Chicago couple leads Felines & Canines, a successful animal shelter in Edgewater

Wed. April 27, 2016 10:36 AM by Ross Forman

abby smith and kelly thompson with knuckles

photo credit // abby smith
Abby Smith and the crew at Felines & Canines took in a neglected 16 year-old Pomeranian mix in mid-April. "The dog was in terrible shape," she said, noting that his spine was curved and legs were misshapen due to being confined in a small space for too long. "He was visually impaired and hard of hearing, toothless and horribly matted," she added.

Smith and company cleaned him up, showered him with love and treats – and after posting him on their Facebook page, he was adopted one day later, "restoring my faith in humanity," she said.

Smith, 51, is the Executive Director at Felines & Canines, located at 6379 N. Paulina Street. Her partner, Kelly Thompson, is the Development Director at Felines & Canines. 

Smith joined Felines & Canines in 2001 as a part-time adoption counselor after working 20 years in retail (women's shoes). Within eight months, she became the Executive Director – and has since helped more than 10,000 homeless animals. Thompson joined Felines & Canines in 2010, transitioning out of corporate marketing into the world of animal welfare. She splits her time between running the shelter's dog program and raising the money needed to care for all of the animals.

"Kelly & I have been working together for the last 5 1/2 years," Smith said. "At first, it was challenging being the boss of my partner, but we quickly established a good work relationship. The most difficult part of it is that you never really get away from work. Mostly, it is great sharing a day with somebody that shares the same passion as you."

 The duo have two dogs of their own (Knuckles and Bandi) and also two cats (Moose and Moby).

"Running a shelter is a constant mix of awesome and horrible," Smith said. "You see the worst and best in humanity and I am extremely grateful that I have the honor of working for these animals. There is nothing more gratifying than taking an abused or neglected animal, loving on them and teaching them how to trust, then placing them in an amazing home where they blossom and go from survivor to companion."

When Smith joined Felines Inc. in 2001, the organization was more like a sanctuary, doing around 40 or 50 adoptions per year. In a matter of months, "I turned the place into an active adoption center, placing 225 cats in my first year," she said.

Since changing its mission and building in 2012 to include dogs, Felines & Canines now fills a 6,000 square-foot shelter with 17 dog kennels and a free roaming cat floor that averages about 85. In 2015, Felines & Canines placed a total of 845 animals – 518 dogs and 327 cats. The average stay for a new cat is 22 days, and only four days for a new dog.

"When I look back and realize that I have had a hand in placing over 4,000 animals, I really can't believe it. I am incredibly fortunate that I get to do this life-saving/altering work and I love every minute of it," Smith said.

Felines & Canines is holding its annual Cinco De Meow fund-raiser on May 1 (1-3 p.m.) at Trader's Todd (3216 N. Sheffield Ave.) in Wrigleyville. "It's a great event with a fajita bar, margaritas, raffles and trivia," Smith said. "We hope to raise $3,000 to go into our medical fund."

Felines & Canines is open daily from 12:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, go to the shelter's website: