SCOUTING AROUND: Shelter dedicates new play space for animals

  • Animal shelter manager Kirsty Waller and Valley River Humane Society President Jeff Manson reveal the sign reading "Denny's Play Area" to its namesake, Denny Kendall, and his wife, Diane.
    Animal shelter manager Kirsty Waller and Valley River Humane Society President Jeff Manson reveal the sign reading "Denny's Play Area" to its namesake, Denny Kendall, and his wife, Diane.

    Marble – Dogs now have a place to play and just be dogs at the Valley River Humane Society Animal Shelter.
    Denny’s Play Area, which was dedicated last week, provides a large fenced-in play space beside the rows of pens. The area was named for Denny Kendall, who was instrumental in helping the shelter with fencing.
    "I've never had anything dedicated to me," Kendall said. "I volunteered because I wanted to help."
    A neighbor told Kendall the shelter was in need of help, and he's been helping the shelter with their fencing needs, which includes dividing the pens so the shelter can hold more dogs, since spring. Kendall used to own a company that was a fencing contractor for the State of Michigan.
    The play area was made possible through a cooperative effort with shelter volunteers, Lowe’s Home Improvement and, of course, Kendall. Jeff Manson, humane society president, said the play area is going to help dogs get adopted.
    Shelter manager Kirsty Waller said they get a lot of dogs that have spent too much time chained up, and being able to play in the open gives them more confidence. “We’re really excited to have it,” Manson said. “It’s been such a positive thing for the dogs.”
    It's something Waller has wanted at the shelter since she started there and saw the land available. She said the shelter averages 70 dogs a day, and the play area will get plenty of use every day. If they can be, the dogs are paired up to play together. Dogs can run, play catch with a ball or Frisbee, or just sniff their surroundings.
    "It's just a moment of freedom for them to do what they want to do," Waller said. "We just let them be dogs."
The space is used by both volunteers and potential adopters to play with the dogs. Waller said the children looking for a new pet love the space just as much as the dogs.
    As part of their rewards for completing assignments, students at The Oaks Academy will soon get to visit the shelter once a week and play with the dogs in the space, too. The play area is not open for public use.
    The 100-feet by 50-feet fenced-in area is just a place to run and play today. Equipment like a ramp and teeter totter are planned to be installed soon.
    In addition to dedicating the play area in his name, the humane society also presented Kendall and his wife, Diane, with a gift card for Bistro 29.

Veterans parade guest
    Murphy – The Murphy Veterans Day Parade & Country Fair has attracted the attention of a woman traveling across the country in a recreational vehicle and interviewing veterans.
    Michele Ladd, founder of National Veteran Resources, will drive her 32-feet RV covered in the U.S. flag and the images of veterans in the parade. During her stay in the area, she will take time to interview veterans on camera for her project to share their stories and messages of hope.
    "That's something really important, to have her here," said Brenda McPherson Mahoney, event organizer.
    Ladd's goal is to help veterans and first responders dealing with mental health issues.
    "She wants to stop veteran suicide," Mahoney said. "That is her mission."
    Ladd's two sons are veterans, and her motivation for the project. She has traveled more than 40,000 miles to raise awareness and build resources on the website
    The Murphy Veterans Day Parade & Country Fair starts at 11 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 9, with a parade marching from the L&N Depot to Konehete Park, where the fair will take place until 6 p.m. For details, visit the website, call Mahoney at 404-432-8107 or email

Art Walk coming Friday
    Murphy – The biggest Art Walk of the year is 5-8 p.m. Friday downtown. The October Art Walk is expected to be the most popular due to the visitors coming to the area for activities like the annual Fall Festival at John C. Campbell Folk School.
    While artists will fill the downtown sidewalks with a variety of works for sale, the Murphy Art Center will be a hub of activity. Inside the center, the Valley River Arts Guild will hold their annual silent auction – including both art and gift certificates to local restaurants – and will host an interactive kids activity.
    Musical performances throughout town include Troy Underwood on the square, Dana Rogers at ShoeBooties Cafe, Jeff Crane at Marketplace Antiques and Mind the Stepchildren at Chevelles.
    Art Walk is held on the first Friday of each month from May through December. For details, email Valley River Arts Guild event coordinator Tim Ford at
    Samantha Sinclair is the Scouting Around columnist for the Cherokee Scout. You can reach her by email,; fax, 837-5832; or by leaving a message at 837-5122.