New Westminster Animal Shelter is a small no-kill facility in British Columbia that takes in the city's stray, abandoned and surrendered domestic animals. There are mostly cats and dogs, but birds and rats, bunnies and ferrets often find their way through the doors, too.

When a former teacher from Vancouver passed away a few years ago, shelter administrators found out that the man had left them a donation. But it wasn't until a few weeks ago when the estate was settled that they discovered how generous he had been.

Daryl Mutz had left the facility $275,000.

"We are a very small shelter in a very small city. While we have some very generous donors, for us $1,000 is a huge donation," Margie Fox, senior animal services officer, tells MNN. "We were overwhelmed and had to take some time to wrap our heads around it. Although it came with something sad, we could imagine what good it could do."

Although Mutz had no connection to the shelter and didn't live in the city, a friend had suggested that the shelter could use financial support.

Where the money will go

Instead of using the funds for basic care, the executors of his estate worked with shelter administrators, Fox says, to come up with special plans for the funds.

"We have a budget for food, for basic veterinary care, bowls and that sort of thing. We didn’t want that special bequeathment to go to what the city already funds," she says.

A portion of the money will help cover "excessive" veterinary care, beyond routine services.

For example, the shelter has two senior German shepherds named Fred and Ginger, shown above. They're perfect examples of pets that will benefit from the money, Fox says. Fred needs dental surgery and both dogs have arthritis that would likely improve with hydrotherapy.

In addition, a special enrichment fund will cover things like toys and games to keep animals mentally stimulated while they're in the facility.

"Sometimes with dogs, their mental health is not the greatest at the shelter," Fox says. "Enrichment could include hydrotherapy or going on a field trip and agility equipment so they're not just walking around sniffing the grass."

It can also include toys and posts for cats to reduce stress, and it can also be used to hire trainers and behaviorists.

Some of the endowment also will help low-income pet owners pay for their animals' care.

"It's really special," Fox says. "Not only will we be able to help the animals in our care. We can also help prevent animals from coming into our care. By helping low-income owners with some costs, maybe we can keep an animal in their homes."

Mary Jo DiLonardo writes about everything from health to parenting — and anything that helps explain why her dog does what he does.