08 May Day 4: Arkansas Service Trip 2018
Friends of Stuttgart Animal Shelter
By: Alicia O’Reilly
Volunteer, adopter, & foster
It’s Saturday, and finally we’re at the shelter I’ve been so eager to see: Stuttgart. You see, I adopted a LHK9 pittie named Cane 2 years ago, and this is the shelter he came from. At home while we shower him with love and kisses, I always wondered where he came from. Seeing it in person, I’m not going to lie, it was hard. I know he came from here, but I honestly can’t imagine it. Not only did I get to see where he came from, but I also got to meet his Southern foster mom, Lissa. She and I had a special moment, and got to share our experiences about this very special boy.
Speaking of special boys, today I was on puppy duty and met sweet Mallow, as in Marshmallow! Unfortunately, Mallow has been exposed to Parvo, is malnourished, and isn’t up to date with shots, so I wasn’t able to walk him with the other pup. Instead, I rocked him like he was my baby boy. I spent most of my time at Stuttgart bonding with this puppy. We gave him a bath, tested him for heartworm, gave him a dose of flea/tick meds, and just showered him with love. He started off scared, but a little time with him, and he was bouncing around and loving up on everyone. Because his paws couldn’t be on the ground, we let him bounce around in a volunteer’s car. It’s heartwarming to watch a pup go from scared to just being a happy puppy. At one point he jumped on my back and grabbed my braid like a toy, it was the most adorable thing!
Saying goodbye to a dog you just bonded with is so difficult. Placing him back in his kennel, walking way, hearing the crying, and not knowing what’s next. . . breaks your heart. I just hope, he felt the love we all gave him. I hope he felt like every puppy should feel, if even for a few hours. And I hope, like my Cane, he makes it out.
Hazen Animal Shelter
Today we visited the Hazen Animal Shelter. It’s not what you would typically think of when you hear “animal shelter” – it’s essentially a row of covered kennels next to a wide open field. Over the last 5 years, Last Hope has made improvements to the Hazen Shelter to lessen the dogs’ exposure to the elements. We added an extended roof covering, built a storage shed, and insulated dog houses.
Today we bathed dogs, scrubbed the kennels and dog houses, and hung screen panels to help control the biting flies that have been pestering the dogs. These panels also helped cool the shelter down by at least 10 degrees. We did heartworm testing and out of the five dogs in the shelter, three of them are unfortunately heartworm positive. On the plus side, 3 dogs got to leave today to go into foster homes and will soon make their way to Massachusetts thanks to Rescue Road and Last Hope. The remaining two will wait until foster homes are found. While we were there, we noticed a problem with the electricity, so there are currently no working fans. Luckily the roof covering and the newly installed screens help keeps the kennels cool in the 80-90 degree heat, but we are hopeful that the remaining dogs will find their heroes soon.
The Hazen Shelter is supported by some incredible volunteers who put in a lot of time and effort taking care of the dogs and trying to get them out of the shelter and into foster homes. We are so thankful for people like them, and all our donors who make the work we do possible.
Bald Knob Animal Shelter
By: Jessica Teng
Foster Mentor Coordinator, foster, adopter, & volunteer
Last year, Bald Knob was one of the most physically-intensive shelter visits of the trip, and this year was no different! I was in a small group of 7 who learned how to properly temperament test the day before with southern foster gurus Cindy and Debbie, and we put our skills to work at BK by conducting temperament evaluations on the residents at BK. We did the evals in the morning, then in the afternoon I met my maker with the infamous Dig Defence mentioned by my fellow tripmates in their blogs (and have the blisters to prove it!)
Rescuing dogs from a place with an overpopulation problem is like choosing one ice cream flavor in an ice cream shoppe full of delicious flavors. How are you supposed to just choose one? You would choose them all if you could, but your ice cream cone can only handle a few scoops. You have to get more ice cream cones (that would be more foster families in AR and New England, more resources, more volunteers, in this ridiculous analogy) or else you have to limit which flavors you choose.
While LHK9 does take dogs with health issues, and does not discriminate on the basis of breed or age, we do have a limited number of southern and northern foster homes that are available to pull our dogs to safety. An even fewer number of foster families are willing/able to take dogs who are not good with other dogs or with new people upon first meeting them. The hard truth is that with limited resources and unlimited dogs, our desire to save them all is stomped on by the bottom lines of reality. So, we do temperament tests.
Having had experience with some foster dogs who had more significant training needs, and being the mom to my beloved dog-selective soul mutt, I had a basic assumption of what these temperament tests would entail but am so glad that I was able to learn from two heroes with decades of rescue experience. These tests reinforced that every person performing temperament evals and engaging with dogs s/he doesn’t know should learn these skills from a trusted source, with safety being a primary concern. To share some of what we learned, these are the things we were looking for:
- General observations – is the dog’s body language stiff or loose? Stressed or relaxed? Do you see her shaking, lip licking, panting, sweaty paws? Are her ears forward or back, is there a wrinkle on her head? Is the tail tucked, wiggly, or high? Does the dog stand leaning forward, or cowering? What about jumping, nipping, pacing?
- Affiliation with people – dogs live in a human world. Will she come to me with no verbal cues? Will she come when called? Maybe a fly-by? Does she like affection, and seek more when the pets stop? Is she a jumper? If so, is it a shove, or a gentle jump? Does she give kisses? Is she shaking, growling, turning away, or tucking her tail? Does she just go belly up? Observe separately for adults and for children, as the sudden movements kids make can be scary to dogs, while other dogs absolutely love children!
- Guarding behaviors around toys and food – will the dog allow you to take away a plastic toy, plush toy, or a bone? What does she do when you put your hand in her food bowl (we use decoy fake hands to monitor their reactions!)? Does she become stiff, or will she yield to your hand? Does she growl, or snap? To a degree, guarding is a natural behavior–in the dog world, it’s not OK to take a bone out of another dog’s mouth. But what happens if the dog picks up something she shouldn’t, and her human tries to grab it out of her mouth? These tendencies are important to know, so that they can be appropriately managed.
- Body handling – will she accept full body pets, or is there a part of her body that is uncomfortable to be touched? Can you inspect her ears? Will she allow you to handle her paws? Can you raise her lips 5 times to check her teeth? These are all common ways to touch a dog, i.e. in any home or at the vet, and we want to see how a dog will react to these kinds of touches.
- Dog-dog interactions – is she good with other dogs? Do we see any play bows, or rocking horse hops? Is she lunging, snapping, stiff, or growling? Does she pull towards the other dog, or try to avoid?
While LHK9 pulls most of our dogs from our southern shelter partners, we sometimes receive requests from local people looking to rehome their dogs as well. I’m glad that now more of our volunteers, those who took part in the temp eval training can put these skills to use, to support the LHK9 Intake team when evaluating local surrender requests!
I’m so grateful that I could return to Bald Knob during this year’s trip. Last year was my first service trip, after joining the rescue in 2015 as a foster and adopter, and my first trip to BK left an indelible mark on me and helped me more deeply develop my commitment to rescue. It was at BK last year that things clicked in my mind – that most people get into rescue for the dogs, but often stay for the people and relationships made along the way. It’s no question that anyone committed to doing dog rescue has a passion for dogs, saving lives, loving on and being loved by dogs. What I didn’t necessarily realize, is that when you start feeling overwhelmed by the sea of need , and don’t feel like you’re making a dent in the overpopulation problem, or are feeling frustrated because a foster dog had explosive diarrhea, rolled around in it, and then busted out of his crate and tore through your house, or are heartbroken because you couldn’t save one who stole your heart – it’s your human comrades by your side that can keep you going . They will support you, empathize with you, validate you. In turn, they will also depend on you, hold you accountable, and push you to never stop .
At LHK9, our commitment is to the dogs we aim to save and place in loving FURever homes, but it is also to our Southern partners who make heart-wrenching decisions every day, saving abandoned and neglected dogs from danger, witnessing the absolute worst in humanity, and ironically, who also show us the very best that humans have to offer. When I’m tired and worn down, I think of the dogs who need me, and Lori, Becky, Gail, Chuck, who are our guardian angels of the Bald Knob dogs, and the countless others who pull their weight and depend on us to pull ours, too.
To learn about fostering in Arkansas or the greater Boston area, please visit Rescue Road (AR) and Last Hope K9 Rescue (MA) on Facebook, or go to www.lasthopek9.org.