LAPORTE | Delbert and Virginia Stevens loved animals so much they left in their will more than $1 million to the LaPorte County Small Animal Shelter.
A large chunk of those funds are being used to provide better medical care to the pets while they wait for adoption.
The new Stevens Treatment Center is now up and running.
About $400,000 of the gift from the late educators was used to build a 2,200 square foot addition to the animal shelter along Ind. 2 beside the LaPorte County Fairgrounds.
Among its features is a surgery suite for animals brought into the shelter to be spayed and neutered prior to adoption and, if necessary, undergo other surgical procedures and treatment.
Spaying and neutering was previously left up to adoptees, who had to agree to have the animal spayed and neutered at an outside clinic to take and keep the pet, said Jane Bernard, director of the shelter.
Medical care previously had to be done on the floor in a hallway near the kennel, not exactly ideal conditions especially in terms of preventing infection.
"Sometimes all of the dogs would be barking and you set your stethoscope on the dog's chest to listen to the heart and lungs and you hear a lot of dogs barking," said Dr. Patrick Dorrah, one of the county's veterarinans.
The center also provides things like a wet sink where animals can be washed or rinsed off on a metal screen resting on a sink so the water goes through the screen and into the sink's drain.
There's also an isolation area with four cages to hold sick animals so they don't spread contagious diseases to the other dogs and cats and two larger kennels for animals to recover following surgery.
Bernard said the remaining $1 milllion was deposited with The Unity Foundation to earn interest that can be drawn out each year for other needs at the shelter.
Delbert Stevens, who died at age 86 in 2010, was an engineer and later became a substitute teacher while Virginia Stevens taught school in LaPorte full time.
She died six months later at age 92.
Bernard said she had no idea when their financial advisor called with news of the inheritance.
"You're on cloud nine. It's astonishing," said Bernard.