By: Steph Phenix
Associate Director & Foster
At the end of this year’s service trip I struggled to find the words to summarize my experience. How do I describe the feeling of watching the project we planned over the past 4 months finally being executed? How do I express how I felt when I watched 55 of my rescue friends come down the escalator at the airport full of excitement and energy and ready to work? Or what it’s like to get up at 5:30 am every day to load supplies for different shelters, only to be back at the hardware store at 9:00 pm that same night? Can I really describe the roller coaster of getting a key to a city right before learning a puppy I fell in love with needs to be euthanized because he is too sick? How can I explain how I found the strength to hold back tears when we all left dogs behind at the shelters, when I don’t even understand that strength myself?
Planning the trip takes an incredible amount of work by many people, all who gave up their evenings and weekends researching products, visiting shelters, planning events, and finding solutions for our shelters’ many needs. The 2019 stats blow previous years out of the water: 62 volunteers traveled on their own dime, stayed in the homes of 18 generous hosts, raised more than $78,000 and worked their tails off in 13 locations in only 6 days. They cleaned, built dog houses, painted, dug gravel paths, built benches, went door to door to talk about spay and neuter, and most of all, fell in love with dogs.
Not every dog we meet in the shelter on the trip will make it to rescue, which is tough for all of us, north and south, to accept. Last Hope K9 Rescue and our partners take as many as we can, but sometimes it seems like it will never be enough. During the trip, we focus on making sure that all dogs have an awesome day and get to go back to a clean kennel when it is over.
This trip isn’t easy. It’s physically grueling and emotionally draining, day after day. If you like to sleep in, it’s not for you. It’s long days in the sun and heat, with bugs and sometimes mice and snakes. It’s meeting many dogs you may never see again. We wear ourselves out completely, just to get up and do it again the next day.
Why? Because the dogs need us. Because we are their voice. Because we are their comfort. Because we can, and we will do it all over again next year.