The smell is familiar to me now, but that hot August day in 2018 it overwhelmed my senses. The mix of disinfectant, urine, feces, mildew, and desperation was powerful, made even more so by the heat.
Shelters, even the good ones, I’ve come to understand, have the same smell. I recognized it that first time as the faint scent that would waft off of foster dogs when they arrived at our house off a transport from the south.
In that squat brick building, the smell was accompanied by the unrelenting noise of animals jumping against chain link, knocking over metal bowls, barking and whining, their nails grabbing for purchase on the cement.
I called her the rescue wizard of Tennessee in my book 100 Dogs & Counting, but it isn’t magic; it’s serious work that has saved over 7700 lives since she began this work in 2016.
The first time I visited the wizard, Laura Prechel, I shared the house with twenty-six dogs awaiting their lift out of Tennessee. The dogs and puppies were housed in crates in her finished basement and garage. I watched, astounded, as she fed, watered, and cleaned up after the dogs and then took them out to potty before tucking them back in their crates to rest before their journey. And then I slept through their 4:30am departure (best of intentions).
I believe it was Margaret Mead who said: Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed individuals can change the world. In fact, it’s the only thing that ever has.
SCAMP (Saving Cheatham Animals Mission PAWSible) is a smart model for how small group of committed individuals can help a publicly funded shelter. There’s so much to love about SCAMP (including its namesake pup!).
SCAMP is a 501c3 organization that raises money to directly help the animals at Cheatham County Animal Shelter. SCAMP provides immediate help by purchasing needed supplies, veterinary services, and pretty much anything outside the budget that a shelter would have to requisition the county government to obtain.
Camp Jean is more than a shelter—it’s exactly what it says it is – camp.
The dogs who are fortunate enough to be pulled from a typical Kentucky shelter situation and land with Deidrea at Camp Jean are some lucky dogs.
Deidrea specifically looks for dogs who are ultimately adoptable but may need some extra time and attention. She gives priority to dogs from the struggling county shelters and pounds where dogs truly suffer while waiting for adoption, rescue, or death. Places where the conditions are harsh, the vet care nonexistent, and any kind of enrichment impossible.
Those were the words of Remi, the founder of Paws 4 the Cause in Lexington, Kentucky. We’d just met up with him as a last minute addition to our shelter tour after that morning’s originally planned visit had canceled. It was sheer luck that we happened upon Paws 4 the Cause, or maybe my restlessness.
Twenty minutes before we were to leave for our scheduled stop that day, we got a message that the director we were to meet had a family emergency. Nancy settled in to edit pictures, and I surfed the internet. We had three hours to kill before we’d need to leave for our afternoon visit. On a whim, I pulled up google maps and searched for a nearby rescue. Maybe there was another place we were meant to be.
I have something BIG to tell you. It’s exciting, and also somewhat scary for me.
Three years ago, I visited a shelter in North Carolina. I wanted to see where my foster dogs were coming from. I’d foster over one hundred by then, and I was curious—why was there an endless stream of dogs in need?
I remember that moment so clearly. The smell, the sounds, the desperation, but also all those beautiful dogs.
The mission of Paws of SWVA is similar to so many rescue organizations in the south – keep animals out of the shelter.
Not only are shelters extremely stressful places for animals, too many shelters in our rural south still kill dogs (and cats) for space, so crowded shelters mean more animals die. Paws of SWVA keeps dogs (and cats) out of the shelter by providing foster homes, securing rescue placement, and getting animals adopted, many times out of state.
The other way that Paws keeps animals out of the shelter is by promoting and providing spay/neuter services. They run a van service twice a month to Bristol, Virginia to a veterinarian there because vet services are so few and far between (and expensive) in southwest Virginia.
Standing in the sweltering sunshine, I looked around the rambling hillside farm scattered with dog kennels and equipment and livestock. After listening to Rose’s story of Saving Webster Dogs, I observed, “So, basically, you are the county shelter.