CLAY COUNTY, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — Saving one animal will not change the world, but it will change the world for that one animal.

Displayed above the reception desk at the shelter of the Clay County Humane Society, that motto voices the calling of people who work there and support it. Patsy Dierdorf, a life-long resident of Clay County, heard that calling. She answered it throughout her life. She did it quietly, in her own way. 

Fortunately for many people and pets, her answer will be heard for years to come.

Dierdorf first reached out to the Community Foundation in 2013 after hearing how friends had utilized its services to support organizations near and dear to their hearts. Hoping to achieve a lasting impact, Dierdorf wanted to create a permanent endowment for the benefit of the Clay County Humane Society within the Community Foundation in her estate plans for the creation

After Dierdorf’s passing on March 29, 2019, funding from her estate helped to establish the Dierdorf Fund within the Community Foundation’s Clay County affiliate. Through this permanently endowed fund, the Clay County Humane Society will receive a designated each year, forever. Recently, the Humane Society received the first distribution from the Fund in the amount of $33,697.00.

One dream for use of the funds, Toni Carter, President of the Clay County Humane Society Board said, is “. . . to help the community with low-cost spay and neuter.”  Springtime is prime breeding season.  Without human precautions in place, animals will go forth and multiply, making it difficult for organizations like hers to care for all the ones that are not yet adopted.

The Clay County Humane Society is looking for ways to support the construction of a new building on their grounds that will create more kennel and cage space while freeing up current space for an operating room, she said. 

Dierdorf’s final wishes included that stipulation for the funding may not be used to pay salaries for the shelter’s staff and the shelter must remain a “No Kill” shelter, meaning it will only euthanize animals that are ill or dangerous to society.

“We are a no-kill shelter,” said Carter. The policy is the right thing to do, but it has the potential to create pressure on their facility when adoptions are going slowly, or during peak breeding seasons, but it has been and will continue to be their policy. 

It’s easy to believe Patsy Dierdorf would approve of their thinking.

“What do you need at the shelter, she would always ask,” said Patty Dulin, a long-time volunteer.  Dulin knew Dierdorf only as an acquaintance, meeting with her from time to time with a group of her mother’s friends at a local restaurant.  “That (care for animals) was her passion.”

Dulin described her as quietly supportive, private, unassuming, non-pretentious, but always there when the need arose.  When friends of the shelter learned of her generosity, Dulin added, “It wasn’t a surprise.”

A much needed, much appreciated surprise.  With about seventy-five percent of the shelter’s annual operating budget coming from fundraising and donations, Carter said, Dierdorf’s support will make life easier for dogs like Riggs and Chantilly and Cooper, current residents of the shelter, and for any number of cats who await their forever home.

“It’s amazing,” Carter said.  One cost of being a no-kill shelter is that they incur about $5,000 a month in veterinary bills.  As the shelter pursues its plan to provide spay/neuter services, these funds will help relieve that burden.

The shelter also sponsors semi-annual shot clinics for people whose pets need annual boosters but who struggle to afford them.  For $40 for dogs and $30 for cats, families can protect their pets.

Dierdorf’s generosity helps make that happen, too. 

“She lived her life.  She lived well,” Dulin said.

With her gift, she’ll continue to help others: dogs, cats, and people, to live happily and live well, long after Dierdorf can no longer help with her hands. 

It’s said that if you want to know someone’s heart, don’t listen to what they say.  Look at what they do. Patsy Dierdorf’s heart is alive and well in Clay County.