08 May Day 3: Arkansas Service Trip
By: Jill Monahan,
Board Member, Foster & Social Media Coordinator, and foster mom
When I first visited Bald Knob Animal Shelter back in 2013, I experienced a sort of culture shock. We were told stories of teenagers pouring vodka down a puppy’s throat and placing him in the road to see how long he could survive in traffic, and of disturbing small town politics I won’t mention here. There seemed to be little interest/investment in saving the dogs of BK, other than desperation and passion of the Animal Control Officer. The shock continued upon arriving at their old shelter. It was a tiny building that resembled a shipping container. The shelter’s information was hastily written in spray paint, the front opening protected only by sheets of mismatched tarp. This was the “old” shelter, as they’d just built a new one, but it was still full of dogs. We then went to the new shelter which, while still not comparable to what I’d known of shelters in New England, was an incredible improvement. It was also full of dogs.
I actually won’t talk much about dogs in this post (weird, I know) but have to mention a few! There were two dogs I met that day in 2013 that I will never forget. Red had been at the old shelter for an entire year. Her big golden brown eyes cut right through me from behind the tarp as I tried to squeeze my hand through the kennel to pet her. She helped by pressing her entire body against the chain link to get as close as possible. Red came up to Boston about a year later, after completing heartworm treatment, and was adopted by her foster mom! Then there was Runway, in the new shelter, who was found on a runway with half of his head caved (presumably bashed) in. He was terrified and withdrawn, not moving from the corner of his cold, hard kennel, and hardly looking at us. Runway, too, underwent HW treatment and came to LHK9 where he found an amazing, patient family! I’m now excited to be sponsoring HW treatment for a dog currently at BK, who reminded me a bit of Red. Cooper is a gorgeous Retriever/Great Pyr Mix who looked at me and melted into my hand just as Red did 4 years ago. I will begin fundraising for Cooper soon, and once he finds a foster, he will begin treatment then make his way to Boston!
I was nervous and excited to visit BK yesterday, after so many years. I try to put on a strong face when visiting the AR shelters, especially in front of the local volunteers who deal with things we cant even imagine, but I was overwhelmed with emotion yesterday – all for positive reasons (which isn’t often the case in rescue!).
There’s new ACO and a new city councilman who have worked together closely to help transform the shelter in many ways. While we were there working, some local kids rode their bikes over to see what was going on and decided to stay and help us with our projects. To me, this was a sign that the town is no longer turning their backs on the animals. That maybe they’re even starting to care. Not only has the shelter changed structurally, but the mentality toward animals seems to be changing, and I can’t help but burst with pride in knowing LHK9 had a small part in that.
Physically, this was our most difficult day so far. We had a long list of grueling projects, and thanks to your donations we nearly completed all of them! Our biggest objective was to fix their flooding problem. Every time it rains, the kennel runs (which were packed dirt) flood and the dogs end up standing in ankle deep puddles/mud. This also creates a breeding ground for disease, which is not only dangerous for the dogs but for the ACO as well. We dug out every run, some of which were dry and packed like cement, and then filled them with gravel to help alleviate the flooding. We also installed roofs on each side of the shelter to lessen the amount of water that pours in, and to provide the dogs with more shade. Additionally, new fencing and gates were installed to create a second play area, allowing more dogs to be out at a time. For some aesthetic improvements, we painted the front of the shelter and each metal door that separates the inside kennels from the outside runs. We also sealed all the outdoor wood to prevent mold, decay, and disease. And of course, we cleaned kennels and bathed, tested, and vaccinated the dogs!
Before LHK9 started working with BK in 2013, their euthanasia rate was 98-99%. It is now maybe 1% (dogs who are suffering beyond treatment or who are severely human aggressive). It’s truly amazing to see how much has changed in 4 years, not just structurally but the politics and mindsets, and I look forward to seeing progressive change as we continue our partnership!