By Jill Monahan
Five years ago this January, a group from my college did a Habitat for Humanity trip to New Orleans. It was there that I was first exposed to the realities of dog fighting and to how severe the stray dog problem is in some parts of our country, especially in NOLA where they’re still recovering from Hurricane Katrina.
During one of our lunch breaks, we found a stray puppy near our Habitat site. We named her Lucy. One of the local volunteers recommended we call animal control from a neighboring town because she knew they were a lower kill shelter. I begged someone in my family to adopt Lucy, even though I knew none of them were looking for a puppy, and one of my brothers secretly planned her transport to MA so he could adopt her. Sadly, Lucy developed parvo and passed away on transport, which I have come to learn is very common for shelter puppies.
The animal control officer who took Lucy for us could not have been nicer, and while she was there we asked her about the house across from our site. The owner had a basic kennel set up out back with two adorable Pit Bull puppies squeezed into it. Our project leaders urged us to stay away from them because the owner did not like them to socialize with anyone. The ACO said she had had her eye on him for a while and suspected he was training them to fight, hence them only being allowed to socialize with him and she explained that dog fighting rings are rampant in NOLA. This was my introduction to the world of dog fighting and to Pit Bull dogs (which has quickly become my favorite type!).
Since I was a child, I always had a huge love of animals. I grew up with two of the best dogs (and it pains me to admit that they came from a sketchy pet store called Pik-A-Pup) but had never known much about the rescue world. After my NOLA experience I took the initiative to educate myself on dog fighting, dog rescue in general, and the (awful) business of breeders and puppy mills. I began volunteering at the shelter down the street from my college, All Breed Rescue Vermont. Even if it meant missing a party, I would go down to the shelter to walk and help socialize the dogs while asking the shelter director a million questions about how it all worked behind the scenes.
When I graduated in 2012 and moved back to Massachusetts, I felt an emptiness and became desperate to find another shelter or rescue to volunteer for. I found Last Hope K9 Rescue on Facebook. They had about 400 “Likes” back then….today we have over 176,000! I quickly became a coordinator, and eventually a member of the Board of Directors as well. Helping to run this rescue is another full-time job. There are days I want to give up, but then I look at the faces cowering in the corner of the shelter, I read the horrifying stories describing how awful humans can be, and I remember why I devote my time to this cause.
In 2015, we found homes for 1,016 homeless dogs. The work LHK9 and our Southern partners do is nonstop and often very disheartening, but through it I’ve met some of the greatest people and fostered 19 amazing dogs (yes, it’s extremely sad to say bye but it’s 100% worth every tear and no, I won’t be keeping a foster anytime soon!).
Every time I see that someone I’m friends with on Facebook has brought home a puppy that’s not a rescue, my heart breaks a little bit. I get it…I used to want every “Doodle”, Frenchie, and other crazy designer breeds, but I chose to educate myself instead and now I will never not rescue because I don’t care about breed or looks as much as I care about the dog’s personality and the fact that I will be saving a life. So please, consider fostering and adopting rather than going through breeders and puppy mills. LHK9 gets dogs of all sizes, breeds (purebreds included), and ages and we are sure to have a dog to fit your lifestyle. We have so many supporters, but it’s the support of family and friends that really makes me feel validated in all the work we do, so to those who have shown your support in one way or another – thank you!