JEFFERSON CO. (KSNT) – A woman is making sure animals stay in homes and off the streets. But she’s not doing it alone.
Sharon Blankenship is working towards the goal of keeping pets with their owners every day. Blankenship is no stranger to helping pets in the county. In 2019, she moved to Jefferson County from Lansing. When she got there, she realized the county was plagued with stray and feral cats. She tried to figure out how to get the problem under control through a trap, neuter and vaccination program. But it wasn’t that easy.
“I found out Jefferson County didn’t have any such programs,” Blankenship said.
“Jefferson County had no low cost, no cost spay and neuter programs and vaccination clinics for people that had pets,” she said. “So our object is to try and keep pets in their homes and have them be provided a degree of basic well care. Which is where the vaccination clinics come in.”
Blankenship made many calls before finally getting somewhere with Kansas State University. With their help and the Topeka Community Cat Fix, they were able to spay and neuter 115 cats.
“From there I was very interested,” she said. “And Topeka Community Cat Fix was very interested in teaching me how to start my own program.”
From that one experience, she was hooked. In 2020, Pawsitively was formed. It’s the county’s trap, neuter, vaccinate and return organization.
But on July 18, the vaccination and surgery cline wasn’t a Pawsitively one. It’s actually a different non-profit Blankenship runs named Jefferson County Pet Project (JCPP). She knew K-State was wanting to start a project to try and help pet owners who can’t afford vet care. But her leaving Pawsitively happened earlier than expected.
“I actually left last year,” Blankenship said. “My husband passed away last August.”
She said even though her husband, Mike, didn’t like cats, he supported her no matter what. He helped return the cats once it was time to go back and even washed the traps in a pretty interesting way.
“He would take the cat traps on a flatbed trailer to the car wash, and wash them out,” she said while laughing. “But he was not going to do anything as far as the cats go.”
This is one of many great memories of her husband. But when he died, Blankenship just couldn’t be 100% all in without thinking of her husband each day.
“I just, was having a hard time functioning every day,” she recalled tearfully. “I mean, it wasn’t just Pawsitively. I just really didn’t feel like doing much else. Didn’t really care…”
But she got back up and did it at a time when K-State was ready to start up another program in the county. Through JCPP, the volunteers host clinics and surgeries for pet owners who can’t afford the costly bills of a traditional vet.
“If there is a pet in the home, let’s keep it there,” she said. “Don’t dump your dogs. We are adamant about spay and neuter. We don’t believe people should breed dogs until the shelters and the rescues are clear.”
When Blankenship first moved to Jefferson County, she saw a problem that needed to be fixed.
And even with life-changing moments, she made sure to stick to her promise of making a change.
“You don’t necessarily have to have special skills,” Blankenship said. “You have to see a problem, and the old adage about ‘be the change’…be the change.”
The first vaccination clinic for JCPP was in May 2023. The first time the organization had its surgery day was on July 18.
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