Waste Management worker honored for saving animals as suburban shelter flooded: 'It was shocking'

When police and firefighters arrived, Heartland Animal Shelter was under 2 feet of water, after a pipe burst

Rob Hughes Image
Thursday, July 4, 2024
Trash collector honored for saving animals as suburban shelter flooded
A Waste Management worker was honored for calling 911 as the Heartland animal rescue shelter in Wheeling flooded last week.

WHEELING, Ill. (WLS) -- Dozens of pets at a suburban shelter were rescued thanks to the efforts of a trash collector.

He noticed something was wrong, and alerted authorities, saving those animals from drowning.

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The shelter honored the worker Wednesday.

Last week, a massive flood at a suburban animal shelter put more than 100 pets in danger.

But, on Wednesday, there was a hero's welcome for Tony Maticic. Leaders and volunteers from Heartland Animal Shelter visited Maticic at work to show their appreciation for saving the lives of the pets.

It was Maticic who first felt like something was off last Wednesday morning. While making his rounds for Waste Management, Maticic has made it his routine to wave at the cats who stand on the ledge of the shelter's window.

"Usually there's five or six of them on their hammocks and everything. This time they're all on top of each other, like 20-30 cats, so I'm like alright there's something wrong," Maticic said.

It was too early for anyone to be at the shelter, so Maticic called 911. When police and firefighters arrived, Heartland Animal Shelter was under 2 feet of water, after a pipe burst overnight.

"This isn't a little accumulation of water overnight. This was a rushing river," said Jenny Schlueter, executive director of Heartland Animal Shelter. "It devastated our equipment, and devastated our cabinets. Animals were floating in the water. It was shocking."

Schlueter gets emotional thinking about what would've happened if Maticic hadn't shown up at just the right time. And Maticic is still thinking about his furry friends.

Since the flood, support has been coming in from all angles. Thanks to Signature Aviation, Heartland is running some temporary operations out of an empty hangar at Chicago Executive Airport.

"By the end of the day, the magnitude of how many animals were in there, and you might help. It was overwhelming. So I teared up on the way home," Maticic said.

Schlueter said they expect to be displaced until at least the end of August.

For more information on the shelter, visit heartlandlandimalshelter.org.