Interview with a Rescue Hero “Saving the Hounds from the Pound”

Stephen Michael Hamm and I met a bunch of years ago when my kids’ books about animal rescue first launched. Stephen has always been a “yes” guy. When I started an affiliate program he raised his hand and said “yes”, he would like for Sweetwater Valley Dog Rescue (SVDR) to participate.

The opening sentence on SVDR’s website is:

“Save the hounds from the pound is our one and only goal and priority.”

They specialize in rescuing hound dog breeds (especially Catahoula Hound Dogs), but they are not breed exclusive.  A couple of years ago, we had a phone conversation and he said something really wise about understanding the traits of any breed you are considering adopting.  I asked if I could quote him in my upcoming book, and as yes people do, he said “yes”.

You can find out what he shared in  What to Expect When Adopting a Dog. As you will learn here, he continues to be a “yes” guy and it looks like as long as there’s work to do, he will have his hand raised saying “I’ll do it.” I have tons of respect for Stephen and the work he does in Tennessee. Animal rescue in the South continues to be challenging and it takes a huge heart and a lot of hard work to do the job he does. Let’s see why he does what he does:

DRS: How did you get started in animal rescue?

SMH: In 2013 I was diagnosed with possible epilepsy or multiple sclerosis, which unfortunately required me to seek alternate methods of keeping myself busy and since I have always loved dogs this to me represented a prime opportunity to begin my own rescue.

DRS: How does your rescue work help both animals and people?

SMH: Sweetwater Valley Dog Rescue is dedicated to help the dogs within our small corner of East TN while also providing spay/neuter assistance thanks to a yearly spay/neuter grant provided by the state.

DRS: What is your relationship to animal rescue. Why you?

SMH: It is staggering the number of unwanted dogs that end up in shelters across this country and to me either you can sit on the sidelines waiting on someone else to step up or you can just go ahead and step up yourself.

DRS: Clearly, you stepped up! Can you tell us about your favorite pet?

SMH: My favorite pet is my trusted sidekick Diddy Bite-Cha he is a 4-year-old Catahoula Leopard Dog and is always by my side.

DRS: I love that name! I think I might need to rename my little dog.

Can you offer 3 professional tips from someone on the front lines in rescue that might be helpful to my readers?

SMH

1. Research the breed of dog before committing to anything to ensure you are ready, willing, and able to provide for the dog’s needs.

2. Ensure you never adopt out of emotion. Keep it realistic as to what you are willing to provide for the dog.

3. Make a list of questions to ask the shelter, rescue, individual, breeder, etc. as to details regarding the dog i.e. how did the dog end up with your rescue organization.

DRS: What’s next up for Sweetwater Valley Dog Rescue?

SMH: Always expansion. We now are able to help six county shelters in our area and we are looking to add others as time and resources permit.

DRS: Stephen- that’s incredible. Where can we learn more about you and your business?

SMH: Follow us on Facebook at Sweetwater Valley Dog Rescue or our website

www.sweetwatervalleyrescue.com

DRS: Is there anything else you would like for people to know about animal rescue or what they can do to make a difference?

SMH: We are committed to helping the dogs in need within our immediate area of East TN. Our hope is one day we won’t have to but until then we are here and will remain. Also remember if everyone would consider volunteering, fostering, donating, sharing information, etc. we could change the mindset of animal treatment in this country literally overnight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canine Commandos: Meet the Founder!

Welcome to my new interview series. Over the coming weeks I will be introducing you to giant-hearted women and men who are leaders in so many areas of the pet and animal rescue industries. They have all contributed in some way to What to Expect When Adopting a Dog and I’m delighted for you to get to know them a little better here. Without further ado…

I had the great good fortune of meeting Virginia Hamilton at the Women in the Pet Industry annual conference a few years ago. We hit it off immediately given our shared love for animals and humane education.  In addition to being a public school teacher of gifted children, she founded Canine Commandos, an organization that guides students to teach basic obedience skills to shelter dogs, helping make the dogs more adoptable and providing the students with memorable hands-on life skills as well as academic gains through reflective classroom projects. I loved interviewing Virginia because as many times as we’ve connected in person or online, I never heard her whole story. It’s awesome. Plus, she shares some fabulous tips for getting acquainted with and training a new dog. Enjoy!

DRS: How did Canine Commandos come to be?

VH: As a teacher of gifted students, we required the students to engage in community service.
We did the canned food drives and collections for homeless human shelters, but I wanted to find something that was memorable and sustainable; something that would get the kids excited! I was watching Animal Planet channel when a dog obedience trainer stated that the public overlooks many shelter dogs for adoption due to lack of training. With basic command training for minutes a day, he said we could improve the behaviors helping the shelter dogs find new homes. I knew that this was a win-win since our county shelter was a kill shelter and this is something we could do to help improve our community.

DRS: And you didn’t just sit with that information- you took action, Virginia! How does your business help both animals and people?

VH: Shelter dogs receive up to two hours of human bonding with our elementary students through hands-on training, kennel clicker training, and reading to the dogs and cats. Not only do the animals receive much-needed attention, but the students learn C.H.E.C.K. (compassion, humanity (my favorite word), empathy, caring, kindness). The students learn that it is important to give back to the community and put someone else’s needs before their own.

DRS:  That’s really beautiful. We know it makes a difference too!
What was your original connection with animal rescue.?

VH: I have been volunteering at our county’s shelter since 2003 which is no longer a kill-shelter since our sheriff recently took it over; we have more than a 95% live release rate.  Since Canine Commando’s first grant in 2008, we started training at the Humane Society and the SPCA. I started volunteering in the community with an organization called B.A.R.C. (Brevardians Against Racing Canines), but our organization lost that battle. I then joined Brevard Aiding SpaceCoast Project, Inc as their Education Director supporting spay/neuter of pit bulls. Canine Commandos formed before joining Brevard ASAP but due to ASAP’s encouragement to provide humane education in the schools, I formed Aim Humane where teachers can bus to the shelter to read to the dogs or check out class sets to teach in the classroom with ready-made lesson plans.

DRS: I love that you have multiple ways for students to get involved including training and educational options. Do you have a favorite pet or animal story?

VH: Yes, many, but I will share a particular story about “Johnny.” As you know, most of the animals in the shelters are “pit bulls.”  I put pit bulls in quotes because these dogs don’t follow the “don’t judge a book by its cover” attitude. We can thank media stories for the plight of this breed which has proven to be the best dogs we train. So, getting back to the question, one Commando noticed this breed throughout the shelter and learned why so many were without homes. The numbers of pit bulls upset him. After school, he went straight to his grandfather’s home and pleaded to neuter his pitbull explaining what he had learned. The grandfather neutered his dog. Providing humane education should be implemented in our schools. Reaching our youngest to make changes in our world is valuable.

DRS: I hear stories like that all the time. I know I learn so much from my kids when they come home from school. It makes perfect sense for our kids to learn about this stuff too. Can you offer any professional tips to my readers?

VH:

1. Learn animal body language. If we choose a dog to train who has its tail between its legs, we won’t allow the students to train her for fear of a bite. With socializing cats, the students are not allowed to bother the cat if it is in a kitty condo as this may be a sign that the cat wants alone.

2. When training a dog, make sure she masters the “watch me” command before teaching any other commands. Just like a teacher in a classroom calls on a student for eye contact to get a concept across, so does the dog need to give her full attention.

3. Don’t immediately start training the dog. Let the dog get comfortable with the new people in her life. Give her treats freely. Talk to her softly. Pet her gently (do not put your face close to hers). Then once she shows how happy she is, start training.

DRS:  Great tips, Virginia. And of course, when in doubt, always consult a professional.

What’s next up for you and Canine Commandos?

VH: Canine Commandos just become a nonprofit, 501c3, in 2017. This move allows us to accept funds through any means possible since school districts have certain guidelines and allowances. We are hoping to expand to other districts and nationwide. Still looking for our “Hairy Dogmother” to help make this dream come true.

DRS: I love it! Where might any Hairy Dogmothers reading this learn more about you and Canine Commandos?

VH: Please visit www.CanineCommandos.org.

DRS: Is there anything else you would like for people to know?

VH: Can you imagine the changes kids can make in a shelter animal’s life? The bond is like no other, like peanut butter and jelly. Both child and animal benefit. A reflective experience for the child and a new home for the animal.

 

Teens and Animal Shelter Team Up

The Santa Monica Public Library Teen Council endeavors to get teens involved in
the community via the library, giving teens a voice and empowering them through involvement.

Local teens, along with librarian mentors, publicize and sponsor programs (among other activities) of interest to teens. Last spring, they expressed interest in hosting a program with the Santa Monica Animal Shelter. It took a few months to pull all of the pieces together, as most events do. Leading up to the event, the Teen Council sponsored a pet supply drive collecting food and comfort items that could be donated to the shelter.

Then came the big day. Animal Control arrived with a portable double sized crate with 8-week old kittens and a bulldog named Benson. The kittens were ready to play from the minute they arrived and Benson wanted to love on everyone.

Whether or not library-goers were there specifically for the event, they were greeted by an ecstatic bulldog at the entrance. In the corner, the teens hosted cat and dog toy crafts creating. Kids were delighted at the prospect of doing an art project that helped the puppies and kitties.

And I was invited to speak about “What to Expect When Adopting a Dog” during the event as well!

What I loved most about the program is that it was an interactive yet safe way for kids and teens to learn about animals and the shelter, volunteer, participate, and give back. It brought the shelter out into the community in a welcoming environment raising awareness and spirits.

Finally… drumroll please… Benson found a fabulous home, and judging by all the loving the kittens got, they are going to have a new family soon too!

Harvey and Irma- Who’s Helping the Animals? Part 2

Welcome back. (Please visit Part 1, originally posted on September 18, 2017)

Now for some good news: Remember Kat and her flooded out shelter? Here’s a photo of her reuniting with the dogs!

There are still major Harvey animal rescue efforts happening as I write this, weeks after the storm. Just this morning I received an email from City Dogs Rescue in DC that they were preparing to receive 10 Houston dogs that were on transport now. They need funds of course to support these new dogs.

And an organization based in Los Angeles, Operation Blankets of Love which usually collects and donates comfort items and food to shelter dogs in LA donated and transported tons of food and crates to hurricane efforts.

Meanwhile, just as Harvey started to quiet down, Irma became the big news and set her sights on the Carribean and Florida. As we all saw, the Carribean was just brutalized as were parts of Florida.

In Florida, many organizations were able to evacuate their animals ahead of the storm. The New York Times reported about flamingoes, dolphins, and pigs that were all moved to safer ground!

Many of the animals on the Caribbean islands were left behind and private parties are either making efforts to rescue them, or there are some smaller rescue groups doing the best they can. But man it breaks my heart when people evacuate without their pets and don’t make an effort to return.

While there are thousands of more stories to share, I’ll end with this one. As mentioned in part 1, my mom lives in Florida. Her friend, Lisa, and Lisa’s husband, Bob, evacuated with their dog further from the water for safety. Well, they were safe, but in the chaos of the storm, their dog Donovan got spooked and bolted.

Donovan was missing for 24 hours and while many people saw him, no one could get close enough to grab him. Finally, a kind man was able to scoop him up, call Lisa and return Donovan safely. It turns out, the man used to be the president of the Lakewood Ranch Humane Society! He just can’t help but keep on saving dogs in need.

If you are looking for ways to help the animals but just haven’t yet, any of the organizations listed here (plus many many more!) can use your financial assistance.

p.s. If you are wondering how you might help people still in need after Irma, I received this (now excerpted) information from a people organization called Ultraviolet:

1. The Florida community is encouraging folks outside Florida to donate to the Hurricane Irma Community Recovery Fund.

2. Islands in the Caribbean, including U.S. territories, are in desperate need of help. You can give through Global Giving, as recommended by the New York Times. After ensuring emergency response is covered, this fund will shift to longer-term reconstruction.

3. You can also support women living in temporary shelters by donating to Support the Girls. They provide pads, tampons, and other feminine hygiene products, so women don’t have to choose between their personal health and their next meal.

Harvey and Irma- Who’s helping the animals? Part 1

I was all set to share what the “helpers” were doing after Hurricane Harvey when Irma set her sights on Florida. Then it got personal because she was heading straight toward MY PARENTS!

So I stepped away from writing and watched Irma’s path until I knew my folks were safe. They are fine and super lucky and never lost power. And now I have even more to share.

It seems so long ago that Harvey hit but I’m still moved by how people and organizations mobilized (and continue to mobilize) to help both people and animals. I get regular communication from a number of organizations and here’s how I see them helping:

Network for Animals sent out a plea for funding because they were sending funds to Houston. I was moved to help them
because they were acting quickly. Here’s a photo that they shared:

Next, Second Chance Rescue, a rescue organization based in NYC, blasted out an email because one of their Houston partners (remember my blog about animals in the south that get transported to rescue groups in northern states where there are more adopters for them?) was forced to evacuate WITHOUT their dogs! This is an excerpt:

“We won’t leave the dogs so need help getting them out by boat. We need temporary places for them to stay as well. We will need about 20 more large crates…

…THE BOATS HAVE TURNED AROUND AND WE NEED MORE BOATS. Three of our own dogs are there and 27 other cats and dogs are still left on the compound! Not to mention 100 dogs that are out in the fields and need rescuing. Our partners have lost everything. Boats arrived and then turned around once they heard they were saving cats and dogs!!!!!”

Here’s a photo of their flooded compound.

Then, the woman in charge of the Houston facility… “Kat has been forcibly removed from the property, and the emergency crew would not take the rest of the dogs. These dogs will not survive unless we get the word out now. Mcbeth, our dog, is one of those 30 dogs and Harlin is out in the field in the crate. Emergency personnel is threatening to turn every dog loose. This is it.”

Well, this was all posted on their FB page and within minutes there were hundreds of offers to help. More about them later…

Larger organizations that I support, like the Humane Society of the US and Best Friends Animal Society, mobilized and have been sending regular updates. This is one of the many videos showcasing the amazing work they have been doing.

So all of this sounds good and I do believe that (most) everyone is doing the best they know how with the resources they have in a crisis situation. But there are a few issues at hand. Here’s some background: Some of the shelters were transporting dogs that were already in their care out of state ahead of the storm. Houston has a huge dog overpopulation problem and there are many rescue groups out of state that partner with the shelters, (especially during a crisis) and take in dogs leaving more room for the dogs newly homeless from the storm. They continued exporting dogs as the crisis continued.

One of my Chicago based colleagues is fostering a dog from Houston. Foster families are needed now more than ever. If you are in the Chicago area and able to foster, contact The Anti-Cruelty Society. Rescue groups around the country also need fosters.

Best Friends was interviewed and while trying not to criticize some of the rescue efforts they were involved with, they did share the following:  Some people who evacuated the rising waters with their pets were told that the dogs would be sheltered but they couldn’t stay with them. So people were sleeping under cars, or in fields etc. while their dogs were being cared for. My understanding is that some of these dogs were then transported and rehomed out of state. (Could this be?) Hopefully not the ones whose pet parents were keeping an eye on them. Yikes! How are these dogs going to be reunited with their original owner? Certainly not easily.

Another criticism that the spokesperson from Best Friends had was that while Hurricane Katrina taught us many lessons about animal rescue in a crisis, many of the lessons hadn’t carried over to Hurricane Harvey. There seemed to be a serious lack of communication.

Tune in tomorrow for Part 2 and some great news and reunion photos!

Humane Education: Nantucket Island Style

A few weeks ago, in preparation for my trip to Nantucket for my brother’s wedding, I contacted the local shelter on the island inquiring whether they had any humane education camps going on, or might be interested in me doing an author visit around my non fiction book, What to Expect When Adopting a Dog.

Susan at Nantucket Island Safe Harbor for Animals (NISHA) contacted me back immediately letting me know that they were interested in putting together an event.

They have a lovely humane education department and invited me to do a reading of my kids books. The original plan, weather permitting was to do it out on the lawn, but then the rains came and we went back and forth between doing it in a tiny room inside, or taking our chances and setting up some chairs outside under the eaves.

It was a small but lovely event. A few small children attended, along with a half dozen tweens and teens who are mentees in the volunteer humane ed program. I was treated to a tour of the shelter as well as a little background about their history. NISHA is a mostly foster-based organization, which is wonderful because the dogs in their care get socialized helping them to become more adoptable.

NISHA is currently home to many cats that live at the shelter with only two Coon Hound dogs taking up residence there. The rest of the dogs are either being fostered, or are being fostered with the intent to being adopted by that family!

NISHA is also fabulous in that they receive dogs that are transported from overcrowded shelters in the South. (You can read either of my blogs about Rescue Road, or START to learn more about organizations that transport animals to safety in states and towns that have families ready to adopt them).

I loved reading my books to the kids and doing a short interactive care and safety presentation. I usually use a stuffed dog for the interactive portion, but Gwen, NISHA’s rescued dog ambassador was super helpful for teaching the kids how to safely approach a dog.

Thank you, Susan and NISHA for the amazing work you do to help animals and people on Nantucket and beyond!

Putting a little PEP in your Pet Education!

I love reading my kids books and doing my short interactive presentations. It’s what I do, and I can only hope that at least some of the time it has an impact.

But I’ve gotta admit, when I learned about The Pet Education Project and saw how they are engaging kids kinesthetically, I got really excited.

So I’m sharing!

Check out how Erica Callais Falbaum, the founder, dresses up as a superhero and really engages the kids.  Do you remember being a kid and learning because you actually engaged in a physical activity that reinforced the learning?

That type of learning isn’t just for kids. It still works that way… at least for me and other kinesthetic learners. I’ll bet that the kids in her classes go home and talk about their experience and what they’ve learned for days, if not weeks. It becomes a part of them. And that’s exactly the point. How best can we educate kids and encourage compassion and compassionate choices? The bonus is the kids are having fun while learning.

When I was a kid I remembered the guest speakers, assemblies, and field trips more than I remembered the class work. I’m confident I’m not alone because these fun and interactive experiences are what stand out.

I’m super impressed with The Pet Education Project and hope that it continues to thrive and make a difference. Erica has created an amazing program and her energy is infectious.

Check them out and see if they can be helpful to a group of kids you work with.

We need superheroes today more than ever before and I love that we have a real live humane super hero walking on earth with us.

Most Insane Holiday Ever

Alert: This blog is a rant (not my usual tone.)

Maybe this wasn’t the worst holiday EVER, but it was brutal.

I’ve traditionally enjoyed July 4th– especially a good fireworks show. Parades and parties and a little bit of patriotism.  For the most part, I’m a fun loving gal (and we did go to a block party for a bit that was fun), but having dogs has changed my outlook on the holiday- or at least the way it is celebrated. And this year sent me into a tailspin.

There are dozens of blogs and safety sheets about keeping your pets safe during the fireworks. But what about keeping them sane?

I live in Los Angeles where the fireworks begin DAYS before July 4th. If the noise just lasted for the 20 minutes during a fireworks show, it would all be manageable. But it doesn’t end there. Individuals obtain fireworks and light them off ALL NIGHT LONG. And each time they do, my big dog, Ninja goes bananas.

This year, on July 4th, we could hear explosions all over the city for hours and hours and hours beyond the end of the fireworks display. And I mean explosions. At 12:30 am my son came into my room and said, “I think we’re getting bombed.” In my semi-coma I replied, “It sure does sound like it, but I think it’s just fireworks. Try to go back to bed.” Ninja was barking the entire time- from 9 pm until 12:30 am.  Hence the semi-coma.

My husband gallantly hugged Ninja at the foot of the bed to act like a human Thundershirt for the remainder of the night. Well, whatever remainder there was. The explosions started up again at 4:30 am.

And now, days after July 4th, I suppose people still had a few fireworks left, so why not set them off… Ugh.  It’s not as bad anymore, but it’s still happening.

I remember a few years ago, we walked up the street to watch our local fireworks. The dogs were safely in crates for the 30 minutes we’d be out. When the first fireworks boomed into the sky, the birds all scattered and were silent. They must have been terrified. It made me sad.

And then this year, I noticed no birds singing all night long. (Remember, I was up for most of it). There was so much tension. Everyone I spoke with this week, especially pet parents had a similar experience and felt it was way worse than years past. It was all just over the top.

So for next year, we are going to a pet-friendly resort in a town that has fireworks that end at a decent hour. I’ve already scoped it out. A pet-friendly hotel, at a dog-friendly beach, away from the fray. Sounds much better to me. My dogs love the beach and never get to go because it’s illegal in my part of Los Angeles, so it will be a win-win for everyone and maybe we’ll all get some sleep too.

Going to alert my dog sitter now that next year she will be house sitting. No doggies, just a house!

The Dog Days of Summer Camp

Don’t you just love summer?

Are you the kind of family that loves the long warm summer days at home… kids sleeping late, or at camp during the day? Maybe a few trips to the lake or beach?  Or do you love getting far away from it all? Do you prefer a relaxing sitting by the pool kind of vacation? Or are you more of the adventure seeking type? Or a mix?

And- have you ever been on a vacation or even a staycation (the vacation where you stay at home) that gives back to the community or to our planet?

Here are some great ideas for you animal-loving families.

Let’s start with the staycation. School is out, kids need something to do for at least part of the time. They love animals, you love the idea of them getting a humane education year round. But of course, we want it to be fun, right?

Did you know that many animal shelters offer summer camp weeks?

If you are staying close to home, it’s a fabulous option.

Shelters offer kids camps with activities ranging from arts and crafts projects, to reading, guest speakers,  scavenger hunts, puzzles, and some offer hands-on work with shelter animals. Perhaps they do a little dog training, some outdoor activities, and socializing with shelter animals.  I just learned that some groups either have a veterinarian on staff or bring one in to camp to show kids how to suture after a spay and neuter procedure (using a banana!) and in some instances, kids can even watch a real procedure (having a signed waiver from their parents of course and age appropriate).

The kids are having fun while learning!

Next, what if you are going for an extended stay somewhere and want to get to know the area. Let’s say you are visiting Kauai, Hawaii (lucky you!). Your children can join the Kauai Humane Society Critter Camps and do all of this in Hawaii. At Kauai Humane, the kids get to do a mock surgery with a stuffed dog and the “Critters” put on gloves and cute animal masks and pretend to be the Vet and the Vet techs. They usually find a toy that the dog has swallowed or chocolate. Their imaginations go beyond!

The kids are engaged, having fun all while learning.

This frees you up to have a little bit of adult time exploring, AND, if you are itching to give back while traveling (yay you!) one of the most popular programs at Kauai Humane is the “Take A Dog Out For A Day ” or Field Trip program. People come in and pick out a dog to take out for the day. They can take them on hikes or the beach, or even just for a ride to the mall or their home for a few hours.

The dogs get more exposure because they wear an “adopt me” vest and many tourists end up adopting and taking the dogs home to the mainland!

What a great way to be on vacation and get to be a part of the local humane experience. You get your “doggie fix” while exploring the local area while giving back to the dogs and ultimately the community.

Sign me up!

If you recall my visit to Best Friends Animal Society two years ago, I was able to have a sleepover with a dog.

I love learning that other organizations are also allowing dogs to go out on hikes, get some socialization and who knows, might become your newest family member.

A few organizations that I know of running summer camps this summer are:

New Hampshire SPCA

Humane Society of Charles County Maryland

Humane Society of Truckee- Tahoe California

Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando, Florida

Potter League for Animals- Middletown, RI

Lollypop Farm Summer Camp- Rochester, NY

Valley Humane Critter Camp- Pleasanton, CA

Let me know how you plan to spend your dog days of summer!

START Your Day with Heroic Dog Rescuers

You know how sometimes we see cute images of animals online and then click to see the photo, or watch a video. And other times, especially for those of us involved in animal rescue, we see images that are harder to look at. Sometimes those images are graphic and gratuitous.

But they are telling a story.

The truth is, day in and day out there are thousands upon thousands of animals in various situations ranging from “Geez, I could use a good home” to dire.

I work with many rescue groups and shelters that help all those cases and many more in between.

One of my favorite groups is called Shelter Transport Animal Rescue Team (S.T.A.R.T). START does two things: 1) Animals are rescued from high kill shelters in Southern and Central California and transported to Pacific Northwest rescue organizations where they are rehomed.

2) START funds veterinary clinics in local communities to facilitate no/low-cost spay/neuter services in the hopes of reducing unwanted births and fewer intakes at the already overcrowded animal shelters.

Pretty cool, huh? AND… as of this writing, 8359 animals have been transported by START!

What I specifically love about START is how they interact with their supporters.

They regularly send out beautiful emails sharing photos of a dog or dogs at the shelter (the “before” photos), letting us know a bit about their backstory.  Seeing an animal suffering is hard. And yes, some stories are sadder than others. But all the dogs need good homes.

Supporters know that START does great work and they make donations so that START can rescue the dogs from the shelter situation. Once the dogs are safe, they go stay at Aunty Sandy’s- a boarding facility run by a woman with the biggest of big hearts.

Aunty Sandy showers them with love and affection and assists in tending to any veterinary needs.

When the dogs are ready, they are either lovingly placed on transport or some are adopted locally.

Sometimes, dogs are pulled from the shelter because they only have a few days or weeks left to live and START and Aunty Sandy make sure they know they are loved for at least that time.

Then comes my favorite part. START sends out a follow-up email with the “after” photos. We see smiling dogs, dogs with treats and balls and friends and families. START is clever and writes a wonderful and entertaining follow up note, often in the voice of the happy-to-be-safe dog.

I cheer and smile and cry happy tears for the dogs and give thanks for all of START’s efforts.

This month, START was kind enough to share What to Expect When Adopting a Dog in their fabulous newsletter. As a thank you, I’m making an extra donation to them at the end of May. (So if you haven’t purchased a copy yet, doing so now will help them out!)

There is so much more good stuff to share about START, so why don’t you head over to their website and check it out. You can subscribe to their newsletter and watch the beautiful stories of dogs they save week in and week out.  And while you are there, consider making a donation- big or small- they all help.

Thank you START for the amazing work you do to help animals, and sharing it with us in such a constructive and loving way.