Tuesday, March 31, 2009

News coverage of temporary animal shelter

Minnesota Daily: Makeshift shelters offer pets a safe haven from flood

Associated Press: Sit and stay: Pets wait out ND flood in shelters

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Fargo to EARS: "What would we do without you?"

Submitted by Janell Matthies, UAN Emergency Services Manager

Even though the past few days have been incredibly chaotic and busy, the EARS volunteers here in Fargo, North Dakota are succeeding in taking absolutely wonderful care of the animals. The dogs and cats are cleaned and fed, soothed and comforted, walked and played with from early in the morning until lights-out at night. Somehow the volunteers even know all the animals by name. We’ve had a few owners come in to pick up their pets and all they have to do at the front counter is to ask for Bubba or Harley or Sammy or Princess and someone will say, “Oh, I know where he is! I’ll go get him. He just had breakfast/went for a walk/got a treat, etc etc.” The animals' owners are so immensely grateful for the care their pets are receiving. We’ve seen tears and laughter, stress and anticipation, but the overriding emotion is appreciation. I personally have been blessed by so many people coming in to visit their pets I feel sure I am going to heaven, at least for today.

Today we got to meet Davis and Delbert’s dad. We’ve all fallen in love with these two dogs over the past couple of days. Delbert is old and gentle and sweet, a perfect gentleman. Then there’s Davis. When you first meet him you would never know he was a working dog, he is all puppy (even though he’s three years old) happy and bouncy and wiggly. Their intake form noted they were seeing-eye dogs and we were wondering what was happening with their owner. He made it in today and spent about an hour visiting with the two dogs and many of the volunteers came over to introduce themselves and chat. It turns out he is also caring for his ill mother and her special-needs dog, in addition to helping his neighbors and their animals. He figured if they had to get out fast, he wanted to make sure Davis and Delbert were safe, so he brought them to us.

Fourteen-year-old Delbert is now his retired sight dog and Davis is his working sight dog. He told us he had another sight dog before Delbert, and when she passed away “a little bit of Delbert died with her." He got Davis so Delbert could retire, and they ended up becoming best friends. They now spend most of their off-duty time playing and snuggling. Their owner says “Davis saved Delbert’s life." How lucky we are to be caring for such wonderful animals! He kept saying he didn’t know what he would have done if we weren’t able to provide the service we do. That is a comment we hear over and over all day long: “I don’t know what I would do without you."

The dedication of our EARS volunteers is inexplicable. I am in awe of their kindness and compassion. Taking time off work, missing birthdays and vacations, sleeping at the shelter so they can keep a close eye on anyone they are worried about, and working non-stop for at least 12 hours a day once again proves the EARS volunteers' extraordinary commitment and selflessness. It is so obvious to the community when they come into the shelter, because they comment every time. And I think the animals know how lucky they are, too.

Helping flood victims in North Dakota

On Friday, March 27, UAN deployed a team of Emergency Animal Rescue Service (EARS) volunteers to Fargo, North Dakota, to help care for animals being evacuated in advance of the potential catastrophic flooding in the Red River Valley.

A dozen EARS volunteers are now caring for more than 100 dogs and cats at a temporary shelter set up by the Fargo-Moorhead Humane Society at the Red River Valley Fairgrounds. The always-ingenious EARS volunteers even made cat hammocks (pictured) from blankets and towels to keep the displaced felines comfortable in their temporary cages.

UAN's Emergency Services Manager Janell Matthies reports that evacuees are able to visit their pets at the shelter, and the work the EARS volunteers are doing is immensely appreciated by everyone in the city.

Read our press release for more details.

Get information about the temporary shelter at the Red River Valley Fair Web site.

Check back often for updates from Janell and the EARS volunteers in the field!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

An eerie silence

Submitted by UAN Emergency Services Manager Janell Matthies

Everyone has officially left the shelter and the silence is strange. Just yesterday it was filled with barking, yipping, howling, meowing and chirping. The turtles were the only ones not making much noise. Today it is silent and the wind is blowing through the barn, making the puppy potty pads blow around. We are pretty much done breaking down everything and the trucks are loaded up. Again, the silence is almost eerie. It doesn’t seem possible that 24 hours ago the place was filled with 361 animals.

I just received a call from Bella Vista Animal Shelter with an update on my buddy, the Akita. They have named him Ben (as in "Gentle Ben"). They took him to his indoor/outdoor run yesterday and showed him how to go through the extra-large doggie door to the outside. He cautiously stepped through the door and started to investigate. After making his rounds and peeing on a few things, he plopped down, put his nose in the air and smelled the wind. He stayed like that for hours, just letting the fresh air blow around him. The staff tried to get him back inside for the night, but he didn’t want to go. They think he was worried he may not be able to come out again. They put some blankets outside and left him there for the night. This morning when they went to check on him, he was still outside, sound asleep on his blankets.

Ben has quickly won over the staff at the shelter and approaches everyone. If they stop petting him, he noses them and asks for more. One of the girls gave him a little piece of roast beef last night and he could not figure out what to do with it. He’d pick it up and put it down, sniff it and move it around before finally eating it, then deciding he wanted more. They plan to move him into the office during business hours and back to his “quarters” at night. He is definitely a character and I’m so very thankful to everyone who made it possible to give this boy a real second chance.

Saying goodbye

Submitted by UAN Emergency Services Manager Janell Matthies

Yesterday was in an incredibly busy day. We started at 7 a.m. vetting the animals who had not been checked yet and organizing to get the first load of transports out. SPCA of Texas showed up with a huge truck full of crates. We started loading and loading and loading. Of course many of the dogs were frightened and it was a long walk down rows of barking dogs. So they preferred to be carried, even if they weighed as much as some of us. We got the truck loaded, figured out the paperwork (a daunting task) and got them on the road in about three hours. We also made multiple trips to the airport throughout the day to load animals on planes headed for the Denver Dumb Friends League. It was a long day of getting scared dogs out of the crates, calming them, and getting them out to the trucks.

I kept taking my big boy Akita out on a leash to get him comfortable walking on a leash with me. I wanted to make sure his journey out of the shelter was less stressful than his journey in. The wonderful folks from Bella Vista Animal Shelter came to get him and a couple of us took our time and got him to walk outside. He sniffed, stepped and dropped, sniffed, stepped and dropped. It took a while, but we weren’t in a hurry, so we moved along at his speed. So amazingly trusting for a blind dog. We finally got him to the van, where he put a paw inside the door and scooched himself right in. It was a very calm, nice way for him to leave us…

Bella Vista has a perfect area for him where he can go inside and out. Lots of room for the big guy that he is, but small enough that he can get familiar with it quickly. He should be very comfortable there while he waits for his forever home.

On our way back to the EMPTY shelter to finish breaking down crates and cleaning up…another long day ahead, but it’s wonderful to know so many animals are now on to much better lives thanks to all the individuals who worked so hard to get them there.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Making friends

Submitted by UAN Emergency Services Manager Janell Matthies

HSUS and Logan County Animal Control were able to reach an agreement with the owners and ALL ANIMALS were surrendered!

Today we worked from before dawn until long after dark preparing for and receiving around 300 dogs, 15 cats, 30 miniature horses, 1 regular sized horse, 5 red eared sliders (aquatic turtles), 5 tortoises, 5 cockatiels … 361 animals all told. The property was over 82 acres, so as the rescue team was loading up they were discovering more and more animals. Many of the dogs are pregnant and we expect our population to increase even more over the next couple of days.

As always, UAN's Emergency Animal Rescue Service (EARS) volunteers were amazing. Even with all the activity today, they were able to care for, comfort and get to know many of the dogs. As Ruth said when she asked to be assigned to her same row of dogs tomorrow, she’s “already made friends over there." We all know about the pug who sings, the two Yorkies who were “obviously on the bottom” (row of kennels at the facility…their fur is horribly matted with feces) and Yorkie-town (18 Yorkies who were living in a shed together on the property.)

Many of us have developed a soft spot for the one large dog on the premises: a beautiful, absolutely humongous Akita who is incredibly sweet, even though he is completely blind. He had a hard time coming in as he didn’t know how to walk outside and was terrified. We helped him along and he’s now resting comfortably in his cage. He even ate his dinner.

It’s getting late and we are starting extra early again tomorrow to hopefully finish vetting all the animals, so I will let the pictures speak for themselves.

EARS volunteers bringing 400 puppy mill dogs from crisis into care

Volunteers with United Animal Nations' Emergency Animal Rescue Service (EARS) are currently assisting with the temporary shelter of nearly 400 neglected dogs rescued today from a Logan County, Arkansas puppy mill by The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the Humane Society of Missouri. Twleve EARS volunteers from Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri and Kansas deployed to the emergency shelter to care for the animals.

This photo of EARS volunteer Judi Burnett courtesy HSUS.

Read more and check back for more posts from the emergency shelter.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Momma plus four! A success story

Submitted by EARS volunteer Brenda Bunn of Peterborough, Ontario

As a volunteer of UAN, I was deployed to Montreal in December 2008 for what we refer to as bust #3 (bust #1 and #2 were in September and October 2008). As the founder of LOYAL Rescue, I ended up taking 23 dogs into my group's care. Of the 23, 22 have since been released by the mill and six pups were born into rescue (we took two pregnant dogs). We now have 28 dogs up for adoption, and three have already been placed.

When I arrived, I was asked to take care of the "puppy and special needs room" which is where all the young dogs or special needs dogs were kept. One of the dogs was Coco, a Pekingese who appeared to be very lethargic and older. She didn't need any medication, but just seemed to have "shut down" emotionally so was put in the special needs room. She was checked by the vets three or four times while we were there and the vet stated "maybe" she's pregnant but more likely she's old, has lived through enough and has had it.

When it was time to go, I had my truck packed full of crates floor to ceiling and ended up with one empty crate. I had nowhere to put one more dog in rescue but Coco was tugging at my heartstrings so I knew I could not leave her behind. She ended up coming home with me just days before Christmas.

Christmas morning I awoke to three Peke babies! Momma seemed to have shut down, once again, so I got all the babies settled and tried to encourage momma to feed. When I did this, I found baby #4 was in the midst of being born, but appeared to be stuck. After a few seconds of panic I helped momma to deliver the baby and here we are, eight weeks later and momma and four babies are all doing amazingly well.

Coco has responded incredibly well to living in a home with affection, attention, medical care and love. She's no longer emotionally shut down and loves to play with her babies -- they've made her young again. This time around, her babies get to stay with her until SHE'S ready to stop feeding them and SHE'S finished training them, not when someone snatches them from her at four or five weeks of age.

Coco is being spayed in a few weeks and thankfully, for this momma and her babies, the cycle has stopped.

Monday, March 9, 2009


On March 2, a team of UAN's Emergency Animal Rescue Service (EARS) volunteers joined The Humane Society of the United States and the Bowling Green-Warren County Humane Society (BGWC) in Kentucky to care for more than 125 dogs rescued from horrific conditions at an Adair County hoarding situation.

The following post was submitted by first-time EARS volunteer Dori Griffith of Indiana

The first time I saw you I thought you might be dead. A large solid lump piled in the back of the black wire cage. Pandemonium was erupting all about us yet you made no noise, no movement, not a hint of the rise and fall of breathing, not even a twitch.

Your large dark gray/black body reminded me of a girl I once loved, Flo, my Floozy. I gently opened the door and tapped the floor and called out to you, to see if you were sleeping, nothing, no response.

This was the first time I cried ...

I reached out and touched your rump, I gently shook you, nothing, no response, you were cool to the touch, I was sure that you had passed. I said a prayer that you would meet my Flo, my Floozy at the Rainbow Bridge and run and play happily with her and all the other dogs, free from pain, free from starvation, free from parasites and the abuses of humans, light and happy.

I continued to cry ...

The cage was large, I crawled inside, I stroked your head, your shoulders, your back. I scratched behind your ears, your soft, soft ears. I massaged them, being sure to hit all the pressure points for relaxation that I had learned about years ago for another of my life’s loves, Billy. I spoke to you, I told you about the Rainbow Bridge, about Flo and Billy, about the freedom and joys of being released from this aching, itching, mistreated body. I felt your scabs and scrapes and saw the awful patches of skin devoid of fur, chewed away at attempts to relieve the consequence of mange.

... and cry.

I heard a sigh, a very faint sigh. Surely it was coming from the dog in the next cage. They were so closely spaced that I could have touched your neighbors on either side. I looked over the cardboard barrier and they were barking along with all the others, barking and barking and barking.

Slowly I noticed your ears warmed up. I gasped as I felt the rise of your chest, then the fall; with a full breath you slowly raised your head. You did not look at me, you turned away, you pressed yourself against the wire cage and burrowed into the far corner as best you could.

This was the first time I laughed.

You settled back down and let out a sigh. You looked at me, though I’m not sure you saw. Your eyes were old, your muzzle gray, your brow furrowed. I left you to rest.

My assigned partner, Christine, returned with supplies and we continued down the row; one of us walked the dog while the other cleaned the cage, layered fresh newspaper and placed a clean water bowl inside.

We fed, walked, and cleaned cages twice a day. The dogs would bark and bark when anyone walked through the building doors, or came near their crates and as we fed them. But the moment everyone had been fed a silence came over the place and the dogs rested. We’d give them time to rest and digest then start the cleaning/walking process all over.

I always made sure to be the one to walk you, my big dark gray/black pile of heap. You would not move, not come out. I crawled in after you, petted you, talked to you. I wrapped my arm around you and under your chest then half carried, half dragged your large heavy body away from the barking dogs to a quiet corner where we sat and talked, I massaged your ears, your hips, your lame leg. You looked at me with those old weary eyes and I smiled through my tears as you piled yourself in a heap at the back of the black wire cage.

On day two, someone brought big boxes of treats and the dogs were happy.

These dogs quickly went from frightened, shaking, nervous wrecks to happy, enthusiastic play babies. They were excited to see us with anticipation of food, water and attention. They became more relaxed with a routine they could count on.

Most of them that is.

You liked treats, too, my big dark gray/black pile of heap. We gave you a treat and coaxed you out, this time you didn’t make me carry/drag you. Instead you leaned against my leg and moved when I moved, slowly and erratically but move we did. As the door cracked open the first shaft of sunlight traced across your nose, you lifted your head a couple of inches from its resting place on my foot. You sniffed the outside air and inched forward on your own. I opened the door fully and we walked out, side-by-side.

One step down and onto the grass. ”Ooh”! You exclaimed, “Grass!” You began to walk fully on your own. The warmth of the sun seemed to relax you; I petted you and stroked your blotchy coat. In the sunshine I could see the full extent of how mangy and scarred you were and how gorgeous you were, how absolutely gorgeous you are. We stood there together in the sunshine, in the quiet, away from all the other dogs, the noise, the chaos, just stood there soaking up the sun.

Later, at cleaning time you were up wagging your tail looking toward the direction of my voice. I opened your door and called out to you, and you moved toward me without being bribed with a treat. You let me put the lead around your neck and you gingerly stepped out of your black wire cage. We slipped out the back door, your face lit up and you sniffed the air, full on and deeply. We walked in the grass, you peed on my shoe, I petted your head and told you what a good boy you were.

That evening back at the hotel I called my sister, Leisa, in California. I told her about my big beautiful boy. I asked her to talk me out of adopting him. There are even rules in place against that. She reminded me that I couldn’t save them all, that I left a tag team of friends back at home to handle my responsibilities so I could go to Kentucky to help give these animals the opportunity to find their Destiny.

I cried in the lobby while asking other EARS team members to remind me of my determination to put my big beautiful boy on the truck to Delaware if I faltered in any way and begged to take him home with me. Six people agreed.

My last day on deployment was the most difficult and most rewarding.

You greeted me standing up, wagging your tail and jumping around in your kennel. I heard your voice for the first time today. A strong, loud, confident bark. You looked directly into my eyes and I was certain that you actually saw me. You were so alive, so active, so vocal that you seemed much younger that I originally thought. I was sure you were an old dog, an old blind dog. I lifted your lip and looked at your teeth for the very first time, funny I hadn’t though of doing this before now. Oh my, what beautiful, clean white teeth you had. You were not an old dog; you must be a young dog.

The only things left to do that day were a final cleaning and then load all of the dogs onto the transport truck for their trips to Delaware and Michigan.

At one time or another all six of the people who promised to remind me of my determination to put my big beautiful boy on the truck did remind me. One of them said something that got through my sorrow, and reminded me why I deployed in the first place. He said that my big beautiful boy had his "Destiny in Delaware."

I worked the next morning somewhat in a daze, not really focusing on my job, not really talking to anyone. The next day was worse; I was very depressed and spoke briefly to one person of my journey, the only person who remotely understood my passion for animals. Susie from UAN called in the afternoon to inform me of the upcoming debriefing call and to expect an e-mail with details.

I remembered that Diann had asked me to submit a blog post from a newbie’s perspective. So I started writing. Well into the morning hours I was still writing. I needed to remember, to cry, and to laugh all over again. Now I feel confident that I can get back to my regular life and be more prepared to answer the next knock on my e-mail door. I will be back to help the animals and I will be more prepared for the emotional roller coaster that comes with it. I now know there are people out there who are kind hearted, compassionate, caring and playful.

This is the last time I cried.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

EARS volunteers in action

Check out this slide show of the rescue and sheltering effort, from the Bowling Green Daily News.

And here is a news segment with video.

Feels like the first time

Submitted by first-time EARS volunteer Brian Massey of Indiana

Last Thursday morning when I got the e-mail deployment request, I was only routinely checking my e-mail. Even though I often sign on to the EARS volunteer message board, I had no idea an event was setting up in the region. While I'd been looking forward to deploying, I hadn't yet fully gathered my supplies in totes, and had only the stories from these blogs to picture what to expect.

I am so impressed with the amount of work we get done in such short amounts of time. Everything has a systematic process that works efficiently and can switch gears on the fly.

The first day, we did our best to calm the dogs' nerves as we fed them, gave them water, and cleaned up their messes in their crates. You could see the looks of wonder and confusion inch toward trusting. (Photo courtesy Miranda Pederson, Bowling Green Daily News)

The second day, we arrived back at the shelter to a cacophony of excited yelping and barking. "The people are back to visit us! I bet we get more Science Diet delicious food! Wow, I've been SO thirsty for so many days, and now I get water twice in one day!"

After a mid-day naptime for the pooches, imposed to give them some hugely needed rest, another round of great kibble and water stirred up some excitement and appreciation from our canine friends.

Since we are in charge of the same row of kennels, we get to know the temperments and medical status of each that we monitor. A black lab was undoubtedly saying to me this afternoon, "I piddled in here, could you change that for me because I feel bad about making a mess in the middle of the day."

I, on the other hand, was glad to see she was having good bodily functions and her eyes were bright and alert. But that longing look -- what a sweetheart! I hope she finds a forever home so soon. And the rest, too! In my row alone, there are so many cuties I would love to see pictures of once they've had fresh baths and healthy daily lives. But I have faith in the diligence of the area rescues already involved and The HSUS team also here finding places to foster the dogs. (Photo courtesy Miranda Pederson, Bowling Green Daily News)

This has been a really good deployment to start out with EARS. It's not overwhelmingly huge, which is providing just enough time to let everything I'm learning sink in. It's also not challengingly primitive, thanks to the good facility the dogs are housed in, and the careful attention the leadership is giving to the volunteers.

Kentucky hoarding situation

On March 2, a team of UAN's Emergency Animal Rescue Service (EARS) volunteers joined The Humane Society of the United States and the Bowling Green-Warren County Humane Society (BGWC) to care for more than 125 dogs rescued from horrific conditions at an Adair County hoarding situation.

Three-hundred dogs were rescued from a former school house in Columbia, Kentucky earlier in the week, and rescue groups throughout the state were able to take in many of these animals. After local resources had been tapped, the BGWC Humane Society reached out to The HSUS for assistance in transporting, sheltering and placing these needy animals. The HSUS then called in UAN to assist with the sheltering needs of the approximately 125 dogs.

Read more.

Photo this post courtesy Miranda Pederson, Bowling Green Daily News