AGD on the Road: Stories, Faces, Heartbreak and Hope

Where to begin. My heart is so full and my body is exhausted and my soul is simply worn-through.

And we’re only on day three of this tour.

Can’t promise that this post will make complete sense as I’m writing this from the Comfort Inn in Lumberton, NC in an exhausted state with a thousand images and a million thoughts swirling through my mind.

Here’s the cliff notes of this week in my foster world:

Friday, right after I finished packing the van (a feat that took the entire day), Grits’ family came to meet him. Frankie (and I) will miss him, but he’s headed for a great life with his new family who were thrilled to take him home.

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My dear friend, Lisa and I took off on Saturday morning in a cargo van crammed to the ceiling with donations that included over a thousand pounds of dog kibble and over a thousand cans of dog food, plus cat food, cat litter, bleach, sheets, towels, blankets, cleaning supplies, collars, leashes, toys, and treats.

The generosity of my dog-hearted community is overwhelming. I have over a thousand dollars in donations and Amazon cards to buy supplies to send directly to the shelters. Because I’m visiting 8 shelters, in addition to a foster-based rescue OPH partners with, I’m waiting until I’ve seen it all to distribute those donations.

Over the weekend, we attended two book events where we hung out with adoptable dogs and OPH volunteers. On National Dog Day at the Barnes & Noble in Richmond, Homeboy came to sign books with me. It was such a treat to see her and she spent the entire event sleeping at my feet between signings. Her wonderful mama, Jennifer, was so gracious to drive her to Richmond and hang out for two hours while Homeboy (now Nahla) helped me sell books!

I met Scrooge, a very special sweet senior beagle who has been in foster care with OPH since March. He has a sponsor so that his adoption fee is only $50, plus his adopters will get $700 in reimbursement for medical care since he’s an older dog with old dog issues. I loved sharing treats with him and pray that someone special out there decides to take him home and give him the life he deserves.

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Billie Jean was adopted on Sunday. Nick had to handle the adoption since I was out of town on this trip. It hurts a bit that I didn’t get to tell her good-bye or meet her new family, but when I think about it in relation to all that I saw today, it seems minor. Still, we were so bonded that I worry that she is sad now and hope her adopters are patient with her as she makes the transition. What a special pup she is – I know someday soon I’ll be hearing about her happy new life.

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On Monday the hard part started. We visited Lenoir County SPCA where we met Helen, a tireless, resourceful, remarkable volunteer who dedicates every spare second of her time to saving the Lenoir dogs. As she introduced us to dog after dog, the twinkle in her eye gave away the love she has for every one of them, but her practical, knowledgeable words made it clear she knows exactly how hard her job is. Still she is hopeful and proud of how far they have come at Lenoir.

Lenoir takes in about 100 dogs a month and in August, they’ve adopted out only 3. That is the norm in this impoverished community. Most of the dogs only chance is to be pulled by a rescue, so Helen works her contacts and Facebook and the phones finding rescues who are willing to take dogs. She spends hours with all the dogs, evaluating them for behaviors and personality so that she can tell rescues as much as she knows about each dog.

The shelter director, Sherry, is smart and dedicated with an enormous heart and an easy smile. While we were touring the kennels, which are at capacity, the Animal Control Officer pulled in with two puppies she’d picked up. A little while later, a woman came to the shelter to turn in a cat and four kittens she’d found by the side of the road. The stream of need is endless at Lenoir, but Helen and Sherry, and the other workers are busy and dedicated to giving every animal its best chance. Here are a few of the faces we met:

I met Zilla, a big, sweet boy who is heartworm positive and has been at Lenoir since March. A male dog as big as he is with an obvious pitbullish relative and his heartworm status make it extremely hard to find a rescue to take him.

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But I lost my heart to a sweetheart pittbull named Vanna that I’ve got fingers crossed OPH will be able to pull. Vanna is an absolute lovebug who is even good with cats. I could have spent my entire afternoon, despite the oppressive heat just feeding her treats and rubbing her belly and then happily put her in the van and brought her along for the rest of the trip.

Seeing all the faces and not being able to offer anything but food and some supplies was frustrating. Helen and Sherry are working so very hard at a problem that only seems to grow. It’s like they’re shoveling sand as fast as they can trying to move an endless beach being constantly replenished by a vast ocean. I will do everything I can to support them and to spread the word, but it’s going to take MUCH more than my little shelter/book tour.

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Driving from Lenoir to A Shelter Friend, our next stop, we didn’t listen to a podcast or turn on music, we both sat with our own thoughts and watched the monotonous flat landscape of the rural south. I don’t know what Lisa was thinking, but I was trying to grasp the enormity of the problem. All those sweet faces we saw belong to good dogs. The story etched on the large, wide, scarred face of one large gray dog we met hurts my heart. Face after face still parades through my mind. So many pitbulls, some racing around their kennels, but many shut down, quiet, confused. I wanted to yell, “What is wrong with people?”

When we got to A Shelter Friend I finally met Silvia, a woman I’ve been hearing about for years. She’s a tiny, energetic woman whose heart has seen every awful thing people are capable of doing to a dog. She’s been in this business since before OPH existed and told me that the first time Jen (our founder) came to A Shelter Friend, she cleaned out their shelter, taking every dog.

Silvia walked us around the property and introduced us to dozens of dogs and cats. She knew every name, every story.

She paused to exchange kisses with some, ran her hand along the kennel of others, took me inside one kennel with a friendly little hound so that she could show me the chewproof dog houses that she desperately needs. They are metal and cost about $250. Many of her kennels are outdoor kennels. While North Carolina is probably not quite as cold as Pennsylvania, the dogs still need those shelters many months of the year. If she uses cheaper kennels, the dogs chew them and if the county inspectors see chew marks on a dog house, Silvia can be cited.

We met an elderly dog with sores and growths all over his body, his bones protruding, much of his hair gone, who smiled at us and was clearly thrilled to see Silvia. She told me that when his owners surrendered him to the shelter in Bladenboro, they adopted a kitten to take home instead.

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Several times during our tour, Silvia talked of the dogs she’d been able to pull that week from the shelter and mentioned that tomorrow (Tuesday) the shelter would be euthanizing dogs. It was clear that this broke her heart but it is the way of life in this poor county covered in tobacco fields and chicken farms.

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This is only the beginning, we have six more shelters to visit this week. It is hard and sad and deeply frustrating that all we can do is offer a few bags of food and some supplies which will likely be used up before we even finish our tour. What I wish I had more of is hope.  Hope that this situation will change. Hope that the message of spay and neuter will begin to gain traction. That people will not give up on dogs who never give up on us – even though we let them down again and again.

I don’t have answers, only words. So that’s what I’m using. If you’d like to help, visit the Another Good Dog facebook page and read about the needs and do what you can. If you’ve ever considered fostering dogs – stop considering and do it. Helen said again and again, “What many of these dogs need is just more time, but without rescues to take them, we can’t give that to them.” She and Sherry and Silvia are ready to do the work, if we could just give them the resources and the time to do it.

All day yesterday, in my mind, and sometimes outloud, I kept asking – what is wrong with people? I don’t know the answer to that question. But I do know that there is much that is right with people. The generosity that filled my van, the love that is so clear when Silvia or Helen or Sherry talked about the dogs in their care, and the efforts of OPH and all our fosters may seem insignificant against the enormity of this problem, but that is what is keeping the tide from rising any higher and with enough help, I am sure that someday soon, the tide will turn.

If you’d like to see the lists of what the shelters need and their mailing addresses so you can send them direct donations (or even a card of encouragement and thanks), visit the Another Good Dog facebook group. You’ll also be able to catch our LIVE videos and more pictures and stories of the tour.

Thanks for reading! I know it was a long one and I didn’t even tell you the half of it! Will try to post again later this week. It’s a lot to take in.

If you’d like to know more about my blogs and books, visit CaraWrites.com or subscribe to my monthly e-newsletter.

If you’d like to know more about the book, Another Good Dog: One Family and Fifty Foster Dogs, check out my new website, AnotherGoodDog.org, where you can find more pictures of the dogs from the book (and some of their happily-ever-after stories), information on fostering, event schedule, and more!

If you’d like to know how you can volunteer, foster, adopt or donate with OPH, click here.

And if you’d like more regular updates of foster dogs past and present and extra puppy pictures, be sure to join the Another Good Dog facebook group.

I love hearing from readers, so please feel free to comment here on the blog, email carasueachterberg@gmail.com or connect with me on Facebooktwitter, or Instagram.

Best,

Cara

Another Good Dog: One Family and Fifty Foster Dogs:

Published by Pegasus Books and available anywhere books are sold.

 

 

 

Published by

Cara Sue Achterberg

I am a writer, blogger, and occasional cowgirl who lives on a hillside farm in Southern York County, PA. You can find information about my books and all my writing adventures on my website CaraWrites.com.

8 thoughts on “AGD on the Road: Stories, Faces, Heartbreak and Hope”

  1. Parts of this post are haunting me. There is something very wrong and broken about a system where an animal can be relinquished (in neglected shape, to boot) and a different one adopted *by the same people.* I’m glad you are shining a light on this subject.

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    1. there is much that is heartbreaking, but it is also incredible to meet the people fighting the battle on the front lines against impossible obstacles and horrible people. They need us – in whatever way we can help.

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  2. Cara, thank you so much for raising awareness on this crisis in our nation. I know that the things that you are seeing are very hard on the soul. Hang in there my friend! What is happening is not okay and we need to do better for the animals that have been trusted in the care of our society. They can not change their own circumstances but WE CAN change it for them! For those following that want to volunteer to help and do something to make a difference in the lives of these precious animals and those who fight so hard on the front lines to save them, please go to our website and sign up to foster, volunteer, or adopt- especially if you want to foster Vanna…I would really love to bring this girl up! She looks like a great ambassador. https://ophrescue.org/

    Liked by 1 person

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