“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.