Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Goodbye with Grace

Submitted by Janell Matthies, UAN Emergency Services Manager

So I’m saying goodbye to all of my friends (dogs, cat, duck and human) from Hawaii. As usual it’s difficult to leave, but comforting to know the animals are in such capable hands. The local organizations involved are more than incredible. I have never met a group of people more willing and actually pleased to do ANYTHING for the animals -- whether it’s cleaning poop, washing dirty crates, sweeping, paperwork or the fun part of actually loving on the animals.

I always have one special someone I find more difficult to leave than the rest. This time it’s our “girl in the bathroom,” Grace. She was one of the dogs who was able to push her kennel with her head and wander about the shelter. I would look away for a mere minute and she would be down the aisle, up against another kennel wagging her tail visiting her friends. We tried to bungee cord her kennel to structural posts, ziptie every corner and reinforce every point, yet still she would find a way to go a-visiting. Some of the other dogs didn’t appreciate this so much, so we needed to find a way to keep her safe. After much consultation and dismissal of ideas, we stationed her in the women’s bathroom. We added a doggie bed, blanket, two personal fans, food bowl, water dish and she was set.

A plus that we didn’t recognize at the time was, although she was very shy, she got many visitors. At first she hunkered in her corner and didn’t do much as the ladies came and went. I spent quite a bit of time with her prior to and after getting her situated, so we had become tentative friends. Every time I went in, she would peek her head around the stall to see what I was up to. Eventually, she started peeking her head around the stall to all visitors. She began crawling from stall to stall, visiting us as we’d come and go. It is cool and quiet in the bathroom, with lots of occasional quick visitors. Who would have guessed this would be the perfect dog rehab situation?

Just before I left for the airport, after saying my goodbyes to the beautiful group of volunteers (who promised to continue caring for my girl), I went into Grace’s room. Instead of the normal routine of convincing her to come out and luring her with treats, she banged out of the stall she was in and, as I sat down, plopped into my lap. This was so different from the many other times I had visited her and no small feat for a 60-pound shar pei-something mix. She fell into me with all her weight as I started to pet her and tell her how wonderful she was. That moment, right there, made the long, sweaty, hard week worth every minute. Grace was a girl worth loving and I was so proud to be part of making her life better. There really is no better feeling.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Video of dogs rescued in Hawaii

"400 neglected animals rescued, almost ready for adoption," from KHNL.

Video of the dogs being removed from the property, from HSUS.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A few of our favorite things

Submitted by Janell Matthies, UAN Emergency Services Manager

Since Happy Sue has gone to the vet for treatment and local volunteers jumped at the chance to foster her, we have redirected our affections to the many other animals in our care.

During lunch today I asked the volunteers to tell me who was their favorite and why. This is a sampling of their answers:

- "Mary, the red pit. She is really shy, but trying so hard to give us another chance." (picture 1 below)

- "Donald Duck, the baby who was separated from his mom and almost left behind on the last day of captures." He went home with local EARS volunteer and bird specialist Phoenix to grow bigger and find a home.

- "Charlie Chan because he is very shy around people, but he marked me!" (picture 2 below)

The Sharpei mix who just became a new mom. She has severe cherry eye in both eyes and can’t see her brand new puppies – but her gentle temperament and total trust in humans is inspiring." And she’s a fabulous mom too!

Steve McQueen, the black-and-white pit with the longest, most gorgeous ears. He let me catch him after he escaped (he’s so smart!) and gave me kisses. He went through so much, but is now happy and safe. He’s even giving us humans a second chance."

- "Our friend Happy Sue. Could there be a sweeter, more affectionate dog??"

- "Dirty Harry, a.k.a. Happy Harry. He is always smiling and greets me at the cage door when I come in. He also loves to dance!" (picture 3 below)

- Houdini! He’s adorable and knows he should stop getting out of his kennel, but it’s just so much fun!" (picture 4 below)

Some of the dogs are starting to go out to foster homes and rescue groups. We will miss them, but we know they are off to much better and happier lives and we are all better people for having gotten to know them.

The happiest, sweetest, goofiest dog we’ve ever met

Submitted by Janell Matthies, UAN Emergency Services Manager

So it has finally happened. We are all in love. Head over heels, dizzy in love. Originally her name was Happy Joe Weimer, but now that we’ve discovered she’s a girl, she’s Happy Sally Sue Weimer. Sally appears to have a painful eye infection in both eyes, making them red and goopy. Her hairless body is covered with scabs and dried blood. I’ve been pulling ticks the size of gumballs off her all day. She has what looks like painful demodex mange on her feet, which makes her prance when she walks.

Even with all of these painful and uncomfortable issues, she is still the happiest, sweetest, goofiest dog we’ve ever seen. If our hand gently brushes past her, she leans into you with all her weight. She absolutely loves to be pet, even though it must be somewhat painful to her. She doesn’t care, she is just starved for attention and thriving in the care she is receiving from the volunteers. She laughs and smiles and jumps around. It’s almost impossible to get pictures of anything other than a close up of her nose or tongue because all she wants to do is give kisses. Or maybe she’s trying to give us a bath; anyone who goes into her kennel comes out sopping wet all over the face, neck and arms.

We are baffled that Sally Sue has so much exuberance and pure joy of life, all while feeling terribly uncomfortable to say the least. She is such a trooper. To have been kept in filthy, confined conditions and still be as happy as she is. We have her in a kennel with a bunch of other happy dogs that we have dubbed “the party kennel." It is impossible to keep their water dish full because they jump around and play so much.

Even the vets involved have fallen for Sally Sue. She was just sent over to the clinic for a spa day: mange dip, bath, de-flea and de-tick treatment. I know she will love every minute of it.

Happy Sally Sue Weimer is the true spirit of a rescued dog. She appreciates every little ounce of kindness she is shown and completely trusts and enjoys people in spite of her turbulent past. I can only imagine what a beautiful and joyous dog she we will be when she gets all fixed up and starts feeling better. I’m thankful I was able to be a part of her journey.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Caring: What we do best

On Sunday, July 19, a team of UAN's trained Emergency Animal Rescue Service (EARS) volunteers began caring for more than 400 dogs, cats, ducks, chickens, swans and geese seized from a hoarding situation in Hawaii. EARS volunteers helped set up a temporary shelter for the animals and will care for them until they can be transferred to rescue groups and shelters for adoption.

For more details read our press release or this news article.

Submitted by Janell Matthies, UAN Emergency Services Manager

Yesterday we started doing what UAN's EARS volunteers do best: caring for the animals. Everyone was quickly and efficiently fed and cleaned this morning. With a minimal crew, the dogs and cats remained calm and quiet through it all, especially after Sunday’s business of capture, transport and lots and lots of people coming and going.

Even though the temperatures soared and humidity was extraordinarily high, the volunteers never stopped caring for each individual animal and giving them the attention they so desperately need. The nervous dogs quickly calmed down and the terrified cats seemed to begin to warm up. The one duck in our care seems quite content in her kennel, sitting on her eggs.

We are beginning to learn the personalities of the individual animals and what still scares them. They seem to know we are here to help them and are beginning to show some spirit, whereas two days ago, most were trying to avoid us at all costs. Some dogs are starting to wag their tails when they see us, probably expecting more food or treats. They are very much enjoying their huge bowls of water, especially to jump around in, on, next to and spill.

The cats are being housed in group housing and seem to very much enjoy their multiple cat trees and hiding places. They are beginning to eat a little today and maybe starting to act like cats.

Yesterday was a very long, hot day with more kennel building and strengthening. We have discovered that some of the dogs are so strong they can just push their kennel around wherever they want to go and cruise down the aisle pushing their kennel with their snout. We’re getting more and more creative in finding ways to keep everyone safe and where they should be.

The volunteers' compassion for these animals is truly shining through. They are taking their breaks sitting by their favorites and talking to them, helping them to learn to trust people and accept our care. We will share some of these specific stories tomorrow.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Chain links and zip ties

Submitted by Janell Matthies, UAN Emergency Services Manager

Even though we are here in Hawaii, you would never guess that people were lounging by a pool or having fun in the ocean. About 30 volunteers from EARS and other groups swarmed into the warehouse yesterday to help set up our temporary emergency shelter. The volunteers, some even from the mainland, have been sweating all day creating kennel after kennel out of chain-link fencing and zipties.

The words "Kennel Kit: A Complete Kennel in a Box" will stick in our heads for a very long time. Each box provides a new and interesting challenge to the volunteers. Their perseverance and determination was amazing. By early afternoon we had solid, safe and large kennels ready to take in the 100-plus dogs, many, many cats and whatever else was in store for us.

I have forgotten how spoiled we are by having the PetSmart Charities Emergency Relief Waggin' as a partner on so many deployments. We all commented many times about how we would never complain about “pin crates” (crates that take a bit longer to put up than the “pop up” kind).

Once again, every volunteer stepped right up and started working as a team. To look at them, you would think it was a well rehearsed effort done many times by the same people, not a miscellaneous group of people coming together for the first time, all working for the same cause.

These animals are so lucky to have so many people watching out for them. We’re getting ready for the arrival of the first transport trucks now and will send updates on what we find whey they roll up the doors.

Happy ending for Texas puppy mill dogs

Submitted by EARS Field Leader Norma Rodriguez of Bellflower, California

As a first-time Field Leader I apologize for not creating a daily blog. My pitiful excuse is that by the time we returned to the hotel, had a shower and some dinner, it was 11 p.m. By then I was too physically and emotionally wrung out to string two words together.

Yesterday, the EARS deployment officially ended, but it will live in our hearts forever. It was my first puppy mill experience and now I am more committed than ever to shutting them down! Last night, while sharing some lovin’ with my own dogs, I noticed that I didn’t feel any bones while petting them. Many, many of the dogs at the emergency shelter were so emaciated that it was heartbreaking. One of our convergent volunteers actually broke down when she began working with a wonderful little Bassett who was painfully thin. I think that she, too, is now committed to helping shut down puppy mills.

Thankfully I can say that the joyous moments far exceeded the sad ones. Seeing lethargic, dehydrated dogs become not just responsive, but attention-seeking love hounds was a true joy. One poor standard poodle, terribly emaciated and dehydrated, did a complete turn-around with the help of EARS volunteer Beverly Brenner. I asked Beverly to take him to a quiet place on the loading dock with a bowl and bottle of water and give him some one-on-one attention. He hadn’t had a drink or relieved himself for two days. It only took a few minutes for him to accept and focus on Beverly’s kindness and compassion. A few minutes later he was eagerly and gratefully drinking. By mid-afternoon he was at the front of his kennel seeking attention!

Something very unusual happened in that some EARS folks ended up taking dogs home. A sad- looking labradoodle claimed Christine’s heart, actually demanded it, and now has a wonderful forever home. I honestly don’t know who claimed who, but it was a match made in Heaven, for sure! My guess is that Chris did cartwheels after I called her to come and get her dog. Connie, a wannabe midwife, went home with a new therapy dog. Connie was in charge of our nursery and quarantine area. She had charge of three beagles who were due any day. Tracy said they were ready to “download.” Unfortunately they hadn’t delivered by Sunday and Connie didn’t get to be a midwife.

Speaking of newbie EARS volunteer Tracy…she kept us entertained with her dog dialogues. Tracy has a way of putting into words what dogs would say if they spoke English rather than barkish. The antics of her own animals also kept us in stitches. Her expertise in large dog handling is so fantastic. I don’t believe there is anything Tracy can’t handle. I think her experience working with 700 military dogs provided her with a great deal of knowledge and insight.

The many, many EARS volunteers and convergent volunteers from the local community were truly fantastic. Everyone worked with a great deal of energy, compassion, dedication and spirit. Some came for a day, a few days, or more than a week, and everyone regretted having to leave. The community support was amazing. Every need, desire, or wish was granted so quickly! One spectacular supporter fed us and fed us and fed us! Suzanne even brought a birthday cake, ice cream and candles to celebrate Sandy Rogers’ birthday. When I spoke with Sandy she said it was the best birthday she’d ever had. (Just don’t tell that extraordinary husband of hers, G-Man Jesse!) If there was such a thing, Jesse would have earned an honorary red shirt for all his hard work and dedication! So many EARS volunteers and convergents showed up while I was there that if I hadn’t kept a daily attendance sheet I wouldn’t believe the numbers. I just hope that I was able to convey to all of them how much I appreciated their contributions to the care and welfare of the nearly 500 dogs and their teammates. They truly were extraordinary!

I also must note that the staff of the Humane Society of North Texas, especially Sandy, were very, very accommodating and great to work with. Chesapeake, instrumental in getting this rescue off the ground, provided so much in the way of support, attention to needs, and care of the volunteers. People like Ricky Ewing who were there every day asking how they could help us were a true blessing. The Hyatt Place Hotel staff was very gracious and accommodating. When we needed to be at the shelter at 6 a.m. they set up a breakfast bar for us at 5 a.m.

I have so many more experiences to share with all of you and hope to do it in the next few days as I decompress from my first Field Leader experience. In the meantime, feel free to share your own experiences and thoughts here in the "comments" section.

To paraphrase a quote I read somewhere: Saving one dog won’t change the world, but it will change the world for that one dog.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Part of the EARS team in Texas

It's hard to get any EARS volunteer to stand still for a minute, let alone to get a group of them to stand still for a minute all at the same time!

EARS volunteer Mike Brodersen managed to do just that, and we're glad he did. He snapped this rare group photo at the end of the day, before anyone had a chance to shower or clean up. Despite their exhaustion and the oppressive heat, the volunteers still feel like saying that they're number one!

This photo was taken a few days into the response, so a (relative) calm and routine had been achieved. That day, the volunteers started caring for the animals at 8 a.m., took a mid-day break so all the volunteers and pups could enjoy a brief siesta, and concluded around 7:30 p.m.

Read more about two EARS volunteers who deployed to this situation in this news article.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

An amazing team effort

A team of UAN's Emergency Animal Rescue Service (EARS) volunteers is currently in Missouri caring for approximately 400 dogs seized in a multi-state dogfighting raid on July 8. It was the largest dogfighting raid in U.S. history. The case is highly confidential, so we are unable to post photos and share much information about the animals. But please real below for some insight from the UAN staff and volunteers in the field. We will continue to post updates as we are able.

Submitted by UAN Emergency Services Manager Janell Matthies

We always say no two deployments are alike. This holds true for this deployment even more so than any other I have been involved in. Due to the strict confidentiality issues still in place, we can’t discuss many aspects of where we are or what we’re doing.

When I ask the EARS volunteers how they’re feeling or how they would describe their experiences, the most common comments are happy, heartbroken, sad, proud, privileged and, most often, exhausted.

The volunteers have been doing an absolutely amazing job of taking care of these guys and making sure shelter operations are running smoothly and efficiently. Not an easy task when they are caring for more than 400 dogs with very specific needs and limitations. The training and skills the EARS volunteers bring to the table make this a possibility. It could not have happened with out them.

The one thing that is really standing out is the ability of the EARS volunteers to "go with the flow" and react quickly. Circumstances are continually changing and we all have to stop and rethink our systems. A crisis comes up and everyone either helps accordingly or just stays out of the way. The value of the volunteers is evident to the many other agencies here and is commented on often. The EARS volunteers are focused, on alert, communicative, capable of following very specific protocols and directions, and working, working, working continuously to do what they can to help. It takes a very special person to come into this and be able to deal with it emotionally and physically. We are all having a hard time, but still getting the job done, and not just adequately….but exceptionally.

This shelter, this seizure, this historical incident would not be possible without these people. I can only imagine how difficult it must be coming from regular life and getting thrown into this extraordinary situation. I am grateful to The Humane Society of Missouri, The Humane Society of the United States, all of the other agencies involved, and especially our donors and supporters for enabling us to be here. Again, I am honored to be a part of the UAN team and to have worked alongside these compassionate, dedicated and special people.

The case is highly confidential, so we are unable to post photos and share much information about the animals.

But you can see ten of the dogs who were rescued in this video made by The Humane Society of the United States.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The dust is starting to settle

Submitted by EARS Roxanne Quinlan of Austin, Texas

This morning was really exciting. We moved the last section of dogs out of the giant airline carriers and into cages. It was great finally being able to glance in and see how they were doing without having to crawl on the floor! To me, it seems like the dogs are finally starting to settle in. At first, lots of them were just afraid when you came to their cage. But now they get excited when they smell the food, and recognize that we are here to make them feel more comfortable. We still have a bunch of them who just freeze when we take them out to clean their cages. But even they are getting better: Now when you walk by, they sometimes tentatively wag their tails, and come to the front to get some love.

A new group of volunteers arrived, and even after the short time we've been here, it was great to have some new blood. I feel like I'm so tired, that I can barely remember my name, let alone what day it is! Today was frustrating for me, since as we set up cages, we kick up a bit of dust. Today I reacted to something that made it hard for me to breathe. I hate to not help the team, but Andy (EARS Field Leader) and I agreed that perhaps I should take a break. So I sat in the hotel room until the dust cleared, and Andy called me back to take care of my babies!

When you have a problem like this on a deployment, your mind wants to continue, but the body does not cooperate, which is frustrating. But the team leader is there to look after every member of the team, so we can look after the animals, and I think it was a good idea for me to take a break and recharge.

I'm much better now, after a two-hour break. And despite my short absence, the animals still received quality care from my teammates. One for all and all for one!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Puppy mill: Closed until further notice

Submitted by EARS Field Leader Andy Bass of Pompano Beach, Florida

On this, the third day after the seizure, almost 30 volunteers from United Animal Nations (UAN), the Humane Society of North Texas and local convergents continue to care for almost 500 dogs rescued from the abominable conditions at the Maggic Pets/Heddins Ranch. Thanks to the care of these dedicated volunteers who have been putting in 17-hour days since Tuesday, the painful medical problems and cowering spirits of the dogs have given way to happy tail wagging and belly-rub opportunities.

Having had a taste of human compassion rather than mercenary greed is bringing the poor creatures out of their solitude for the first time in their lives. Fear has taken a backseat to appreciation of the human species, and the dogs are learning that life can be a pleasure rather than a curse.

Although they are still unsure of the future, the dogs are eager to learn that being a dog can be a good thing, with the right help. And they are slowly learning to trust the humans and maybe, just maybe, believe that there is a loving, forever home waiting for them.

Due to the fact that the court hearing is not until later next week, I cannot provide photos or give you specific information on the dogs at this time. But I can tell you they are very thankful that we volunteers have come into their lives. Never again will these furbabies live in a wire rabbit hutch or be banished to a weed-filled crate hidden from view on a back-lot in sweltering 100-degree temperatures simply to churn out "product" to be sold to anyone with an Internet connection or a fat wallet. Never again will they be used to produce what we used to call mix-breed mutts, but which the millers now call "designer dogs," just to fill the coffers of an unscrupulous breeder. And never again will young puppies be ripped from their mothers to be displayed and stocked in the neighborhood pet store, simply to make a profit.

In my previous report, I had said that we have 475 dogs in the shelter. Just before we closed tonight, that number increased, as a pregnant American Eskimo gave birth to seven premature puppies. And since we have 12 other pregnant mothers, I expect the number to well exceed 500 before the court date on July 17. Although the owners intend to fight the charges in court, they are already acknowledging the truth on their Web site with a front page banner stating "Closed until further notice."

I couldn't have said it better myself.

Finally, love and kindness

Submitted by EARS Field Leader Andy Bass of Pompano Beach, Florida

Day 2 of the puppy mill seizure has come to an end and the EARS team deserves a rest after dealing with 100 degree + temperatures, not to mention the 476 dogs retrieved from Montague County, Texas.

Check out the news items presented by Fox 4 News of Fort Worth.

Although about 100 animals are in relatively good shape, the "sample dogs" the public were allowed to see were covering up the real story of the Heddins Ranch. Almost 400 additional dogs, the "breeding" stock were hidden away in out buildings and in the dense overgrowth of weeds on different parts of the 1,200- acre property. Many of these dogs have mange, and others have a myriad of medical problems, including atrophied eyes, severe matting, flea infestation and earmites -- the list is almost as large as the varieties of dogs offered for sale.

Additionally, EARS volunteers are caring for dozens of newborn puppies, as well as a dozen pregnant females ready to give birth in the next few days.

Over 30 volunteers, including almost 20 EARS volunteers, have answered the call to bring these poor creatures out of crisis and into the care long overdue. Our volunteers have defied temps in the 100s and will continue until the court appearance, scheduled for July 17. For now, we are tasked with providing care, shelter, and most important, love and kindness for the first time in these animals' lives. And the fruits of our labor are already being seen. The fear and anxiety is already giving way to a more peaceful and kind existence.

Beginning tomorrow, local volunteers will begin to work side by side with our trained volunteers to learn how to care for these animals if the owner chooses to fight this in court. Should the judge rule in favor of the dogs, they will be released to rescue groups statewide for rehabilitation and placement through adoptions.

Please stay tuned for more info from the field as the situation unfolds.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

EARS volunteers assisting in largest dogfighting raid in U.S. history

UAN's Emergency Animal Rescue Service (EARS) volunteers are caring for more than 150 dogs seized from suspected dogfighting operations in Missouri and Illinois.

Read UAN's press release.

Read a news story about the raid.

Read more about the raid from the Humane Society of Missouri and acting U.S. Attorney Michael Reap.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

500 dogs rescued from Texas puppy mill

More than 50 volunteers worked diligently through the holiday weekend and into the night at a temporary shelter in Fort Worth, Texas, preparing for the arrival of nearly 500 dogs rescued today from a Montague County puppy mill after a warrant was served by the Montague County Sheriff’s department. The animals will be cared for by the Humane Society of North Texas with the assistance of volunteers with United Animal Nations's Emergency Animal Rescue Service.

Read a news article about the seizure.

Please revisit the blog for more updates as this situation progresses.