Our next stop in Alabama was The Humane Society of Chilton County in Clanton, AL. I’d heard great things about this place and it didn’t disappoint.
Chilton has a very relaxed, happy air about it which made complete sense upon meeting the director. Jennifer is a former stay at home mom who began as a volunteer and ultimately became the director. She is calm and certain and clearly loves her job.
As director she is hands-on, rarely to be found in her office. Instead, she Read more
One of the visits I was most looking forward to on this trip was with RUFF (Rescuers United For Furbabies), an OPH rescue partner.
They are a foster-based rescue on the front lines who are saving lives in Walker County, Alabama.
RUFF supports Walker County Humane and Adoption Center in a gazillion ways, but I knew of them because they pulled dogs from Walker County for OPH, placing them in their foster homes, getting them to the vet for everything necessary to make the trip north and then meeting our transports to hand off dogs.
We met Kara Jones, one of the RUFF leaders at Walker County late in the afternoon after she had finished her workday teaching seventh graders. Kara is pretty amazing, and not just because Read more
When we pulled up at the gate for our first stop in Alabama, enormous dogs loped towards us. “What are those?” I asked Nancy, incredulous. I’d never seen dogs like this up close.
We waited while Rhonda, the director of Brindlee Mountain Rescue put the giant creatures in their kennels and opened the automatic gate for us.
Once inside the tidy property, we met Rhonda, a smart, kind, sensible woman who had a gentle air about her, not unlike the giants we would soon meet. Rhonda created this rescue so Read more
We discovered the Franklin County Animal Control in Winchester, Tennessee just down a residential lane right next to the sewage treatment plant. It is a tiny aging building with no lobby, no indoor kennels, and just off the office, next to the front door there is still a gas chamber originally used to kill dogs.
The day we visited, the gas chamber space had been repurposed Read more
We left Shelbyville Animal Control at 10:20am, and at 10:28 we were navigating the tight, tiny parking lot of Bedford County Animal Control.
These shelters have more in common than I expected. Considering they serve the same basic public, I imagined Read more
So many shelters, so many dogs.
I knew at the start of this trip it would be a lot and that keeping all the dogs, directors, and shelters straight might be a challenge. Having Nancy with me helps. I badger her with questions interrupting her work (she spends HOURS editing pictures not just for me and this trip, but to send to directors to use in their efforts to get dogs adopted).
“Which shelter was the one with that cool blue dog with the Catahoula spots?”
“Do you remember what the director said about whether they give Bordetella vaccines?”
“Was there a school bus parked in the yard behind the shelter?” (I actually asked that question more than once, vehicles seem to factor largely in rural southern shelter spaces.)
Nancy doesn’t always have the answers, but sometimes she does or sometimes her pictures provide the clues.
Maybe it was easy to mix up the shelters, as we visited two of four shelters/rescues that are literally within a few miles of each other in a county southeast of Nashville. Clearly, there are many people who care about animals in Bedford County, TN, but from an outsider perspective, I wondered if they were duplicating efforts and whether working together and pooling their resources might be a smarter solution, at least for the dogs. There wasn’t much time to examine that idea as there were dogs to meet and stories to hear.
We started at Shelbyville City Animal Control, arriving late because Read more
On Monday we finally made a pilgrimage to the mecca of animal shelters. Or at least that’s the way I thought of it.
I’ve followed Nashville Humane in the news and on social media for ages, and am always impressed with their innovative programs, how many dogs they move, and their clever, clever marketing. In the world of dog shelters, they are the Ritz Carlton. For the south especially, dogs that land there have truly hit the lottery.
With a 2.2 million dollar budget (all raised through private funding), of course they Read more
Cheatham County Animal Control is making the impossible possible.
In fact, Cheatham’s director Kristin Reid, used that exact phrase when she explained her attitude towards her new job as director of a shelter that had such atrocious conditions before she took it over eighteen months ago that a group of local shelter directors said it should simply be closed down.
The shelter has only a $60,000 budget with which to maintain a building, run animal control calls, and handle over 1200 animals each year. Cheatham is an open-intake shelter so they have no choice but to accept every owner surrender for any reason, plus strays and seizures, basically any and all animals in trouble in Cheatham County, TN.
Kristin stepped into a situation that Read more
It’s very easy to disconnect down here. Easy to forget there is a world north of us where there isn’t an animal crisis at every turn.
Before we left, as we drove down, and now that we are here, I’ve been getting email messages from other shelters and rescues— ‘Come here! Animals are dying.’ ‘There is no animal control, not any shelter, sometimes they just shoot the animals.’ ‘Our shelter is crammed, we need your help!’
We want to go to all these places, but our schedule is jammed full of places equally in need of attention. I make a list of the places, ones I will find a way to come back to, but I wonder if I can help them and why it is me driving from shelter to shelter shouting into the wind. I desperately need a bigger microphone, more time, more money.
Yesterday we stopped Read more
We are packing up and getting ready. In the morning I’ll pick up our rented SUV and then race home and see just how much I can cram into it before Nancy and I hit the road at 10:30 for our eight-hour drive to Bristol, Virginia where we will stop for the first night of this eight-day odyssey.
Our schedule is packed. We will visit thirteen shelters and rescues in Tennessee and Alabama, and meet with a national Humane Society Rep, an author/no-kill advocate, and a group of volunteers and advocates for a brainstorming session.
In between those activities, I will write and Nancy will edit photos, but mostly we will drive. We’ll cover over 2600 miles, sleep in plenty of cheap hotels, eat on the run, and gather as many stories and images as we can in the hopes that those stories and images help bring change, that they inspire people to get involved, to ask questions, to find answers.
When you live in an area where dogs don’t routinely die at shelters, sometimes it’s hard to imagine that there are places in this country where they do. Read more