So many shelters, so many dogs.
I knew at the start of this trip it would be a lot and that keeping all the dogs, directors, and shelters straight might be a challenge. Having Nancy with me helps. I badger her with questions interrupting her work (she spends HOURS editing pictures not just for me and this trip, but to send to directors to use in their efforts to get dogs adopted).
“Which shelter was the one with that cool blue dog with the Catahoula spots?”
“Do you remember what the director said about whether they give Bordetella vaccines?”
“Was there a school bus parked in the yard behind the shelter?” (I actually asked that question more than once, vehicles seem to factor largely in rural southern shelter spaces.)
Nancy doesn’t always have the answers, but sometimes she does or sometimes her pictures provide the clues.
Maybe it was easy to mix up the shelters, as we visited two of four shelters/rescues that are literally within a few miles of each other in a county southeast of Nashville. Clearly, there are many people who care about animals in Bedford County, TN, but from an outsider perspective, I wondered if they were duplicating efforts and whether working together and pooling their resources might be a smarter solution, at least for the dogs. There wasn’t much time to examine that idea as there were dogs to meet and stories to hear.
We started at Shelbyville City Animal Control, arriving late because Read more
On Monday we finally made a pilgrimage to the mecca of animal shelters. Or at least that’s the way I thought of it.
I’ve followed Nashville Humane in the news and on social media for ages, and am always impressed with their innovative programs, how many dogs they move, and their clever, clever marketing. In the world of dog shelters, they are the Ritz Carlton. For the south especially, dogs that land there have truly hit the lottery.
With a 2.2 million dollar budget (all raised through private funding), of course they 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
I’d like to tell you about a shelter Ian and I visited on our way out of Tennessee during our trip in June. It’s taken me this long to catch up with the Animal Control Officer there to get answers to my many questions. He wasn’t avoiding me, he’s just that busy.
Zach is an example of what an ACO can be—committed, proactive, and effective. In fact, he manages to get 90% or more of the dogs that land in Lebanon Animal Control out alive. Three quarters of those dogs get out through rescue and an astounding 25% are adopted locally.
This is not the norm for too many small rural counties in the south.
We stopped at Lebanon at the urging of Laura, our host while we were in Tennessee. I think she wanted me to see Read more
On Monday, I hitched up the wagons and drove to town. (That’s what Nick likes to say every time I say I need to go ‘to town’ which is 10 miles away.) I was headed to the Warren County Humane Society, aka, the Warren County Animal Shelter.
I was signing up two of ‘my’ four cats to be neutered/spayed and vaccinated for rabies. Read more
Ian and I are still processing what we saw and what we learned in Tennessee, each in our own way.
He is taking a break and feels he can’t look at the pictures for a bit. His pictures capture the emotion of the dogs caught in our human failure, and that is hard to look at. I know eventually he will be ready to edit them and to hopefully share more here on the blog. He took thousands of pictures. My big son has a very big heart, and it truly broke in Tennessee.
For me, seeing the conditions in western Tennessee made me furious. This should not be happening. We should not be leaving the responsibility for lost and surrendered animals to a handful of citizens who are quite literally standing in the gap left by a government that neglects its duties and an unaware public.
I cannot look away. So, I am doing what I do– writing and talking and making a nuisance of myself. I’m working on articles, blog posts (like this one), and even a book. I am in the midst of signing a publishing contract for 100 Dogs and Counting, a follow up to Another Good Dog: One Family and Fifty Foster Dogs that will recount more of our fostering adventures, and then take the reader south to discover where these dogs come from and what they can do about it.
I am also planning another trip in September– this time back to Tennessee, and then on to Alabama. Ian will be in school, but I will bring along another talented photographer and excellent co-pilot, Nancy Slattery.
One of the people I am excited to see on this next trip is a rescue hero of mine — Aubrie Kavanaugh. I’m excited to introduce you to her today in the following interview. Aubrie is not only an expert in the fight for a No-Kill nation, but a talented writer, a wickedly smart and funny person, and a dog-hearted woman relentlessly and methodically committed to changing the situation.
The biggest first – the question everyone asks me – Why are there so many unwanted dogs in the south? Read more