Saving Them One Dog at a Time

Saving Them One Dog at a Time

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

Come South with us to Save Dogs

Come South with us to Save Dogs

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

Lebanon Tennessee Animal Control: Doing the Best You Can with What You’ve Got

Lebanon Tennessee Animal Control: Doing the Best You Can with What You’ve Got

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

Saving Animals in the Shenandoah Mountains

Saving Animals in the Shenandoah Mountains

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.

Humane-Society-WC-Logo-color-200

I was signing up two of ‘my’ four cats to be neutered/spayed and vaccinated for rabies. Read more

No-Kill is Not Rocket Science

No-Kill is Not Rocket Science

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.

Enjoy!

The biggest first – the question everyone asks me – Why are there so many unwanted dogs in the south? Read more

Where is the Line Between Caring and Killing?

Where is the Line Between Caring and Killing?

After plying Ian with eggs and bagels, we drove out to Trisha’s place, home of her rescue, RARE (Rural Animal Rescue Effort). Disguised as a pretty, petite, energetic normal person, Trisha is a powerhouse who rescues animals all over western Tennessee, fighting for them on every level. She will not tolerate your nonsense and has no qualms with calling a spade, a spade.

“I’m not really a human-person, I’m a dog-person,” she told me. Currently, she fosters thirty-five at her house (along with dozens of cats and kittens, and a few rabbits.

Driving west with Trisha in the back seat, it was hard to keep up with her busy mind as she rattled off the situations we were headed for. Our first stop was the Huntingdon dog pound in Carroll County. She explained that she hoped we’d be able to get in but hadn’t gotten confirmation of that from the dog catchers she’d contacted. Dogcatcher is really what they are called. The county has two dogcatchers who make upwards of a thousand dollars a month. She checked her phone again. No response. “They don’t give a shit,” she said.

This was clear when we arrived. Read more

The People Who Will Not Let the Dogs Die

The People Who Will Not Let the Dogs Die

Out to the west of Nashville, after a long slog on US 40 and several smaller highways that took us through Paris and Pillowville, we arrived in Greenfield. Our destination: the police station. We’d come to meet Tabi, officially the records clerk for Greenfield Police Department, unofficially—the keeper of the dog pound.

Police-Department

Tabi is a friendly, cheerful soul, despite Read more

Tennessee Bound

Tennessee Bound

We’re a day into this trip, but all we’ve done so far is drive (and drive). No traffic, no complaints, it just feels very anticlimactic and I’m ready to get to the shelters. I forget how friendly and sweet people are in the south until I get down here. Not sure if it’s authentic, but it sure is pleasant. I’ve already been called honey, darlin’, and sweetheart more times in twenty-four hours than seems reasonable, but I’ll take it.

Ian has snapped hundreds of pictures out the window but has not deemed any of them ‘post-worthy’. Hopefully, he’ll lower his standards soon so you can see what we’re seeing – mountains, kudzu vine swallowing entire forests along the highway, plenty of trucks,  plenty more American flags, and since we entered Tennessee, gobs of horse-trailers. The roadside signage is fairly entertaining – equally biblical messages and adult entertainment stores. The fog comes and goes. Today we’ve alternated between Ian’s 70’s Pandora station and podcasts of The Moth.

Two more hours of driving and then finally – dogs! This will be my second visit to Maury County Shelter and I’m really (really) hoping things are better this time. They have a new director, so it will be interesting to see what has changed. Maury is a large, open-intake shelter in Columbia, Tennessee with a large building, a good-size budget (relatively speaking), a big staff, and from what I remember, strong volunteer support.

The last time I was here the biggest problem was the length of time (a month or longer) that dogs were kept in ‘stray hold’ – unevaluated, unstimulated, isolated, which caused undo stress. Shelter life can sometimes be harder on a dog than life as a stray.  They get meals, but without companionship, toys, exercise, or engagement combined with the noise and tiny space, it can break down dogs quickly.  The other issue I remember at Maury was that the dogs were given no bedding and no toys because it made clean  up too difficult and clogged their drainage system. The dogs each had a tiny, hard plastic shelf in their kennels and nothing else.

Here are a few of the faces of Maury County the last time I visited. Hopefully, things will look different today.

Thanks for following – please spread the word. It’s way past time to let the dogs out.

Cara

Who Will Let the Dogs Out?

Who Will Let the Dogs Out?

All over our rural south there are dogs waiting.

Some lucky dogs are in progressive shelters who have staff, resources, and community support that allow them to place all of their adoptable dogs through local adoptions and outside rescues.

Some not-so-lucky dogs are in open intake, high-kill shelters that are routinely forced to euthanize for space. Many of the people who work in these shelters try desperately to save every dog they can but our understaffed, underfunded, undersupported and overwhelmed.

And then there are the dogs left behind at tiny municipal pounds in rural communities on back roads people rarely travel. Read more