After spending part of our day at the Ripley Trade Market nightmare, it was wonderful to spend some time with Meridith Perry, the president of Midsouth Animal Welfare Foundation, whose rescue partners with OPH(our rescue) in Mississippi to save dogs.
Blond, petite, and determined, Meridith has never known a time when she wasn’t rescuing animals. Growing up, before rescuing was a ‘thing’, her parents were always bringing home dogs and cats that the family would foster and then find homes for.
In Mississippi, the need is endless and when we arrived at Meridith’s home, what she needed first was pictures of her foster horse, Apache. The sun was just setting, so Nancy set right to work snapping pictures. This was Nancy’s first horse shoot, and while Meridith and I talked, Apache munched grass and occasionally held his head up regally for Nancy, who seemed awfully tickled with her sizably larger subject.
Midsouth started out with a mission to focus on spay and neuter. Meridith, a vet tech, found a partner in Dr. Brent Jobe, a local ‘semi-retired’ vet. Every Friday Dr. Jobe and Meridith spay and neuter around twenty animals. Meridith sets the appointments through Facebook and keeps costs at about half the normal price for the surgery.
It’s this partnership with Dr. Jobe that allows Midsouth to take on severely injured animals other rescues or shelters might not be able to help. Meridith trades her free help as an assistant and tech for Dr. Jobe’s skill and time. Dr. Jobe treats Midsouth’s animals basically at cost and allows Meridith the use of his clinic for their recovery.
After we pulled Nancy away from Apache, we met Charlie, a shepherd dog with enormous scars covering the top of his head. Meridith explained that when she got him, his head was split open and his skull exposed. They aren’t sure how it happened, maybe he was hit by a car. Dr. Jobe fixed him up and Meridith fostered him at her home, nursing him back to the happy, friendly, extremely sweet boy who greeted us.
Once Charlie discovered I had treats in my pocket, he split his time between barking at the horse in the barn and following us around sitting sweetly each time we paused, in expectation of the treat he knew I would feed him. Charlie will soon be moving to rescue in Wisconsin. I warned him about the change in climate coming his way, but he has the coat for it, so he should be just fine.
Meridith told me that between Midsouth and two other rescues in this corner of Mississippi, they moved 2400 puppies north in 2019. That’s 2400 puppies that weren’t sold at the Ripley Market or left to breed even more puppies.
After spending our day criss-crossing this little corner of Mississippi, it’s hard to believe this sparsely populated area produced 2400 excess puppies. But that’s just it – most of us can’t fathom how many puppies a pair of unspayed/unneutered dogs can produce. Midsouth’s Facebook page is filled with great visuals on the importance of spay and neuter.
While spay and neuter continue to be their main mission. Midsouth moves plenty of altered dogs and puppies north. They utilize foster homes to hold dogs before they move out through northern rescues, and while it wasn’t ever their plan, they’ve even taken to driving the transports to get the dogs out. This time of year, they have about 20-30 active fosters, but in the warmer weather, they can have 40-50.
My last bunch of foster puppies was also fostered by Meridith before they came north. They were the third ‘oops’ litter of one of her neighbors. She convinced the neighbors, not only to sign the puppies over to Midsouth so they could get them out of the area so they wouldn’t grow up and add to the problem, but also to allow Meridith to have the puppies’ parents spayed and neutered. The last of that litter was adopted from my house two days before we left on this trip. Little Jack (Arnie when he was with Meridith) is now Auggie Doggie and lives with Santa and Mrs. Claus. (Really!)
Meridith introduced us to another of her three foster dogs. Olga was so named because she was found by a mail carrier during Hurricane Olga last fall. She was covered with mange. After healing at the clinic, there was no foster home available and no rescue willing to pull her, so Olga has lived at the clinic since last November.
Meridith just brought her home to foster a few days ago. When she released her from her kennel, Olga threw herself on me in joy. I leaned down to pet her and while she’s not a large dog, her excitement knocked me off my feet, so I sat on the gravel drive and rubbed her belly for a few moments before she took off running, playing with Charlie, and then zooming back to greet us again.
Nancy wanted to get a good picture of Olga to help her find rescue, but taking a picture of an ecstatic black dog after sunset, proved a great challenge.
Meridith put a bright yellow leash on Olga and I plied her with treats trying to get her to hold still. She really is adorable and I asked Meridith how it was possible no rescue had pulled her – clearly she was people and dog-friendly and adorable. Meridith said it’s because she looks ‘too pitty,’ a familiar crime for southern dogs denied rescue.
I wished we could scoop Olga up and take her with us. I’m certain she would make a lucky family really happy. Instead, I offered more treats and this smart pup learned really fast that if she held still for a few moments of pictures she’d be rewarded with treats.
We didn’t want to hold Meridith up, she’d only just arrived home after a business trip to Orlando for her company Texas Haynets. Meridith designed a haynet to solve the problem of spilled hay in the large hay feeders and then turned her idea into a successful company. I think of my own spilled hay at home, my blacksmith always teases me about ‘all that money on the ground.’ Hay is expensive and hay spilled from feeders is trampled and wasted.
Meridith is a get-it-done kind of person and a smart businesswoman (plus she has pink cowboy boots!). She saw a problem and fixed it. If only the problem of unwanted and under-valued animals in Mississippi was as easy to solve.
We headed back to our B&B for the night. These are the best accommodations we’ve ever had on one of these trips, courtesy of the woman we will spend the next morning with. Charlotte and her husband Luke moved to Mississippi twenty-five years ago to run a B&B and like so many dog-hearted people, they were sucked into animal rescue and nine years ago Charlotte became the director of the local shelter. I can’t wait to hear her story and share it with you.
There are so many incredible people to meet, stories to tell, and dogs to advocate for. Stick with us—we are just getting started.
Until every cage is empty,
Who Will Let the Dogs Out (we call it Waldo for short) is an initiative of Operation Paws for Homes. If you’d like to contribute to our work, we encourage you to click on the how to help link above and give directly to a shelter. You can also donate to our work via OPH’s donation page by designating Who Will Let the Dogs Out in your comments.
My upcoming book, One Hundred Dogs & Counting: One Woman, Ten Thousand Miles, and a Journey Into the Heart of Shelters and Rescues (Pegasus Books, July 7, 2020) tells the story of not only our foster experience but how Who Will Let the Dogs Out began. It is available for preorder now and a portion of proceeds of every book sold will go to help unwanted animals in the south.