Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Never go out of town!

For Easter weekend, I took a short trip to Cherry Grove with my mom. My bags weren't even unpacked yet when message comes through on the Blackberry that there was a Puppy Mill bust in Lee County. It started off as 10-15 dogs and turned into over 150. Of those, CARE took in 10. The same weekend, 4 more dogs came from a retiring breeder along with one St. Bernard with numerous health problems freed from a chain. That night, I dreamed of hundreds of dogs crossing the road in front of me while I tried desperately to scoop them up one by one and figure out how to find them homes. All total, 25 dogs came into CARE while I was on vacation.

One of the Puppy Mill dogs is very pregnant as well as a dog I brought in myself before leaving, so the total will soon rise. We do not spay/abort when the moms are too far along for the health of the mother. Another of the PM dogs is Heartworm positive. A tiny baby puppy has a severe cleft palate that will require surgery, if he survives to 6 weeks. So far, so good.

Things get crazy sometimes in the world of rescue. It's important to take time for yourself to keep from burning out. Just be prepared for what awaits you when you return. Wish me luck. I go out of town again in a few days.

Kelly Whittington
Canine Director

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Small Dog Infestation!

Things in rescue seem to happen in gushes, not sprinkles. We don't get one cat; we get 5 litters of kittens. We don't get one dog with issues, we get half a dozen. We don't get one expensive medical case, we get weird medical issues out the wazoo. Fortunately, Karma keeps things in balance so that often, we don't get one adoption; we get bunches!

The trend for this week is tons of small dogs. Rarely do we have this many small dogs at one time. Fate worked out that way, and we have little guys stuffed in to every available foster home. Fortunately for these guys, they get adopted quickly - even the ones who have issues. People are more forgiving of the cute, tiny dogs than the large drooly ones, in general. (We think there's nothing better than a giant drooling dog, but to each his own!)

Small-dog-a-palooza is happening Saturday February 27th from 1pm - 5pm at Pet Lover's Warehouse on Garner's Ferry Rd. in Columbia SC.

Several people have already submitted applications and are coming Saturday to meet their new babies, just to make sure there is a connection. If you snooze, you lose, so check our website at and submit an application now to adopt your own cute little monkey. (and by monkey, I mean little dog).

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Milena is headed to Maine!

When it comes to North v. South, the South is the winner in a lot of ways. We definitely have the better weather. Less than a foot of snow once a decade, sunny Summers, colorful Falls, you can't beat it. It's a place I'm proud and happy to call home.

When it comes to animal welfare, though, the North is way ahead. More dogs live inside as part of the family and very few are chained to a tree in the backyard. Stray dogs running loose are rare, unlike in the South where they are as common as Kudzu. More people understand the importance of spay/neuter and not allowing their animals to breed freely, irresponsibly producing even more pets with no homes. This results in something unheard of here in the South - animal shelters with empty cages where pets are adopted almost as soon as they come in.

In the South, animal shelters (aka "kill shelters") kill healthy animals weekly because they are so overrun with unwanted animals, they can't possibly contain them all. Many rural shelters have no adoption programs whatsoever, resulting in a 100% kill rate. A 55% kill rate is considered "low"! No-kill rescues are always full, and some of the animals wait years to be adopted. Meanwhile, rescues up North have lists of people just waiting for an animal to adopt!

Saving animals is one thing the North and South can agree on, so the solution is Transports. Transports run constantly to move animals from the South to the North where they have a much better chance at getting adopted into a loving family. There are professional transports that charge a fee for moving dogs. Then there are non-profit organizations who transport the animals for free and rely on donations to cover the travel costs, such as Pilots and Paws (pilots volunteer to fly animals) and Operation Roger (truckers volunteer to haul animals). Sometimes, people recruit volunteers to drive animals part-way where they will meet up with another volunteer to take the next leg of the trip, and so on relay style until the pet reaches their destination. This last type requires lots of legwork to pull off!

CARE has transported dogs up North many times in order to give them a better shot at adoption. Today, Milena hopped on her freedom ride to Maine! Milena is a Great Pyrenees (or maybe a Kuvasz) who was picked up as a stray by animal control. Nobody came to claim her, so we busted her out. She's not a popular breed in the South and could wait months, if not years, to be adopted here. In Maine, she'll be adopted in weeks. Not to mention that her breed (whether GP or Kuvasz) is much better suited for the Maine climate than the SC one!

Good luck and best wishes, Milena, in your new life as a Yankee.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Our Hearts are Bigger than our Wallets

A couple of weeks ago we got a crossposting for several pit bulls in the Greenville County Shelter. Now, we get these crosspostings every day. We're always full and rarely able to take any off the lists. Sometimes, however, our emotions override our good sense. In this case, CARE president's husband Dan was the one overtaken.

Tara Haltiwanger is the President of CARE. She and her husband rescued a blue pit bull about 11 years ago. Blue is one of the most awesome dogs to ever live, and friends are constantly arguing about who gets him if Tara and Dan were to meet an untimely end. Recently, he was diagnosed with Hemangiocarcoma, a particularly aggressive cancer. Blue is doing extremely well considering that most dogs get the diagnosis just before they cross the Rainbow Bridge.

Dan felt moved to rescue 2 blue pit girls on the list in honor of his beloved blue boy who is bravely battling cancer. In the process, Greenville County Animal Services begged them to take another also. Other CARE members were recruited, and in the end we signed up for a total of 5 dogs! It seems our hearts are bigger than our brains sometimes, too.

After signing up, panic set in. Where will they all go? How are we going to pull this off? Somehow, it always works out in the end. With a dash of luck (we had some adoptions come through) and lots of planning and strategizing, we figured out a way to squeeze them all into foster homes. Tara and Lil made the trip to Greenville and picked up 2 of the pitties, Firefly and Star, and the lone non-pit Jenna. The blue girls who started it all had to stay behind a couple of extra weeks to be treated for kennel cough. They are making the trip again on Saturday to get them. On the way back, they will help another pit get out by transporting her to a rescue in Charlotte.

Phew! Lots of driving, lots of planning, lots of work to save these dogs. We are soooo happy we did. Star, a tiny pit at only 35 lbs., just waltzed in to her foster home and made herself at home. It was like she'd always been there. Jenna, the Hound who went to the same foster home, has all the other foster parents goo-goo eyed and dying to meet her. Firefly, the pit with crazy bat ears, is also a big hit. She even gels with the cats. We can't wait to play with the blue girls when they come on Saturday.

As an aside, we give mad props to the Greenville County kill shelter. They are lightyears ahead of the other kill shelters in S.C. For one, most shelters don't keep dogs and treat them for kennel cough before sending them to rescue. Usually, we get them and have to work out a way to quarantine them from our other pets ourselves. Secondly, no other kill shelter in the state is more successful at saving the animals. They really work it. On the crosspost sent out with the dogs we signed up for, every single one of them got rescue!

How does Greenville do it when others can't? Let me count the ways. Number one, they make it easy for rescues to pull from them. Rescues are always watching their money because there is always a shortage of it. GCAS sends dogs out fully vetted and microchipped for a very small pull fee. Some kill shelters charge double what GCAS does and provide less. Two, they crosspost like mad to find rescue for the dogs. Some kill shelters don't put the word out at all. If we don't know about them, we can't save them. If you want to know what dogs and cats are at GCAS needing to be rescued, all you have to do is visit and there they are, always up to date. Three, they have no arbitrary restrictions on which breeds are considered worthy of saving and which aren't. Four of the five dogs we pulled are pit bulls. They will even work out transport to rescues far away to get the animals out of there alive.

Did you know that some kill shelters in SC automatically euthanize pit bulls and will not even allow rescues to take them? Some kill shelters in SC will not allow rescues outside of SC to take animals. They will put them to sleep rather than send them to rescue. Some kill shelters in SC will put to sleep any heartworm positive dog, even if a rescue is willing to take and treat them. If you want to help change this and end the needless killing of healthy animals, contact your local kill shelter and find out what their policies are. Demand change! If Greenville can do it, there is really no excuse for why the others can't.

Adopt one (or five) of the Greenville pits (and one hound)!


A Sad Goodbye to Lyra

If everything goes as planned, we always have to say goodbye to the animals we rescue. It's a bittersweet feeling when one of your foster pets gets adopted. You feel sadness in knowing you may never see that sweet face again, but you also feel joy in knowing you are giving them the ultimate gift - a real family.

The nature of fostering is that we always have to say goodbye, but most of the time it is a happy occasion. Sadly, today we say goodbye to Lyra, and it is not a happy ending. Lyra passed away during a routine dental procedure. It is rare, but there is always a risk with anesthesia. She had an adopter waiting to take her home but never got that chance.

Lyra's foster mom, Lil Bridgeman, remembers her with a laugh.
Friday night during the snow storm when I got home from my folks, I had no power. I put my packages on the couch and let the dogs out. Thought everybody went out and went to find candles. That's when I saw Lyra on the couch eating my subway sub. She didn't like tomatoes at all (apparently) and had pulled those off but otherwise ate about 6" of sub before I caught her. She was so bloated that she was as big around as she was long and didn't feel too good for about a day or so.

She was a pistol and wasn't afraid of any of the dogs and would let them know right away she was down on the ground. She would run around the yard barking letting all the neighbors know she had come outside. She was the funniest thing to watch.   
Safe travels over the Rainbow Bridge, Lyra. Thanks for the memories.

The Rescue Network

If you are involved in animal rescue, it doesn't take long for the word to get out. Everyone, and I mean everyone, will ask you for help with the dog they no longer want or the stray cat who gave birth under their house to 15 kittens. Unfortunately, no-kill rescues are always full. The likelihood of a no-kill rescue having empty spots just waiting for animals to come along and fill them is about the same as Vin Diesel showing up on my doorstep and begging me to marry him. Both are things that happen only in my dreams.

So, when we can't take an animal in to our own rescue, we crosspost. In the Rescue World, that means sending out emails to all the other rescues we know and asking them to in turn send to all the rescues they know, and so on, in the hopes that someone, somewhere will be able to fit this animal in. This is what I refer to as The Rescue Network.

The Rescue Network works, but it takes a lot more effort than it appears at first glance. With each rescue receiving over 100 emails per day with multiple animals in each one, you had better do more than just send an email if you want the animal to get rescue. This can take hours of labor. If you take on a crossposting, you better be prepared to work it if you want any chance of success.

Just before Thanksgiving 2009, we got a desperate SOS from a woman whose daughter had been hospitalized after a complete mental breakdown. The daughter's husband cleaned out her bank account, wrote thousands of dollars worth of bad checks in her name, and then left her and their 9 pets high and dry. Mom & Dad drove down from NY to rescue their daughter, but what about the pets? One small dog could come back to NY with them, but three dogs, four cats, and a rabbit were about to be homeless. Mom knew this would push her daughter, already in a compromised mental state, over the edge. She had to make sure they were safe before taking her daughter back to NY.

As always, we were overfull. No way we could take on that many animals. We could fit in the bunny, but none of the others. CARE Volunteer Kelly Whittington went to work. First, getting photos. Without a photo, your request will not receive as much as a second glance. If you have one spot open, 100 emails with 10 sets of sad brown eyes each, and 1 email with black letters on a white background, which gets crossed off the potential intake list first? Exactly. No Internet at the house (husband took all the money, right?) - so instead of watching football on Sunday afternoon, Kelly was taking photos of cats and dogs trying to capture the perfect angle that will make them irresistable to someone who might save them.

The photos are strategically cropped, descriptions written, and the plea sent out to The Rescue Network. The work isn't over yet, though. Send it once, and it will get lost in the sea of other pleas. Next is daily calls to get status updates from the owner. Has anyone contacted you? Are any of the animals spoken for yet? Then, sending those updates back to TRN to keep it fresh in everyone's minds.

In the end, a miracle. All the cats and all the dogs were placed in permanent homes or rescue within 2 weeks. It's unheard of. Exhausting, but worth it! We Volunteer in our free time, so this all is done in between our real jobs and family life. In hindsight, we probably shouldn't have taken in the bunny. He's the only one still waiting for a home! Adopt Figaro!