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News: Guest Posts
Another Stop on the Underdog Railway
Q & A with Dawn Painter, who lets her fingers do the saving.

“The email that started us on this journey arrived in my in-box on December 23, with the subject line: Black Wednesday of Death in Harrodsburg, KY—Please, Help! … How could I ignore that plea?” writes Bark editor Claudia Kawczynska in her story about Kit and Holly—puppies she adopted from a Kentucky rescue last December.

For those of us who volunteer or work for or support shelters and rescues, this sort of e-missive is familiar. When we receive these dog-needs-home notices we become possible links in a chain that may connect a stray in Georgia with a loving home in Maine, or a puppy mill refugee in Kansas with a family in California. The email from “James Painter” that caught Claudia’s eye, actually came from his daughter, Dawn, who uses her parents’ email as part of her effort to help southern shelters and rescues find homes for homeless dogs often in far away locations.

We catch up with the Dawn Painter in the second part of our online series on the people behind animal transport—the grassroots network that moves dogs from shelters in the South or the Midwest to communities where they have a better chance of finding a good adoptive home. (In the first part, we talked to the founders of C.A.R.E., who transport homeless dogs and cats via van convoy from shelters in the Midwest to rescues in Colorado.)

Painter, 38, is a classic animal welfare advocate, making time to help in addition to a full-time job—in her case, in the planning department at UPS. She lives with four rescue cats in Shepherdsville, Kentucky. She has not website, and relies exclusively on email. As you might expect, we communicated with Painter via email and she responded in that efficient, spare text language that allows her to get more from each keystroke. (We have “translated” her answers into pre-texting English.)

TheBark.com: How did you get involved in this work?
Dawn Painter: I began by helping local shelters by going to yard sales and buying pet supplies then donating them. Seeing the shelters made me realize how Kentucky is in dire need of financial support for its homeless animals. I love going to yard sales, thrift stores, Goodwill, Salvation Army, Craigslist, and even dumpster diving for pet supplies.  Through the years, I have adopted through Animal Protection Association and Shamrock.

Bark: Are you connected to any organization or are you simply a one-woman advocate?
Painter: I just try to take turns with the different shelters and rescue groups. I do not officially work for any of them; I just do what I can.

Bark: As we understand it, you pull together and send out urgent calls for adoption or shelter help from around the country. Can you explain your role: How do you learn about dogs in need, and how you try to connect dogs in need with people who can help?
Painter: The people that head the shelters and rescue groups started adding me to their address books and thus the rescue, support and funding emails started. I forward them along to whomever I think can help. When my parents got a computer, I decided to make a breed-specific address book so that I can send the information directly to those who can help out that cat/dog. I also have a support group, so whenever there is an email regarding that I forward it there.

Any type of abuse cases, I have a contact who is a prosecutor. Of course, I have a cat group so a lot of my emails go to those no-kill sanctuaries. Shelters that are in dire need get forwarded to my animal welfare organizations (Best Friends, IDA, ASPCA, etc.). I also have a rehab and rescue group, and all the dogs that are good therapy dogs I send their information to them.

I love to get news clippings about how dog/cats help inmates or residents at nursing homes. I forward these to shelters in the hopes that they will contact their local facilities. I also have media-type contacts where I forward any emails regarding abuse, special events by animal organizations, puppy mills, etc.

Bark: Do you know what happens after you send out emails?
Painter: I usually find out when dogs have found a forever home and I just praise God and St. Francis.

Bark: Do you worry that there will be too many email alerts going out and that people will start to tune you out?
Painter: I try not to worry about sending out too much. If someone wants me to remove them from the list I always do so.
    
Bark: Are you ever overwhelmed?
Painter: It is very sad how many dogs/cats are put down each year. Every night, I say a prayer to St. Francis in the hopes that people will bring love, care, funding to all animal-related issues. I pray people become more responsible regarding spay/neutering. I pray that those four-legged babies who were put down are now in pet heaven and are playfully running through the fields and soaking up the sun with not a care in the world.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Paula Abdul Helping People and Animals
Auction will benefit Pets and Women’s Shelters (PAWS) Program

Many women in situations of domestic violence delay leaving because they don’t want to leave their pets behind and they can’t take them with them because so few women’s shelters have the ability to house pets. There is a growing recognition that women stay in violent situations rather than leave their pets with their abusers and that bringing pets with them provides comfort and security. As a result, more women’s shelters are seeking to enable women to bring their pets with them when they flee an abusive situation to start a new life in safety.

Paula Abdul is the spokesperson for American Humane Association’s Pets and Women’s Shelters (PAWS) Program, which helps shelters fund and set up such programs. Abdul has written a letter encouraging domestic violence shelters to start programs that accommodate pets. She will be auctioning off many items from her own wardrobe with a portion of the proceeds going to PAWS.

Check out the auction on eBay. Fans of American Idol will recognize clothes and accessories that Abdul wore on the show.

News: Guest Posts
Only 72 Hours to Live
Will California reduce shelter stays from 6 days to 3 to save money?

What is California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s problem with companion animals? Less than a year after his ill-begotten plan to close the state’s budget gap, in part, with a whopping 10 percent tax on veterinary services, he’s proposed reducing shelters’ minimum holding time for stray animals, from six days to three, before they can be euthanized.

Three days? 72 hours? What sort of chance will these animals have? How long does it take to get the word out—photos and bios on websites—in order to find a good forever home?

Aside from the terrible toll this will take in terms of lives, I wonder how practical it is from a financial perspective. I mean, isn’t that the point? Many predicted the governor’s failed veterinary tax would end up costing the state more as guardians who couldn’t afford treatment abandoned animals or surrendered them to shelters. The shorter shelter stay will most certainly drive up the number of euthanizations, which will probably cost more money or wash away any savings from reduced time limits.

Now’s the time for positive solutions, such as Assembly Bill 233, which allows Californians who adopt pets from government-run and nonprofit shelters to write off up to $100 in adoption fees. It’s a small thing, maybe, but it’s moving in the right direction.

Want to take action? Sign a petition against the shelter proposal and learn how you can support Assembly Bill 233.

News: Guest Posts
Have Van, Will Travel
Q & A with the women behind C.A.R.E.

It’s a simple truth that a homeless dog in the South or the Midwest may have a better chance of finding a good adoptive home in the Northeast or cities in the West. For these dogs in overcrowded, under-funded shelters, transportation can mean the difference between life and death.

When Bark editor Claudia Kawczynska adopted Kit and Holly from a rescue in Kentucky over Christmas, she learned the shelter had a program for sending dogs to new homes in the North but not out West where she lives. A little more digging to find a ride for the puppies revealed a formal and informal network of individuals and organizations with planes, trucks and automobiles working together—supported by countless Internet posters and email blasters—to get dogs to places where their future is brighter.

Inspired and intrigued by this grassroots cooperative effort, TheBark.com will be talking to folks who are part of this underdog railroad. We begin with Linda Fox, transport coordinator, and Lisa Mendelsberg, program administrator, for Colorado Animal Rescue Express (C.A.R.E.), a 501c3 public charity.

At least once a week, C.A.R.E. drivers provide safe transport for homeless dogs and cats in the Midwest to Colorado, where rescue organizations have promised to find them new homes or where adoptive families are already waiting. Through Jake’s Fund, C.A.R.E. also provides help, when possible, with veterinary expenses and spay/neuter procedures. C.A.R.E also collects donations of food and supplies and delivers them to shelters and rescues. In the two years since C.A.R.E. began, Fox, Mendelsberg and an army of dedicated volunteers have logged more than 245,000 miles to bring 3,993 dogs and 345 cats to 96 rescues.

In May, we talked with Linda Fox, while she drove in a three-van convoy through a rainstorm more than 300 miles to Hays, Kansas. She was on the pick-up leg of what would be C.A.R.E.'s biggest transport to date—73 dogs from Arkansas, Missouri and Kansas. In early June, we caught up with Lisa Mendelsberg, who was working on grant requests to cover the costs of the transports. They talked to us about the logistics, challenges and joys of transport.

TheBark.com: How did you get started?
Lisa Mendelsberg: We both volunteered for Golden Retriever Freedom Rescue in Colorado and met at a holiday party in December 2004. At that time, Linda was arranging intake and providing the transport for Golden Retrievers coming in from out of state. I started driving with her and it was evident that we felt our transports could help all breeds of dogs. We formed C.A.R.E. in June 2007 to provide lifesaving transport to all dogs and cats with rescue commitments.  

Bark: How do dogs get onto a transport?
Linda Fox: Most of the dogs come on our transports because rescuers network the dogs on the Internet. For example, pictures and bios of dogs needing homes in Holton, Kansas, would be sent to me and to the other rescuers and we post them on our rescue network. Once rescuers in Colorado say they’ll accept a dog in their program, the shelter or rescue group sends me all the pertinent travel information, assurance that a Health Certificate will be obtained, and then transport is arranged as soon as possible.

Bark: Who pays for transportation?
Fox: C.A.R.E. runs on individual and rescue donations, grants and fundraisers. It costs an average of $26 to transport each dog to safety. We continuously need to fundraise.

 

The transports are expensive. We pay for rental vans in multiple cities, insurance, gasoline and we cover our drivers’ out-of-pocket expenses. This transport today to move the 73 dogs will be more than $1,300.

Bark: Where do the vans come from?
Fox: We rent cargo vans from Enterprise. We analyzed buying a van, but for safety reasons, it is better to rent with inspections and cleanings before each trip. Also, if we were to break down, Enterprise would respond with delivery of a similar vehicle. If we owned our own van, can you imagine trying to check into a hotel with 30 dogs while it was being repaired?!

Bark: Who are your passengers?
Mendelsberg: Dogs and cats come primarily from high-kill shelters, owner surrenders and from other rescue organizations. We are also fortunate to be able to transport dogs being released from puppy mills. This year because the economy has been so challenging, we’re transporting a lot of dogs that have been abandoned when people move, the ones that are the silent victims of the economy.

Bark: What does it mean for the dogs in Colorado when you bring dogs in from out of state? Or put another way, why shouldn’t regions take care of their own dogs?

Fox: I do think there will always be the need to transport some animals to safety. In the second half of 2009, Lisa and I will be working with our strong Midwest contacts to help them utilize the existing resources in their own communities. We will work with them to educate their local citizens on the benefits of sterilizing their pets, thereby reducing the number of unwanted litters and animals that will be euthanized in shelters.

What does it mean for the dogs in Colorado? The rescues that I talk to say shelters in Colorado are doing a good job of getting the dogs adopted. In the rural and remote areas, options for rescue and adoption are not very easy. If some dogs need transport instate from a rural area to a metro area, C.A.R.E. will help cover the cost of transport. Sadly, there are still dogs being euthanized in Colorado and Midwest shelters.
 
 

Mendelsberg: Each dog that we transport has a rescue commitment. Our network has dedicated individuals and organizations in Kansas, Missouri and Arkansas that work diligently to save the homeless animals in their area. The purpose of C.A.R.E. is taking a dog from a place where they have virtually no chance of being adopted and moving them to areas where they will go into rescues and have visibility and be placed correctly and hopefully permanently. We are just fortunate to have the resources in Colorado to help our neighboring states with their pet overpopulation.

Bark: Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the fact that there is this constant supply of dogs needing new homes?
Fox: I do feel that every day. You try to look at the good side rather than dwell on the bad. You think about the success stories and the wonderful new homes for these dogs that have come to Colorado rescues. Of course, you think about the ones you could not save, and then you start over working on obtaining rescue commitments for more homeless dogs.

Mendelsberg: Absolutely, I feel that we’re making a difference for the dogs we are able to save through our C.A.R.E. transports and Jake’s Fund distributions. However, basically what we are doing is just a Band-Aid for the overpopulation dilemma. We have learned that people must be educated on the necessity for sterilization and we are hoping our new C.A.R.E. brochure on spay/neuter will have some impact. We also are raising the awareness that people should adopt from shelters and rescues instead of buying from the pet stores. 

Bark: What other goals do you have for C.A.R.E.?
Fox & Mendelsberg: Our key focus besides transport and Jake’s Fund is to really work with our excellent rescue contacts in the Midwest and help them help themselves more than just relying on C.A.R.E. to move the homeless animals to Colorado. We will be working on setting up and helping to fund spay/neuter events. We will work with veterinarians in these areas to offer their local population affordable spay and neuter procedures. Last, we’re hoping our new spay/neuter brochure will debunk some of the myths on sterilization and make people realize the best thing they can do for their pets is to get them sterilized.
 
Bark: Does your work for C.A.R.E. take a lot of time?
Fox & Mendelsberg: C.A.R.E. is a team success. We’re the engines but we rely so much on good assessments of the dogs, our tireless drivers, and all the rescuers who take these dogs into their programs. Everybody is a hard worker and makes such a special effort to assure the safety and comfort of those travelling. It takes a community to save one of these dogs. To make this work, we need an army of people committed. It’s total cooperation among so many people who put the dog’s best interest and well being first.  Surely the Internet, digital cameras and cell phones have contributed to the rescue of countless animals from places where it would be hard for them to find a second chance at a real family life.
 
Why do we do this? We all love the dogs. It's not the dogs that are lucky; it’s the people who are getting the dogs that are lucky to have their lives so enriched. These animals have been through so much but they are so forgiving and so resilient. There is so much that can be learned from these wonderful rescue animals.  

 

C.A.R.E. is always looking for volunteers to help with driving, fundraising, and educating the public on the necessity for spay/neuter.

 

To learn more about C.A.R.E., see photos of dogs saved through transport, and find out how you can support them, visit www.caretransport.org. Donations can be made online at or by mail to C.A.R.E., 5276 South Hanover Way, Englewood, CO 80111.

News: Guest Posts
Are No-Kill Shelters the Solution?
Or are they “animal warehouses” as some critics claim?

A shelter in rural Shelby County, Kentucky, recently celebrated one year as a no-kill facility. This is no easy feat in any state, where thousands of dogs and cats are euthanized weekly for lack of homes. Making Shelby County Humane Society and Animal Shelter completely no kill was ten years in the making, according to Woodstock Animal Foundation founder Denise Jones. It required the support and cooperation of the local community, including farmers willing to serve as foster parents.  

When I was in high school, I volunteered at a no-kill shelter in my community. It seemed like a great way to help animals in need. Unfortunately, I came away from the experience wondering if no kill truly helped homeless dogs and cats or was simply a feel-good Band-Aid for the overwhelming problem of pet overpopulation.

On the one hand, animals were safe until adopted, but if they were not adopted quickly, it was not unusual for dogs and cats to live at the shelter for months, even years. Some no-kill shelters have a wonderful foster home program, so the dogs and cats live in homes until they are adopted. That’s fine. But what about the no-kill shelters whose animals are confined to kennels with concrete floors for months or even years at a time? What kind of quality of life is that? Some animals cannot handle the lack of mental and physical exercise and go kennel crazy, which ultimately makes them unadoptable, making the point of a no-kill shelter moot.

To help prevent animals from living out the rest of their lives in kennels, some no-kill shelters only accept those pets they believe to be adoptable. But what happens to the animals who are turned away? They are taken to kill shelters, which can’t cherry-pick which animals they accept, or the owner finds another way to “get rid of them.” (Interpret that as you will.) As a volunteer with several breed rescue groups over the years, we occasionally get desperate calls from owners who hope we’ll see some glimpse of our breed in their dog so they will be accepted into our rescue program, assuming we have room, which we rarely do. It’s absolutely heartbreaking.

I like no-kill shelters in theory, but not always in practice. Frankly, the no-kill shelter concept oversimplifies the pet overpopulation problem. Solving this requires a multi-tiered approach, which some no-kill shelters embrace. How do we encourage pet owners to spay/neuter their animals and take responsibility for them for a lifetime? How do we inspire people to actively help the homeless pets in their own community? How do we educate the next generation so that we can put all shelters out of business?   

News: Guest Posts
What Constitutes Cruelty?
Drawing the line between cruelty, neglect and ignorance...not so easy.

In April, I posted a blog about a new device designed to keep K9 cops from leaving their precious live cargo in hot cars. At the time, I was thinking this extra protection made sense since a police officer could easily be distracted on the job by life-and-death matters. But what's the excuse for an officer who leaves a dog in an SUV for more than 3 hours to attend a training session? The dog died. Didn't someone tell the officer about the dangers of leaving dogs in cars during his training?

 

The story isn't clear about the details and the officer is still subject to an internal investigation, but the incident raises interesting questions about what constitutes cruelty. Leaving a dog in a car on a warm day--cruelty, neglect or ignorance? Feeding a dog to the point of obesity--cruelty or ignorance? What about leaving a dog at home for long periods of time? How many dogs in a home is too many? Is it cruel to transport a dog in a car without proper restraint? What about an aging guardian who surrenders an old dog to a crowded shelter (where he's a longshot for adoption) because he or she can no longer take care of that animal? What do you call it if a dog is harmed because his guardian is trying to do right but is simply following bad advice? And what about differences in culture that make some acts OK in one place and time but not OK in another?

 

A story in the Spring 2009 Update from the Center for Companion Animal Health at UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine raises many of these questions and lots more. When I move beyond the obvious--dogfighting, physical abuse, starvation--and ponder each specific question, I realize how hard it is to draw a bright line. And I wonder, when lines are drawn--who should draw them? The Update poses some very real examples of well-meaning acts with unhealthy consequences, such as all-meat diets, and offers specific alternatives, but it leaves the larger ethical questions unresolved. These are for us to consider every day we share our lives with companion animals.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Rescue At A Shelter
Suspected cruelty case in Wisconsin.

Hundreds of animals, mostly dogs and horses, have been seized from the Thyme and Sage Ranch in Cazenovia Wisconsin in a suspected cruelty case. The facility is supposed to re-home and rehabilitate animals, but authorities are investigating charges of cruelty and neglect.

How could this happen at a place that is supposed to help and protect animals and then place them in loving homes?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Homeless Pups Find Help Behind Bars
Paws on Parole inmates and shelter dogs help each other out.

Prison inmates and shelter dogs both live behind bars in what is often a harsh and solitary environment. Now programs around the country are bringing the two together to foster responsibility and adoptability. 

Alachua County Animal Services’ Hilary Hynes was approached by the Florida Department of Corrections to start a prison dog program after hearing about the benefits of similar efforts in other areas. Three months ago Paws on Parole was born, matching inmates from the Gainesville CI Work Camp with dogs from the local animal shelter. The teams are supervised by dog trainers who teach the participants how to train their pups to pass the AKC Canine Good Citizen test. 

The dogs aren’t the only ones benefiting from Paws on Parole’s positive reinforcement. Similar programs have found that working with animals has led to a decrease in discipline problems. Hynes reports that Paws on Parole has changed the entire atmosphere of the work camp. “The confidence of the handlers is fantastic,” she says. “They’re eager to show off what they’ve taught their dogs and have asked for additional related reading material.”

I’m always amazed by the power of animals to inspire change and compassion. For inmates who often feel ostracized from the rest of society, programs such as Paws on Parole showcase the canine ability to love unconditionally. And what a great opportunity for the inmates to return that gratitude by helping the dogs.

If you’re in the North Central Florida area and are interested in adopting a Paws on Parole graduate, contact Hilary Hynes at Alachua County Animal Services, 352-264-6881. Visit this web site to locate a prison pups program near you.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Education Becomes More Humane
University of Cincinnati to stop using purpose-bred animals

The University of Cincinnati is a role model for other schools in choosing not to use purpose-bred animals for educational purposes. Dogs and cats, as well as other species of animals, have long been bred in horrendous conditions for profit. These animals have been used for surgeries and dissections to train each generation of veterinarians (as well as biologists and physicians), who go into the field, ironically enough, because of their great love for animals. Hopefully, many other institutions will follow UC’s example.

The use of animals bred in laboratories for students’ education has long been a controversial issue. One big issue is whether using such animals is morally acceptable. That question concerns whether or not there are equally good ways, such as videos or computer simulations, for students to learn the same information. This question is an interesting one because as much as I always hated dissections, there is no doubt that many students, including me, have learned a great deal from them—just not enough to make it worth it to me.

Another issue is whether other animals are available who were not bred for this purpose. For example, can veterinary students learn to spay and neuter shelter animals who require the procedure anyway?

As a high school student and as an undergraduate biology major, I participated in some really yucky dissections. By junior year, I realized that I wasn’t comfortable with the process. I made a big effort to avoid working on animals bred in labs and still complete my major. That is, I took plant physiology instead of animal physiology. I took a class on the biology of higher vascular plants instead of animal anatomy. And finally I took a class on marine algae instead of a class on neurology. All of these choices allowed me to avoid working with frogs, mice, sharks and cats either in dissection labs or in other ways, such as using internal electrodes to monitor these animals while alive.

If you have done dissections or surgeries as part of your education, was it worth it to you? Do you think students should be required to perform them, or should they have other options? Do you consider the source of the animals used in education to be important?
 

News: Editors
Holly and Kit Come Home
A cross-country rescue story

Sometimes, what drives us to make on-the-spot decisions, especially emotion-based decisions, is inexplicable. Take ours to adopt two pups from Kentucky, for example. We certainly weren’t looking for an addition to our two-dog household. Lola, our young German Wirehaired Pointer rescue, was progressing nicely in her training but still needed ongoing work, and our 16-year-old Terrier mix Lenny, while in good health, was starting to show and feel his age. Then, of course, there’s the magazine; publishing Bark keeps us pretty busy. But adopt two pups we did. This is how it happened.

The Adventure Begins
The email that started us on this journey arrived in my in-box on December 23, with the subject line: Black Wednesday of Death in Harrodsburg, KY—Please, Help! The message came from “James Painter,” who’s sent me numerous notices throughout the year. (I later learned that his daughter, Dawn, using her father’s email, is the energy behind what seems to be a one-person rescue effort focusing on Southern shelters.) How could I ignore that plea?

When I opened the email, I saw an out-of-focus photo of a pup’s face—a “baby” female Border Collie/Beagle who looked like a much smaller version of our dear departed Nell. Certainly I knew that this or any other pup wouldn’t be another Nell—she, like all dogs, had her own unique spirit and personality that made her irrefutably irreplaceable, and we never considered getting a substitute. But there was something about this pup’s face that struck my heart. I showed the photo and the plaintive appeal for quick action to Cameron, and we both knew that this little Kentucky girl would be ours.

I called the Mercer County Humane Society in Harrodsburg and learned from a very helpful shelter worker that the youngster wasn’t with them; he gave me the number for their rescue coordinator, Geri Sipe, and I phoned her the next day. By this time, it was Christmas Eve. Geri and I discussed my interest in possibly adopting Casey (as the puppy was called), and Geri said she would try to find out more about her. Turns out that not much more was known; even the pup’s breed mix was not all that clear. The mother was mostly Border Collie, but at 25 pounds, she was a small one—there was possibly some Terrier (Fox Terrier or JRT) in her mix—and the sire was probably a Beagle. Casey was being fostered by a very pregnant young woman who, among other things, had her hands full rescuing cats. Beyond that, solid facts were hard to pin down. But we had made the commitment, both to ourselves and to the humane society, that we would adopt her regardless of what we found out.

Even as I became more deeply involved in the process, I knew that this was far from an ideal—or even a “normal”—way to adopt a dog: We had little information about size or parentage, almost nothing about temperament and health, and no firsthand assessment at all. Offsetting this realization was my fortunate situation as the editor of Bark: I had access to compassionate experts whose assistance could be tapped into if the need arose. Bolstered by that, I felt I could handle whatever challenges the pup presented.

And, truth be told, I thought of sweet Nell, and how much she would have liked this “mini Nellie” pup! Shortly thereafter, Geri gave me the news that the five-and-a-half-month-old Casey was only six pounds and had a littermate sister who was a whopping seven pounds. They were so small—couldn’t I somehow bring them both to California? Please? How could I possibly refuse?

It Took a Village
Agreeing was easy. Getting them from Kentucky to California was another story. Though the shelter, like many others in the area, has active transport programs that take dogs north by the van-load to improve their adoption opportunities, it didn’t have direct experience in sending dogs west.

Geri is nothing if not resourceful, however. She suggested that I post on rescue message boards asking for truck drivers or pilots who could help ferry the girls, and told me about groups like Animal Rescue Flights and Pilots and Paws, fabulous organizations that fly adoptees to destinations around the country. I was amazed to learn about the many individuals and groups involved with transporting rescue dogs.

The problem was coordination—it takes a lot of it to get a dog across the country. Not only was our schedule tight, I was reluctant to use resources that others might need. Then I learned about the severe winter storm that was about to hit that area.

One of the things I had discovered was that the puppies were being housed outdoors, and storm or no storm, there was no chance they would be brought inside. And it was 15 degrees! Knowing that we had to act fast, I asked Geri to ask the fosterer to take the pups to a vet to be boarded, and told her that I would be responsible for the costs involved. There, they would not only be warm, but their health could also be evaluated and any issues addressed.

The girls spent 10 days at the Commonwealth Animal Hospital in Harrodsburg, where they were vaccinated, de-fleaed, wormed and spayed, but most importantly, kept safe, well-fed and warm thanks to the excellent care of Dr. Paul Bosse and his conscientious staff, who also took the first good photos of my girls.

In the meantime, I started making my own travel arrangements—I was going to bring the girls back myself. It was vital that the little dogs fly nonstop, and with January temperatures plunging, Atlanta seemed to be the best bet. After a lot of online research and calling around, I settled on Delta. Not only did the airline have nonstop flights between Atlanta and San Francisco, my dear friends Judy and Poul Jacobsen live in Atlanta and were more than willing to help out; they even offered to drive the seven hours north to Kentucky if need be. So that was one hurdle jumped.

A second hurdle was overcome when Geri put me in touch with her delightful pal Jeannie Oldham, an administrator at a local college, who has made numerous transporter trips as a volunteer with the humane society. In a flurry of emails, she and I made arrangements for her to drive the pups to Tennessee in her brand-new Subaru Outback, and I made a new friend. We settled on Saturday, January 24, with Knoxville as our rendezvous point; exactly where was another matter.

As luck would have it, Knoxville resident Gretchen Crawley had just submitted a winning photo of her dog Roxy to our smiling dog contest, so when I emailed her the good news about Roxy, I also asked if she had any ideas for a good meet-up place. She suggested I get in touch with Tim Adams, director of Knoxville’s Young-Williams Animal Center (the city and county’s animal care and control facility).

That turned out to be excellent advice. Not only was Tim more than willing to allow us to use the shelter, but he graciously offered to give me a tour of the new state-of-the-art facility, even though that Saturday would be a big and busy day for them as well. They were hosting an adoption fair sponsored by Hills and were expecting many potential adopters (indeed, the lines were forming as we drove up).

While we waited for Jeannie to arrive, Tim gave me the grand tour, and I quickly understood the magnitude of the challenges that he and his staff are confronted with in running a county shelter. It was both heartbreaking to see so many adoptable animals who would most likely not find a home even on that special day, and inspiring to see so many wonderful people devoted to helping them.

I was shown the operating room and top-of-the-line spay/neuter vans where vets were busy neutering animals. This was my first “behind the scenes” experience at a shelter, and it affected me deeply. I came away with heightened respect, bordering on awe, for shelter workers everywhere. How they can do it day in and day out, I don’t know. If you’re looking for everyday heroes, you’ll find them working in shelters across the country!

After the tour, it wasn’t long before Jeannie and her friend Lynne Cornish, who served as the “puppy love” copilot, pulled into the parking lot with the pups, whom we had renamed Holly and Kit, sitting quietly in a crate in the back of the car. No doubt stunned by the sudden turn of events in their young lives, they hadn’t made a peep (or even peed) during their first three-hour car ride. More travel awaited them—it would be another three hours before we got back to Atlanta to Judy and Poul’s house, and the next morning, it would be off to the airport for a very long flight to their new home.

Coming Home
I had never flown with animals before and felt a certain amount of trepidation. The trip home to California went smoothly enough, however. The Delta ground security and check-in crew were great; everyone gawked at the girls as we whizzed by with the sign on top of the crate alerting all to the very precious cargo within.

Because their combined weight was less than 20 pounds, they were able to travel in the same large crate in the pressurized cargo area. Thinking it was more likely to be on time, I had booked the first flight out, but a 45-minute delay almost sent me into a tizzy. A kind Delta representative paged me to assure me that all was well and that the pups were already loaded onto the plane (not out in the cold on the tarmac).

Once on board myself, I received further assurances and updates from the flight crew. When we were about to land, a flight attendant moved me up to first class, and as we taxied to the gate, she allowed me to go to the front of the plane. I was the first person out of the chute and performed what must have looked like a mad-woman sprint through the terminal to the arrival area.

Cameron was there to meet me, sporting a little “Puppies” sign like those of black-coated limo drivers. When we got to the baggage claim area, we were greatly relieved to see that the pups had been safely disembarked and were being watched over by a dog-loving Delta representative.

Holly and Kit seemed a little bleary-eyed but none the worse for their journey, which all told was more than eight hours long. I had been warned by friends with more experience in traveling with dogs that mishaps were likely during long trips, so I was prepared to clean them up, but the girls and their crate were sparkling clean.

Off we headed for another car ride. At the end of this one was their new home, complete with a welcoming committee of a big sister who was eager to introduce them to their new life and a grumpy old guy who wasn’t sure he needed new siblings.
*****
Stayed tuned for new chapters in this ongoing story. Here’s a quick one. It didn’t take long to realize that Holly and Kit were very timid and terribly undersocialized. We have been told by behaviorists with whom we’ve consulted, including Patricia McConnell, that their socialization process will probably take a long time. We hope that sharing what we learn can be of value to others—but more importantly, that the girls make the transition from shy pups to well-adjusted, confident dogs.
 

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