01 May Service Trip 2023: Day 3 Stuttgart
Stuttgart Animal Shelter
By: Kelly Maxwell
A Last Hope Comes Full Circle
I remember it like it was yesterday – a sleepy 5-month-old black and white “pittie” mix managed to pick her head up from her northern foster’s lap to see what I was all about. That was in 2013 when I adopted our Last Hope rescue pup, Jayden. Sadly, Jayden passed away a few days before Christmas 2022 when she unexpectedly lost her fight to cancer. I was desperate to find any way to connect with my girl – the answer was reconnecting with the very organization that saved her. To date, this has included working with Last Hope in fostering some amazing dogs, volunteering at adoption events, and fundraising and joining the annual service trip in Arkansas.
I didn’t know much about Jayden’s ‘backstory’ when I adopted her. I wondered if I could learn something – anything – about Jayden’s path to me. One quick post and Last Hope jumped into action and found which shelter Jayden was rescued from and even her southern foster. Weeks later, I’m driving up to that very shelter – Stuttgart Animal Shelter – with a pack of like-minded Last Hope volunteers to do what we could to help in a day’s work. Of course, my eyes immediately welled with tears when I thought about how Jayden was likely in a stranger’s car driving up to the shelter on that same driveway without any idea of what was happening and certainly without any hope to her future.
It was pouring rain when we got there – a common challenge the Arkansas shelters struggle with in their mostly outdoor shelters. But like Jayden popping her head out of the car window that day back in 2013 with a glimmer of hope – I cracked a small smile when I first noticed the artwork on the outside of the shelter. I, too, felt hope. Someone cared enough and loved the dogs enough to create that artwork. Then, meeting the animal control officer and the lead volunteer – Babe Free – and knowing all the work that Last Hope has put into that shelter over the years, I knew that Jayden was loved from the time she stepped foot in that shelter. More hope. As I walked through the shelter and met all of the dogs currently in the shelter, I thought about things like which kennel was she in? How big was she? Did she have siblings? How quickly did Rescue Road pull her from the shelter to send her north? I closed my eyes briefly – now with the sun shining on my face. I thought about my love for her and off to the day’s work I went. With that, I felt more hope – I was doing one small part to help dogs deserving of love and care.
When I asked Babe what message she wanted to get out in the world about the dogs it was this – she could save the lives of 70 dogs right now. But she needs the fosters and adopters to do it – both in Arkansas and in New England. It’s frustrating for her to hear the excuse that fostering would be “too hard.” She begs people to try fostering at least once. Most are surprised to find how fostering is incredibly rewarding. Because it’s not about us. It’s never about us. It’s about the dogs. And the dogs need our help. In any and all ways that we can. Dogs like Jayden not only deserve to live, but they deserve to live beautiful lives. How can you help bring hope to dogs like Jayden? However small or big of an effort. Just try – it’s their Last Hope.