11 May Day 4: Arkansas Service Trip
We worked at 3 shelters today, so be sure to read all the PAWesome entries!
Stuttgart Animal Shelter
By: Lindsay LaRocca
Board Member, volunteer, adopter, and foster mom
My eyelids fluttered open on Saturday morning at 5:15am. Bright eyed and bushy tailed, I lay in my bed eagerly awaiting my alarm clock to start buzzing. As I glanced at my watch, I quickly realized that I still had an hour of sleep left before starting the day. However, much like a kid on Christmas, my mind wouldn’t shut off and let me sleep a moment longer because today is the BIG day. I finally get to visit my favorite shelter, Stuttgart Animal Shelter. What makes this particular shelter so special? Three reasons…SkyBear, Finny, and ChanceMan. These three best friends all hail from the same shelter in Stuttgart, AR and are now living it up in their FURever homes in Charlestown, MA. More about these special pups in a bit.
In order to properly explain Stuttgart, I feel like I need to give you a brief recap of my rescue journey. Four years ago, I began my crazy dog lady life with LHK9, and what a whirlwind it’s been. To say that the dogs and people I’ve met along the way have changed my life is a severe understatement. When I arrived in Arkansas in 2013 for my first trip, I was fresh to rescue and, quite frankly, lived in a bubble, not understanding the dire need to help shelters in our southern states. That first trip was a massive wakeup call. From the moment we touched down back in Boston, I knew I needed to do more. Less than a month later I applied to vet tech school, in hopes to give back in any way possible to the dogs I so greatly adore. For the past three years, I’ve been unable to attend our annual service trip as it was always smack dab in the middle of finals.
Stuttgart holds a very special place in my heart. Not only did I visit Stuttgart on my first trip in 2013, but a year after visiting, my soulmutt, my SkyBear was rescued from this very shelter in March of 2014. She had all the odds stacked against her. She was a recent momma, black, a Pit Bull who was heartworm positive, and had a staph infection. This dog, this amazing dog, would be overlooked and most likely euthanized in so many shelters. This special girl had a few wonderful advocates step up and get her out of the shelter and on the road to recovery. She was fostered by the shelter liaison, Sabra, and she and her five pups eventually made their way to Boston.
Finn was in a litter of 6 along with his momma, who had a bullet in her leg, at the shelter in 2014. Volunteers are always worried about puppies in shelters because of the high risk of infectious diseases. Luckily Finny, his momma, and all his siblings made it out of the shelter and on to their FURever homes up north. Chance and his son were found starving, emaciated, and on the brink of death in a house that was part of a drug bust in Stuttgart. Luckily, both of them also made their way to Boston in 2014. Fast forward to 2016…SkyBear, Finny & Chanceman (and their pawrents) all live just a few blocks from each other and get to play daily. These three get together for Barkdays, travel up to north in the winter to go skiing, and make sure to get plenty of swim time at Nahant Dog Beach in the summer. #rescuebesties
In 2016, we pulled 190 dogs from Stuttgart to come up north and find their FURever homes with the help of our incredible liaisons Haley and Sabra! I must say, coming down to AR four years after my first trip has been nothing short of inspiring. I can see a difference in each of the shelters including Stuttgart because of the amount of support they now have. This year our goal at Stuttgart was to clean, clean, clean (and to stay away from wasps and fire ants while doing so). We scrubbed the shelter from the inside out and man did it feel and look great! Our team worked so hard to organize the office, storage closet and donations, to scrub every kennel top to bottom, walk and love on each dog, and of course bathe all the pups and trim their nails! We also cleaned the puppy room and replaced the fencing that kept the pups separated. We even fixed a fan belt and mowed the grass. All the pups got brand new bucket pails for their water, too. Since Stuttgart has some outdoor space, we also built insulated houses there then brought them to our last stop on our shelter list: Hazen.
I have to stop to take a moment to give the most heartfelt thank you to all our donors and supporters. We are so blessed to have you in our lives and we couldn’t continue to save dogs without you. Every single penny that was donated made it possible for us to complete these projects, to ensure that these shelter pups lives are a little bit brighter!
While at Stuttgart, I also had the absolute pleasure of meeting the biggest, smiliest Pit Bull you could ever hope to squish! At Rescue Road’s Wine & Wags event the evening before, Jill and I sponsored vetting for Jabari before knowing which shelter he was from. It couldn’t be more fitting that he’s from Stuttgart, and we absolutely cannot wait to get him North and give him a big ol’ smooch!
Our rescue community is a kind and compassionate group of amazing souls who want to give back to these special dogs that just need a second chance. I’m lucky I get to call so many of these spectacular humans my friends and family. I’m not kidding when I say most of the dogs we meet end up saving us more than we end up saving them. I’ve always been a firm believer that kindness is powerful. It resonates with everyone it touches, if even for a fleeting moment. Kindness is what I hoped to bring with me to Arkansas this time around and I think our team accomplished that tenfold.
Wishing you and your loved ones cold noses ,warm hearts and the pitter patter of happy paws!
Hazen Animal Shelter
By: Sasha Prasad
Volunteer and foster mom
As a Bostonian, I am used to shelters like the MSPCA and the ARL. These shelters are bight and clean, have indoor and outdoor spaces for the dogs, are fully staffed, and have tons of volunteers. So, I had a difficult time wrapping my head around the conditions at Hazen Animal Shelter.
To start, the shelter doesn’t have an address. We had to use the only landmark in the area – the Hazen water tower – to navigate. I quickly realized why; the shelter isn’t an actual building. You can’t really even call it a shed. It’s seven outdoor kennels (with a roof, thanks to LHK9 in 2014) in the middle of a field. (I later learned that this is also to prevent people from dropping their unwanted pets off in the yard, but it still happens.) There’s no staff at this shelter. An animal control officer stops by once or twice a day to check on and take care of the animals. The contrast between Hazen Animal Shelter and the northern shelters I am familiar with couldn’t be more stark.
But despite the conditions in Hazen, and seemingly against all odds, amazing things are happening. In 2013, the shelter had a 98% euthanasia rate.
Stop reading for a second and let that sink in.
NINETY EIGHT PERCENT of dogs were killed at the shelter. That means only 2 of every 100 dogs were saved. I still have a difficult time wrapping my head around that statistic.
Today, the euthanasia rate is 0%.
Yup. You read that right. ZERO. The adoption rate is still low, but every dog at Hazen Animal Shelter will live (unless it is suffering due to severe illness) because of LHK9, Rescue Road (our sister rescue in AR that finds fosters for these dogs), and the thousands of families in New England who adopt their dogs rather than buying them from a breeder.
Since 2013, the shelter has undergone a physical transformation too. It started out as seven chain-link kennels, completely exposed to the elements. (If you’ve never been to Arkansas, the summers are HOT, the winters are cold enough, and the springs are stormy.) Since then, Last Hope has donated lots of time and money to add a roof and walls, improve fencing and security, and built insulated dog houses. Sabra, the shelter liaison with Rescue Road, said on the hottest summer days, it’s now a full 20 degrees cooler inside the kennels thanks to the roof and the dog houses!
This year, we planted trees for additional shade, built a shed for storage of food and supplies, and paid to have power run to the shelter for the first time ever. These projects were only possible thanks to the generous donations that LHK9 received to fund our service trip. All the dogs also got walks, baths, snuggles, and vaccinations and tests while their kennels were deep cleaned.
While it’s always hard leaving dogs behind at the shelter, I was filled with pride and hope as we pulled away from Hazen. Sometimes, rescue work feels overwhelming. It can feel like all of your hard work is never enough. But change is happening. Hazen Animal Shelter is a clear example of that. We ARE making a difference.
Foster. Donate. Adopt. It matters. It saves lives.
Monticello Animal Shelter
By: Kathi Bell
Database Coordinator, volunteer, adopter, and foster mom
Today, we split into two groups, with my group heading off to Monticello Animal Shelter for the morning. We met Meri, our liaison, in town and followed her to the shelter since it doesn’t really have an address to plug into the GPS. The shelter is next to the town dump and a sewage pond. You can imagine the smell is not the best and apparently, the pond attracts snakes. Thankfully we didn’t see any although we saw buzzards hovering around.
Upon arriving at the shelter, we were met by a team of enthusiastic volunteers and got right to work taking dogs out for walks and baths. The dogs were very excited and one of our volunteers commented that walking Tank – a particularly sturdy boy – was like walking a boulder with wings! The shelter is small, with only 16 kennels and the volunteers worked on cleaning them while we had the dogs out in the sunshine (although the kennels were surprisingly clean already – probably the cleanest ones we had seen). We also tested 5 recent arrivals for heartworm, and 4 of them were negative – an amazing percentage!
When we were done at the shelter, the volunteers graciously invited us to a local business to enjoy a light brunch (and homemade bath bombs!). As we talked to them about the shelter and the dogs, the passion they have to save them was evident and I don’t think there was a dry eye in the place as they talked about the challenges they face every day. Meri summed it up by saying “I feel like I’m chipping at an iceberg with a toothpick”. They have almost zero local adoptions, and although they have been fortunate enough to find a couple other breed specific rescues to help, LHK9 is the only rescue that will take Pit Bulls…and they have plenty of those. They were very amused by us *crazy* northerners who actually pay people to walk our dogs or put them in doggie daycare!
Monticello is a strong hunting community and dogs are only considered useful for 2 months during hunting season. After this, the hunters believe it’s cheaper to get rid of the dogs and get new ones next hunting season, instead of paying to shelter and feed them for the next 300 days. So, they either turn them loose in the woods, shoot them, or dump them at the shelter.
On a more positive note, this group of rescuers has a good working relationship with the Animal Control Officer and he takes the little dogs and puppies to a local grooming salon run by one of the volunteers so they don’t sit in the shelter. The volunteer boards them there while they get vetting and await adoption or transport to a rescue.
Although we haven’t done any major infrastructure projects at Monticello as we have done at the other shelters, they are deeply appreciative of all the support we have provided. We heard the story of Tyson, a puppy that was put on a logging chain, got loose, was runover, and then put back on the logging chain with no medical help. A neighbor called the ACO because he was crying nonstop. When they called LHK9 for help to pay his medical bills, the answer was an immediate “of course”. He’s now been through surgery and will be on his way North when he has recovered completely!
The Monicello shelter volunteers were overwhelmed – as I usually am – with the generosity of LHK9 and its supporters. Thank you!