Fostering: an unconventional love

Written by: Jill Monahan
Foster Coordinator, Social Media Coordinator, Board of Directors, Foster mom
Last Hope K9 Rescue

I am lucky enough to fall in love and get my heart broken dozens of times a year…I am a foster mom to homeless dogs with Last Hope K9 Rescue.

Having these rescue dogs in my life brings me indescribable joy. I get to watch them come off transport as insecure, timid animals and slowly blossom into happy, playful dogs. Sometimes this transformation takes minutes, sometimes weeks, sometimes months, but the happiness you as a rescuer feel when your foster dog finally plays or takes that deep, relaxed sigh for the first time is one of the best feelings. The ones that have been confined to the end of a chain or kept in a kennel for much of their lives want nothing more than to go on long walks with you, just happy they can finally stretch their legs. These same dogs are just as excited to cuddle up on the couch while you watch endless episodes of some Netflix show you’ve already seen a million times, as long as it means they get to be with someone who finally shows them compassion and love.

Out of my 30 something foster dogs over the past four years, whether I gave them a home for a few days or a few months, I have loved them all and learned something from each and every one of them. I have learned that I’m not much of a puppy person, that Pit Bulls are my weakness (despite the unfair reputation they have received), I’ve grown in my dog handling skills, and I’ve made lifelong friends. I’d be lying if I said saying goodbye to these dogs wasn’t sometimes excruciating, but at the end of the day I remind myself that they are going off to make another person or family whole, and that I have more dogs to save.

I still do not have a dog of my own. Fostering gives me the flexibility to enjoy the love and loyalty of having a pet without actually owning one. Someday I hope to adopt a Pit Bull I can train to be a therapy dog, one that will be able to help me breakdown the stereotype while also bringing joy to those who need it most. Until then, I will keep falling in love just to get my heart broken!

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Arkansas: Day 4!

On our fourth day of our trip to Arkansas, we visited the Warren animal shelter. The day started out with about a 2 hour drive out to the country where Warren is located. A tree covered dirt road led us to a small 3 sided structure with 6 kennels inside. One side of the structure was completely exposed to the elements which was tough to see because we knew that meant the dogs in this shelter had to deal with limited shelter from the extreme heat and cold, as well as the heavy rains, winds, and ice storms that Arkansas experiences. The kennels contained 7 dogs in total, and there was also a chain link pen off to the side with a small black puppy inside. I asked the shelter volunteer why the puppy was in that pen instead of the kennels with the others, and she explained to me that they called that the “dump pen” which meant that this puppy had been dumped overnight by her precious owner. My heart sank at the sight of this innocent puppy who was so confused as well as the other barking dogs in the kennels, so desperate for a human touch.
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The kennels needed some serious attention as they were falling apart and unsafe for the dogs to remain in there, so the team immediately jumped into action pulling dogs out of the kennels while the rest of the team worked to disassemble the old kennels. Thanks to our wonderful supporters who donated to our fundraising page we were able to buy new kennels for the shelter that were much more stable and sturdy for future use. The half of the team that took dogs out began bathing and grooming them, as well as testing them for heartworm. Unfortunately out of the 7 dogs we tested for heartworm, only 3 were negative. Although this was a disappointment, it was not a surprise as heartworm is extremely common in Arkansas. The team assembling the new kennels worked extremely hard and were able to put together a great looking new structure in a matter of a couple hours. While we were working two local newspapers came to interview us on what we were doing at the shelter which provides great exposure for our cause and hopefully some education for the local residents on dog rescue.
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At the end of the day we left with an extreme sense of accomplishment, and although we weren’t able to pull all of the dogs out of the shelter that day, we left them better than they were when we arrived which was huge.
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Arkansas – Day 3!

Written By: Kelli Leahy

Assistant Director, Home Visit Coordinator, Member, Board of Directors
Last Hope K9 Rescue

“My mission is to rescue. My dream is that one day, I won’t have to.”

Day 3 is officially in the books! We had the opportunity to visit not one, but two shelters today. We spent the morning at Stuttgart Animal Shelter in Stuttgart, Arkansas. Volunteers spend a good portion of the morning and early afternoon putting together insulated dog houses (for dogs at a sister shelter, but more on that later!), constructing a ‘puppy room,’ cleaning and scrubbing kennels, bathing dogs and puppies, heart worm testing along with walking and socializing dogs and puppies.
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As the resident crazy lab lady, I was quite smitten (OK, who am I kidding, head over heels in love) with The Hawaiian Family, Momma Nani and her three babies, Malie, Leilani and Kalani. All four of these lovely ladies will be heading North soon in search of their FURever homes! (Nani is heartworm positive, so she will stay in Arkansas for treatment while her babies hop on the puppy bus and ride the Rescue Road first.) Nani was such a loving and attentive mama, she supervised her babies very closely as they romped and played into the outdoor pen with some of the other dogs.

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Stuttgart Picture 4Stuttgart Picture 3The afternoon brought us to Hazen Animal Shelter in Hazen, Arkansas.
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It was at this shelter that we had the opportunity to unveil…drumroll please…the insulated dog houses!!
While at Hazen volunteers did some reorganizing and tidying up, removed the old dog houses from the kennels, washed and cleaned and moved the new dog houses into the kennels. These insulated dog houses will help keep these babies warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
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Stay tuned for our Day 4 adventures, which bring us to Warren Animal Shelter in Warren, Arkansas!

Arkansas – Day 1 & Day 2

Written By: Jill Monahan

Foster Manager
Secretary, Board of Directors
Last Hope K9 Rescue

It’s the morning of day 3 and I’m just getting around to writing our first blog post…it’s safe to say we’ve been busy!

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Our first day was spent at West Memphis Animal Shelter, and if you don’t follow them on Facebook, you’re missing out! The staff and volunteers there are absolutely amazing and care so deeply for the dogs and cats that come into their care, posting entertaining photos and videos daily in hopes of finding adopters and/or rescues for them. The Animal Control Officer at WMAS told us that since Rescue Road and Last Hope K9 Rescue began pulling dogs from their shelter, their euthanasia rate has dropped from 30% to 18%, primarily (humanely) euthanizing only the extremely aggressive or sick/injured animals. It was a real breath of fresh air to meet with a city ACO who are passionate and truly care about the animals and don’t just see it as a job.

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At WMAS, the RR and LHK9 volunteers worked to purge and organize a huge storage garage, bathed and walked dogs, landscaped, painted the cat room, painted equipment for a new agility course, and our trainer did some behavioral assessments. Oh, and of course we pulled and found fosters for some dogs! Hooper, Harriet, and Harper found a foster and will be coming to Boston in a few weeks, while Walton, Luther, Jarvis, Jonesey, Allie Kate, Boo Bear, and Minerva (a sweet, beautiful, mange-covered hound) are still looking for southern fosters so they can leave the shelter and come north.

Day two was spent at Pine Bluff Animal Shelter. They just built a beautiful new shelter and will be moving in any day now. But the dogs are still in the old shelter, so we made sure that they’re comfy and clean as they can be while they’re still residing there! We spent the majority of the day bathing each dog and deep cleaning, scrubbing, and sanitizing the kennels. We also put up a run in the play yard and helped install a scale in the new building. Our trainer did an assessment on a gorgeous Catahoula mix that was surrendered for being “dog aggressive”. We tested him with two submissive females and he showed absolutely no signs of aggression, so we sent him to foster along with two Beagle mix sisters. The other group went to Monticello Shelter in the morning and pulled an adorable white Pit Bull mix puppy, too!

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Once we were done cleaning the main shelter, where all the dogs are adoptable, we helped in the back quarantine room. This is where it got real hard for a lot of us.

I’ve been involved in rescue for about 5 years now and have become pretty numb to most of the sad stories, but in this room we saw the dogs who’d just been dumped or just been picked up by the ACO. They were terrified. They hadn’t been bathed, were covered in ticks, fleas, scabs, or had chewed their tails raw from the stress. They didn’t have beds, they were surrounded by their own pee and feces, some even had feces in their food and water bowls. Pine Bluff has such a high intake that it would be essentially impossible for the staff to keep up without the amazing volunteers who come in to help. We bathed each of these dogs (unless they were “on hold” for legal reasons or were people aggressive), scrubbed each of their kennels and bowls, and gave 3 tiny mange-covered puppies medical baths. Every single Pit Bull in this room had a red dot on his/her paper, meaning they would be euthanized if a rescue didn’t commit to them because Pine Bluff cannot legally adopt them out due to Breed Specific Legislation. 12 of my 24 fosters have been Pit Bulls, so this fact alone was enough to completely shatter me, and this isn’t the only shelter we will visit that is forced to abide by this law so I’m sure there will be more breakdowns in my future as I fall in love with more wiggly, kissy, perfect dogs who face certain death simply because of their breed. Our volunteers gave each of these dogs as much love as we could, knowing they may very well be their last.

We did pull one gorgeous tri-color momma Pit Bull mix, who was supposed to have been euthanized the day before we got there. She was just too sweet to leave behind. Amana is heartworm positive but two of our amazing volunteers offered to split the cost of treatment (on top of paying for their own flights, and any other expense from the trip!). She goes into foster today! Amana

Well, we just arrived at Stuttgart Animal Shelter so it’s time to get to work. Check back to hear about what we do today!

Meet Lucuma the tripawd!

from Lulu’s (wonderful) former adopters:

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Meet Lucuma! Lucuma—Lu or Lulu for short – is a medium-sized, medium-energy snugglebug tripod who is housetrained and crate trained. Lulu has some special needs that I want to explain to you, her potential future adopters. As far as we know, our family has spent the longest amount of time living with Lulu and we’ve learned a lot about where she excels, and where she needs a little support from her humans. Every dog has its strengths and weaknesses, and with Lulu, you will know exactly what to expect!

Lulu has a history of good things being taken away from her. When she was rescued, she already had her little green tummy tattoo indicating that she’d been spayed, which meant she must have had a family before. She suffered a grievous injury and had her leg amputated, but healed from it like a champ. She bobbled around from foster to foster, and made the trip north. So it’s understandable that when she finds a good thing, she wants to protect it. This is called resource guarding in the dog behavior world.

You’ll see in Lulu’s profile that she’s not good with kids or dogs. That can be true, and she needs a home without them, but it is not a problem to have Lulu around kids or dogs out in the world, if you advocate for her. And Lulu’s trainer, who is generously offering to show Lulu’s new family the ropes, will make sure you know how to do that.
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Lulu became very close with my husband and I. We did a lot of training with her and since we don’t have a yard, we took her for long walks in the woods every day. She was trained to be safe off-leash, which deepened our bond.

We became Lulu’s new resource.

We have a 4-year-old daughter who loves Lulu very much. But 4-year-olds aren’t known for their predictability, and if my daughter ran up from behind to give me a hug, poor Lulu thought I was about to be attacked! This made Lulu really tense. Ultimately, Lulu became so uncomfortable around our daughter that it became clear Lulu wasn’t truly happy in our home. She should live in an adult-only home, or a home with much older children (high school aged).

Lulu doesn’t need sympathy for her missing leg or other hard things in her past. She has the capacity for amazing love and happiness, and that’s what her life will be filled with going forward. But she does have her anxieties due to her past. Lulu is scared of the dark, and her trainer and foster are working with her to overcome this. Her new family will need to continue working with her to help her become comfortable going out after dark for a potty break. Again, Lulu’s trainer will teach you everything you need to know. Lulu also takes a daily medication for anxiety, which helps her a lot. It costs about $4/month. She’s already making progress: she can get through this challenge!

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Lulu made amazing progress with her anxiety in her seven months with us, and will continue to improve as she gets older and sees that the world isn’t such a scary place after all.

We did lots of training with Lulu, so her new family will have a really well-trained pup! She has amazing leash manners and won’t pull on a walk. She also can be off-leash in safe, legal areas – once you learn her commands with her trainer (though dog parks aren’t the best for her).

Lulu is a smarty-pants and knows the following commands: sit, down-stay, place, come, roll over, wait, leave it, out (drop it), off, spin, high five, and paw. She also plays hide and seek and can jump through a hula hoop. Good girl!

Lulu is dependable alone out of her crate—she never destroyed anything in our house–but will also be ok staying in her crate while you’re gone (especially with something yummy to chew on). She may bark if a loud truck rolls by, but she is not a problem barker. She can be playful and loves to run. Overall, she is a relaxed, easy-going dog at home.

If Lulu becomes your new family member, you will have amazing support from the Last Hope K9 community through their active adopter’s Facebook page. You will have access to her trainer, Ashley, as I mentioned.

We love Lulu so much and want to see her find her true forever home. She has so much love and affection to give. Don’t be scared away by her few challenges. Every dog (purebred, rescued, or anywhere in-between) has its quirks—with Lulu, you have the rare benefit of knowing *exactly* what they are in advance, and will be given amazing tools to manage them. She is the perfect dog for a kid-free, single-dog family. Are you that family?

Visit Lulu’s albums for more pictures and info

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LastHopeK9/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1072098812848307
Petfinder: http://www.petstablished.com/pets/public/32772

 

Flash Back Friday…

By Jill Monahan

Five years ago this January, a group from my college did a Habitat for Humanity trip to New Orleans. It was there that I was first exposed to the realities of dog fighting and to how severe the stray dog problem is in some parts of our country, especially in NOLA where they’re still recovering from Hurricane Katrina.
During one of our lunch breaks, we found a stray puppy near our Habitat site. We named her Lucy. One of the local volunteers recommended we call animal control from a neighboring town because she knew they were a lower kill shelter. I begged someone in my family to adopt Lucy, even though I knew none of them were looking for a puppy, and one of my brothers secretly planned her transport to MA so he could adopt her. Sadly, Lucy developed parvo and passed away on transport, which I have come to learn is very common for shelter puppies.

The animal control officer who took Lucy for us could not have been nicer, and while she was there we asked her about the house across from our site. The owner had a basic kennel set up out back with two adorable Pit Bull puppies squeezed into it. Our project leaders urged us to stay away from them because the owner did not like them to socialize with anyone. The ACO said she had had her eye on him for a while and suspected he was training them to fight, hence them only being allowed to socialize with him and she explained that dog fighting rings are rampant in NOLA. This was my introduction to the world of dog fighting and to Pit Bull dogs (which has quickly become my favorite type!). 
Since I was a child, I always had a huge love of animals. I grew up with two of the best dogs (and it pains me to admit that they came from a sketchy pet store called Pik-A-Pup) but had never known much about the rescue world. After my NOLA experience I took the initiative to educate myself on dog fighting, dog rescue in general, and the (awful) business of breeders and puppy mills. I began volunteering at the shelter down the street from my college, All Breed Rescue Vermont. Even if it meant missing a party, I would go down to the shelter to walk and help socialize the dogs while asking the shelter director a million questions about how it all worked behind the scenes.

When I graduated in 2012 and moved back to Massachusetts, I felt an emptiness and became desperate to find another shelter or rescue to volunteer for. I found Last Hope K9 Rescue on Facebook. They had about 400 “Likes” back then….today we have over 176,000! I quickly became a coordinator, and eventually a member of the Board of Directors as well. Helping to run this rescue is another full-time job. There are days I want to give up, but then I look at the faces cowering in the corner of the shelter, I read the horrifying stories describing how awful humans can be, and I remember why I devote my time to this cause.

In 2015, we found homes for 1,016 homeless dogs. The work LHK9 and our Southern partners do is nonstop and often very disheartening, but through it I’ve met some of the greatest people and fostered 19 amazing dogs (yes, it’s extremely sad to say bye but it’s 100% worth every tear and no, I won’t be keeping a foster anytime soon!).

Every time I see that someone I’m friends with on Facebook has brought home a puppy that’s not a rescue, my heart breaks a little bit. I get it…I used to want every “Doodle”, Frenchie, and other crazy designer breeds, but I chose to educate myself instead and now I will never not rescue because I don’t care about breed or looks as much as I care about the dog’s personality and the fact that I will be saving a life. So please, consider fostering and adopting rather than going through breeders and puppy mills. LHK9 gets dogs of all sizes, breeds (purebreds included), and ages and we are sure to have a dog to fit your lifestyle. We have so many supporters, but it’s the support of family and friends that really makes me feel validated in all the work we do, so to those who have shown your support in one way or another – thank you!

 

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Day 3!

Written By: Krystal, Database Coordinator

On Saturday a group of us spent some time at Benton Animal Control in Benton, Arkansas. This was the largest shelter we visited, and also the fullest. I came to the Benton shelter last year as well and was happy to have the opportunity to visit again this year. Both times I have visited, almost all kennels indoors and outdoors were full. It’s heartbreaking to see how many dogs are just sitting there waiting for the chance to get the life they deserve. At the same time, it was a good feeling to get them out of the kennels and show them some love, even for just a brief amount of time.

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I started out by taking a few minutes to play with a pit bull mix puppy named Thompson who was spunky and full of life. Being a pit bull owner, I have a soft spot for them and was so happy to see Thompson get adopted by a local while we were there. Puppies had to be carried away from the shelter and it was imperative that we didn’t let them touch the grass to eliminate the risk of them contracting Parvovirus, which is extremely contagious, expensive to treat, and often fatal.

After having those few minutes of playing, it was time to get down to business. A few other volunteers and I began clearing, scrubbing, and disinfecting each of the kennels while other volunteers took the dogs for walks and to be heartworm tested. We worked like a well-oiled machine taking turns swapping shovels, sprayers and brushes. It’s great to be able to get into a groove when working with a group of people – Teamwork!

After cleaning, I spent some time clipping nails and giving belly rubs while we waited for the last of the heartworm tests to be done. It’s always sad to see a positive test result, but it’s such a relief when the test is negative. Last Hope was able to save five dogs while we were there, and had a few more in the works waiting for foster homes to become available. It really shows how truly important all foster homes are, both in Arkansas and New England.

During our visit, we worked alongside Angie, one of the shelter’s volunteers. She dedicates a lot of her time and money to helping these dogs. Her commitment is unwavering and inspiring and we are lucky to have her working with us and the dogs. We spent just one day doing the work she does week after week and we are thankful for the eye-opening experience. I feel like we were able to make a small difference in the lives of the dogs at Benton, but even more so, they made a difference in ours.

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The Adventures Continue…

Written By:  Steph Phenix, Medical Coordinator

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On the final day of our trip, all of the volunteers traveled to Bald Knob, a town of about 3,000 people in a rural area northeast of Little Rock. The Animal Control Officer, Threasha, met us at the local police station and we all caravanned over to the shelter. This shelter is a small cinderblock building with an indoor space and an outdoor run for each kennel. There are also two fenced in areas outside for exercising the dogs.  At the shelter we met Chuck, a city councilman. Chuck and Threasha have worked together over the last 4 years to improve the shelter and it looked even better than it did last spring when we visited, not to mention that there were about half as many dogs. Chuck was overcome as he told us how important the shelter and the dogs are to him and how much he appreciated us being there, even more motivation to do as much as we could!

Threasha taught a few of our volunteers her kennel cleaning method and they quickly went to work. Cleaning and sanitizing is so important in such a small space in order to prevent diseases from spreading among dogs and Threasha is known for her strict protocol. Of course, you can’t put a dirty pup back in a clean kennel, so all the dogs were treated to a tubby!

The rest of the volunteers worked to clear some brush next to the shelter. We used chainsaws, shears and our own strength to pull out the overgrowth, revealing a beautiful creek bed. Clearing this brush will reduce the risk of fire and improve the safety of the shelter.

We also had a few visitors while there, including other rescuers, dog transporters and a Last Hope dog that was pulled and is currently in foster. It was great to see how connected our rescue family really is! We enjoyed lunch together outside in the yard as the weather was beautiful.

Bald Knob may not be a large or elaborate shelter but it is so easy to see that the dogs are loved and well cared for. Whenever you enter any shelter, the dogs will begin to bark, either from excitement or stress. At Bald Knob, the dogs bark because they are so happy to see Threasha. After she let them into their outdoor kennels they were perfectly calm, laying down and sunning themselves in the grass. It was evident that the dogs felt better now that Mama Threasha had arrived. Her dedication is an inspiration to all of us!

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Day 2 – Part 2!

Written By: Kate, Events Coordinator

On the other side of the state, Group 2 headed east… to West Memphis! And yes, it is west of Memphis, on the western side of the Mississippi River. We met Cassie, an Arkansas foster who volunteers at the West Memphis shelter, before sunrise in Little Rock at 6 am!  Cassie got involved at West Memphis because she had to stay overnight there for work from time to time and decided volunteering was better than sitting around her hotel room. From there the Group 2 vans followed Cassie two hours east to the shelter. When we arrived the day was already warming and the sun was filtered between clouds, and the shelter had a cherry red trim and welcoming sign.

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There were puppies out front to greet us that were going to another rescue later in the afternoon! We all gathered for a morning talk with Kerry, the shelter director, then she had us take all of the dogs out in the big fenced in yard areas for walks and play time. The dogs were all beautiful and well behaved, and loved hanging out with us in the sun. There were a quite a few sobering moments, like how many dogs test positive for heartworm (all but three when we were there), and meeting an amazingly sweet older pit bull named Maude who we knew had had an incredibly hard life.

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A few of us washed the fluffy puppies (and of course had to hold them while they dried), and then we had sandwiches for lunch and discussed the afternoon.The kennels outside needed to be painted so they would be brighter and more welcoming for people looking to adopt dogs, so we moved all of the dogs out of the kennels to the ones in the yard area, then split up into three painting teams to tackle the walls!  We were able to completely finish four of the kennels, making sure to sing and dance to motivate ourselves. Meeting everyone from West Memphis animal control and seeing how much care they give the dogs, and being able to help them with anything they needed for the day, was truly rewarding.

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At the end of the day, we were able to take Chico, a ten pound Yorkie mix who was surrendered that morning, with us to a foster home. He’ll hopefully be coming home with us to Massachusetts on Monday! On the way home a few of us took a detour through Memphis to gaze upon the mighty Mississippi before heading back to Little Rock for a dinner party thrown by Charlotte, one of our hosts!

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Day 2 – Part 1!

Written By: Kelli Leahy, Home Visit Coordinator

“Rescue: It’s not just a verb, it’s a promise.”

An amazing day one was in the books!!  As I opened my eyes on Friday morning, I had no idea what was in store…what dogs would we meet?  Which of our Southern partners would we get to spend the say with?  What would we be doing? As my three van-mates and I pulled into the parking lot at the first shelter, I had no idea how life changing the day would be for me, as a dog lover, a dog mom, a rescuer…and a human being.

Stuttgart Animal Shelter: Our time spent at Stuttgart was one of my favorite parts of the trip.  Situated in rural Stuttgart, AR, the shelter was set back from the road nearby to other public works buildings.   The shelter itself had drawings of dogs and welcome messages painted on the outside of the building; as we entered the shelter to the laughter of the shelter workers and volunteers, the love, commitment and dedication this group shows to the precious souls in their care, day in day out, on weekends, holidays and everyday in between is nothing short of extraordinary.  Being in the shelter I felt a warmth and an instant camaraderie…I felt home.

Our agenda for the day included cleaning kennels, working with contractors to build shelving and a ramp in the dog’s washroom, cleaning and reorganizing portions of the shelter itself, remodeling/renovating the laundry room and (perhaps my most favorite item on the list) loving on and working with the dogs.

As the resident crazy Lab lady, I think these photos speak for themselves!

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Another very special dog that captured my heart was Sheeley, a very sweet but very timid and very emaciated Great Dane.  This gorgeous girl is a testament to the resilience of the canine spirit; despite the hardship she has endured, Sheeley still had love and warmth in those beautiful eyes of hers.

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Hazen Animal Shelter: One of the toughest shelters to visit in person was Hazen Animal Shelter.  Located in a small, rural town, the shelter itself is a series of outdoor kennels in a large field with little to no protection from sun, rain, wind or the elements.  One of the key initiatives of the fundraiser for this trip was to purchase supplies so that a contractor could build a wall to provide the dogs some protection.

There is no shelter office and while someone does come by twice per day to feed the dogs and exercise them, they spend the vast majority of their time alone…away from each other and largely away from human contact.  Dozens of thoughts flooded my mind.  What happens if the dogs get sick?  Don’t they get lonely?

Three dogs called the Hazen Shelter their home—a black Lab mix puppy, a 4-year-old Curr mix boy and an adult Chihuahua who was very pregnant.  The expectant momma was brought to the vet and we spent time playing with and loving on the two other babies, giving them as much opportunity to run and stretch their legs as we could.  We put them back in their kennels before we left; as a Team there wasn’t a dry eye in the house, all of us making promises to do anything and everything we could to help get these babies on the road to their happily FURever afters.  Little did we know, less than 24 hours later, we would be able to make good on those promises.

To Be Continued…