After winding our way through the rolling hills of Kentucky, we arrived at the home of Melissa, a foster for Kentucky Saving Them Together, Inc.. It was the perfect last stop for our fall shelter tour.
Melissa, and Wendy, the vice-president of KSTT, welcomed us with a yummy spread of food and open hearts.
Melissa looked pretty good considering that for the last two weeks, she’d been up every two hours around the clock bottle feeding a litter of four tiny puppies whose mother was hit by a car and killed. To make matters worse, they were also battling kennel cough.
Melissa specializes in sick puppies – handling litters of parvo puppies on a regular basis and bottle-feeding orphaned pups. KSTT is so lucky to have her expertise and her devotion. We followed her downstairs to her puppy room, which was meticulously set up with everything she needed to provide expert care, no doubt saving the rescue thousands in veterinary expenses.
I made lots of notes as she talked about her practices and tricks for saving puppies. She believed in taking action the moment puppies arrived to prevent parvo or strengthen tiny bodies to do battle with it. She had developed so many smart practices – feeding often, probiotics, extra hydration, quiet, warmth, careful monitoring, plus having the medications and supplies she’d need if parvo did present itself on hand.
The relatively new rescue saved 1738 dogs and cats (plus a hedgehog, a goat, and a few pot-bellied pigs) in 2020. This year, they had already saved 1439 through their network of about fifty foster homes. There is no paid staff at KSTT. When I asked if there were, Wendy laughed and said she worked the midnight shift at Firestone, basically to pay for her rescue work.
KSTT is an all-breed rescue and when I spoke with their president Monica by phone and asked whether they adopt out their dogs and cats, she said, “We get them healthy and get them the hell out of Kentucky!” KSTT does do a few adoptions but they’re VERY picky about those. Professional transports take their animals north twice a month, but volunteers also drive individual transports.
KSTT takes dogs and cats from kill shelters, owner surrenders, vet referrals (dogs brought in to be euthanized for medical or expense reasons), and strays, but they also do a lot of community outreach working to help pet owners keep their pets by assisting with veterinary needs or bringing them supplies like food or straw, and educating them on the proper care of their animals.
KSTT is a 501c3 and completely donation funded, although, from the sounds of things, many of the fosters and board members make a lot of those donations out of their own bank accounts. Their current vet bill the week we visited was $12K (they’ve got some awesome vets that work with them).
If you’d like to help, you can donate via Pay Pal (rescue@KentuckySavingthemtogether.org) or Venmo (KSTT-rescue).
And if you need a puppy fix, check out Melissa’s Tick Tock (@bluegrasseo). If you’d like to send some of the supplies she needs for her critical care puppies, visit her Amazon Wishlist.
The reason this was a perfect last stop wasn’t just because there were adorable puppies. It was also because meeting Melissa and Wendy, seeing them in action and listening to their stories, were reminders of why we had just spent two weeks on the road eating too much peanut butter and not getting enough sleep—because we all can do something. Melissa can get up all night long to save puppies’ lives, while Wendy can work all night and rescue all day.
Not all of us can be that kind of super hero, but all of us can do something. In less than two weeks, Nancy and I will set off on another shelter tour. This one taking us deep into Georgia and all the way down to the bottom of Florida to meet more heroes like Melissa and Wendy. To tell their stories and the stories of so many dogs whose lives hang in the balance for reasons rarely their own.
Often what we see is very hard and the fact that we can do so little always, always haunts me, but it also motivates me. I can do something. I can tell their stories. Nancy can share their pictures. But we couldn’t do any of that without the support of so many family and friends and the Who Will Let the Dogs Out community that continues to grow and to validate that what we are doing is important. These people are important. The animals they sacrifice their lives for matter.
Please follow along as we head out on January 8. You can join us in shelters and rescues in real time on Facebook and Instagram (and now Tik Tok!). Or you can read our stories on our blog and see them on YouTube after we return.
If you’d like to send supplies to the shelters, please shop our Amazon Wishlist and we will hand-deliver your gifts to places that will put them to good use.
And if you’d like a monthly reminder of the importance of your support and the work we are doing, you can still purchase one of our beautiful 2022 American Shelter Dog Calendars that features the photography of Nancy Slattery.
Until each one has a home,
The mission of Who Will Let the Dogs Out (we call it Waldo for short) is to raise awareness and resources for homeless dogs and the heroes who fight for them.
You can learn more about what is happening in our southern shelters and rescues in the book, One Hundred Dogs & Counting: One Woman, Ten Thousand Miles, and a Journey Into the Heart of Shelters and Rescues (Pegasus Books, 2020). It’s the story of a challenging foster dog who inspired me to travel south to find out where all the dogs were coming from. It tells the story of how Who Will Let the Dogs Out began. Find it anywhere books are sold. A portion of the proceeds of every book sold go to help unwanted animals in the south.
Amber’s Halfway Home is a short documentary film we produced in partnership with Farnival Films. It follows the work of a remarkable woman and one day of rescue in western Tennessee. Selected for fifteen film festivals (to date), it’s won eight awards (including Best Short Doc, Best Soundtrack, Best of Fest, and Audience Choice), and was nominated for an Emmy! It is a beautiful, heartbreaking, inspiring story we hope will compel viewers to work for change. Please watch it and share it far and wide.