Thursday, March 31, 2011

Rescued dog Bucky finds a happy place

Submitted by EARS volunteer Marcia Goodman of Cromwell, Connecticut

On Monday, March 28, I met with EARS volunteer Paula Redinger of Tucson, Arizona to learn more about how the dog we've named Bucky has been progressing at the emergency animal shelter that UAN built and is managing. Here is an excerpt from our interview.

Bucky was not interested in interacting
when he arrived at the temporary shelter.
Marcia: Tell us about Bucky when you first met him.

Paula: When I first met Bucky, he was pretty nervous, trying to hide in the back corner of his cage, and he wasn’t interested in interacting.

Marcia: What have you been doing to get him out of his shell?

Paula: Well, a little food tossed into his cage convinced him I wasn’t such a terrible person. Before I knew it, he would take a little food from my hand; now he thinks we’re not so bad.

EARS volunteer Paula Redinger
coaxes Bucky with a treat.
Marcia: Do you work with him inside his kennel or from outside?

Paula: At the very beginning, I thought that going into the cage might be too much for him to handle, so I was tossing little kibble bits into his cage. At first, I tossed them across the entire cage, and then I tossed them half-way across the cage, and then six inches from me, and then he’d take them from my hand if I didn’t look at him, and now he’ll pretty easily eat from my hand.

Marcia: How is he coming along?

Within a few days, Bucky began
interacting with the volunteers.
Paula: Well, he's only been at the shelter a few days. He’s still a little bit nervous. He doesn’t trust us completely, but he shows more interest than before. He shows some interest in interacting and some interest that perhaps I might have food.

Marcia: With your experience as a Vet Tech and in handling dogs, what do you see as his future?

Paula: I think he can find a happy place to be. He might be a little nervous around strangers. That might not go away, but I think he could find a place and be comfortable with people he knows.

We'll continue to let our blog readers know about Bucky's progress while he's in the emergency shelter.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Meet Chester!

Submitted by EARS volunteer Marcia Goodman of Cromwell, Connecticut

Chester is an adorable dog who was "shut down" when he arrived at the shelter. I talked with UAN Emergency Services Manager Janell Matthies about his situation at the time of his rescue, and then I interviewed EARS volunteer Sara Dawdy of Sunnyvale, California, who has been spending time with Chester to try to get him out of his shell.

First the background from Janell:

Chester was shy and "shut down"
when he arrived at the temporary
shelter after being rescued.
Chester arrived at the shelter with his current kennel mate, Buster. At the time of the rescue, they were in a relatively large enclosure with seven dogs near a very dilapidated mobile home, so they did have access to some shelter. They had no running water on the property so the dogs came in extremely dehydrated. They were getting some food on that property, but the larger dog, Buster, ate all of Chester’s food.

Now that these dogs are in UAN’s care, we’re able to make sure Chester eats his share of food. We're now seeing Chester come around dramatically. He was completely shut down when he came in. He didn’t move, and he was a very big concern.

EARS volunteer Sara Dawdy has spent time with Chester, and he has made major improvements in a very short time. Now that he’s getting appropriate nutrition, Chester is beginning to show interest in life. Here’s my interview with Sara Dawdy:

Chester and Buster
Marcia: Tell us a little bit about Chester. What was he like when you first met him?

Sara: Chester is a little black-and-white dog, horribly skinny for a little guy, and very, very shy. When I met him, he was pretty close to shut down. He turned his head away whenever you looked at him. He didn’t want to come forward to the front of the cage at all. He was just hiding.

Marcia: How is he today?

Sara: Compared to how he was the first few days, he has been completely fabulous. He actually took three milk bones from me today, which is very exciting – he took them directly from my hand. When I call him, he’ll actually come forward to the front of the cage, slowly but surely, and give me a tail wag.  

Marcia: What have you been doing to help turn him around?

Chester learns to be brave with
EARS volunteer Laura Wright of
Fallbrook, California
Sara: I’ve been standing there, not looking directly at him so it doesn’t stress him out, but standing sideways and talking to him and his kennel mate, Buster. I think Buster does gives Chester confidence as well – for Chester to see Buster interact happily with people helps Chester too. And I’ve been giving Chester some milk bones. But the quiet talking seems to help him quite a bit.

We'll continue to keep everyone informed about Chester's progress in future blogs as long as he is at the UAN emergency shelter.

Meet Juliet and Deliah!

Submitted by EARS volunteer Marcia Goodman of Cromwell, Connecticut

When we walk into the main barn at the EARS emergency shelter in St. John, Arizona, we immediately see Juliet and Delilah in the front cage, hanging out together. Delilah looks fine, and Juliet seems shy but willing to accept human friendliness. This is a big change from when they arrived at the shelter. I talked with Janell Matthies on Monday, March 28, about their former situations and their progress at the shelter.

Juliet the day after the rescue.
Marcia: Let's start with Juliet. How was she at the beginning of the rescue?

Janell: Juliet came in as a "caution" dog because she was so scared. She went into survival mode out on the property when the rescuers were trying to catch her. Juliet has probably never had human contact and didn’t know what the rescue workers were doing. She was very, very nervous and the rescue workers were concerned she might be a fear biter because she showed her survival instincts. When she arrived at the shelter, Juliet kept herself in a ball in the back of her cage for the first 72 hours.

Marcia: How has she progressed since then?

Juliet starting to come out of her shell.
Janell: Multiple volunteers have gone into her cage and sat with her, and given her treats. Now, she’ll actually come up to you and give you kisses on your hand. She’ll  even take food out of your hand, and she’ll let us touch her now.

Marcia: How about Juliet’s kennel mate, Delilah?

Janell: While Juliet was a major behavioral concern, Delilah was a medical issue. She has a very old compound fracture and her leg is completely unusable. It’s still painful for her because there are fragments still in there; it’s pretty much shattered. Delilah will be an amputee candidate, and, as many people know, a dog with three legs is 100 percent dog. This will not be an issue for her.

Marcia: How have you made Delilah comfortable?

Janell: We have her on some pain meds, so she should be pain free now. We took x-rays, and we've made sure that we've done everything we can do to make her comfortable until she can have the surgery. And she’s coming around very nicely.

Marcia: Were Juliet and Delilah together at the time they were rescued?

Janell with an attentive
Juliet and Deliah.
Janell: No, they're not related, and they were on different sections of the property. But we had put them in crates next to each other, and their personalities seemed to go well together. In order to get them more socialized – since dogs do better when have another buddy with them  – we’ve now put them in the same cage, and it seems like they’re getting comfortable with each other. One other thing that Juliet and Delilah have in common is that they’re both getting spoiled rotten by the volunteers!
We'll continue to report on Juliet's and Delilah's progress in future blogs as long as they are at the UAN emergency shelter.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Rescued animals begin revealing their personalities

Submitted by EARS volunteer Marcia Goodman of Cromwell, Connecticut

Who are the animals who suddenly arrived at the temporary shelter we built . . . what are their personalities? We couldn't find out on the day they arrived at the shelter, or the next day, because they were bewildered by the sudden change in their surroundings, and by the large number of people suddenly surrounding them.

Daisy the pig is underweight
But over the last couple of days, the animals' personalities have started to emerge, and we've started to give them names. Daisy, the pig, is a charmer. She rolls in the mud that we make for her and snorts her appreciation when her back is scratched. Many of us had thought of geese as aggressive, but these geese just move to another part of their pen when we arrive for feeding, watering or cleaning. They're beautiful!

The cats are a surprise to me. I expected all of them to be feral, and some seem to be, but there are the friendly ones and a few are eager for affection.

The dogs have personalities that are all over the lot. Some have tails wagging -- a few wag their entire bodies -- when we approach, as if starved for affection. Others just stare at us with curious or sad eyes, as if wondering what's happening. Still others are curled up in the back corners of their kennels completely afraid. The volunteers have begun trying to coax these dogs from their hiding places.

We have four moms with pups, and three have pups who are in transition from nursing to eating puppy food. Feeding time can be challenging when six or eight pups are in a frenzy, trying to eat everything in sight, including mom's food. We hold mom's food up in the air so she can eat and the puppies can't reach her food. In fact, for all the dogs who are housed in groups rather than individually, we watch carefully to make sure that the alpha dog doesn't eat everyone else's food. We leash some dogs during feeding so every dog in that pen gets the nutrition he or she needs. We think the prior failure to do this is the reason that some dogs are emaciated.

Feeding time for the pig is entertaining. We have a base of swine food and on top, we add everything we can find that she likes, from apples to the volunteers' leftovers from lunch. Our pig, though very big, is only about half the weight she should be, so we're working hard to correct that.

EARS volunteer Sara Dawdy
and Bixby
The volunteers' days now are falling into a routine. We arrive at the shelter at 8:30 a.m. and immediately feed the animals. Then we have a meeting, followed by cleaning the pens and refreshing the water. We also complete the animal care sheet for each animal so we can find out as early as possible if any health issues exist. We record information about their likes and dislikes that other volunteers might find useful during socialization. Janell, UAN's Emergency Services Manager, also parcels out special projects. After lunch we have socialization time with the animals and more special projects, and then comes the afternoon feeding and quick cleaning. By then it's 6 pm and time for dinner.

In tomorrow's blog I'll start focusing on a few animals who already appear to be making progress at our shelter. Animals are so forgiving!

220 rescued animals getting TLC in Arizona

Submitted by EARS volunteer Marcia Goodman of Cromwell, Connecticut

EARS volunteer Chris Pearne and two
geese who were rescued on march 23
Great news! Until today, we could not write about or take photos of the rescued animals, but we have just received permission to do both. I know that this is what everyone's been waiting for.

More than 220 animals were seized in this rescue. Most are dogs and cats, but we also have a lovable pig we've named Daisy and two delightful geese. The demeanor of the dogs ranges from outgoing, charming snugglers to very shy and cowering wallflowers. A few are emaciated, and a number have medical issues.

These first few days have been a transition time for the animals. They had a miserable life on the hoarder's property, but it was a life they knew. When the rescuers arrived, the animals, of course, didn't know who we were and were frightened of the unknown. Now they've begun to relax in their new, clean homes, with a ready supply of water and food, as well as volunteers who make sure that all of them, not just the alpha dogs, get a good meal.

There have been challenges to reach this point. At the hoarder's site, many of the dogs were grouped together in various kennels, and the UAN and HSUS staff had to make sure that, at the emergency shelter, those dogs were kept together rather than risk co-mixing dogs who hadn't lived together before. Since so many dogs arrived at the shelter at the same time needing immediate housing, the logistics were a challenge. Thankfully, UAN and HSUS have partnered many times before and are experienced in addressing such issues. The intake process went very smoothly.

Another challenge is keeping the animals warm, especially at night. Even though the temperature reads in the 60s during the day, we've had 20 to 30 mph winds, making it feel more like the mid-30s during the day, and even colder at night. We've spent hundreds of dollars keeping the animals warm and finding "wind resistant bedding." Now, with tarps, kennels, shavings and blankets, all of the animals seem very content. We are seeing a lot of napping, stretching and wagging tails.

With all of the preparatory work over the past few days, the volunteers just began spending socialization time with the animals on Saturday. Over the next few days, as we get to know their personalities, we'll share more about particular dogs and cats, as well as the geese and pig. So, please stay tuned . . .

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Animal rescue touches a community

Submitted by EARS volunteer Beth Gammie of Phoenix, Arizona

By Thursday, news of the massive animal rescue from deplorable hoarding conditions spread throughout St. Johns, Arizona and neighboring areas. Television news reports showed video of some of the dogs at the hoarding site, and informed the community of the joint rescue and sheltering efforts underway. The community responded.

At the shelter site, one man walked up to an EARS volunteer and offered the use of his pen to shelter the rescued geese. Today, a couple drove up to the shelter site and began unloading cases of soft drinks and loaves of banana bread for the volunteers. They were touched by the efforts of UAN and other partnering agencies to rescue the hundreds of dogs, cats and other animals from lifetimes of suffering. Not seeking any recognition or gratitude for their generosity, the couple quietly drove off after unloading their van. Such acts of kindness, coming from the heart, buoyed and touched volunteers and staff alike.

Tyson, an Apache County employee, helped
the volunteers move heavy fence panels.
Tyson, an Apache County employee, labored mightily along with EARS volunteers to build kennels to house the dogs. To the eternal gratitude of every volunteer present, Tyson transported heavy kennel panels with a county forklift.

The rescue and sheltering effort also touched local businesses. UAN Emergency Services Manager Janell Matthies called Alta Sierra Veterinary Hospital, in Show Low, seeking care for some of the dogs in more critical condition. Staff at Alta Sierra heard of the rescue on the news; they were "thrilled" we were seeking their help and responded in a big way. That day they took three of the more critical dogs and provided veterinary care and boarding. Alta Vista generously is providing its services at a discounted rate and providing care and comfort to these and other animals in need. It didn't stop there.

Volunteer vet techs Elizabeth and Fran.
Two of Alta Sierra's vet techs, Elizabeth and Fran, volunteered their services for free. Today, they drove the 48 miles from Show Low to the shelter and assisted vets in examining and vaccinating dogs. Elizabeth explained, "When Janell called the clinic to see if we could take some animals, we jumped in to volunteer. It's an opportunity to help the animals, and it's why we're in the field." Elizabeth was impressed by EARS and its rescue effort. "It's a great organization, and its great to see there are people out there to help animals in these situations." When asked why she volunteered her vet tech services, Fran replied, "Animals are my soul."

It's clear that when UAN and its EARS volunteers go into a community to rescue animals in need, people are touched by the compassion of our mission, staff and volunteers. The fact that EARS volunteers come to a community simply to help suffering animals inspires others to get involved in the effort to aid animals in distress.

A shelter arises

Submitted by EARS volunteer Beth Gammie of Phoenix, Arizona

A shelter has been born! Over the last few days, UAN's Emergency Animal Rescue Service (EARS) volunteers worked tirelessly to transform the mounds of food, supplies and kennel panels into a thriving shelter for 228 rescued animals.

EARS volunteers Rose, Juanita
and Mary constructing kennels.
Day 3, Thursday, began at a nippy 46 degrees, but the work of feeding and watering the animals kept EARS volunteers warm. Once those animals were cared for, volunteers began readying the grounds for the rest of the animals expected to arrive that day. Soon a network of additional kennels took shape. Other volunteers secured tarps along the perimeter to shelter the animals from the relentless desert winds.

In the afternoon, volunteers paused to welcome the pig and two geese who joined the community of rescued dogs and cats. As volunteers continued constructing kennels for the arrival of the remaining dogs and cats, word arrived that the number of rescued animals was even larger than anticipated. Without missing a beat, the team surveyed the remaining materials and began constructing the housing for these additional animals. Powered by flexibility, a "can-do" attitude and the desire to do right by these animals, EARS volunteers figured out how to make kennels for all of the additional animals.

Soon, the call went out that the truck was arriving with the second transport of rescued cats and dogs. All EARS hands were on deck to move the animals with care and compassion from the truck to their kennels. In pairs, volunteers walked or carried the new arrivals to their temporary shelter. A steady stream of cats and dogs flowed from the truck into the arms of EARS volunteers until every animal was safely housed. By night's end, the volunteers surveyed the community of rescued animals that now existed, and left the shelter satisfied that all their hard work paid off.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Snow and sleet won't stop UAN volunteers from helping animals

Submitted by EARS volunteer Marcia Goodman of Cromwell, Connecticut

EARS volunteers carry a fence
panel needed to build kennels
at the temporary shelter
"Neither snow nor sleet . . ."  That could well be the credo of UAN's Emergency Animal Rescue Service (EARS), given the fierce snowstorm in Flagstaff, Arizona, that blew many of the volunteers into town for this rescue mission earlier this week. But despite the inclement weather, EARS volunteers from Arizona, Colorado, Texas, Utah and as far away as Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont and Ontario, Canada have made their way to the small town of St. Johns, Arizona, in rural eastern Arizona, to provide temporary shelter for animals in need.

The animals -- more than 250 of them -- were rescued from a hoarding situation yesterday. The animals are mostly dogs, but also cats, geese, a pig and maybe some other species -- we don't have an accurate total count yet. UAN is partnering with The Humane Society of the United States, the Apache County Sheriff's Department (which initiated the rescue and served the arrest warrant) and PetSmart Charities Emergency Relief Waggin' program, which provided tons of critical supplies.

EARS volunteers build a kennel
Day 1 of the deployment was Tuesday, March 22 and it was dedicated to the unglamorous physical labor of carrying and erecting large kennels and doing other necessary preparation for the animals who would arrive the next day. But glamor or not, without the kennels, there would be no rescue, and rescuing animals is why we're all here. It's pretty amazing to watch a temporary shelter transform from an empty room into a home for animals with sturdy, well constructed kennels and filled with plush wood shavings for their floors. These are clean facilities that will be kept clean for the rest of their stay with us.

Day 2, Wednesday, can be called the "Big A" day for the Anticipation of the arrival of the animals. Most of the EARS volunteers continued the preparation at the shelter site, while a few went with The HSUS and other partnering agencies to the hoarding site for the exhausting undertaking of removing the animals from the property after the Sheriff's Office made the arrests and collected any evidence they needed.

Without volunteers to build the
temporary shelter and care for the
animals, the rescue couldn't take place
Back at the shelter, late in the day, as darkness descended on us, the day's Anticipation was met with reward as the first trucks with animals started to arrive -- more than 100 animals with more to arrive tomorrow. Because the sheriff served the hoarder with a criminal warrant, this is a criminal seizure and we cannot yet discuss the particulars or include photos of the animals. Almost all are big dogs, and it was rewarding to see them in comfortable, safe settings and to know that they have hopeful futures.

Today we expect to build more kennels to accommodate the rest of the dogs and other animals who will be arriving in the afternoon. We'll all be eager to get through that work, as well as our chores of feeding the animals and cleaning their cages, so we can have a few minutes to meet the animals already here before the rest of the animals arrive. Extensive vet checks will also take place today for the animals who need it.

On Friday, we should have our first full regular workday of feeding, cage cleaning and, hopefully, the beginning of socialization time.

Read more about this response:

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Saying "thank you" and "goodbye" to 350 rescued dogs

UAN volunteer Cass Gilbert of
Illinois visits a beautiful Akita
It was with mixed emotions that the UAN volunteers said goodbye to the 350+ four-legged furry friends we have been caring for in Hilliard, Ohio for the past week. We are thrilled that we played a part in liberating these dogs from the horrific conditions they lived in for years. We are proud that we were able to set up and operate a temporary shelter operation in less than ideal conditions. We are amazed at the resiliency these animals showed after all that was done to them by human beings. 
And we are so impressed by the incredible support of the community. The cars kept pulling up with donations: we had mountains of blankets, towels, sheets and dog beds; tables full of cleaning supplies and peanut butter; a wall of paper towels and so much more! Additionally, anywhere from 25 to more than 125 local volunteers arrived on any given day and they were all willing to do whatever we needed them to do, from cleaning cages to washing dishes. We couldn’t have done it without them.
One of the more timid, frightened
of the rescued dogs
On the other hand, we are sad to be leaving our new charges. The dogs will stay at the temporary shelter until various rescue organizations and shelters arrive to move them on to more traditional accommodations while they wait for their forever homes. They will remain under the care of the Clark County Humane Society, led by shelter manager extraordinaire Chuck Jones, who has worked tirelessly for the past several weeks. Chuck was the first person at the shelter every day (seven days a week) and the last person to leave.  He showed amazing patience with the many bumps experienced along the way and his compassion for the animals touched everyone. If we could clone him we would never see another homeless animal!
Assisting Chuck is Kirstin Kiefer, a local volunteer who probably didn’t know what she was getting into when she volunteered (no arm-twisting, honest!) to train with some of the UAN team leaders so she could lead the volunteer caregivers after our departure. The long days and the physical demands of handling so many large and excited dogs didn’t intimidate her at all. She is a natural, and I can’t wait to see her as a UAN volunteer on a future deployment.
A freshly groomed dog explores
his surroundings
The dogs are starting to trickle out. about 25 have left, including three who went to German shepherd rescue in Pennsylvania with UAN volunteers Dale and Diane Buhl. We are hopeful the rest of the dogs will be out of the barn by the end of the week.
So after a weekend of wild weather -- from torrential downpours and flooding to freezing temperatures and high winds -- we take our leave of these lovely dogs. This group of dogs has been by far the most timid I have seen, with many dogs having never experienced human touch, and most with very little socialization.  But in the short time we cared for them, we witnessed some amazing changes and are confident more will occur. And it couldn’t have happened without the UAN volunteers' dedication and hard work. There were many who deployed for the first time, but you would never have known it. They just jumped in and acted like they had been doing this their entire lives, many of them taking on leadership roles themselves. That is a great testament to the experienced volunteers who were great leaders and mentors. The dogs thank you!
Found alone in a dark shed, this dog is
learning to accept human affection
As we were finishing up Sunday evening, the most amazing thing happened: An emergency vehicle with sirens blowing sped past and the entire shelter erupted in one simultaneous howl.  It was at once the most beautiful and heart-rending sound I have ever heard, making all of us laugh but also filling our eyes with tears. It sounded as though they were all saying thank you and goodbye to us, while assuring us they were survivors and will be fine now that they had been liberated from years of neglect. The sound, and the dogs, lifted my heart and nourished my soul and made me grateful to be a part of such an amazing experience.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Rescued dogs coming out of their shells

Submitted by EARS volunteer Tereza Marks of Bonita Springs, Florida

Yesterday UAN's Emergency Animal Rescue Service (EARS) volunteers had some downtime to spend working with and socializing the remaining dogs, who were rescued from an overcrowded nonprofit in Alabama last week.

Volunteer Chris gives some dance lessons
to rescued dog Dan
Volunteers are amazed at how many of the dogs have come out of their shells. Chris, a local EARS volunteer, was here at the beginning and has come back to volunteer again. She gets very emotional when she thinks of the state that many of the dogs were in when they arrived. She remembers that many of them had to be carried off the truck when they first arrived at the shelter because they couldn't make it on their own -- they were weak from lack of food, sick or had terrible mange.

Many of the dogs were also just very scared and timid. Chris remembers one shepherd mix who was so timid and scared, volunteers were not sure how she would react to human contact. Now, however, this little dog allows Chris to give her medications.

Molly's eyes were nearly glued shut
from a medical condition
Molly, who came to the shelter with her eyes nearly glued shut from a treatable, medical condition, has her eyes open and is beginning to trust humans again. Dogs like Wally, a large male Labrador with a lip deformity, are learning to play with toys. Volunteers are seeing more and more dogs learn to trust and love again. With the rapid improvement in their socialization, these dogs will make great pets and will find loving homes.

Video: UAN's Janell Matthies talks about
how one dog, Rosie, has improved
Volunteers also spent the day cleaning up and organizing supplies and equipment in preparation for the day we can get the last dogs out. We are hoping to transfer the remaining 55 dogs soon.

We also came across this online story about the ten pit bulls who were transferred to Florida on Saturday.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Survivors and heroes

Submitted by EARS volunteer Debbie Ferguson of Kildeer, Illinois

UAN volunteers, along with ASPCA staff and numerous local volunteers, cheered when we received the great news on Friday that the 350+ dogs we have been housing at the Franklin County Fairgrounds since February 22 have officially been signed over to the Clark County Humane Society. We can now begin the process of finding shelters, rescue agencies and, ultimately, adoptive families for our frightened but boisterous new friends. After a cold, dreary and rainy day, the news bolstered our spirits and gave the many tired UAN volunteers the boost of energy needed to continue the physically taxing but emotionally rewarding job of caring for and socializing these dogs to ensure they get the best homes possible.

Sandra gets a first tentative kiss
from this beautiful shepherd.
After watching the majority of the dogs cower at the back of their kennels, just hoping we would go away, we are seeing tremendous improvements in a great number of the dogs. We have watched many of them really warm up to us; some were impossible to get near at the beginning of the week are now creeping to the front of their cages to give tentative kisses through the bars; others can’t wait to get out of their kennels to be held and cuddled by their new human friends; and some are already looking for belly rubs, showing total trust in their new keepers. And while these dogs are so exciting to watch and keep up with, UAN team members have also kept their focus on some of the other ones -- those who are still too frightened to come near us, too injured or sick to appreciate the human touch, or too young to understand what or who has hurt them.  

This frightened dog is
getting braver
One dog that has touched many of us is the tiny Lab mix who hides at the back of his cage, fearful of even looking at the humans who peer into his cage and clean it, feed him and give him water. Though he is still fearful, he is slowly starting to move forward and has even sent a soft kiss to the hand between the bars.  Though he has a long way to go, the tenaciousness of a few volunteers is slowly getting this little dog out of the corner and into the spotlight.
This dog has two broken legs
that were never treated

Of all the dogs in the shelter, the one who has brought us all to tears is the older black Lab mix with two broken legs that were left untreated. Though he cannot get up and move around on his own, he loves to be helped to his front feet and have his hips lifted so he can move around and act like a dog. And he welcomes human company, greeting all of his visitors with smiling eyes and sweet kisses (when allowed).  In spite of the pain and discomfort he has endured, his dignity, spirit and trust of humans is astounding and we have all been inspired by him.  

Too cute to be legal!
On the other end of the spectrum are the five chow/collie mix puppies who are almost too cute and sweet to be legal. Today when we pulled them out to clean their kennels and give them some socialization, every person in the barn was crowded around, just wanting a chance to touch or cuddle them for a few minutes.  Though all five were extremely nervous at first, wiggling wildly with their hearts beating crazily, within minutes they were snuggling into the arms and necks of their caregivers and falling asleep to their shared heartbeats, already showing the forgiving nature and unconditional love that only dogs can give.

Dale gets a kiss from this once-shy spaniel
These are only a few of the many dogs we have had the honor of spending the past week with; all 350 of them are special and not one of us could say we have any ONE favorite. They are all amazing survivors and deserve wonderful lives with wonderful people who will shower them with love every day.  We are looking forward to the next few days of working with them and watching them evolve even more.

And we have been thrilled with the many local volunteers who have given their time to help us keep the dogs safe, warm, fed, watered and happy for the last couple of weeks and are hopeful that they will continue to come out and support them in the coming days. We couldn’t do this without local support and we know the dogs appreciate it too. As always, the UAN volunteers, especially our team leaders Donna, Sandra, Diane and Cass, came through like troopers, making a really tough job look easy. The dogs are survivors and the volunteers, ALL of them, are heroes!

More rescued dogs are on the move

Submitted by EARS volunteer Tereza Marks of Bonita Springs, Florida
A volunteer loads cats onto the truck
Today was a long and bittersweet day for the EARS volunteers here in Alabama. We arrived at the temporary shelter at 6 a.m. to help load animals for their trip to find new homes in Florida. The HSUS trailer backed up to the loading door of the barn we are using as a shelter, then the EARS volunteers got to work loading 77 dogs and 23 cats for their trip.

This big boy didn't want to walk on a
leash so EARS volunteers carried him. 
First on the trailer were the remaining 23 cats at the shelter.  Each was placed into a carrier and put into the trailer. Next were the dogs. EARS volunteers had their work cut out for them, as many of the dogs didn't know how to walk on a leash or were too skittish to walk through the crowded shelter and had to be carried. Once secured in a carrier, their paperwork was checked and each dog was put on the trailer.

The litter of six puppies is headed
to Florida for adoption
Many volunteers saw their favorites leave today-- including the litter of puppies. My favorite left today for her new life in Palm Beach -- what a lucky dog! The dogs were being transported to shelters in Naples, Tampa and Palm Beach for adoption. A pit bull rescue organization in Florida took many of the pit mixes. Every volunteer was glad to know that the dogs are on the way to their forever homes, but at the same time felt a sense of loss for the dogs they had grown to know and love over the past few days.

EARS volunteers are spending quality
time with the 55 remaining dogs
After the truck left, only 55 dogs remained in the temporary shelter. The shelter felt eeerily quiet and empty. However, this also meant many of the dogs who had been in smaller enclosures got to move to the larger, more luxurious kennels and volunteers had more time to work with and socialize them. After spending much of the day clearing out crates and cleaning up, EARS volunteers spent some one-on-one time with the dogs who are a little scared or skittish. The dogs seemed to really appreciate all the extra attention and many seemed to have smiles on their faces.

In addition to the loss of the dogs, many volunteers who had been with the rescue since the beginning left to return to their real lives. Friendships recently made will be lost, but who knows -- maybe we will meet again.

Tomorrow will be more cleaning up and tearing down ... but we will have time for treats, playing, walks and some fun with the remaining dogs.

En route to freedom and love

Submitted by EARS volunteer Tereza Marks of Bonita Springs, Florida
UAN volunteers carry a crate to the truck
Yesterday more than 40 dogs and 3 cats left the temporary shelter in Dothan, Alabama to find their forever homes. The Montgomery Humane Society took the dogs to their facility. They came early in the morning and EARS volunteers worked with their staff and HSUS to get the animals crated and on the truck. A local rescue group, Wiregrass Humane Society, took three of the cats for adoption. 

UAN Emergency Services Manager
says goodbye to Stubby
Many of the EARS volunteers were emotional about seeing some of their favorite animals go.  Stubby, a volunteer favorite, is a yellow Lab who paced around her cage holding her "baby" in her mouth. She was named Stubby because, although she appeared to be a purebred yellow Lab, she had a stubby tail more like that of an Australian Shepherd. When Stubby was loaded into her crate,  she went with her toy and a note saying "please let her keep her toy." Montgomery Humane Society staff assured us that she would be allowed to do so. Amanda, a UAN volunteer from Athens, Georgia said she had to put up an emotional block when Stubby went because she reminded her so much of a yellow Lab she used to have who carried a blanket in her mouth just like Stubby carries her toy.

A bulldog who was previously tied
up outside awaits his ride
to Montgomery Humane Society. 
Carol, EARS volunteer from Tampa, Florida also saw one of her favorites go today: Hunk, a Catahoula leopard dog mix.  She said she felt so much pride that she was able to help a dog like him go from a horrible life to a new, happy one. This was her first deployment with UAN and she said she would deploy again whenever she is asked. Although she has lots of disaster response experience, she said she was really impressed with the way the shelter was run and her fellow volunteers. Carol thinks everyone should help in a response like this because not ony did she feel grateful that she was able to help, but she also learned a lot about herself.

One volunteer said something that touched me: "These dogs will eventually know freedom for the first time in their lives." Although the journey may be scary to them -- going from chain to crate in a temporary shelter to crate on a truck and finally to a shelter for adoption -- these dogs are now only one step away from their forever homes. Today, 70 more dogs will be on their way to shelters throughout Florida -- and to freedom and love.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Love at first sight at the temporary shelter

In between feeding, watering, cleaning and watering, the UAN volunteers at the temporary shelter in Dothan, Alabama still have time to fall in love -- with the rescued dogs and cats under their care, that is!

UAN Emergency Services Manager Janell Matthies talked to a few volunteers about the animals who have touched their hearts this week.
Wendy Leonard of Perry, Georgia
Wendy Leonard says she is always drawn to bully breeds. Eight years ago she was asked to foster an eight- week-old pit puppy who was abandoned in a hotel room. Today, that puppy is now asleep on her couch. Here at the temporary shelter, Wendy's love of pit bulls continues. This little girl was just giddy with delight when Wendy went into her kennel to spend time with her. Little pittie tail wags hitting the side of the kennel ring out through the shelter whenever Wendy walks by her cage. I think she sees Wendy as her new best friend, but we know Wendy is really her guardian angel.

Julie Rathbun of Mobile, Alabama
Julie Rathbun was trying not to fall for anyone. When I asked if she had a favorite she said “no." Then about 10 minutes later she came to me, somewhat sheepishly and said, “Okay, there is this one pretty girl….” I asked Julie what caught her attention and she said it was the dog's beautiful and sweet face. She handles herself like a true lady and even prances when she walks. “She’s just a fascinating dog," Julie said.

Dee Dee Parker of
Olive Branch, Mississippi
Dee Dee Parker used to raise and show collies, so she will always have a soft spot for them. Even though this guy is probably a mix – matted and dirty – Dee Dee still sees what a great dog he is going to become. And then  that face, who wouldn’t fall for that face? Dee Dee's only concern is that her grandkids will see this picture and she’ll get in trouble for not bringing him home.

Cute puppy pics from the temporary shelter

We just received some photos from Dothan, Alabama, where UAN volunteers are caring for 198 dogs and 31 cats rescued from an overrun private animal shelter on February 28. The owner of the shelter relinquished custody of the animals to the local sheriff's department, and they will be transferred to rescue groups and shelters for adoption in the coming days. In the meantime, UAN's volunteers are making sure the animals are comfortable and content in their temporary digs at the local fairgrounds.

Thanks to EARS volunteer Tereza Marks for these photos!

UAN volunteers prepare to take a dog for a walk. The
"double leash" method is safer and prevents escapes.
UAN volunteers make sure all dogs have 
water throughout the day.
EARS volunteer Julie Rathbun gives a little love to a dog.
A row of crates in the temporary shelter.
A litter of puttie puppies was among the rescued animals.
You can't have too many puppy pictures!
Volunteer Tereza Marks and a sweet little pit mix.
Exercise and socialization helps prepare the dogs for 
adoption into permanent homes.
This girl is a little shy but very sweet. Volunteers say 
her whine sounds like she is talking.
This gal walks around her kennel all day with her toy. 
She will, however, give you the toy if you ask!