Saturday, April 24, 2010

221 ways to steal our hearts

Submitted by EARS volunteer Debbie Ferguson of Kildeer, Illinois

Hello again from Nashville, Tennessee, where we are housing the 221 dogs and 2 cats rescued from a puppy mill in Sparta, Tennessee yesterday.

As usual on seizure day of a rescue, yesterday was a long day, but though we were all dog-tired (no pun intended), we went home happy that these lovely animals were now safe, warm, fed and in a clean environment, and would soon be going on to even better conditions as they find loving families who will adopt them and give them normal lives.

All of UAN’s Emergency Animal Rescue Service (EARS) volunteers worked hard to ensure a happy outcome, though we did not all do the same tasks. About half of us went along and assisted in the seizure while the other half stayed at the shelter to clean, put together cages, line them with paper, acquire the necessary supplies, set up the medical station, and prepare for the arrival of the dogs. These are all crucial to the smooth operation of an emergency shelter, and the work is very physical and stressful. We thank the UAN volunteers and those from other organizations for their very important contribution.

The five of us who went to the seizure site and assisted in the rescue had previously only worked on shelter setup, so we were a bit unnerved, but excited, about this new responsibility. We all agreed it was a great experience, though difficult at times. We ran the gamut of emotions during the day, from confusion and disbelief to pity, rage and sadness. And when we finally arrived back at the shelter, we saw those same emotions on the faces of the volunteers who had stayed behind as they unloaded the animals from the truck.

Though they had worked hard all day to build the shelter, they put it into fourth gear to get the dogs unloaded and fed and watered as soon as possible. In the end, we all saw and felt the same emotions and it made me realize on thing – that we are all necessary and all of our jobs are equally important. So thanks to all of the volunteers who created a terrific environment for the dogs to arrive to and to those who assisted in the seizure.

On a sad note, this morning we really got a good look at the dogs and began to see the many medical problems that the vast majority of them are suffering from. There are many with neurological disorders, deformities such as shortened or missing limbs, cataracts and blindness, and terrible dental problems. A great number of dogs are unable to be handled by the volunteers. I don’t think I have ever seen a teacup poodle turn into a Tasmanian devil, but there were several that took on all of those characteristics with their frenzied spinning and shrieking barks and growls. I am hopeful they will all come around as they realize we are here to help them. They are some of the tiniest and cutest dogs I have ever seen, and they are still dirty and ungroomed. So I can imagine that once they are cleaned up and socialized, they will be impossible to resist.

One little dog in particular has captured the hearts and souls of everyone. She is a tiny little long-haired Chihuahua-mix weighing about four pounds who appears to be suffering from neurological damage. When she was brought to the intake veterinarian for her quick physical exam, she was unreactive and her heartbeat was barely there. The vet rushed her into the HSUS transport truck office and worked with her for almost an hour until she seemed to somewhat stabilize. But the vet was fearful of leaving her alone because when she became agitated she would become frantic and could possibly injure herself more, so UAN volunteer Julie Rathbun sat with her for a while to keep her still. As it turned out, Julie sat holding her for more than two hours, talking to her and stroking her the entire time. The tiny dog just lay in her arms looking up at her with her big, dark eyes.

When the decision was made to move her to a veterinarian immediately for testing and observation, Julie was the obvious choice to transport her. The tiny dog stayed overnight at the hospital and returned to the shelter late this afternoon, having become stabilized. She is still not out of the woods, but Julie has already fallen hard for her and has decided that if there is any chance for a good quality of life, even a short one, she is taking the little girl home with her. We are all pulling for both of them and I will update you when I hear more.

On a happy note, 30 dogs were sent out today for temporary care and fostering at a local shelter and we hope to have the remaining dogs transferred to other shelters by Monday.

All in all, the dogs are a noisy joy and getting more and more excited about meeting and interacting with people with each passing hour. They steal our hearts with their beauty, resilience and ability to survive in such an environment. We humans can learn a lot from them.

More tomorrow…

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