Shelter Tour Wrap Up: Where We Went and What We Learned

Shelter Tour Wrap Up: Where We Went and What We Learned

Every time we go to the shelters, I learn something. This time was no different. We’ve been to over 80 shelters now, so you’d think they would all look alike. In a few ways (dogs in need, incredible people) they are, but in so many ways they are unique.

One of the projects we are working on is creating a Resource Guide for shelters and rescues (and volunteers and advocates). This guide, which is its own tab on our website, is where we collect ideas about grants, fundraising, shelter practices, volunteers, fosters, advocacy, enrichment, education, and pretty much any kind of resource that will help shelters and rescues save more animals.

The guide is changing almost daily as we add new ideas. After this tour, I’ve got a dozen new things to add to it at least. Ideas also come in via our shelter liaisons who monitor our shelter partners and share their ideas/projects/successes, so that others can learn from them. As a wise person once told me – “Copying is the sincerest form of flattery.”

Because often pictures speak louder than words, so we created a video on our YouTube channel that is a Shelter Tour Wrap-Up with information and pictures of the places we visited on this tour. We drove over 2,000 miles, and visited seven shelters in six states. There were lots of stories, and I will share those with you over the next few months, but for now, this video will give you a taste of what we saw and learned:

If you’d like to get involved, we have lots of volunteer opportunities. Fill out our volunteer form or send your questions/interests to whowillletthedogsout@gmail.com. We are already raising money for our next shelter tour, we’d love to have your support.

Until each one has a home,

Cara

Please help us raise awareness by subscribing (button on right side) and sharing this blog. You can also keep track of us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and now Tik Tok!

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 our short documentary film produced in partnership with Farnival Films. It follows the work of a remarkable woman and one day of rescue in western Tennessee. Selected for sixteen 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.

For more information on any of our projects, to talk about rescue in your neck of the woods, or become a Waldo volunteer, please email whowillletthedogsout@gmail.com or carasueachterberg@gmail.com.

How To Save 7000 Dogs

How To Save 7000 Dogs

I called her the rescue wizard of Tennessee in my book 100 Dogs & Counting, but it isn’t magic; it’s serious work that has saved over 7700 lives since she began this work in 2016.

The first time I visited the wizard, Laura Prechel, I shared the house with twenty-six dogs awaiting their lift out of Tennessee. The dogs and puppies were housed in crates in her finished basement and garage. I watched, astounded, as she fed, watered, and cleaned up after the dogs and then took them out to potty before tucking them back in their crates to rest before their journey. And then I slept through their 4:30am departure (best of intentions).

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A Smart Way to Help a Public Shelter

A Smart Way to Help a Public Shelter

I believe it was Margaret Mead who said: Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed individuals can change the world. In fact, it’s the only thing that ever has.

SCAMP (Saving Cheatham Animals Mission PAWSible) is a smart model for how small group of committed individuals can help a publicly funded shelter. There’s so much to love about SCAMP (including its namesake pup!).

SCAMP is a 501c3 organization that raises money to directly help the animals at Cheatham County Animal Shelter. SCAMP provides immediate help by purchasing needed supplies, veterinary services, and pretty much anything outside the budget that a shelter would have to requisition the county government to obtain.

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Shelter Tour Week Two

Shelter Tour Week Two

Our second week on tour coincided with Hurricane Ida, which thankfully skirted around the places we planned to visit mostly dumping a bit of rain here and there. We were able to rearrange our visits and move our one all-day outside to after the weather passed thanks to the flexibility of many people.

While our visits confirmed what we learned the first week – shelters are growing crowded as owner surrenders continue to ratchet up, and puppy and kitten season does not abate. But we also noticed something else that was different on this tour than our previous ones. There are a lot more purebred dogs in the shelters.

My best guess is that this is because so many people bought puppies during the pandemic and those puppies grew into adolescent dogs which require a lot of work and don’t always live up to the expectations of owners. Plus certain breeds have characteristics that owners may or may not have anticipated or been able to handle. Beyond that, economic circumstances have a lot of people surrendering dogs they can’t afford anymore. At any rate, we saw purebred large breeds like Huskies, Rottweilers, Labs, plus many smaller breeds and scruffies.

We also saw a lot of puppies and small breed dogs, which is usually not the case as those dogs get pulled by rescue or adopted at a much higher rate. It was telling that rescue coordinators are struggling to find rescues willing to take puppies.

To me, the presence of so many ‘desirable’ type animals in the shelters is a ‘canary in the coalmine’. It is time for rescues to double-down on all that they can do to help because full shelters lead to killing dogs for space. Even at the shelters that have for many years been saving every treatable, adoptable animal, there is a fresh fear that killing for space is on the horizon if things don’t improve.

Fingers crossed for the early fall back-to-school surge in adoptions and rescue pulls.

We will tell you MUCH more about all thirteen organizations that we visited on this tour in the coming weeks. Be sure to subscribe to this blog and our YouTube channel so you don’t miss a thing!

And in case you weren’t following along in real time on Facebook, the week’s posts are pasted below.

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Fall Shelter Tour Part One

Fall Shelter Tour Part One

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:

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An Angel in the Tennessee Dog Pounds

An Angel in the Tennessee Dog Pounds

As we walked through several municipal pounds in Tennessee, I kept thinking, “Thank God for Amber.”

Truly.

She and her husband Brandon and their rescue Halfway Home are the only hope for too many animals whose lives could so easily be snuffed out, unknown and uncounted.

As far as I can tell, ‘animal control’ in Tennessee is Read more

Life on a Chain in Memphis

Life on a Chain in Memphis

“I wouldn’t do that to myself, so why would I do that to him? ‘Caint take his manhood.”

“She was born to do it; I just want one litter.”

If the team at All 4s Rescue League had a dollar for every time they heard those excuses, and the many others for why someone didn’t want to spay or neuter their dog, they wouldn’t need to do any fundraising.

On Wednesday, Nancy and I spent a day on the streets of Memphis with Read more

Superheroes Do Exist

Superheroes Do Exist

I’d heard about the Animal Rescue Corps before, snippets mentioned by other rescue people in passing,  but nothing solid, nothing that I thought had anything to do with the world of dog rescue I inhabited.

I pictured a group of superheroes who swooped in during the direst of situations and rescued the dogs, but I had no understanding of how that actually worked, where the dogs went when it was all said and done, and if they were actual people or just this brilliant fantasy.

Yesterday we were on our way south to shine a light on the shelters, rescues, and pounds working so hard to save dogs, in the hopes of raising awareness and resources to help them do just that. It was our first official trip for Who Will Let the Dogs Out and we were excited to get started, maybe over eager. We woke to snow in Christiansburg, Virginia and Read more

Headed South to Meet Some Dogs and Some Heroes

Headed South to Meet Some Dogs and Some Heroes

We are headed south today. There were snowflakes falling as I walked Fanny for the last time, assuring her that she would see me in ten days, but knowing my absence will be hard on her. I am hoping it will be warmer where we are going.

Our schedule is full and what was originally a 7-day trip has grown to 10 days. We plan to visit 16 shelters, rescues, and pounds, plus check out a market where anyone can sell a dog or puppy with no papers or vaccine records or verification of any kind, just cash on the nose. That’s the plan, but you know about plans.

So much of what we will see is foreign to the part of the country where I live. In fact, as if to underline that point, on Monday, the dog warden Read more