Heading Into the New Year with Hope for Our Shelters

December 20, 2022

Who Will Let the Dogs Out started after Nancy and I began visiting southern shelters to learn where all the dogs were coming from and why. We didn’t know how to fix the problem, but we knew we wanted to help. So we used the only skills we had – writing and photography.

As we begin 2023, we’re heading back out to the shelters because we believe that awareness brings change. We believe that if we share the stories and pictures of the shelters, people will be motivated to work for change.

The situation in the shelters is worse than I’ve ever seen it—more dogs are being euthanized and/or warehoused than ever before. I’ve written about the reasons for that, but until people hear the stories of the dogs and humans directly affected, it doesn’t seem real.

It doesn’t seem possible that while my dogs are pampered with high-quality food, probiotics, vitamins, agility classes, too many toys, multiple comfy beds, and endless attention, other dogs sit on concrete or mud in small spaces for days and months on end, eating the cheapest food a budget can buy (and in some cases only if a kind soul donates that food), with no toys, no soft bed, often riddled with fleas, gastrointestinal worms, or heartworms. They receive little exercise or enrichment of any kind.

And it’s not that the people caring for them don’t care—they simply don’t have the resources or the volunteers or the facility to offer anything better.

Many of the shelters we’ve visited have only outdoor accommodations for their dogs and as the temperatures head into the single digits with the massive storm that seems to have affected the entire country, I think of them.

Every shelter (EVERY. SHELTER.) we’ve come in contact with this year is full and overfull. They are desperate for rescue help and facing difficult decisions.

We leave January 9 for a tour that takes us to our 100th shelter. As I tallied that number, I thought about how our visits have affected the 95 places we’ve seen in the last three years. I know that in some places the attention brought them the change they need (Franklin County Tennessee is getting a million dollar shelter) and others have received grant money, new volunteers, donations, and rescue connections.

But mostly, what I think we’ve brought is hope.

We travel and write and photograph and tell these stories and share everything we’ve learned, every resource we’ve got, and ongoing support because we believe that the work of the shelters is important and we believe that it is possible to create self-sustaining shelters that serve their community as a resource center where dogs (and their humans) can receive the help they need.

It’s the season of hope, and I, for one, am hopeful.

I believe 2023 will be better for animals, but only if we all step up and offer whatever we’ve got to make it so.

Nancy and I are going to get in our new Max & Neo sponsored WWLDO mobile and bring a little hope to the shelters, telling their stories and sharing all that we’ve learned.

What will you do?

If you’d like to support our tour, consider shopping our Impact Campaign to buy much-needed supplies for the shelters we will visit or making a donation to fund the tour and the ongoing work of Who Will Let the Dogs Out.

And if you’d like to get involved, volunteer at your local shelter or rescue, find out what constitutes’ animal control’ in your county, pick one of the shelters we’ve visited to ‘adopt’, or volunteer with us.

Until each one has a home,


We’ve still got 8 calendars left! If you’d like one, email info@whowillletthedogsout.org to get yours. Calendars are $25 (free shipping anywhere in the US!) and payable by paypal, venmo, or mailing a check (‘Who Will Let the Dogs Out’, 128 W High St, Woodstock, VA 22664).

If you want to learn more, be sure to subscribe to this blog. And help us spread the word by sharing this post with others. Visit our website to learn more.

You can also help raise awareness by following/commenting/sharing us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Tik Tok!

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.

Watch our Emmy-nominated, award-winning short documentary about rescue in western Tennessee here.

For more information on any of our projects, to talk about rescue in your neck of the woods, or become a WWLDO volunteer, please email whowillletthedogsout@gmail.com or carasueachterberg@gmail.com.

And for links to everything WWLDO check out our Linktree.


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Paul Handover
1 Year Ago

Cara, wishing you and all the dogs you care for all the best for the New Year. Thank you for what you and your colleagues are doing.

Aubrie Kavanaugh
1 Year Ago

From my perspective, these last few years have shown that the solution is not about money or location or even resources. It is about leadership and about implementation of the No Kill Equation which is a DIY solution that can be molded and shaped to fit the challenges of, and resources in, any community. Even if a location focuses on gradual implementation of the elements, that is better than doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results. Safe travels in new year, friends. I, and my contacts nationally, are happy to engage with any shelter (and the elected officials who govern it) interested a new path to introduce them to the Equation so they can seek change. Bringing about that change is a local issue, but knowing a solution is certainly the very first step to a new way of functioning.