Saturday afternoon, the Humane Educational Society was empty of people.
But tributes mounted on social media for its director, Guy Bilyeu, who succumbed Saturday to head injuries from a bicycle accident several days earlier.
At the center on Highland Park Avenue, the sounds of barking dogs and mewing cats made a fitting swan song for Bilyeu, who championed animal advocacy in Hamilton County for more than 10 years.
Bilyeu had serving as executive director of the Humane Society in Hamilton County for a decade. Under Bilyeu's watch, the Humane Educational Society was named Animal Shelter of the Year for Tennessee in 2005.
The center was inducted into the Tennessee Animal Hall of Fame the following year and also received honorable mention for in Best Practices at the American Humane Association conference.
Up until mid-2008, the Humane Society handled all homeless animal cases in Hamilton County. Some estimate that around 15,000 animals moved through there a year.
The opening of the McKamey Animal Center for Chattanooga animals cut the Humane Society's numbers by about half.
Dr. Tai Federico, president of the society's board of directors, said in a statement Saturday that Bilyeu "served our community tirelessly as an advocate for animals."
Nashville resident Megan Wilson posted on Twitter: "Found out Guy Bilyeu, executive director of the Humane Educational Society, passed away. My heart hurts so much right now."
On the Times Free Press Facebook page, Dee Martin Baty called Bilyeu's passing "very sad -- a big loss for the community."
Ann Wetzel Oliver said "He did so much good for the animals of this area. God comfort his family, friends and co-workers at this time."
Cheri Haynes simply called him "a hero."
Bilyeu's departure leaves a sizable role to be filled at the Humane Society.
"[T]he work he has done will live on locally and nationally in the thousands of animal lives he has saved," Federico wrote Saturday.
Paula Shoffner, a commenter on the Humane Educational Society's Facebook page, put it simpler: "Job well done Guy ..."
Contact staff writer Alex Green at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6731.
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