A happy ending.
That's what everyone wanted for the animals freed from Pet Rescue, now closed after operators were charged with abuse, stripped of their license and accused by the state of misusing some donations.
And for the animals - more than 127 cats and several dozen dogs from the Bloomingdale shelter as well as others from a Pet Rescue farm near Hebron - it really is a new beginning. Photos of some of the animals enjoying hugs and warm sunshine after, in some cases, a decade spent caged in a basement warmed our readers' hearts on Sunday (see photos elsewhere on dailyherald.com).
Volunteers, former clients and former employees deserve a world of thanks for a tenacious, years-long push to get Illinois authorities to close Pet Rescue. So do other no-kill shelters that made room for the influx of needy animals - Save-A-Pet in Grayslake, Tails Humane Society in DeKalb and the Hooved Animal Rescue and Protection Society in Barrington Hills.
If you were touched by the plight of Licorice, Woody, Serena and the other Pet Rescue refugees, you need to know that their happy ending isn't quite here yet. But it's well within reach.
Aside from a few animals adopted immediately - such as Ella, who went home with former Pet Rescue volunteer Susan Lillis - most have not yet found permanent homes.
That's where you can help, even if you can't take one in.
It takes a tremendous amount of work to socialize the animals at their new shelters, give them walks and attention and keep their cages clean and their bowls full of food and clean water.
Many people don't believe they have the wherewithal to own a pet in these tough times, but a few hours a week of volunteering at a shelter is a great help and a way to share the love of some remarkable animals. Shelter pets need foster homes, too - a great solution for animal lovers wary of a long-term commitment to pet ownership.
No time to volunteer? Cash helps, of course. If you think it's expensive to feed and provide veterinary care for one pet, try doing it for hundreds.
And if you're willing to adopt, now's the time.
The recession left pet shelters overstuffed and underfunded even before the arrival of the hundreds from Pet Rescue. Adopting a dog or cat - even if it's not one of the Pet Rescue animals - frees up time and resources for those still hoping for homes. By adopting one animal you're helping two - the one going home with you and the one who gets to take its spot.
We know that stories of animals in need tug at our readers' hearts. Let's hope this one keeps tugging for a little longer. Thankfully, the Pet Rescue animals are out of the woods. But they still could use your help.