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 by to meet a dog in danger of dying at Maury County Shelter in Columbia, Tennessee. I like Maury, in the year since I first visited, so much has changed and improved and there is a passionate group of committed, tireless volunteers advocating for Maury and its dogs.
We hadn’t planned to stop there on this visit, but we were early getting into town and when I messaged Laura, who is hosting us for two nights, she said she was on her way to Maury to dog-test a dog who desperately needs to get out of the shelter.
Adasyn has turned up at the shelter again after having been adopted out a third time. Each time she has been allowed to run loose and Animal Control has picked her up and returned her to the shelter. On this last return she was agitated and staff reported she was growling. Now she will not return to the adoptable floor. Now, without rescue, she will likely die.
The volunteers have not seen any aggression out of this large, white dog. They wonder if she wasn’t just panicked at the sight of the shelter again. Nancy and I spent some time with her. She was a big, sweet bear of a dog. Laura brought another dog out and Adasyn wasn’t the least bit reactive, preferring to lounge on the grass and soak up our attention.
What will become of her? I ask. Laura grimaces and assures me she will try to find rescue. Adasyn hasn’t bitten anyone, but with the staff’s comments now on her record, her size, and a third return, her odds aren’t good.
Back at Laura’s house, we met her two fosters King and Callie. Both of these dogs should be dead, but instead Laura brought them home to her house and continues to advocate for them.
King was a big, adorable teddy bear. He looks like an overgrown puppy. I couldn’t stop petting his big fat head and feeding him treat after treat after treat.
Callie was shy at first, but once she’d inspected us and accepted the treats we offered, she bounded around the house, giving great hugs and pouncing playfully on toys. She’s a blue dog, my weakness.
I’m planning to introduce King and Callie via video on our Facebook page tonight. There’s no wifi at Laura’s house, so we may not be able to do it as a Live video, but keep an eye out for it.
Later in the afternoon we trucked over to Trisha’s house to take pictures of dogs in her rescue RARE. Trisha is often the only person willing to go to bat for these dogs abandoned in pounds all over western Tennessee.
I was reunited with a dog I met last June at the Huntingdon Pound. Fanny was emaciated and poop-covered and had the saddest eyes you could ever imagine, yet still wagged her tail and wiggled her happiness at the sight of us.
Now she is healthy and happy and still without a forever home, so we will be bringing her back with us so I can foster her for OPH.
In the evening we gathered with a pack of amazing women, who so much of their time and hearts to the animals of Tennessee. They are committed to fixing the situation and brainstormed ideas for bringing spay and neuter to the area, particularly western Tennessee where access is so limited or completely unavailable. We drank wine and talked late into the night (for me) about dogs and shelters and people and possibilities.
Each time I come down here, it is so hard to see the dogs and it is only bearable because I also meet the heroes fighting for them. These people who simply put their heads down and work, knowing the problem is bigger than them and well aware that tomorrow there will be a new dog, a new crisis, a new life to save.
They should not be left alone with this problem. They need help and they need resources and they need partners who have already reached the status they are hoping for—no kill, but more than no kill, no need for the heartache and desperation and endless efforts simply to keep dogs alive. No need to explain to people why they should value the animals around them.
We are already in the thick of it. It will be a hard week in the oppressive heat, but the people and dogs we have met in just one day are clearly worth it.