But volunteers were there prepping for the Rachel Ray fundraising challenge, when they heard a knock on the door. On the other side, a big-eared, soft-eyed Australian cattle dog with a broken leg.
"He captured our hearts instantly with his sweet face and history of the pain he had been through," volunteers wrote of "Ray" named after the Rachel Ray ASPCA Challenge.
Volunteers latched onto Ray, drawn by his sweetness and heartbroken by his past. Shelter volunteer Victoria Koblick and her husband Eric took him in, and Victoria campaigned on social media to find him a forever home—the "I'm Rooting for Ray" project. The push brought her to Ray's new owners, who welcomed him home two months ago, and were with him until his dying breath.
Ray suffered from a progressive neurological disorder and on Saturday, he lost his battle, the shelter wrote on its Facebook page.
"Our hearts are heavy with grief of his passing," the shelter wrote.
Though heartbroken, Koblick was at peace with Ray's passing, noting that he had found a family, if only for a few months of his life.
"They were the perfect family for him," Koblick said.
It Takes a Village—and a FamilyRay's stay with the McClintock family wasn't his first home. He had been adopted out once before, but was brought back after six months. His first owner is believed to have left him outside in extreme temperatures; investigators attempted for months to pull him from the home, just to have the owners dodge police.
The story touched volunteers and moved many to spread the word to find him a new home. Hundreds shared photos of themselves with a poster of Ray, proclaiming "I'm Rooting for Ray." Ray's face popped up in bars, law firms, local businesses—anywhere someone had seen the effort and wanted to play a part in a brighter future for the dog.
Even after Ray's placement with the McClintock family, Koblick kept in touch and kept tabs on her former foster. His condition began deteriorating in the last months of his life, with frequent seizures, increased anxiety and fewer signs of recovery. Koblick made one final fundraising push, to raise money for Ray to see a neurologist. In two days, she raised $675. She also purchased a brick in his name, for the shelter's tribute garden.
In the end, Ray's condition was too much for the 2 1/2 year old pooch.
His name will reverberate for months, years to come, though, Koblick said, among shelter volunteers and in her own heart.
"Everybody came together for him," she said. "This was a nice legacy."
The shelter will host an Empty the Shelter adopt-a-thon this weekend. All adoption fees will be waived Friday and Saturday, from 12 to 8 p.m., and Sunday from 12 to 5 p.m. Visit the shelter at 1103 West End Ave. in Chicago Heights, or online.