FARMINGTON — The community gave it life, and the community's continued support of the Farmington Regional Animal Shelter will be necessary for it to live, Phil Morin said.

"There were people that just came forward and had faith that this project would go," said Morin, co-chair of the Regional Animal and Pet Shelter Foundation, Inc., the nonprofit that led the shelter's fundraising, beginning in 2008. "It really was something."

The new shelter, which opened Friday, cost $4.6 million, with funds coming from the city of Farmington, San Juan County and the state. But the community, Morin said -- even during the recession -- donated more than $550,000.

And support still rolls in. Mesa Verde Elementary School is launching a drive for the shelter. From Tuesday to Dec. 19, the school will accept donations of blankets, towels and cans of dog and cat food.

That's the kind of support the shelter needs, said Stacie Voss, the shelter's executive director.

Next week, a wood-carved mural will be mounted to the shelter's donor wall. Cory Styron, director of the city's Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs department, said the artwork will showcase the community's support for Farmington's animal welfare because, on it, will be written the names of all major donors.

Tara Churchill said it will paint the shelter a human face. She, along with her parents, Bev and Tom Taylor, have been working on the mural for three months. Churchill and her mother are co-owners of Artifacts Gallery, a Farmington art studio. Ten years ago, they carved and painted the Farmington Public Library's Story Time doors.

Churchill has visited the new shelter, and she said it is beautiful. In all places -- but especially those that are dark or sad or institutional -- art is important, she said.

"I think art cheers up any type of room," she said.

It's a secret as to what the mural will look like, Bev Taylor said, but it involves a carved pine banner and carved pine cats, dogs, fish and bones. It will cover the 11-by-9-foot donor wall in the shelter's front room.

The names of donors who contributed $1,000 or more will be written on the fish and bones. A journal will contain the names of all other contributors. Morin said they are "countless."

This mural is unlike common memorials, Bev Taylor said. Many would walk past a wall of brass plaques. Not this wall. This mural kids will see, she said, and they'll hopefully understand the shelter's importance and what it can do.

"Somehow, it helps them connect to what this is all about," she said.

Inside the Taylors' studio, often napping on sun-lit windowsills, lives Patches, a splotchy brown female cat and the resident mouse-killer. When the Taylors found Patches in 2008, she was a kitten living behind the studio in the old saw-mill, nestled beneath the wood-slat floor with her feral mother and white-furred sibling.

One day, the white kitten disappeared. And the Taylors adopted the last, patchy kitten.

Patches was feral and slow to trust people. But she came around. One day, while Patches was sleeping in the sun washing through the front windows, Bev Taylor heard a tapping on the glass.

"What the heck is that?" she thought.

A man in a motorized wheelchair was tapping the window from the sidewalk to wake the cat.

Patches woke, and the man pressed his palm to the window. Patches pressed her pink nose to the man's hand.

They became friends, Bev Taylor said.

"So many people love animals," she said. "And he just had this little connection with this cat that would sleep in the window in the sun."

Humanizing the animal shelter is important, said Voss, who started work earlier this month as the new shelter director. She said some people won't even visit a shelter because they think it is a sad place. But shelters don't have to be, and this one isn't, she said.

"It is so friendly and inviting and (well-lit)," she said. "It's a beautiful building."

But the shelter only holds the animals, and the animals come from the community, Styron said. It is important that the community spays, neuters and vaccinates its dogs and cats, he said. It is important that they understand the animals are their companions, he said.

"I think a shelter can reflect its community," Voss said. "I think good communities have good shelters."

Dan Schwartz covers government for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4606 and dschwartz@daily-times.com. Follow him @Dan_J_Schwartz on Twitter.