Traveling through the south this time around feels different. It’s not just the masks that are sometimes prevalent and other times completely absent. As we wind through the mountains on our way to Nashville, I wondered about priorities. Is it wrong to want to save dogs when people are struggling so much? Will people care what we about what we are seeing? Will they find everything as heartbreaking and inspiring at the same time, as I do?
I think it’s even more remarkable how hard the people we meet are working. Despite the compassion fatigue and an often apathic public, so many continue to fight for lives, even as the wave of homeless dogs builds instead of ebbing.
Everyone said that the silver lining of the pandemic was all the adoptions, the empty shelters, the new awareness of rescue, the flood of fosters. And that was great. I’m definitely not discounting that moment. It was awesome.
But in its wake, shelters and rescues are drowning. That was the word we heard more than once from shelter directors and rescue coordinators in answer to my question, “How are you doing?”
They are drowning. Owner surrenders are at an all time high as people struggle to care for their families in uncertain times. The result of 6-12 months of no spay/neuter surgeries, puppy and kitten season is astronomical. Even now, getting a vet appointment to spay or neuter a dog can take weeks.
Rescues are full and adoptions have slowed to a trickle. Everyone either already adopted a dog or is hesitant to commit to a new life when the future looks as precarious as ever. With no dogs moving north and huge numbers of dogs arriving at the shelters via owners who can’t keep them or animal control officers who are as busy as ever, the result is unavoidable. Dogs are being killed in places that once claimed no-kill status. Parvo is rampant as puppies fill the shelters and linger instead of heading out to rescues.
I keep hoping the story will be different at our next stop, but so far, halfway through our tour, that has not been the case. We are sharing our stories in real time on Facebook and Instagram and plan to share even more via this blog and our YouTube channel once we are home. I hope you are following along. But just in case, here’s a recap:
Yesterday I called an ACO (Animal Control Officer) at a county pound in Tennessee. I was inquiring as to whether we might be able to visit on our next trip in March. I’d left a message and figured I had about a 50/50 chance of him calling me back.
You see, when a writer leaves a message about visiting a pound where dogs are routinely killed, ACO’s can be a bit shy about speaking with me. I get that—most of the ACO’s I’ve met do everything they can to avoid killing dogs but ‘everything they can’ is not much when they have an unsupportive leadership system, zero budget, sub-par facilities, little or no veterinary access, a constant stream of homeless dogs, and a mandate to destroy any dog that is still there past its five-day legal stray hold.
So, when I received a call back in less than an hour, I Read more
“I hope this isn’t some wild-goose chase,” I warned Nancy as we headed south from Montgomery to visit our next shelter on the tour.
I’d heard about SHARK (Safe Haven Animal Rescue Kennel) from a Humane Society representative. I’d asked her about shelters further south in Alabama and her immediate response was, “You have to go see SHARK. You won’t believe it.”
She was right.
As we drove south Read more
One of the visits I was most looking forward to on this trip was with RUFF (Rescuers United For Furbabies), an OPH rescue partner.
They are a foster-based rescue on the front lines who are saving lives in Walker County, Alabama.
RUFF supports Walker County Humane and Adoption Center in a gazillion ways, but I knew of them because they pulled dogs from Walker County for OPH, placing them in their foster homes, getting them to the vet for everything necessary to make the trip north and then meeting our transports to hand off dogs.
We met Kara Jones, one of the RUFF leaders at Walker County late in the afternoon after she had finished her workday teaching seventh graders. Kara is pretty amazing, and not just because Read more
We left Shelbyville Animal Control at 10:20am, and at 10:28 we were navigating the tight, tiny parking lot of Bedford County Animal Control.
These shelters have more in common than I expected. Considering they serve the same basic public, I imagined Read more
It’s very easy to disconnect down here. Easy to forget there is a world north of us where there isn’t an animal crisis at every turn.
Before we left, as we drove down, and now that we are here, I’ve been getting email messages from other shelters and rescues— ‘Come here! Animals are dying.’ ‘There is no animal control, not any shelter, sometimes they just shoot the animals.’ ‘Our shelter is crammed, we need your help!’
We want to go to all these places, but our schedule is jammed full of places equally in need of attention. I make a list of the places, ones I will find a way to come back to, but I wonder if I can help them and why it is me driving from shelter to shelter shouting into the wind. I desperately need a bigger microphone, more time, more money.
Yesterday we stopped Read more
We are packing up and getting ready. In the morning I’ll pick up our rented SUV and then race home and see just how much I can cram into it before Nancy and I hit the road at 10:30 for our eight-hour drive to Bristol, Virginia where we will stop for the first night of this eight-day odyssey.
Our schedule is packed. We will visit thirteen shelters and rescues in Tennessee and Alabama, and meet with a national Humane Society Rep, an author/no-kill advocate, and a group of volunteers and advocates for a brainstorming session.
In between those activities, I will write and Nancy will edit photos, but mostly we will drive. We’ll cover over 2600 miles, sleep in plenty of cheap hotels, eat on the run, and gather as many stories and images as we can in the hopes that those stories and images help bring change, that they inspire people to get involved, to ask questions, to find answers.
When you live in an area where dogs don’t routinely die at shelters, sometimes it’s hard to imagine that there are places in this country where they do. Read more