Saving Animals in the Shenandoah Mountains

Saving Animals in the Shenandoah Mountains

On Monday, I hitched up the wagons and drove to town. (That’s what Nick likes to say every time I say I need to go ‘to town’ which is 10 miles away.) I was headed to the Warren County Humane Society, aka, the Warren County Animal Shelter.

Humane-Society-WC-Logo-color-200

I was signing up two of ‘my’ four cats to be neutered/spayed and vaccinated for rabies. Read more

No-Kill is Not Rocket Science

No-Kill is Not Rocket Science

Ian and I are still processing what we saw and what we learned in Tennessee, each in our own way.

He is taking a break and feels he can’t look at the pictures for a bit. His pictures capture the emotion of the dogs caught in our human failure, and that is hard to look at. I know eventually he will be ready to edit them and to hopefully share more here on the blog. He took thousands of pictures. My big son has a very big heart, and it truly broke in Tennessee.

 

For me, seeing the conditions in western Tennessee made me furious. This should not be happening. We should not be leaving the responsibility for lost and surrendered animals to a handful of citizens who are quite literally standing in the gap left by a government that neglects its duties and an unaware public.

I cannot look away. So, I am doing what I do– writing and talking and making a nuisance of myself. I’m working on articles, blog posts (like this one), and even a book. I am in the midst of signing a publishing contract for 100 Dogs and Counting, a follow up to Another Good Dog: One Family and Fifty Foster Dogs that will recount more of our fostering adventures, and then take the reader south to discover where these dogs come from and what they can do about it.

I am also planning another trip in September– this time back to Tennessee, and then on to Alabama. Ian will be in school, but I will bring along another talented photographer and excellent co-pilot, Nancy Slattery.

One of the people I am excited to see on this next trip is a rescue hero of mine — Aubrie Kavanaugh. I’m excited to introduce you to her today in the following interview. Aubrie is not only an expert in the fight for a No-Kill nation, but a talented writer, a wickedly smart and funny person, and a dog-hearted woman relentlessly and methodically committed to changing the situation.

Enjoy!

The biggest first – the question everyone asks me – Why are there so many unwanted dogs in the south? Read more

A Neverending Stream of Unwanted Animals

A Neverending Stream of Unwanted Animals

We are home and settled in for the holiday week, but in some ways, I feel like I’m still in Tennessee. The pull is so strong. The stories down there break my heart but they also fire up my desire to fix this situation.

It is SO fixable. It does not need to be happening. There are more than enough of us to help the women struggling to help the dogs in western Tennessee. Once more, there are more than enough homes for those dogs, too.

From Kim Kavin’s excellent, well-researched book, The Dog Merchants:

“The notion that America’s homeless dogs face an ‘overpopulation problem’ does not match up against the available statistics. Supply is not exceeding demand. Americans want about 8 million dogs a year as new pets, while only about 4 million dogs are entering shelters….If just half the Americans already getting a dog went the shelter route, then statistically speaking, every cage in US animal control facilities could be emptied. Right now.”

And Tabi and Amber and Kim and Anne and Laura wouldn’t spend their every waking moment fighting to keep animals alive.

I’m not trying to guilt those of you who chose to buy your dog, particularly if you bought that dog from a reputable breeder and/or intend to show your dog. What I am saying is that if the next time you decide you’d like another pet (especially a cat), you’d consider looking at your local shelter or rescue.

And the next time a friend of yours or just an acquaintance tells you they adopted a dog from a shelter or rescue, thank that person for choosing to save a dog.

I’ve been home for five days now and already I’ve heard of more heartbreaking stories landing in the lap of both Karin’ 4 Kritters and Red Fern. Puppies abandoned and struggling, three dogs rescued by a woman who has them kenneled on her front porch to keep neighbors from poisoning them, dogs and puppies simply dumped. I can’t keep count of how many are in desperate need of rescue, so I asked for a summary from Laura (who handles transports from the area for OPH and many other rescues across our country).

The list here of calls for help in one day is: Read more

Where is the Line Between Caring and Killing?

Where is the Line Between Caring and Killing?

After plying Ian with eggs and bagels, we drove out to Trisha’s place, home of her rescue, RARE (Rural Animal Rescue Effort). Disguised as a pretty, petite, energetic normal person, Trisha is a powerhouse who rescues animals all over western Tennessee, fighting for them on every level. She will not tolerate your nonsense and has no qualms with calling a spade, a spade.

“I’m not really a human-person, I’m a dog-person,” she told me. Currently, she fosters thirty-five at her house (along with dozens of cats and kittens, and a few rabbits.

Driving west with Trisha in the back seat, it was hard to keep up with her busy mind as she rattled off the situations we were headed for. Our first stop was the Huntingdon dog pound in Carroll County. She explained that she hoped we’d be able to get in but hadn’t gotten confirmation of that from the dog catchers she’d contacted. Dogcatcher is really what they are called. The county has two dogcatchers who make upwards of a thousand dollars a month. She checked her phone again. No response. “They don’t give a shit,” she said.

This was clear when we arrived. Read more

The People Who Will Not Let the Dogs Die

The People Who Will Not Let the Dogs Die

Out to the west of Nashville, after a long slog on US 40 and several smaller highways that took us through Paris and Pillowville, we arrived in Greenfield. Our destination: the police station. We’d come to meet Tabi, officially the records clerk for Greenfield Police Department, unofficially—the keeper of the dog pound.

Police-Department

Tabi is a friendly, cheerful soul, despite Read more

Work in Progress

Work in Progress

Yesterday’s visit to Maury County and the Williamson County shelters was an opportunity to set a bar. I wanted Ian to see a typical municipal shelter. Today we will drive 2.5 hours west to see a ‘city pound’ and a rescue that is trying desperately to help the situation.

Maury County, thankfully, was much changed from the last time I was there. That was clear from the faces on the dogs. You can see more of these images on our Facebook and Instagram pages.

I met with Jack, the new director and Maily, a volunteer leader; both are new to Maury in 2019. Both are having a positive impact on the place. Read more

Tennessee Bound

Tennessee Bound

We’re a day into this trip, but all we’ve done so far is drive (and drive). No traffic, no complaints, it just feels very anticlimactic and I’m ready to get to the shelters. I forget how friendly and sweet people are in the south until I get down here. Not sure if it’s authentic, but it sure is pleasant. I’ve already been called honey, darlin’, and sweetheart more times in twenty-four hours than seems reasonable, but I’ll take it.

Ian has snapped hundreds of pictures out the window but has not deemed any of them ‘post-worthy’. Hopefully, he’ll lower his standards soon so you can see what we’re seeing – mountains, kudzu vine swallowing entire forests along the highway, plenty of trucks,  plenty more American flags, and since we entered Tennessee, gobs of horse-trailers. The roadside signage is fairly entertaining – equally biblical messages and adult entertainment stores. The fog comes and goes. Today we’ve alternated between Ian’s 70’s Pandora station and podcasts of The Moth.

Two more hours of driving and then finally – dogs! This will be my second visit to Maury County Shelter and I’m really (really) hoping things are better this time. They have a new director, so it will be interesting to see what has changed. Maury is a large, open-intake shelter in Columbia, Tennessee with a large building, a good-size budget (relatively speaking), a big staff, and from what I remember, strong volunteer support.

The last time I was here the biggest problem was the length of time (a month or longer) that dogs were kept in ‘stray hold’ – unevaluated, unstimulated, isolated, which caused undo stress. Shelter life can sometimes be harder on a dog than life as a stray.  They get meals, but without companionship, toys, exercise, or engagement combined with the noise and tiny space, it can break down dogs quickly.  The other issue I remember at Maury was that the dogs were given no bedding and no toys because it made clean  up too difficult and clogged their drainage system. The dogs each had a tiny, hard plastic shelf in their kennels and nothing else.

Here are a few of the faces of Maury County the last time I visited. Hopefully, things will look different today.

Thanks for following – please spread the word. It’s way past time to let the dogs out.

Cara