South Georgia Equine Rescue is a magical place, and it has nothing to do with horses (although they have twelve).
SGER began in 2019 initially to rescue horses, but once it became evident that there were hundreds of dogs in need of rescue in this county that has no municipal shelter, the dogs poured in. What makes it magical is the happy herds of dogs wandering the place. Every shape, size, age, color, and condition.
We met the founder, Heather, three volunteers, and her daughter Kaylie, surrounded by dozens of dogs. Two jumped in the car with us to welcome us (and case me for treats).
Heather has a warm, infectious personality and all the dogs (there are well over one hundred) adore her and follow her like the pied piper of puppies. As we visited with so many sweet dogs and chunky puppies, we listened to the litany of tough stories about dogs shot, hit by cars, abandoned, and broken in so many ways. “I tend to rescue the broken ones,” Heather explained.
We met Nipper, one of the longest stay dogs (he’s been here for two years), who was hit by a car and attacked by a pack of dogs. One of his limbs was amputated and another is only useful for finding his balance. He has scars from the severe mange he arrived with, but he is a happy soul and followed us all over the rescue as we talked to Heather.
Rocky, the dog who jumped in our car when we arrived (and also when we left) was shot through both hind legs and Red (who looks so much like my own dog I can’t bear to look at the pictures) is currently at the vet for multiple surgeries after being shot in the face (the man shot her because she was sleeping in his garden). A mama bloodhound nursed seven precious little butterballs, all are lucky to be alive. She came to SGER just a few weeks ago after she had also been shot in the face.
Knox, a petite blond sweetie is missing one eye from a gun shot (he still has a bullet in his jaw). Luckily, SGER has an incredible local vet hospital, @Trail Ridge Veterinary that handles these cases, but Nipper’s vet bills were over 6K and I can’t begin to imagine what the bills will be for Red whose face will need more reconstructive surgery.
Which brings me to another magical piece of this puzzle – this rescue runs completely on donations. They save over 500 dogs (and I don’t know the stats on the other animals) a year. And not just the easy saves, like the adorable puppies who tumbled and wrestled around us, but the expensive ones that most rescues and any municipal shelter would not invest in.
Dogs find their way to SGER in lots of way – sometimes dumped over their gate or brought by an owner who can’t or won’t care for them, and sometimes Heather drives hours to rescue a dog in desperate need. Her heart knows no bounds (or state lines).
All the dogs have their own kennels (most of them also have a kennelmate), but during the day, the vast majority roam the shady fenced property. The eight and a quarter acres hold, not just 120 or more dogs, but the dozen horses, plus cats, goats, pot-bellied pigs, and at least one donkey.
We spent two hours at SGER and in that time we were surrounded by probably at least 50 dogs who were free roaming, napping under trees, wrestling in the grass, just being dogs.
All of the dogs will eventually be adopted out, many out of state, definitely out of the area, and for at least two, out of the country! They will be spayed/neutered, vaccinated, and microchipped before they head off on a free transport (provided or funded by SGER) to their new adoptive homes.
SGER also works with a rescue in Iowa (Cedar Bend Humane Society) and just acquired a church bus and retrofitted it as a transport vehicle. They took 11 dogs to Iowa the night we visited. Heather knows she needs to develop more rescue partners, as the number of dogs in need of rescue is not diminishing and she’s had to say no to at least twenty in the last month.
But she’s picky about where her dogs go—because that’s just it, they are her dogs. She knows every dog’s name, its history, its stats, and according to one volunteer, each dog’s bark. She loves these dogs and has truly saved them, and they know it.
SGER has a tremendous group of supporters who make this work possible, plus about fifteen hands-on volunteers who help out regularly at the rescue.
Heather is from south Florida originally and had wanted to start a rescue there, but the need here is so great and she can’t imagine what would happen to her animals if she left now. So, like so many of the heroes we meet, she spends her days surrounded by animals, working every waking hour to be sure they are healthy, happy, and safe.
Like so many in rescue, Heather can’t imagine doing anything else. She’s been doing this since she was a little girl befriending a feral dog on the edge of the woods behind her house. I’m grateful that she so willingly stepped into the gap left by a county that has not only forgotten these dogs, but turns a blind eye to the cruelty inflicted upon them. It doesn’t seem fair that the county doesn’t put one penny towards addressing the crisis in their midst, and instead lays the burden on the enormous heart of this remarkable woman and the people who support her.
Click here to see the SGER dogs available for adoption. (They adopt to homes all over the country).
And if you’d like to help Heather continue the work she is doing,
Donate to their (enormous vet bill) at: Trail Ridge Veterinary Services, 912-614-0060
Until each one has a home,
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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.
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