People ask me quite often what exactly Nancy and I do on shelter tour. I thought I’d give you an idea of a typical day.
Most days we rise by six (although I am usually up before five and try very hard not to wake Nancy who always says I don’t – but I’m pretty sure I do). We grab a quick breakfast and hit the road, usually by seven. Normally, we split our travel time each day and stay in budget motels somewhere between one shelter stop and the other. The morning drive could be 2-3 hours, occasionally more, especially if we made more than one shelter visit the day before.
We try to arrive late morning at the shelters we visit because by then many have done the bulk of their cleaning. I assure every shelter director that Nancy is expert at photoshopping out poop, but they always worry that we will be bothered by messy kennels. After 125 shelter visits, we know what to expect in terms of sights and smells.
We spend between one and three hours at the shelter depending on how big it is, how receptive the staff is, how much there is to see, and whether we spend a lot of time with the dogs. Our goal is to capture the shelter’s story –what’s their history, who are the people in charge and what motivates them to do their job, what is working and what are they struggling with.
I look for good stories, programs, practices to share, and also for areas where we might be able to help with solutions, resources, grant assistance, networking, etc. We try to highlight the longest stay dogs, often making a video and doing a photoshoot. Nancy will offer to take bio pictures for any dogs that need them. She will also capture hundreds of candids of me touring the shelter (almost always my backside!), the dogs, the conditions of the building, the building itself, the grounds, the staff and volunteers, interesting signs, pretty much anything unique to that shelter.
A few of my favorites:
What we always hope to find are new ideas or programs or policies that are helping the shelter save lives. I’m captivated by the people we meet. To me, they are heroes, standing in the gap trying to save dogs with almost always too few resources and too little help. It never fails to astound me the lengths these people will go to save animals abandoned by the larger public. They work tirelessly, often sacrificing time with family and friends, personal lives, and certainly money (and sometimes benefits) working a job that is exhausting, doesn’t pay well, and is usually underappreciated.
I recognize these hearts – they want to make a difference; they want better for the animals. They are problem-solving, multi-taskers, who juggle personalities, demands, requirements, and the unexpected every day. They got into this business because they love animals, which is good and bad. Good because they bring personal passion to the work; bad because inevitably their hearts will be broken again and again.
After our visits, Nancy and I talk at length about what we learned, the people and dogs we met, how we might help, and the story we need to share. Usually that happens over another 2-4 hour drive to our stop for the night. At some point, we will find a restaurant (first choice is always Panera, but McDonald’s has the best wifi). We’ll eat something or just borrow the wifi so I can write and Nancy can edit. We want to capture the story while it’s fresh in our minds.
Once we make it to our destination, we finish our work. Nancy uploads pictures, I edit what I’ve written, and prepare a post for the day, making sure to include tags, wishlists, organizations that can help.
And after all that’s done, if we’re not too tired, and we’re lucky, we’ll find a restaurant where we can eat a real meal and have a good beer, before heading to bed only to repeat it all again the next day.
It might sound like a lot, but I love being on shelter tour. It’s when I feel that we are actually doing something about the situation as opposed to just worrying about it or planning to do something or writing about it. I learn something at every shelter we visit—one more clue to the solutions.
Because I still believe that we can solve our shelter crisis. We CAN save every saveable dog.
I hope you’ll follow along on our tours. I forgot to mention in my description of our day, that we often do Facebook and Instagram Lives from the shelter, or if we don’t have a good signal there, we do them from the car as we drive (usually on Instagram). We like to show you what we’re seeing, take you inside the shelter, see the dogs and people, or at least, hear our reactions when they are fresh.
You can see the daily updates, pictures, live videos, and more on Facebook and on Instagram. (we always plan to post on Tik tok, but that’s never a for-sure thing, but you never know maybe this tour it will happen!)
Until each one has a home,
If you want to learn more, be sure to subscribe to this blog. And help us spread the word by sharing this post with others. Visit our website to learn more.
To see our Emmy-nominated, award-winning short documentary, Amber’s Halfway Home, click here.
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.
And for links to everything WWLDO check out our Linktree.