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Woman develops feline fancy at shelter

March 14, 2005

Editor's note: There are a lot of people you see around town that you recognize, but don't know anything about. People like ...

Callista Lohman


Age - 76.

Hometown - Hagerstown.

Where would you see Lohman? - For the past two years, Lohman has been volunteering two mornings a week at the Humane Society of Washington County. Thursday mornings she helps a shelter employee clean the cattery, then on Fridays she does what she describes as the "dirty work" - doing dishes and laundry in the prep area.

"She is a very loyal and dependable volunteer and we value her highly," said Margaret Rhoads, volunteer coordinator at the Humane Society.

Lohman paid a visit to the shelter when she learned the pet cemetery in front of the shelter was being moved to make way for a parking lot.

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Her first dog was buried there and she wanted to have him moved to another location. Lohman, who lives in Fountain Head North, then started bringing supplies to the shelter when her last dog died and soon found herself volunteering.

She began as a dog walker, then provided a foster home for dogs. Before long, she switched to fostering cats and ended up adopting three.

"I was a dog person until I started volunteering," Lohman said. "I never thought I'd be a cat person."

She still loves dogs, but said she's getting too old for walking a dog. Instead, she's enjoying the companionship of her cats.

Lohman, a 1946 graduate of Hagerstown High, was born in Hagerstown. Her family - the Dallagos - lived in Pennsylvania before moving back in 1940, in time for her to attend junior high and high school in Hagerstown.

She worked for the telephone company and had a variety of jobs - from long-distance operator to dial administrator, which involved assigning phone numbers and equipment to customers, training operators and being a supervisor - before retiring in 1981.

Lohman traveled around the state with her job, but always came home, she said.

She and her husband, Harry, were married five years before his death in 1985. They did not have children.

While Lohman doesn't mind working hard at the shelter, she admits the hard part is not getting attached to the animals with which she works.

"They're all so lovable and nice. You want to take them all home and that's not possible," she said.

Lohman finds the work rewarding and feels good about her contribution at the end of the day. She considers herself a homebody and said volunteering gets her out of the house and enjoying the company of the animals, shelter employees and other volunteers.

"I never come over here one day that people don't thank me for helping," Lohman said.

She encourages people interested in volunteering to visit the shelter and talk to Rhoads. Lohman said there are jobs for all interests - including clerical, walking dogs, and cleaning dog kennels and cat cages.

Hobbies - Besides caring for her cats and volunteering at the animal shelter, Lohman takes care of her house and herself. She goes to lunch every other month with women with whom she used to work and meets high school friends for lunch once a month.

What does Lohman like best about Washington County? - "I call it (Hagerstown) a small town," Lohman said. "I was offered jobs in Baltimore and positively refused because I didn't want to go to the city."

Lohman also values friendships here and said that once you make friends with someone, they remain your friends through the years. She also likes that most people know their neighbors.

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For more information about volunteering at the Humane Society, call Margaret Rhoads, volunteer coordinator, at 301-733-2060, ext. 212, or send e-mail to her at mrhoadshswc@myactv.net.

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If you know anyone in the community who might make an interesting Our Town feature, contact Janet Heim at 301-733-5131, ext. 2024, or send e-mail to janeth@herald-mail.com.

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