Friday, March 19, 2010

Until the next time we meet ...

Sumbitted by EARS volunteer Marcia Goodman of Cromwell, Connecticut


My final blog entry was all written (see below), but then I heard from Julie Rathbun, the UAN volunteer at the Mississippi deployment who arranged with HSUS for the Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF) in her home city of Mobile, Alabama to take custody of two expectant mothers. Julie then drove both dogs to Mobile.

As previously reported, Mama Blondie had to be euthanized because of her medical condition. A few minutes ago, I heard from Julie about the other expectant mother, who has been named Harmony.

Julie reports, “Harmony has given birth to seven seemingly healthy puppies, along with three stillbirths. Her foster mom began giving her holistic care upon her arrival, as well as veterinary care. Harmony is regaining some strength and is nursing the puppies.”

And now for the highlight of this blog post – two photos of Mama Harmony and her babies!

Great going, Mama Harmony, and great going, Julie!!! Julie, you gave Harmony her new life! What a feeling that must be after the misery she was living in until we rescued her. Good thing we don’t deal in “what ifs” – my heart would break if I thought about what might have happened to these dogs and puppies if there has been no rescue in Kemper County, Mississippi.

Thank you, too, to Animal Rescue Foundation in Mobile, Alabama, and especially Michelle Turner, its President, for agreeing to take responsibility for two expectant mothers who had been living lives of abuse and neglect, and thank you to HSUS, MARL and (Kemper County) Sheriff Moore for making the wheels of motion move fast enough for this to happen in one day!

Now, here’s the final blog looking back at my seven days with UAN in Mississippi:

For seven days this month, I was privileged to serve in the newly created position of "Volunteer Communications Assistant" at the UAN deployment in Mississippi. UAN created these positions at just the same time the Mississippi deployment was announced, and since I volunteered for Mississippi, I became the test pilot for this new approach in reporting from the deployment site.

The responsibilities of the Volunteer Communications Assistant are to spend about half of each day writing a daily blog and taking lots of photographs. Previously, this work was done by the staff person or volunteer in charge of the deployment, but given the hectic workload of those folks, there were hardly enough hours in the day for them to do the communications work as well.

It’s been so rewarding to write the daily blog and take photographs, calling attention to the work that UAN does and highlighting the wonderful dogs who lived in such desperate circumstances and the equally wonderful volunteers who are dedicated to giving these dogs a bright future.

In this, my final posting for the Mississippi deployment, I’m focusing on a few highlights.

First, many thanks to Sheriff James Moore (at right) for making this rescue happen. But for him, the dogs would still be suffering, and before long, if not already, more of them would be dead. The hoarder had been in business for years, and many people knew about her, but it took Sheriff Moore, who became sheriff about 2-1/2 years ago, to build the case against her over time. He was the one who served the warrant on her and, in preparation for that day, called in the Mississippi Animal Rescue League, which in turn brought in HSUS, which in turn brought in UAN to participate in the rescue of the animals and to manage the shelter.

As is true in all UAN deployments, another highlight was the stellar working relationships among UAN volunteers, and also with folks affiliated with the other animal organizations. We all went to Mississippi because we share a passion for the welfare of animals, not to make new friends, and yet, as is typical in UAN deployments, we did make new friends. The UAN volunteers in Mississippi were a diverse group.

Jerry is an entrepreneur who owns two radio stations. Inga is a former environmental attorney turned animal shelter manager. Angela is a boat dealer. Julie volunteers at the sheriff’s office tracking Sudafed purchases. And so on and so forth. With this diversity, we each brought something different to the deployment, and even if we had nothing else in common with particular volunteers, our passion for the welfare of the dogs created a special bond. I hope that I have the opportunity to work again with all the volunteers who served in Mississippi.

I suppose the opposite of highlights are lowlights, and we had one of those – the emergency shelter was a former meat packing plant; the owner had cleaned it but left the equipment in place. With my urban upbringing, I didn’t recognize most of the equipment, but volunteers who had been raised on farms or who had farmers in their families pointed out how certain equipment was used, and it made my stomach turn. As Janell Matthies put it, though, we changed the karma of the place by converting it into a life-sustaining shelter.

Of course, I’ve saved the top highlight for last: the dogs. The dogs in this deployment arrived at the shelter in need of medical attention, and we had two vet rooms going. Keeping in mind that seven dogs were found dead on the hoarder’s property on the day of the rescue, it was no surprise that some of the dogs were in very serious condition. Some had what appeared to be sarcoptic mange. Most were scratching almost incessantly. Most had scars from lacerations; some had open lacerations or sores. Some had big patches of no hair or had very little hair. Some were very skinny, even emaciated.

The socialization time we spent with the dogs was the most rewarding, as we tried to find ways to show these dogs that life can be good and that people can be good. In criminal seizures in particular, where the animals have been abused, socialization is so important for the well-being of the dogs. The emotionally neediest dogs, such as Stevie and Hope, tugged the strongest at our heart strings, but our hearts went out to all the dogs who had been living lives of abuse. When I left for home, saying goodbye to the dogs was the hardest part, but it was also the best part because I know that their futures are now hopeful.

During the deployment and since arriving home, I’ve read the comments on the blog and UAN’s Facebook page. Many of the people who read this blog are UAN volunteers, and I know you’re all nodding when I say that UAN is a terrific organization, and I’m proud to be a UAN volunteer. UAN shelters are so well run and always with the proper care of animals as the top priority. Any concerns expressed by volunteers are addressed right way, with action taken as needed or responses given to our questions. The staff shows respect for the volunteers. We feel valued.

Most of all, when animals come into UAN’s care, they go from desperate lives to hopeful futures. Thank you, everyone who is part of UAN. Until the next time we meet . . . .

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A successful rescue, just about over

Submitted by EARS volunteer Marcia Goodman of Cromwell, Connecticut

Well, I’m back home in Connecticut, and the deployment is just about over. Tomorrow I’ll do a final wrap-up blog entry. Today I’ll focus on the two people I interviewed at the very end of my time in Mississippi: Janet Roush of Nebraska, and Janell Matthies, on staff with UAN as its Emergency Services Manager

It’s very cool at a UAN deployment that when volunteers arrive at a deployment, they jump right in and participate fully as if they had been there all along. That’s part of the benefit of the excellent training and experience we get from UAN.

Janet Roush of Nebraska is no different. She was the last volunteer to arrive for the deployment because weather problems delayed her flights on route, but from the start she participated as if she had been there for the entire deployment.

This is Janet’s first deployment with EARS. She found out about UAN from one of the directors of Hearts United for Animals based in Auburn, Nebraska, which is a private nonprofit no-kill shelter located on 65 acres at which Janet volunteers.

Janet has always loved animals. She took in strays as a child. She started looking for rescue dogs to adopt and stumbled upon Hearts United for Animals and began volunteering with them. She socializes and walks dogs, helps unload dogs when large rescues of puppy mill dogs arrive, and if they’re dirty, she bathes them.

Janet (at right, with Melissa Folberg of HSUS) feels very good about this deployment. She said after the first day that she was tired but thankful the dogs are out of the situation they were in. She loves to be with dogs and just sit and make them feel a little better. She has a lot of empathy for them. She thinks UAN is a great organization – it seems to be a great group of people coming together for the betterment of animals, to relieve their suffering. She hopes to go on more deployments.

Janet told me that at the shelter at home, she’s called the “Chihuahua Trainer” because she takes to the most ornery dogs. Well, in De Kalb, Mississippi, Janet was helping to work wonders with Hope, the emaciated girl who, when she first arrived at the shelter, always tried to hide from people. The volunteers worked hard with Hope, sitting in her pen, talking softly to her, and bringing her treats. To the right is a photo of Hope with Janet just five days after the dogs were rescued. A few moments before this photo, while Janet was sitting in Hope’s pen talking softly to her, Hope started to come out of hiding. She slowly made her way over to Janet and snuggled up next to her. What a moment. If anyone doesn’t understand what makes UAN volunteers want to work with rescued animals, this photo says it all. Shortly after this photo, Hope curled up next to Janet, rested her head on Janet’s arm, and took a nap.

Janell Matthies (right) volunteered with UAN for 15 years before joining the staff a little over a year ago. Before that, she was an event coordinator for City of Sacramento and a 911 dispatcher.

Janell has always been drawn to animals; it’s in her blood. Her parents always brought home strays and helped injured squirrels, and her sister is now a veterinarian. Janell’s first volunteer involvement was with the local SPCA.

Janell first learned about UAN when Sacramento was flooded. She heard about a temporary shelter, went to volunteer, and was thoroughly impressed with the organization and amount of work they did in such an efficient manner. That was UAN. She got to know more about the organization and really liked their attitude and that it’s a well run organization. She took UAN’s training after the flooding ended, and took it a few more times as a "refresher" and so the trainer could use her information and ask her opinions to help train new volunteers. She tried to be as involved and supportive as she could.

As a volunteer, Janell went on about 15 deployments with UAN. Because she worked for the fire department, which understood about emergencies, she was able to take vacation on short notice. The City of Sacramento also supported what she did and worked with her to take time off.

The staff position of Emergency Services Manager opened up at UAN, and Janell had worked closely with UAN staff on previous deployments and even led a couple of deployments at that time. UAN and Janell agreed that it seemed like a really good fit.

Every deployment is different, Janell says. There’s always some new challenge and something always changes. In this deployment, the EARS team had to overcome a lot of obstacles including the irony of having the shelter located in a meat processing plant. “We changed the karma of that building,” Janell says. “Luckily we had Stacey [Harris] here. Stacey is totally competent and efficient and not easily ruffled.”

Janell commented on the difference between deployments in natural disasters and in criminal seizures. Natural disasters are usually more labor intensive without accommodations like restaurants, beds and showers, so these are more difficult from a practical perspective. However, emotionally, criminal seizures are heartbreaking because a person did this to the animals; someone intentionally made this happen. The emotional aspect is very challenging – trying not to be angry because the animals need us to do the job and not focus on negative issues.

Last year, Janell went on 18 deployments, 16 for criminal seizures and 2 for natural disasters. She usually goes to each deployment for at least part of the time. For larger operations, she serves as shelter coordinator and a volunteer will be the lead field person.

I asked Janell how she feels about this particular deployment. She says that every deployment amazes her because the volunteers come together and each time, everyone says this is a really great group. All personality issues are put aside and everyone works together for the animals. She never sees in-fighting; just a great group across the country no matter what type of deployment. It gives her faith in humankind. The job not only gets done, it gets done it with extra attention. Long-term relationships develop; if you don’t see a volunteer for two years and then you see that person again, it’s like seeing your best friend from high school.

Final days at the emergency shelter

Submitted by EARS volunteer Marcia Goodman of Cromwell, Connecticut

I’m writing this on Tuesday, March 16. I actually arrived home last night, but I still had my notes of interviews with four more volunteers and UAN Emergency Services Manager Janell Matthies, which I’ll write up, so I’ll have two more blog posts to come . . . this one and tomorrow. At the moment, I’m steeped in the changing realities in reverse: One moment I was sitting on wood chips singing softly to Sweetie Girl and hugging her, and moments later I was at an airport with engines roaring all around.

I’ll report on my interviews with three volunteers today, Shari Emory and Connie Walker from Monroe, Louisiana, and Sharon Covington from California.

Shari Emory and Connie Walker arrived at this deployment together from Monroe, Louisiana, and since they are such good friends back home – volunteering together with LSART (Louisiana State Animal Rescue Team) and both working for telephone companies (although they work for competing companies!) – the three of us decided that I should interview them together.

For Connie, this has been the third deployment for EARS; for Shari, it’s the sixth. They’ve both deployed with LSART and Shari also deploys with PetSmart Charities Emergency Relief Wagon, which sends animal equipment and supplies to emergency responses in an 18-wheeler and leaves them behind for the local communities to use even after the disaster.

Shari (right) has always been with animals. When Shari was brought home from the hospital as a newborn, her sister, who was expecting a German shepherd, was so upset that their parents bought a German shepherd as the family’s first animal companion. Beginning at age four or five, Shari began saving birds who fell out of trees.

How did Shari and Connie find out about UAN? For Shari it was during Hurricane Katrina. She was volunteering with LSART, which set up a shelter for the animals of self-evacuated people in Monroe. After a week, they realized they needed a national organization to manage the shelter, and UAN was called in. Shari hadn’t heard of them before, but UAN was thorough and had great safety rules and documentation, and LSART learned how to do it from UAN. Also, UAN leaves at the local site any supplies bought or donated for the response, so UAN left crates, kennels, cleaning supplies, etc. when the EARS team left Monroe.

Connie (right) also heard of UAN because of Hurricane Katrina and knew they were in Monroe. After Katrina, Connie took an EARS Volunteer Training Workshop, then started to deploy.

I asked Shari and Connie how they feel about this deployment. By the time they deployed, about 125 dogs had been transported to other shelters, and fewer than 25 dogs remained. As a result, Shari and Connie both have found this deployment laid back, and they are spending a lot more time with the dogs, getting to know them and working with them. They both consider this to be awesome. On the day I interviewed them, which was Sunday, they had put extra tarps up in the back, and as they walked around, every dog was watching them with a “come be with me” look in their eyes.

Both Connie and Shari found this to be a really good team of volunteers. The team members are from all over and there’s no bickering. This is consistent with their experiences on other UAN deployments. Even though everyone is different, all the volunteers have one thing in common – passion for the animals – and you can work through anything because the priority is the animals. They say UAN is great because good procedures are in place, and everyone follows them. Everyone knows what he or she should be doing, and everyone is good about leaving attitudes at door.

This is Sharon Covington’s (right) first deployment with UAN. She became involved in animal rescue work when a local golden retriever rescue group rescued her Dad’s dog from a puppy mill, so she started volunteering with them. Then she started volunteering with Homeward Bound, and then joined Emergency Services in the Governor’s Office. This background in animal services and emergency services converged and, when combined with her desire to work with dogs who haven’t been treated well, pointed her in the direction of UAN.

One question I’ve asked all the volunteers in my interviews is why UAN? In Sharon’s case, it’s because she lives in Sacramento, where UAN is based, so if she can’t deploy, she can still volunteer in the office. She trained with UAN two years ago. Sharon has been wanting to go into the field, and this Mississippi hoarding case is the first one that’s worked out for her in scheduling.

Sharon has been loving this deployment. She says that it’s great to work with neat people who have great teamwork to help dogs move onto a better place where they’re well fed and receive veterinary care, and the volunteers can deal with their emotional wounds. Sharon has been having a great time working one-on-one with the dogs.

Sharon is a high-energy person with large measures of enthusiasm, creativity and initiative. When she sees a need, she goes to address it. I can attest to Sharon’s enthusiasm. In almost every photo I’ve taken of her, she’s had a big grin showing the delight she takes in being with the dogs. Some of those photos appear on this page.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Sad news with good news to follow

Submitted by EARS volunteer Marcia Goodman of Cromwell, Connecticut

I’m starting this on Monday, March 15, and I must start off with some very sad news. You may remember the two expectant mothers EARS volunteer Julie Rathbun took to Mobile, Alabama after arranging special homes for them. She took Mama Blondie to a veterinarian who she says is cutting edge and would give that sweet girl the best care she could receive. Here is an email I received from Julie about Mama Blondie on Sunday night:

“My trip home was safe and uneventful puppy wise. However, the blond girl was checked into the vet’s isolation ward Friday evening, after stretching out in their yard. When in the yard, she went immediately to the large area of cedar shavings, where she lay down and dragged her big belly around, as though to scratch her itches. You remember that she has lots of sores and skin issues. Saturday morning I received a phone call to tell me that she is in no condition to deliver her puppies. She apparently was having breathing difficulties and was so malnourished, etc. They said the vet, who is extremely pro-life, needed to “spay” her right now. I have not yet heard how the mama did during/after the surgery. I also know full well that she is getting the absolute best vet care in this state, cutting edge actually, with their staff specialists, etc. So whatever the outcome, she is blessed to be there. But yes, I have been heartbroken about this.”

The next morning Julie emailed me the following:

“Sad news to report. Mama Blondie had to be put down. The other mama is in fair condition at this point.”

I know everyone joins me in extending our deepest sympathy to Julie and the other volunteers who spent so much of their time working with the mothers and expectant mothers at the De Kalb shelter.

The good news is that the shelter is winding down. HSUS personnel have been in contact with various shelters and animal rescue groups about taking the remaining dogs.

The dogs have continued to demonstrate sweet and loving behavior. I described a few dogs yesterday. Here are a few more examples: Rudolf is very active and playful; his pen mate Oreo likes more quiet snuggling moments. Pictured below, Rudolf is trying to take the hat of Shari Emory, with fellow volunteer Connie Walker getting a big laugh from it; and Oreo snuggles with Connie.

Chance loves chasing balls and he runs in bunny-hop fashion, which is delightful to watch.

I took some video of him running which we’ll upload to UAN’s YouTube site, but here is a photo (right).

We gave Beauty (right) her name partly because of the beauty inside her, but also because when we volunteers look at her, we see beauty.

I continued interviewing the EARS volunteers at this shelter which I’ve loved doing because it’s given me an opportunity to learn more about them.

Sue Ellen Scurlock of Madison, Mississippi (pictured at right)has had two prior deployments with UAN and a local deployment during Hurricane Gustav. She has always had a special place in her heart for animals – both domestic and wildlife. As a little girl, she brought stray dogs home, and as a teenager, she began volunteering with shelters and wildlife organizations.

Sue Ellen chose UAN as one of her volunteer organizations because she heard they had scheduled training in Jackson, Mississippi. She wanted to qualify with EARS because she had been brought up in Mississippi and wanted to help with emergency shelters during hurricane season.

Sue Ellen feels good about this deployment. She says that the dogs are 100 percent better off, and the volunteers have been easy to work with, very nice and mostly cheerful considering what we’re dealing with. Sue Ellen’s deployment came during the second week; her first assignment upon arriving at the shelter was to help carry 100 dogs into the HSUS rig for transport to other shelters, leaving fewer than 25 at the shelter. Based on this experience, she says that this deployment hasn’t been as chaotic or hectic as her prior deployments because there have been fewer dogs.

Sue Ellen has continued to expand the ways in which she works to help animals. In addition to her rescue work, she has a backyard wildlife habitat certified by National Wildlife Association, and is also approved by the HSUS urban wildlife sanctuary. Later in March, Sue Ellen is taking a course that will certify her as an instructor in Pet First Aid and CPR, and she is arranging to teach others.

Sue Ellen brought to this deployment not only her talent, knowledge and energy, but also her exuberance and an absence of shyness in expressing how she feels. Every time Sue Ellen was with a group of people, that’s the place from which peals of laughter could be heard resonating through the shelter, with Sue Ellen’s laughter the most enthusiastic of all. Sue Ellen will return at the end of this deployment to help tear the shelter down.

Lynn Frischmann of Santa Cruz, California, has been on eight deployments with UAN, and three for other organizations. Her first deployment was after Hurricane Katrina.

Lynn has always been aware of animals. She brought home her first stray when she was eight years old, to the chagrin of parents. Her volunteerism started with wildlife at a refuge – big cats and wolves and former lab monkeys. She always helped in shelters gathering and taking supplies to different organizations.

Why has Lynn chosen UAN for her rescue work? Because she saw during Hurricane Katrina how well UAN ran the shelter and was very impressed with the program. That positive experience has been reinforced with each subsequent deployment for UAN.

In addition to being an EARS volunteer with UAN, Lynn regularly transports dogs who are on euthanasia lists of overcrowded shelters in California. A coordinator gets the lists, contacts other shelters to see who can take whom, and then gives Lynn the list to do the transporting. Last year, 1,700 of these dogs were transported, mostly within California.

In her past, Lynn was an EMT, taking care of people, but then she wanted to pursue her passion for animals all the time. She once asked a veterinarian why she, in particular, always seems to find cats and dogs in need, and he responded that it’s not that she finds animals in need – they’re always there. It’s that Lynn sees them.

Lynn says that this deployment has been great. It’s been particularly rewarding because she usually volunteers in the middle of a deployment and doesn’t see the dogs leave the shelter for a new future at the end of the deployment. Lynn says that she did her "happy dance" when she saw the HSUS rig leave on Friday with about 100 dogs.

Lynn and I joked during the deployment that it’s nearly impossible to find her smiling in a photograph. I’m so proud of myself that I managed to take the two photos of her smiling that appear here. Typically, Lynn has the expression of being on a mission with a fierce determination to succeed. That’s how intense Lynn’s passion for animals is.

I asked Lynn if there’s anything else she would like to add this interview, and she said, “Let’s spay and neuter everyone who has four legs so we can get a handle on the overpopulation problem.” That’s Lynn – always working for animals!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Starting to wind down

Submitted by EARS volunteer Marcia Goodman of Cromwell, Connecticut

Deploying for emergency animal sheltering is like walking into a different reality. One day you’re home with family and household animal companions and the next day you’re with animal rescue folks you haven’t seen in a long time or maybe have never before met. You all build the shelter and develop new bonds with the other volunteers or renew old ones as you tighten nuts on bolts. Then the animals arrive and you’re an animal sheltering team that works like clockwork to get the feeding, watering and cage cleaning done every day.

The same feeling of changing realities happens at emergency shelters as the needs shift over time. Animals leave, volunteers change, and you suddenly realize that your fellow volunteers are an entirely different crew of people from the day you arrived, and now you have a whole different sheltering experience – in this case the reduction in the number of dogs from 185 to fewer than 25 in the course of a day.

I am writing this on Saturday, the fourth day since the animals arrived, though it feels like so much longer! Since the HSUS rig left yesterday taking about 100 dogs, our work day has changed significantly. Feeding, watering and cleaning goes by very quickly, and we have lots of time for socializing these dogs who so much need the socialization – they are sweet and have apparently never had the positive attention we’ve been giving them.

The volunteers have given every dog a name, and we’ve been learning their personalities, which are so diverse. One dog, Sophie (above, with Lynn Covington), wants belly rubs 110 percent of the day. Hope (right), a very skinny girl who is the only one we feed three times a day because of her weight, is getting much more social, thanks in large part to the loving attention that new volunteer Janet Roush from Nebraska has been giving her.

Sweetie Girl (right), the dog I named, although shy, will now come over to you if you sit near her in her pen. Rufus (below right with Stacey Harris) is Mister Energy and is also a very social fellow; he may have had some training because if you have a little patience, he will sit for treats. Stevie (below left), a blind dog, is still frightened, but has made progress thanks in large part to the attention given him by Lynn Frischmann of California. We now see his nose and one paw nudge out of his kennel during the day, which never used to happen, and we know that he comes out of the kennel at night because we see his poop in his pen. We have a number of pens outdoors, and we’ve been moving dogs around this morning so they have a better opportunity to socialize with each other.

Today we’re featuring two volunteers who left yesterday. Ruth Scroggin came from Arkansas for this deployment. She has deployed with HSUS as well as UAN, and this is her fifth or sixth deployment. Ruth volunteers with EARS because “It’s well run and they value their volunteers and recognize the valuable work that volunteers do in the organization.”

I asked Ruth (pictured at right) what draws her to helping animals. She says that she wants to give a voice to the voiceless. Her background in sheltering includes cruelty investigations for a local humane society. Emergency animal sheltering is an extension of that.

Ruth has been a self-starter at this deployment – she sees a need and jumps right in, following all the appropriate protocols. She says that as you gain more experience, you get past the point of waiting to be told what to do. You need a watchful eye to take care of the animals’ needs here.

One way in which this deployment is similar to most others, Ruth told me, is in the appreciation by the local people for what we’ve done. That’s very special, she says. She always leaves an area appreciating the kindness of strangers. She recalls that during the Hurricane Katrina deployment, two elderly people offered their home to 12 volunteers, and cooked for them as well as housing them. The generous spirit of others is very special. As much as you give, you get back.

Another feature of these deployments that Ruth enjoys is how the volunteer teams have included a wide variety of animal specialists, including wildlife rehabilitators, EMT personnel, rescue transporters and so on.

The other volunteer who is leaving today is Regional Director Stacy Harris who led this shelter operation for UAN. Stacy has been an amazing leader, managing the operation in her low-key way. We were all particularly impressed when, after learning that the number of dogs arriving that day would be 185 instead of 80 to 100, she and her equally amazing counterpart from HSUS, Melissa Folberg, assembled the volunteer crew to erect a very large courtyard in the back filled with pens (at right). It seemed as if suddenly from nothing emerged a Doggie City. Major kudos to Stacy and Melissa for that and so much else!

Stacy has been Regional Director of UAN since 2008. She’s been on about six deployments, all with UAN. What drew her to animal rescue? It was sort of through a side door. She worked as a court-appointed Special Advocate for children who have been abused and neglected. A teenager she was representing loves animals and wanted to volunteer at the shelter but because of her age, needed an advocate. So, Stacey started volunteering with her. Three months later, the teenager stopped volunteering, but Stacey was hooked. Hurricane Katrina took Stacey into emergency animal work even more: her shelter took in nearly 100 dogs, and Stacey worked with them. Her mother lost her home in Katrina, and helping the dogs made Stacey feel that she was doing something important. She found that it was a double positive -- she was helping animals and also helping people who needed the comfort of knowing that their household companions were being well cared for.

Stacey became involved with UAN when the EARS volunteer training workshop was offered to the staff and volunteers at her shelter. She went on one deployment as a regular volunteer, and then the position of Regional Director for her area opened up, and Stacey applied. Since her day job as a banker involves managing people, it seemed like a great fit, and she’s happy she’s gone that route, although she does miss that she doesn’t have time now to bond with the animals. (At right, Stacey is saying "good-bye" to UAN Emergency Services Manager Janell Matthies.)

At first Stacey was deployed only in natural disasters, but her last three deployments were man-made crises: dogfighting, a puppy mill and this hoarding situation. She sees volunteering for UAN as a way for her to deliver these animals from a horrible life. Her favorite part of any deployment is loading the dogs into transport vehicles when they’re ready to leave the emergency shelter for a new chance at a good life. Stacey is pictured at right with Melissa Folberg of HSUS.

Stacy says that her team at De Kalb has been great, and also points out that in her deployments with UAN, having great teams has been the norm. I think I can speak for the entire team here in De Kalb that we hope to have many more opportunities to work with Stacey in our future deployments.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A stellar weekend at the shelter

Submitted by EARS volunteer Marcia Goodman of Cromwell, Connecticut

Friday was a stellar day for the dogs at the emergency shelter in DeKalb, Mississippi. About 100 dogs were removed today for drop-off at animal welfare organizations, which will put them up for adoption. Most are headed for the Washington Animal Rescue League in Washington, D. C. They left our shelter in fine accommodations in the beautiful HSUS animal transport rig.

Above is a photo of the rig, and at right, a close-up of most of the EARS volunteers gathered at the cab of the rig. From left to right, they are Lynn Frischmann from California, our fearless leader Stacy Harris from Texas, Sharon Covington from California, Sue Ellen Scurlock from Mississippi and Ruth Scroggin from Arkansas. At the wheel of the cab is Perry Stone, the driver of the rig for HSUS who was a favorite among UAN volunteers.

Two expectant mamma dogs (below) were too far along in their pregnancy to make the trip to D.C., but after the rig left, they were enormously lucky that EARS volunteer Julie Rathbun of Mobile, Alabama was part of our team. Julie probed her contacts back home and through a local animal rescue organization she found homes for the two mommas-to-be in Mobile, one of whom is with a vet. At right is a photo of Julie leaving for home, with photos of the two dogs she transported below. Have a safe trip, Julie, and let’s hope that the mamma who’s about to spring forth some puppies holds off until you’re home! Julie told us that the vet is located near her home and she promised to post photos of the puppies when the time comes.

With the removal of so many dogs, the emergency shelter now has fewer than 25 dogs remaining. With the reduced amount of time needed to clean, feed and water the kennels, the volunteers will now have time for meaningful socialization time with the dogs, and we’re ecstatic about that.

As we proceed through the changing of the volunteer guard, several volunteers have completed their deployment. Angela Shields of Virginia left this morning after most of the dogs who were leaving were loaded onto the rig. Angela is experienced in animal rescue work and has been a team leader in a prior deployment with EARS. She’s been on about seven deployments.

Angela began her EARS work when she heard about the animals affected by Hurricane Isabel in 2003. She chose UAN as the organization with which to volunteer because UAN is all about the sheltering. Originally, she didn’t feel overly confident about doing field work, but as with any UAN volunteer, if the need arrives she’ll step up to the plate to do any job. Once she began doing field work, she felt very comfortable with being on the scene. In the current deployment, Angela was one of four UAN volunteers who went to the site for the rescue operation.

Angela loves volunteering with UAN not only because of the animals, but also because she loves building relationships among EARS volunteers. She has been making lifelong friends at these deployments.

What has caused Angela to focus on animals? Angela grew up around animals and has become more and more active in animal welfare over time. Angela finds this hoarding deployment to be bittersweet, yet rewarding. She was says that it’s terrific to see the dogs go from being fearful at the rescue site to wagging their tails, coming to you, and wanting to lick your hand. She also enjoys seeing their health starting to improve in the short period of time they spend at the temporary shelter.

It was no surprise to learn that Angela has served as a team leader for EARS. She is among the most knowledgeable volunteers at this site in helping to erect the shelter from scratch, and she was also one of the two people who came with an arsenal of tools that we all borrowed as we worked to create the shelter. (The other “tool person” was Debra Hutcherson who was one of yesterday’s featured volunteers.) I asked Angela how she came to be so prepared, and she responded that she’s a boat dealer so she needs to always be prepared since you can’t always readily get what you immediately need. She has also learned during her previous deployments to be ready for anything. As a sideline, at her business she sells animal items for which all proceeds go to Churchland Cat Coalition, a nonprofit she created, to trap, neuter and release feral cats.

Another volunteer who completed her deployment today is Julie Rathbun of Mobile, Alabama, who, as reported above, left today with two expectant mothers. This has been her third UAN deployment; she also was deployed once by the Humane Society of Missouri. Why does Julie volunteer with EARS? She been rescuing and fostering animals since her teens, whether they be dogs dumped in the countryside, injured dogs on highways, loose dogs confused and darting into roads, etc. After Hurricane Katrina, when she learned there are ways to help a large number of animals, she was ready for it.

But why EARS in particular? She says that UAN provides a unique niche. She says that “these are people ready to do the dirty and hard work without a lot of recognition.”

I asked Julie how she feels about this particular deployment, and she says that every deployment is different but shares the same value that change is inevitable and we have to adapt to it. “If you don’t have enough space, you need suddenly to create more. If you don’t have enough supplies, you need to adapt.” It’s that “can do” attitude, as well as her excellent organizational skills that have helped make Julie’s participation particularly valuable to the deployment here in De Kalb. These skills have been built on her prior employment as office manager for the then-largest plastic surgery group in Alabama. She now volunteers at the sheriff’s office in the program that collects information from drugstore purchases of Sudafed and seeing where the drugs go, especially focusing on methamphetamine labs.

Here are a few more photos of the EARS volunteers loading the dogs onto the HSUS transport vehicle (Ruth Scroggin, Sharon Covington, Sue Ellen Scurlock):

Meet Stevie ...

EARS volunteer Marcia Goodman has been doing a great job keeping the outside world informed about the 180 dogs rescued from Raven's Hope Animal Sanctuary in Kemper County, Mississippi. But she did take some time away from her writing and photography to chill out with one of the neediest dogs.

He's one of our favorites, a blind boy named Stevie (pictured with Marcia at right), who is missing one eye and blind in the other. He is incredibly fearful, but responds well to slow movement and soft voices. He only likes to stay in his crate even though we moved him to a spacious kennel. We’re hoping he will come out when he’s more comfortable and move around a little. We found out he likes to be pet under his chin and one of us even got him relaxed enough to enjoy a belly rub. We’re doing our best to help him get comfortable with his new and temporary surroundings. Many of the volunteers have spent time just sitting with him, he looks so sad. But….he’s slowly responding to the volunteer’s magic. Marsha found time today to sit and talk gently to him….and he is slowly coming out of his terrified mode and responding well to mild attention.

On Saturday, Stevie started to get more comfortable here at the emergency shelter. When we arrived in the morning he had his foot hanging out of his crate, rather than his typical compact ball that he has been in since he arrived. In the afternoon he even fell asleep with his head hanging out of the crate. Just goes to show what a little UAN volunteer patience and kindness will do. There is rarely a moment in the day when someone isn’t in there, just sitting and talking quietly to him. Once in a while a volunteer will give him pets and scratches, but for the most part we just sit near him and let him know we are there. Oh, and bring him three meals a day.

EARS volunteer Lynn Frischmann of Santa Cruz, California (pictured at right) has spent a lot of time with Stevie and is largely responsible for the progress he’s been making. Thanks, Lynn!