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
So much of our rescue efforts are focused on the rural south, as well they should be. That’s where the majority of dogs are suffering and dying, where shelters are overwhelmed, and money runs short, but recently I participated in a rescue that wasn’t in the south. It was actually four hours north of my home in Pennsylvania.
It happened because of a connection I made through my book, Another Good Dog: One Family and Fifty Foster Dogs. Katie, a reader from Seneca, PA contacted me through Facebook after finishing my book, and we struck up a conversation, as kindred spirits do when it comes to dogs.
Six months later, she contacted me regarding a dog who Read more
Our next to last shelter visit was actually two visits in one. We would visit the Giles County Animal Shelter, and also meet with some of the volunteers from the Giles County Humane Association, a foster-based rescue that supports the shelter.
This Humane Association/County Shelter partnership model is fairly common and usually turns out to be a good one for the dogs. While County shelters can’t fundraise and are limited to the budget they are given, a Humane Association isn’t and they can provide immediate support in areas where it is needed most – like veterinary services not covered in the budget, supplies, foster care, and when funds run low, collect donations of essentials like food and dewormers.
Giles County hadn’t been on my original list of shelters to visit. It was the Giles County Dog Pound back then, when a woman named Daphne, reached out to me through Facebook. “You have to see what is going on in Giles County,” she wrote.
I was intrigued and began looking into it. I was shocked by what I discovered. 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
Our next stop in Alabama was The Humane Society of Chilton County in Clanton, AL. I’d heard great things about this place and it didn’t disappoint.
Chilton has a very relaxed, happy air about it which made complete sense upon meeting the director. Jennifer is a former stay at home mom who began as a volunteer and ultimately became the director. She is calm and certain and clearly loves her job.
As director she is hands-on, rarely to be found in her office. Instead, she 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
When we pulled up at the gate for our first stop in Alabama, enormous dogs loped towards us. “What are those?” I asked Nancy, incredulous. I’d never seen dogs like this up close.
We waited while Rhonda, the director of Brindlee Mountain Rescue put the giant creatures in their kennels and opened the automatic gate for us.
Once inside the tidy property, we met Rhonda, a smart, kind, sensible woman who had a gentle air about her, not unlike the giants we would soon meet. Rhonda created this rescue so Read more
We discovered the Franklin County Animal Control in Winchester, Tennessee just down a residential lane right next to the sewage treatment plant. It is a tiny aging building with no lobby, no indoor kennels, and just off the office, next to the front door there is still a gas chamber originally used to kill dogs.
The day we visited, the gas chamber space had been repurposed Read more
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