08 May Day 3: Arkansas Service Trip 2018
Pine Bluff Animal Control
By: Nicholina Gioiosa
Adopter, volunteer, and foster
I feel like it’s only right to start from the beginning: I adopted my furbaby nearly five years ago from Last Hope and immediately became friends with his northern foster mom and many other Last Hope fosters and volunteers. It wasn’t long after that that I caught the foster bug and began fostering dogs myself. My first foster dog was a feral dog who before being rescued down south had never been indoors or walked on a leash before. She was the sweetest but also extremely timid. Watching her come out of her shell in the two weeks I had her pulled at the strings of my heart and filled me with such joy that I was providing a loving, caring home for her. It was such a conflict of emotions knowing that she had came from such an awful life of never having experienced that special bond between human and dog and never feeling the love she deserved. She of course was adopted and lives so happily with her fur-parents. The next few years whenever the annual service trip dates were announced I was so bummed that I could not make it due to college finals. Last year’s service trip sign up deadline slipped by me and I was so disappointed not to be able to make it yet again. So when this year’s service trip was announced I immediately jumped at the opportunity.
I have seen pictures of past service trips and heard experiences from those who went in previous years. Even knowing the history and conditions of dogs that were pulled from southern shelters to be brought up north was not enough. Nothing could have prepared me for the shelters down in Arkansas. They are not anything like the shelters that I am used to seeing up here in Massachusetts.
Pulling into the parking lot of Pine Bluff, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I saw two buildings, one of which was newly developed in the past few years. From the outside, you would never know that nearly 100 dogs were housed inside, along with a separate room full of cats. This shelter stop was different from the first two days because we did not split into groups to visit different shelters. All 47 volunteers who flew down from up north along with southern volunteers and rescue group liaisons showed up at Pine Bluff early Friday morning. We divided into groups to work on the numerous projects for the day which included installing security cameras, repairing ceilings, raking up endless piles of leaves, installing dig defence fencing systems to prevent dogs from digging under fences, painting walls, assembling 96 dog beds, deep cleaning every nook and cranny in the dog and cat kennels, trimming nails, and bathing every single dog in the shelter (besides the few bite dogs)! You could say it was a very busy day but we were all able to work together as a team to accomplish it all.
My day was full of taking puppies and dogs out of their kennels, bringing them to bathing stations, assisting in giving them baths, assisting the medical team in keeping the pups up to date on their shots and of course being smothered in puppy kisses and doggy cuddles. I even had the opportunity to name a handful of puppies and dogs that day.
As joyous as holding puppies and giving them baths sounds, it was actually quite heartbreaking. All I kept thinking to myself was that I did not have enough hands or time in the day to give each and every one of those dogs the love and attention they deserve. While standing in front of one kennel, all I could see out my peripheral vision were other dogs craving that same attention. Never have I experienced an animal longing so desperately to just lick your hand or have your undivided attention for even just one minute.
The hardest part of having a dog hug you and give you kisses is knowing that that loving human interaction could potentially be their last. Unfortunately, many of those dogs may never have the opportunity to step foot outside of that shelter whether it’s due to medical illness, overcrowding or breed specific laws. The day before we arrived, 12 dogs had to be put down due to overcrowding. Twelve. Twelve dogs whose lives were cut too short simply because they did not get the opportunity to find a loving home. I have always been a huge proponent in telling everyone I know to adopt a dog and not buy one from a breeder or a dog store, simply based off the fact that I adopted my perfect furbaby and could not be happier. Never has the saying “adopt don’t shop” hit me as hard as it did that day. These dogs crave the one thing we all deserve in life: love. While I couldn’t possibly take all the dogs home with me, I left each one of them with a piece of my heart.
Redfield Animal Control
By: Meg Ferguson
Foster, adopter, & volunteer
Coming on the Last Hope K9 service trip this year was a mix of emotions. I would miss my husband, my pups, days of work but I would get to meet tons of other friendly volunteers and more importantly PUPPIES! We visited the Redfield Animal Shelter on Friday after a tough morning in Pine Bluff. I was not sure the conditions of Redfield but I was hoping that I could shake my defeated mentality from Pine Bluff Shelter. We met Amy who was very kind and trying to make the best with very limited resources and even less man-power. She let us know that the dogs were kept in the outdoor kennels and for much of the day the sun is beating down on them. The Animal Control Officer stops by one time per day to feed the dogs and tend to them. That meant that the dogs were alone and in kennels for 23 hours per day. We were able to accomplish building new dog houses, cleaning all the kennels, bathing all the dogs, putting in a new ventilation system, and securing an outdoor enclosure for the dogs to play in. Amy was so grateful, but I am also so grateful for her!As we walked around the kennels there was a particular scared Chihuahua mix that was recently caught by the ACO. To say she was not adjusting well to life in a kennel would be an understatement. She would flee when anyone came near her as well as bark and bare her teeth. While many others would not take a chance on this dog, Lauren and I decided we needed to see if there was a softie inside all that ferocious exterior. We spent about 15-20 minutes trying to catch her with the slip lead and once Lauren did, the pup was not happy. She screamed and flopped and tried anything to get off that leash. We spent some more time just evaluating her and seeing if she would want human affection. After some time we were finally able to pet her and she crawled into our laps. She gave in. She trusted that we wouldn’t harm her, and I fell in love (again). We named her Lil’ Meg (she has the same blonde hair color as me ). Every time I tried to put Lil’ Meg down she would crawl right back up into my arms. Lauren and I were lucky enough to find her an amazing AR foster (thank you Holly!) and Lil’ Meg will now never have to spend her life in an outdoor kennel. She will be loved and cherished up in Boston. While I know we are not able to save all the dogs, I am so happy that we were able to save Lil’ Meg and change her whole future.