If I asked you to picture an animal shelter in your head, you would likely conjure up some Sarah McLaughlin induced images of paint-chipped concrete, rusty chain-link and puppies cowering in the corners. The porous cement brings a certain stench to mind that no amount of Febreeze can hide, and an incessant barking prevails.

This was the SPCA’s former shelter on Wire Road and is representative of many throughout the country. At the old facility, children would clasp their hands over their ears and pinch their noses shut, the exciting prospect of a new pet overshadowed by sensory overload.

Fortunately, this is no longer the case for the SPCA. We are grateful to have a shelter that is attractive and a breath of fresh air. Its music to our ears. It’s easy to see why the SPCA is becoming a destination for day visits, as well as for those that are on a mission for neuter services, vaccines, or adoption.

The facility is a work of art, a contemporary construction that emphasizes our safe and clean environment. Beauty may be skin deep, but once inside, visitors are greeted warmly by a personable staff, hoards of friendly volunteers, the smell of citrus groves, and music meant for massage.

Wait. What? Music? Aromatherapy? In an Animal Shelter? Yes.

This sounds like some sales pitch for a vacation getaway, doesn’t it? The irony is this: as appealing as it sounds to human guests, all of these improvements were made for the animals.

At the SPCA Albrecht Center, cold concrete has been replaced with non-porous, antibacterial impregnated methymethacrylate surfacing. Each animal room has its own air return, fire sprinkler, windows, and drain ... some rooms even have couches.

Automatic air fresheners dispense a dozen different scents to keep our habitats fresh and dogs engaged and now our Dog Adoption Center has music created especially for them. The Rescue Animal MP3 Project is now in service at the SPCA and it is having an immediate positive influence on humans and dogs alike.

The universal language of music is helping our pet residents cope with their new surroundings and the shelter environment. Studies show that certain music compositions can help pets with common phobias such as thunderstorms, household noises and stress. At the SPCA, we have seen ourselves how this music works powerfully and quickly.

Last week, Our Director of Enrichment and Training, two kennel staffers, and the President watched as the specially composed music began. Prior to turning it on, Vito, our Doberman blend, and Spud, our Chocolate Lab, were acting a bit anxious and occasionally barking. We watched in delightful amazement as they stopped, pricked their ears, listened, then quietly laid down on their beds. We couldn’t believe it. It worked exactly the way the creators of this project showed us it would.

In the words of Rescue Animal Mp3 Project founder Pamela Fisher, DVM, “The extensive variety of music in this compilation provides soothing vibrational therapy to help relax the animals and enable potential adopters to see the pets’ more natural and loving personalities.” At the SPCA we have found this to be true along with the secondary benefit of influencing visitors and staff, too. After all, our energy level is sensed by an animal. If we feel calm, they will feel that.

So please come by the SPCA Albrecht Center to see, hear, and enjoy the scents and sensations that make this special shelter for homeless pets a pleasure to visit.

Perhaps you may even find yourself sharing a room with one of our canine residents for a session of reading. Reading? Yes … we even read to our dogs, but that is another story.

Barbara Nelson is president and CEO of the SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare.