We had just sat down to dinner when they arrived three purple martins swooping in on the area they know as home.

Dinner had to wait for Ed, who hurried outside for the purple martin house that's taken down when the birds head south, then put back up when they return. I watched from inside as the trio of martins hovered over Ed while he worked, eager to reclaim their home.

In minutes, the birdhouse was situated. The martins were perched on the house before Ed was back inside, and we're looking forward to months of enjoyable purple martin chatter and aerial acrobatics.

Purple martins winter in South America, then travel thousands of miles to this region. They have homes waiting for them, where they build nests that keep them comfy and cozy.

If only some of their furry friends had the same good fortune.

As spring arrives, so does puppy and kitten season. Sadly, that means even more unwanted pets waiting at the local animal shelter for a permanent home.

The recent opening of the bigger, better equipped animal shelter in Garden City was a welcome and long overdue development. The more inviting environment has led to more adoptions, as expected, as people considering a new pet can get acquainted in an adoption room and outdoor area.

Still, even though the new facility was deemed necessary to help lower the unwanted pet population, no one should see it as a cure-all.

If local pet owners continue to be irresponsible by failing to have their pets spayed or neutered and letting them run loose, even the biggest and most sophisticated shelter won't hold all the dogs and cats that come its way. And animals that otherwise would be great pets will continue to be euthanized.

That has the Finney County Humane Society working toward a bigger network of foster homes to offer short-term care for dogs or cats awaiting adoption.

This may be a busy time at the shelter, but there's no down time when it comes to the need for foster homes that buy time for animals that shouldn't face death.

Unfortunately, too few people in Garden City have agreed to open their homes to a dog or cat, which puts more strain on those who do. They need help.

For folks who don't have the room or time for a pet, monetary donations to the local humane society can help in other ways, including the effort to build a fund for pet owners who cannot afford to spay or neuter their pets.

Beyond the obvious benefit of preventing unnecessary litters, spaying or neutering pets also lessens their chances of some cancers, urinary tract infections and behavioral problems.

For more information on ways to help the local humane society provide care and homes for pets, call (620) 276-1152.

Humane society volunteers can explain how donations are used, as well as how to become a foster home for dogs and cats in need.

Our feathered friends, meanwhile, seem to have it made with a nice home they can depend on year after year.

Not so for many dogs and cats that, by no fault of their own, face a more uncertain future one that would be brighter if more people did a little to help.

E-mail Editor-publisher Dena Sattler at denas@ gctelegram.com.