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Doing what comes next: Dowse keeps working, volunteering

Marcy Dowse shares a hug with Cinder, her favorite cat at the shelter. When Cinder came in as a stray, her fur was all singed, as if she’d been too close to a heat source. She’s available for adoption. Ruth Nerhaugen/Contributor

Editor's note: This story is part of the Republican Eagle 2018 Progress Edition showcasing area students, staff and seniors. Find the rest of the series here.

How did a theater major from Chicago end up managing a humane society in Red Wing, Minn.?

It's a long story, Marcy Dowse might say. Or she might skip over the details and get right to the heart of the matter: Someone asked for her help.

Since she retired three years ago, Dowse has gotten involved in a variety of projects that enable her to apply her skills and talents in ways that serve the community.

She doesn't say it in so many words, but clearly Dowse has a passion for nonprofits and all they accomplish, in Red Wing and countless other small towns.

Dowse grew up in a nice neighborhood on Chicago's South Side, then began studying theater at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash. She transferred to the University of Utah, got her Bachelor of Fine Arts and later earned a master's in theater management — a course of study that served her well when she worked in marketing and communications.

She and Sean Dowse married after they received bachelor's degrees in Utah. In 1971 they came to Minnesota, where he worked at the Cricket Theater in Minneapolis and she held a variety of positions with theaters, the Minnesota Zoo and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

She was still in information and education at the DNR when her husband accepted a position with the Sheldon Theatre, but the commute became tiresome so Dowse teamed with Kim Wiemer in 2001 to establish a marketing company, Integreat. That company became Confluence Marketing, and in 2009 Dowse became marketing manager for Fairview Red Wing Health Service, which became Mayo Clinic Health System in 2012.

So remind me: How did she end up managing a humane society?

"I knew I wanted to do projects" when she retired in 2015, Dowse said. One of her first projects was working with the Red Wing Chamber of Commerce to support downtown and keep it vital during Main Street reconstruction.

"Red Wing really scored a win," she said. Downtown did not lose any businesses despite the tremendous disruption, and it ended up with a beautiful downtown.

The Dowses also pursued their other retirement goal — traveling in their trailer to the East Coast to visit their children, who live in Virginia and New York, and taking some road trips to explore new areas.

Then last May, along came the Goodhue County Humane Society. Dowse figured it would be another "project" for a while.

During a leadership transition "a vacuum emerged," she explained. Having already agreed to help the group with marketing, she next agreed to "step in" as interim director. Six months later she agreed to stay on another half a year. That time will soon be up.

"People who support the organization are dedicated," Dowse said. "They really believe in it," and that makes it possible for the society to do "a tremendous amount of good work for the community. ... It's a nonprofit organization that deserves support."

She tried to calculate the impact if Goodhue County did not have a humane society.

Last year, for example, the local shelter took in 638 strays and surrendered animals — more cats than anything else, but also dogs, birds, bunnies, guinea pigs and other small pet animals. The county contracts with Red Wing and Goodhue County and has an arrangement with a few Pierce County townships.

Sometimes people are forced to surrender their pets because of their housing situation, or because a family member has allergies. "There are all kinds of reasons," Dowse said.

Of that total, new homes were found for 368 animals. "No animal is adopted out of here without all its vaccinations, or without being neutered or spayed," Dowse noted.

Another 145 animals were reunited with their owners.

The Red Wing Police Department would be hard-pressed to cope with all the strays if the humane society did not take them in, Chief Roger Pohlman told her. They would have to take the animals somewhere else, costing time and money.

"This is an important part of the community," Dowse stressed. But it seems that many people take it for granted. The society has served Red Wing since 1982, and has had its own building since 1993.

The humane society has two full-time staff and three to six part-timers. It is open to the public Tuesday through Sunday. They do some boarding, and sometimes take transfers from other shelters that are full.

"It takes funding to do that," she said. "We are grateful" to all the supporters, including several local businesses that donate dog and cat food.

"We are able to run a pet food shelf here" to assist pet owners who are in a temporary bind, she said, in addition to providing a safe, warm/cool place for the animals, complete with food and water.

Animals live at the shelter as long as necessary unless they are very sick and suffering. Even with extremely aggressive dogs, an attempt is made to place them in other shelters that work with hard-to-handle animals.

"We've got a really good team," Dowse said. However, she added, "One of my big jobs right now is finding someone who can take this job permanently.

"I retired once and it's time for me to do it again. The job is open."

The society hopes to find an individual with some skills in administration, fundraising/financial experience and personnel. And of course, she added, "They should love animals."

As for her own plans, Dowse expects she'll take on another project, perhaps after traveling for a bit.

So, how did a theater major become a humane society manager?

"I do what comes next," she explained, even if it's not all planned out in advance.

"It made for an exciting and fun career. And that's how my retirement is."

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