One of the titles on the book shelves at the entrance of the Jefferson City Animal Shelter is "Sally Goes to the Vet." It's a poignant addition to the library of kids' books, given the shelter's new program, "Sally's Buddy Books," was dedicated Friday in memory of Dr. Sally Bodenhamer.
The protagonist of "Sally Goes to the Vet" is a black Labrador, whereas Bodehamer was partial to Dalmations; there's a framed picture on the wall next to the shelves of her posed with four of them. There's also an enlarged version of a painting of a Dalmation that Bodenhamer created hanging on the window above the shelves.
Bodenhamer passed away last August. Her sister, Laura Landwehr, said Friday she, family, friends and patients of the optometrist wanted to keep her legacy alive, but "we just didn't know how to do that," until they spoke with Karen Jennings.
Jennings is the city's Animal Control supervisor. She said the new program in Bodenhamer's honor "seemed to be the perfect fit." It will let kids who come to visit the shelter pick out a book and read to any animal they want, including dogs, cats, rabbits and guinea pigs.
"Max will probably talk back to them," she said of the parrot in residence on the other side of the entry area. "He asks 'what are you doing?'"
She said children and families can come by to read to animals any time during the shelter's noon-4:30 p.m. open hours Monday-Saturday, without appointment.
Readers will be able to take a book into a private room with an animal or read in front of an animal's cage. There are also mats for kids to sit on as they read.
"Having lost a child myself, this is near and dear to me," Jennings said during the dedication.
The grief among the family and community members present was very raw, at certain moments over-powering.
"We started this because of her love for animals," Landwehr said of one of her sister's passions.
Jennings said "our hope is that it's going to help kids with their reading," in addition to helping the shelter's animals become more socialiable around people in hopes of increasing the likelihood of their adoption. Kids get a non-judgmental, even affectionate audience to practice their reading skills.
Landwehr thanked Scholastic's Community Development Manager Lori Massman for donating 100 hardback, animal-themed books to the program for free. She also thanked Friends of the Jefferson City Animal Shelter, and Beth Dunn of Beth Dunn Portrait Design who did the editing work on the framed picture and Dalmation painting.
Students from St. Joseph Cathedral School's EDGE youth ministry group for junior high kids also helped put the program together by placing commemorative stickers inside each book and arranging the books on the shelves.
Other titles on the shelves included entries in the "Clifford the Big Red Dog" series, "Thank You Bear," Dr. Seuss's "Fox in Socks" and "Duck on a Tractor."
"This summer, I see this taking off," Jennings said. Summer has the combined advantages for the program of kids being home from school and a typically higher population of animals at the shelter, although she said "we never know what we're going to have day to day" in terms of animals there.
The "grand opening" of the program will be April 8, she said, and there will be fliers posted on social media. More book donations are welcome, too.
"It's wonderful to still see Sally taking care of the community," Jefferson City Mayor Carrie Tergin said. "Sally still takes care of me."
Bodenhamer started out her medical career as an occupational therapist at Capital Region Medical Center. Later though, she went into the family business of optometry. She became co-owner of Bodenhamer Eye Consultants alongside her father, Frederick and brother, Bret. She was 37 when she died.
"I hope what we have started here makes Sally proud," Landwehr said of honoring her sister's legacy.