Copernicus gets into the truck to go home with Justin Small, his new owner. Copernicus was adopted April 1 after 10 months in the shelter. Courtesy of Midcoast Humane

BRUNSWICK — Justin Small didn’t care that Copernicus is a little hyper, that he jumps up on visitors, or that he has a hard time winding down. 

The 2 ½-year-old dog was Midcoast Humane’s longest-term resident, and in the months he lived at the shelter, just could not find the right home. 

Then, Small saw Copernicus on the shelter website and his interest was piqued. 

“I told the lady at the shelter, unless he’s ripping people’s arms off, I want him,” he said Sunday, firm in his belief that there are no bad dogs, just bad owners. 

After 10 months of waiting, the pup left the shelter on Wednesday and headed for his new home in Bath. 

The story is one of the silver linings to come out of the coronavirus pandemic, but with the shelter closed to the public and adoptions by appointment only, Midcoast Humane officials are looking for help to stay up and running so they can continue finding homes for dogs like Copernicus. 


‘Never in our 70 years of caring for homeless and injured animals have we had such a dire need for donations,” Midcoast Humane said in a plea for help on social media. 

Adoptions have, out of necessity, dropped dramatically, fundraisers and events are canceled, and the thrift store has closed, but the animals still need to be fed and cared for and the bills still need to be paid. 

“We’ve never faced anything like this,” Mary Sundeen, president of Midcoast Humane said in an interview.

The shelter operates with an annual budget of about $2.3 million, but has already lost nearly $250,000 in the short time since it closed. 

If the shelter were to “magically reopen under completely normal conditions,” Sundeen said, the shelter would be down by $338,500. For each month beyond that, they expect to lose another $52,000. 

The closure comes at a particularly bad time, as spring and summer are the shelter’s busiest months for adoptions, bringing in around $80,000 every two months. 


To compound matters, all out of state transportation has stopped, dramatically reducing the number of animals that are and will be available for adoption. Now, the only pets Midcoast Humane is taking are local strays and surrenders— “a fraction of what we normally do,” Sundeen said. 

So while adoptions are still happening, the incoming revenue is “a trickle,” roughly $1,200 instead of $80,000. 

Fewer animals, of course, means fewer expenses. 

On average, it costs about $20 per day to care for each animal, and during a normal year, Midcoast Humane, through the two facilities, may see anywhere from 3,500 to 4,000 animals. There are only 20 animals listed on the shelter’s website (eight dogs, eight cats and four rabbits), but Sundeen said there are nearly 300 animals in foster care.

While officials are bracing against the loss of revenue, they are also preparing for a potential influx of pets. 

“As more people get sick, more people are going to be surrendering their animals,” Kate Griffith, director of community programs said. “Any extra funds we’re able to garner now will help us prepare for that possibility.” 


The fundraising campaign, which launched Friday, raised roughly $7,200 in the first few days, which Sundeen said is amazing, but when put up against $338,500, shows “we have a big line to tow.” 

Still, there are bright spots in the darkness, she said. 

People immediately stepped up to foster animals. New lines of funding are being released from sources left and right. New legislation may open additional relief avenues. Some of the animals who were overwhelmed and acting out because of the stressful shelter environment have showed progress in their behavior modification plans while it has been quiet. 

Then, of course, there are even brighter spots, like when longtime residents find their new homes. 

A few days into his new home, Copernicus is still getting used to his new life, but Small is already over the moon. 

“The first night I had him, when it was time to go to bed, I lay down on the bed and he laid right across on top of me,” he said. “He’s the sweetest dog you could ever know… I couldn’t ask for any better.” 

Small said that despite all the fear and tragedy surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, the timing worked out well. With the state on lockdown, he has plenty of time to spend as much time with his new pup as he needs, working with him and getting him settled. 

He is willing to do whatever it takes, he said to “turn him into a really really good dog.” 

Anyone interested in donating to Midcoast Humane is asked to visit the website at, mail a check or call (207) 449-1366.

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