane Shelter — now she is taking on a new role.

Ogden is the new director of the Humane Society of Whitley County. Though new to the director role, she has worked at the shelter for the past seven years.

A Whitley County native, Ogden grew up in a large, animal-loving family.

“Dogs and cats were always part of the family,” said Ogden.

While a senior in high school, she signed up for in an internship at the shelter.

“I didn’t know what I wanted to do until my senior year of high school, but animals were always on my mind,” she said. “After I interned at the shelter for two semesters I knew this was my calling.”

After finishing her internships and while still in high school, Ogden was hired as a kennel cleaner.

“She is just a natural when it came to working with animals,” said retiring shelter Director Sandy Grube. “She is pretty fearless and yet nurturing at the same time.”

After graduating from Whitko High School, she enrolled in an accelerated degree program at the Vet Tech Institute at International Business College. She continued working at the shelter while pursuing her degree. Upon graduation in March 2015 with an associate’s degree of applied science in veterinary technology, Ogden was promoted to the role of Registered Veterinary Technician.

Grube and Ogden have worked side-by-side the past four years on everything from basic animal care and training to major cases of animal hoarding and abuse.

When long-time director Grube recently announced plans to retire after almost 14 years on the job, she recommended the Board of Directors promote Ogden to the position of director. After reviewing applications and interviewing Ogden, the board unanimously agreed she was the perfect person for the job.

“I know she’ll do a great job,” said Grube. “She has new ideas and is computer savvy and that will help with adoptions, social media, data entry and all kinds of things.”

In the meantime, Grube says she is looking forward to getting some rest. The job is a full-time, always on-call position and Grube has been called out numerous times in the middle of the night to rescue dogs, cats and most recently, a pot-bellied pig.

“Luckily the owners of the pig showed up because we didn’t have a clue on how to catch a pig,” she laughed. “My plans are to work in my garden and take care of my own animals. And I’ll continue volunteering for special events for the shelter.”

Recently, Grube took time to reflect on her many years at the shelter.

“Abuse and neglect are troubling to me,” she said. “Especially when a child is living with someone who abuses and neglects animals, what is that teaching the child?”

Grube cited a recent case where state and county authorities united to confiscate 14 German shepherds, and another case where neighborhood children were target practicing by shooting a kitten.

“Children need to be raised to understand that abuse and neglect are unacceptable. Children are the future of everything, including the welfare of all animals,” she said.

The cases of abuse and neglect are the hardest part of the job.

“That’s why you can’t let it get to you,” Grube said. “There are so many more stories of successful adoptions or miracle rescues that outweigh the downers by at least 10-fold.”

Grube has fond memories of taking animals out into the community to adoption events.

“Then, there are all the wonderful people I have had the opportunity to meet and volunteer with over the years. When help is needed, they give up their free time, money and energy to make the shelter the best it can be,” Grube said.

There are children like Morgan Stevens with Bailey’s Bows, who raised enough money to buy a washer and dryer. There were Lemonade Day kids, birthday party donations and an anonymous furniture maker who is “incredibly generous.”

“These are the people and the stories to focus on and be grateful for each and every day,” she added.

As Ogden takes over her new role as director, she does have some new ideas she’ll be implementing at the shelter.

“I intend to start an enrichment program within our facility to make the animals stay here more enjoyable,” she said. “I also am hoping to help keep pets in the home with things like microchip events, a pet food bank, and eventually assistance with spays and neuters.”

To further her skills, Ogden is currently enrolled in an Animal Shelter Management Certificate program to better prepare her for her new role and responsibilities.

“Shelter animals are my passion,” she said. “It’s a hard job at times and not for everyone, but I love what I do, and I do it for the animals. I want to improve the lives of homeless animals until they find the homes they deserve! It is so rewarding to watch an animal with a poor past thrive in new home with people who love them dearly.”