The Faces Of Rescue

 |  Apr 14th 2009  |   13 Contributions


On Dogster people post through their pup, that's how most get to know each other. I've had the pleasure of getting to know some of the people behind the dogs, and the stories they have shared are both inspirational and motivational.

I recently sent Manny , a cute German Shepherd/Collie mix, a message to let him know he had won a prize in a contest he entered. When I got a response back I met David Burnette, the man behind the dog. I don't recall exactly how we started talking about rescues, but we did, and the more he shared with me about the rescue work he's involved in the more I wanted to hear.

While I've always adopted rescues, I never really knew the behind the scenes story of what it takes to save just one dog. It's sort of like the saying about it taking a village to raise a child. Saving rescues happens when a group of individuals who don't know each other, may even live in different states, possibly have never spoken, put all else aside and come together for one cause. Saving the lives of innocent dogs.

I asked David if he would mind sharing some of his stories with us, he said yes. Before I begin I'd like to give you a little background information on him, he's no different than anyone out there, except that he took that first step to get started, to become a rescuer. He became involved in rescue shortly after adopting his first dog from AARF, a home based rescue group.

It started out some five years ago as "Just one afternoon holding out dogs at the adoption stand," launching a journey through rescue that is still evolving. Along the way, I have come across amazing people that make such effort to save just one, or over forty lives, that I can only shake my head in wonder. There are fabulous dogs needing rescue, some with stories that make you want to scream in frustration! I am honored to have a small role in rescue miracles others pull off weekly.

I am hoping that this will be the first of many articles to come sharing the stories and people behind the scenes of rescue. It would be great to have David share more of his stories to hopefully inspire others into action. I would also like to hear from other Dogsters who participate in rescue, be it working at a shelter or transport, to possibly initiate the butterfly effect. Our first story begins on a recent visit to the Nelson County SPCA.

Nelson is a rural county in Virginia that had only two claims to fame I was aware of. One, major flooding almost wiped it off the map during Hurricane Camille back in 1969. And two, Highway 29 which goes from other more important places, to other more important places, passes through it. That was all I could say about Nelson County until recently.

But Nelson now has a new claim to fame, its Almost Home Pet Adoption Center! Traveling through Nelson County recently (on US 29 of course), I happened to catch a glimpse of a sign that said; "SPCA Thrift Store". I had already passed the store by the time the sign registered on my mind, but fortunately a turnaround was just ahead, so I went back to see what this was about.

The Thrift was a humble affair outside, just a series of older buildings linked together by a common entrance way. But, inside was an impressive collection of donated materials. There was everything from clothing, skis, books and much more. I didn't ask if they had a kitchen sink, but wouldn't have been surprised to have stumbled across one. Yep, they had dog stuff.

Even though I had good directions, I almost drove past the shelter. It was a gray day with drizzle, and the sign was hard to read while zipping down the highway being chased by traffic and tractor trailer rigs. I would have turned back had I missed it, by now my curiosity was really up about this group.

There was the sign; "Almost Home Pet Adoption Center", and I pulled into the gravel lot next to a nice, new looking building. As I walked up, my very first impression wasn't the best, as I saw several dogs outside in small runs. But looking closer, each dog had a Dogloo and very fresh looking straw, even in the rain. Later in my visit, I saw these dogs were being switched out with indoor dogs regularly, allowing each a bit of quiet time and fresh air.

Entering the brightly lit office, I was cheerfully greeted by a volunteer. Cats were everywhere! There were cat towers with cats in the office, a couple of cat rooms, cats under my feet, you name it. While being swarmed by the cats, I explained to the volunteers, I was impressed by the Thrift effort and wanted to see what the store was supporting.

Hoping to spare a few minutes from my drive to get in some mid-week dog rescue, I asked if I could socialize with some of the dogs there. They happily agreed, but in order to be able to enter the runs there was paperwork to be filled out. In fact, I'm pretty sure I joined the SPCA of Nelson County! Cats ran across the paperwork as I filled in the blanks, so I could be mistaken. Finally, it was time to visit the dogs, and I was led through another swarm of cats to the kennel area.

As usual, opening the door to any occupied kennel results in bedlam, and this was no exception. A visitor is the second biggest event of the day for the dogs, surpassed only by the gloriousness that is feeding time. Over the noise, I asked what dogs could best benefit from the short time I expected to be there. The volunteer directed me to a run housing a pair of skittish hounds. She made sure I knew how to act around frightened dogs, and gave me some treats to encourage the dogs to interact with me.

Entering the indoor part of the kennel, I noticed the walls were painted with scenes inspired from living inside a home. I don't remember the details, but you can imagine free drawn tables, windows, plants and other things typically found indoors. Did the dogs appreciate the artwork? Maybe not, but I could see the love this extra touch for the animals demonstrated. The runs were clean too. Some mud because the dogs could come and go as they please during the wet day, but no poop! Another volunteer was even cleaning the mud up while I was there.

The hounds I was asked to visit never got over their fear. Nelson is a rural County, and these were most likely failed hunting dogs. What must they have gone through when they proved not to be proper hunting companions? It must have been bad. I squatted down, and gently threw treats across the room to them, while they both cowered on their bed, one visibly shaking. I tried three times. I would toss the treat, leave, and return to see the treat gone, but they never let me touch them, only quaked in fear at the very sight of me.

I wanted to touch one dog before leaving, and entered another run. There, a female hound enthusiastically mobbed me. She finally calmed down enough to where she was almost sitting and was rewarded with treats.

Her roommate was a male shepherd mix. He was very shy, but did show interest. He slowly came near while the female pawed all over me. I let him sniff quite a while before attempting to touch him, and back on the bed he went. Armed with more treats and still being continually mobbed by his rowdy roommate, I worked with the shepherd until finally he stayed near and allowed me to feather touch and pet him on the side. A small victory, but one hard earned.

It was time to go, and I reluctantly left the kennel area and the shepherd behind. Entering the office I was surprised to see it dark outside, and the volunteer placing the "Closed" sign on the door. Had I really spent a couple of hours there?

After a bit more time visiting with the volunteers, I tore myself away to head home in the rain and gloom. I said my good-byes to my new rescue friends, a proud member of the Nelson County SPCA, if only for a day.

Bette Grahame is the President of the Humane Society/SPCA of Nelson County, prior she served seven years as the volunteer coordinator for the Nelson Animal Control Facility, the kill shelter.

She went on to say over half the dogs were euthanized then, and how it often brought her to tears. The Almost Home Pet Adoption Center is a-dream-come true for Bette. This no-kill facility has been in operation for five years. Just this year, they saved almost a thousand lives, a major accomplishment anywhere, and especially in a rural area!

"A cumulatively large effect that a very small natural force may produce over a period of time," the Butterfly Effect. It has begun.

* Jasper and Shinner available for adoption at the SPCA of Nelson County

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