West Memphis Animal Shelter
By: Lauren Fopiano
Volunteer & fosterOn Day 5 of the service trip, half of our group headed to the West Memphis Shelter to work on a variety of projects. As soon as you walk into the shelter, it’s very apparent that the workers and volunteers care very much for the animals here. The West Memphis team does everything they can to get the dogs here adopted locally, fostered until they are adopted, or pulled by rescues like Rescue Road & LHK9. If you aren’t following this shelter on Facebook, then definitely check it out and you will see what I mean.
My van of 5 arrived a little ahead of the rest of the volunteers, so we walked to the outdoor kennels to meet some of the dogs. I was immediately drawn to Phoebe, a sweet Australian Shepherd mix, as she sat at the back of her kennel wagging her tail and waiting patiently to be noticed. I opened her kennel, put a slip lead on her, and she immediately collapsed at my feet and presented her belly for rubs. This sweet dog was found as a stray – likely abandoned by her owners – and ended up at the shelter for no reason of her own. Anyone would be lucky to have such a sweet, loving dog. After giving Phoebe lots of love and getting covered in her shiny black fur, it was time to get to work on the projects we had planned for the day.
The projects we worked on this day were very physically demanding, especially in the hot Arkansas sun. We installed something called Dig Defence, which is placed into the ground around the perimeter of fencing to prevent dogs from digging out. This contraption is installed by repeatedly slamming a heavy stamper until the Dig Defence is inserted about one foot into the ground. Simultaneously, another group worked on scrubbing the outdoor kennels, dog houses, and pools until they were as good as new. Each dog received a bath, nail trim, and plenty of love and attention. We met a dog named Precious that had recently been taken in by the shelter. She was flea ridden and covered in heavily matted fur but was as happy as could be and grateful to be receiving human attention. Two of our volunteers spent the morning clipping away her matted fur and extremely overgrown nails, picking fleas and ticks off her tiny body, and cleaning her up. Talk about a transformation! You could see the gratitude radiating from Precious.
After lunch, just about every volunteer in the group joined forces to install privacy fence slats, which was a lot more difficult than it appeared. These fence slats help shield the dogs’ view from one another while they are spending time in the chain link fenced play yards and, thus, prevent too much commotion and fights from breaking out.
The dogs at West Memphis are some of the lucky ones – their worst days are behind them and they will know nothing but love from the staff at the shelter until they are fostered or adopted. I left a piece of my heart at West Memphis with Phoebe the Aussie mix but I know she is in the best hands possible, and maybe if I’m very lucky, she will end up in Boston with Last Hope.
Monticello Animal Shelter
On the last full day of our rescue service trip, a small group visited Monticello, AR. I quickly raised my hand to visit Monticello because on my first service trip with Last Hope K9 Rescue in 2016, I experienced my first rescue heartbreak when I met a dog named Diesel. Two years ago, Diesel found himself at Monticello Animal Shelter in desperate need of an angel, as many shelters dogs are. Since 2016, I’ve learned more about the dogs who end up at the shelter in Monticello and the amazing volunteers who pull these dogs to get them into foster homes, aka their angels.
Since the shelter is located on wastewater grounds (including the town dump and sewage pond), city regulations have prohibited us from taking on any substantial renovation projects during past service trips. This year, however, we were beyond excited to help the local rescue team, Monticello 2nd Chancefurdogs, prep a vacated military building that will soon become their new shelter!
As we drove from the current shelter to the new location, I was rejuvenated with excitement! The shelter is moving to a different part of town, in a community that seems to have more resources, which will hopefully inspire more volunteerism and access to potential foster homes. Adding to our excitement, the new shelter is located down the road from a school, and there are prospective plans to involve the student athletes in shelter care, allowing those students to take the long-term shelter dogs out for runs, giving them the exercise and human interaction they deserve while awaiting their shelter break!
At the new location, we painted the entire shelter, framed for concrete, assembled a vetting table and brought operational supplies. While there, we also had a special visitor named Sadie. Sadie was dumped deep into the woods without any food or water but was lucky to come across a guardian angel of her own. While abandoned in the woods, Sadie identified a Good Samaritan named Philip, who was out collecting timber. She followed him around for 8 hours while he worked until he left the wooded area. When he turned to leave, she hopped up into his truck and they ventured home together. Philip brought Sadie to our site so we could evaluate her medical condition. We tested her for heartworm and were relieved to find that she’s heartworm negative and has a safe place to stay while waiting for a foster.
Meanwhile, the dogs currently residing at the Monticello Animal Shelter were also pretty incredible. Eight of the dogs there were discovered as part of a criminal investigation and were confiscated from a perceived dog fighting environment. Given their past, we took our introductions slowly and temperament tested each one. We also heartworm tested those in need and each received a good bath in the outdoor pools.
These dogs have already been at the shelter for over a month, pending the criminal investigation charges, and despite the previous abuse and neglect they endured, each dog showed hope through the temperament testing. Seeing them jump for joy and their smiles radiate through the field overwhelmed us with appreciation for the local team.
These moments instantly reinforced why we rescue. While these dogs had visible scars and evidence of abuse, they were resilient and grateful for our affection. As we prepare to leave Arkansas, the Monticello team thanked us “for sparking energy back into their community!” I have so much faith in their positive momentum and can’t wait to revisit Monticello’s new shelter once the dogs move in. These dogs depend on us to advocate for them and because of that we will never give up!