Each week a Northern Virginia Daily reporter visits a local animal shelter to write a feature about one of its residents. In the past few weeks, we’ve met “Ace, a sweet dominant cat,” “Rascal, the friendly rabbit,” “Squawker Lee, the strong silent type” cat, “energetic Nina” who needs an outlet, and the high energy but sweet Foxy the pit bull mix.

All of these beautiful animals are looking for a safe, loving “forever” home where they can spend the rest of their lives. These dogs and cats and other animals may have been relinquished by owners who could no longer care for them, or strays that had to scrounge for food and shelter where they could before someone found then and transported them to the shelter.

We feel the time invested in going out to each of the five area shelters, spending time with the animals and their caretakers, writing, editing and processing photos for these features is well worth the effort — especially when we hear that a featured animal has found its “forever” home.

There are millions of animals in shelters across the nation — the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals estimates 3.9 million dogs and 3.4 million cats are taken to shelters each year, and that 1.7 million dogs and 1.3 million cats are adopted. On a sadder note, 2.7 million animals are euthanized each year.

If you love animals, and want to open up your home as a “forever” home, visit your local shelter. In our area, animals are available for adoption at the Shenandoah County SPCA Animal Shelter, the Winchester SPCA Animal Shelter, the Humane Society of Warren County, the Clarke County Animal Shelter and the Frederick County Esther L. Boyd Animal Shelter.

If’ your home is already full, consider helping these animals in other ways. You could volunteer at your local shelter, or donate money or items – anything from dog toys to trash bags to food – are always needed.

Our Pet of the Week features can be found each Wednesday on our Pets & Animals page. But beware! The featured pet may just steal your heart.