We leave for our shelter tour in two days. As always, I’m excited but nervous and slightly overwhelmed. There are so many details, so many new people, new places, and hundreds of miles to drive.
Often when I reach out to a shelter director or Animal Control officer about a possible visit, they are skeptical. Some outright ignore my emails or don’t return my calls.
I get it. I do.
They don’t understand why we would want to visit their shelter. We aren’t a rescue organization, a local citizen, or a potential adopter. We smack of ‘media’ which can make plenty of people wary considering how often media have mixed motives in visiting a shelter.
I explain that we want to help. We want to meet them, see the shelter, learn their story, and find ways we can help in the moment with professional pictures, social media attention, and a few donations, and also in the year to come with grant-writing assistance, resource programs, connections, and continued support.
In a place where every day is likely a battle to save lives, we can be seen as a couple of Pollyannas who will interrupt the day’s work, but I hope they will sense the respect we have for what they do, the sincere effort we will make to understand their particular challenges and the support we have come to offer.
We are there primarily to learn their story and offer help, but with each new shelter or rescue organization, I am always hopeful I will find another clue. One more piece of this puzzle of how we can stop the onslaught of too many dogs, too few resources, so much suffering, and too many deaths. I understand that each of these heroes we meet are knee-deep or neck-deep in the battle, and they may not be able to see beyond today’s fight.
But if we can bring some fresh hope, it will be worth the travel. If our presence validates the importance of the work they do, it is more than worth crappy hotel rooms, peanut butter sandwiches, and the time away from my own pups (and family).
I’m always hopeful that we will be able to share ideas gathered from some of the shelters in the eleven states we’ve visited—places were like-minded souls work toward the same goals—humane care, homes for the adoptable, assistance to pet owners, resources for their community, a future that looks different where overwhelm isn’t the pace of their days and there is time to nurture and care for the souls placed in their path.
Most everyone who is in shelter work landed there because they love animals. Which is how I know that everywhere we go, we will meet kindred spirits. If they will just let us in the door.
As we prepare to leave, I am still working the phone and email, trying to reassure and answer questions and get our feet in the door. I know from previous trips that the plan I have so neatly laid out will be unlikely to play out as I imagine.
So I’m excited, and nervous, but ever so hopeful. By Saturday, we’ll be in North Carolina meeting our first heroes and after that we’ll be in Georgia for several days before heading down to Florida for more than a week’s worth of visits (and hopefully some sunshine!) before traveling back to Georgia and Alabama and then heading home.
Two weeks. They will be long but they will be worth it. That much I know. You can follow our journey on Facebook where I will post daily updates and live videos in many of the shelters and rescues we visit. You can also follow us on Instagram and TikTok where we have two awesome new volunteers handling those outlets and using their passion and creativity to raise awareness and share the stories.
We appreciate any way you can help us get the word out because we continue to believe that the problem is not that people don’t care, but that they don’t know.
Thank you to everyone who has supported our work with your donations and who has sent supplies for us to take to the shelter. If you’d still like help, you can. Just visit our page to make a donation or you can watch for the links we will post to Amazon Wishlists, websites, and donation pages for each of the shelters and rescues we visit.
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.