DOVER — The new home of the Cocheco Valley Humane Society is oh-so-close to becoming a reality.

Executive Director Obie Barker said the Humane Society hopes to be moved into its new $2.5 million facility near the Strafford County Superior Court building in early May, and have a grand opening celebration about a month later.

"It gives us a lot more space to operate," said Barker, who used the term "operate" in both a literal and figurative sense. Not only will the new building provide ample space for the Humane Society's overall operation, it will also feature a surgery room twice as large as the one at its current facility on County Farm Road near the Strafford County House of Corrections.

The Humane Society has long sought a new home. Part of the main shelter was once a piggery, and still features a drainage trough in the middle of the floor that can cause an unsuspecting volunteer or visitor to injure themselves. The current building, which became the Humane Society's home in 1984, is in disrepair. The dog shelter occupies about 2,500 square feet in the former piggery and two connected trailers.

The current center is functional, but barely – the surgical suite is cramped and barely high enough to stand.

"We get rescue dogs, and some of them don't work well with other animals," said Barker, who was named executive director last August. He retired in 2018 after serving for 40 years as the executive director for Boys and Girls Clubs, most recently in Lynn, Mass. He returned to nonprofit work after realizing, in his words, "retirement is overrated."

Barker said workers currently are installing electrical and plumbing lines and the drywall work should be done by next week.

"Then it'll be a matter of starting to work on the finished project," he said.

Since 2013, the CVHS has actively campaigned to raise funds to build a facility that can meet the demands of the region. The campaign was expedited in December 2017 when it secured a $1 million donation from Lyman Pope, a benefactor to many animal shelters in the New England region.

The new center was originally slated for a December opening, but weather delays, including heavy rains last October, pushed that back to the spring.

"It just put the construction to a halt," Barker said. "It was impossible with the weather we had."

Despite the financial shot in the arm from Pope, Barker said the center still needs about $500,000 for completion. An office area in the back of the building will be put on hold until that funding is concerned, though Barker noted the Humane Society had just recently secured a donation of $50,000 worth of office furniture.

"We still need money," Barker said. "Mr. Pope was very, very helpful. The back area, we have future plans for offices back there, but right now we'll leave it open until we get more funds."

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