Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Abandonment Issues

Sleepy surprise at the barn.

We're located in a very rural part of Mississippi and don't publicize our location. Of course, because we've been in this same location for the last 16 years, most everyone knows where we are. Still we try to maintain a low profile to minimize random animal drop-offs. I say minimize because without fail several times a month we have animals show up that have either been tossed over our fence or abandoned somewhere in the immediate area.

The best case scenario with animals abandoned in the vicinity of Hope Sanctuary is they wander up and we take them in, hoping to get them on a future transport. The worst case is they wander off in another direction and never make it in. We've had more heartbreaking cases than we care to recount over the years of animals abandoned nearby. Sometimes even with animals that wander in to Hope Sanctuary, there's an unhappy ending. A recent example comes to mind of a litter of kittens that someone dumped. A couple of the kittens, maybe 4 weeks old, wandered into runs where dogs were not expecting them, resulting in the death of those kittens before we could help them. Absolutely heartbreaking.

Elizabeth comforts Lotus.

Of course the other problem with someone just abandoning an animal here is we aren't expecting that animal and we have to scramble to find a place for them. This time of the year it's particularly difficult because we are always full, usually with litters of puppies and kittens which demand most of our time.

Still very skittish, but coming around.

This past week, we had a couple of new dogs show up one morning. Obviously abandoned, clearly neglected and malnourished, Jasmine and Lotus are just as sweet as they can be. Of course we're at capacity, so for now they'll stay at the barn where we first discovered them, but we'll get them medical treatment, spayed and they will be well fed, loved and cared for. They've already won over our hearts.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Winona, MS Pound Rescue

Lauren with Hendrix and Joplin who were
rescued from the Winona, MS Pound.

A friend of Lauren’s called her to report that the Winona Pound was over-crowded and a paralyzed dog was dragging herself through the waste in her run. Lauren headed straight for the Pound to check it out. Upon arriving, Lauren called me and confirmed the conditions - she was clearly very upset. It was evening and Charlie, the closest thing Winona has to an Animal Control Officer, was off duty, so it would be the next morning before we could do anything. The next morning we headed straight for the pound after caring for our pups.

Charlie, the Animal Control Officer
at the Pound, with Joplin and Crosby.

We've worked with the Charlie for several years and have helped inspire the formation of a humane society that’s planning fundraisers to build a proper shelter. In the meantime, dogs are impounded in the deplorable conditions of the open-air kennel. Faucets run continuously, keeping the cement runs wet. Large and small dogs are crowded together. While county jail inmates are deployed to clean the pens, the number of dogs and infrequency of cleaning means the dogs are surrounded constantly by feces and wasted food. There’s only one sleeping compartment for each run, which are made from sections of road culvert and are not large enough to accommodate multiple dogs. Dogs aren’t inoculated or wormed, nor do they receive medical attention, even those beyond recovery.

Doll removing Belle from the Pound and some of Belle's injuries.

On this morning we found a female dog, Belle, who had obviously been hit by a car. Her back end was paralyzed and had open, untreated wounds from the impact. Charlie confirmed that she had been there several days in this condition. We also found a momma dog with a litter of puppies, a single puppy in another run and several more adults. All of whom we took. We only left two dogs that were in together and were clearly well cared for, handsome dogs. We contacted the editor of the Winona Times, who is also president of the humane society. I asked her to get a story in the paper featuring these dogs on how to find your missing dog. We'll check back in to make sure these dogs are looked after and don't fall through the cracks.

Unfortunately, Belle was confirmed by the vet to be hopelessly paralyzed and suffered internal injuries that she would not recover from. Charlie asked that she be euthanized, and without hope for her recovery we had no other choice. The other dogs will be altered tomorrow and have been wormed and given their shots.

We realize we can't save them all, but we always do our absolute best and at least this group is not suffering any longer at the Winona Pound.

Doll cradles Tammy before placing her
in the van for the trip to Project Hope.


Monday, March 9, 2009


from Doll

Phoenix’s story is as amazing as it is moving. On March 6, 2008 Mississippi State University’s veterinary student team, dubbed the “Fix ‘em Team”, was winding up their day of spaying and neutering the rescued dogs at Project Hope Sanctuary. Under the leadership and guidance of Dr. Phil Bushby, Professor of Animal Health and Ethics, third year veterinary students receive training and experience in surgery through spaying and neutering shelter animals. Occasionally they also perform other surgeries that they must become familiar with.

The MSU team was completing their sanitation of surgery tables and cages and the Project Hope staff was unloading the last of the dogs and cats to be returned to their quarters to recover when Project Hope supporter Cecil Kirk whipped his jeep in behind the mobile spay unit. Sensing there was an emergency, Project Hope staff joined Cecil at the rear of his vehicle. As he opened the rear door a long eye-lashed puppy who looked as if she’d been rolled over by a vehicle peered back at examining eyes. It looked as if this little dog had severe road burn. Cecil thought she’d been attacked by coyotes.

Some of Phoenix's injuries.

The little dog was rushed into the mobile unit and Dr. Bushby went right to work on her. After shaving her just a bit he announced that it wasn’t road burn she suffered from - she’d been scalded. Within minutes her wounds were fully exposed and there was no mistaking it, boiling water had been poured on her head, rolling down around her ears and down her back and around her sides. She had to have been positioned with her feet on the person who, without question, intentionally poured the scalding water on her. Had it been another liquid, such as oil, or some chemical, a evidence of the substance would have remained.

Dr. Bushby finished shaving away the hair around the burned area and removed the hanging and decaying skin. This little girl had suffered her torture perhaps days earlier. How she’d survived the initial injury and shock is amazing. Infection hadn’t yet set in.

Dr. Bushby and team prepare Phoenix for treatment.

She was cared for by me until her recovery and adoption. I almost immediately named her Phoenix. Phoenix’s first night was horrid - even with a pain reliever she moaned and whined the entire night.

The first days were tough on Phoenix, but her sweet little spirit was undaunted. She nosed the dogs that shared the staff quarters with and greeted staff with soft little kisses and wet nose nudges. It would be awhile before she was healed enough to venture off the porch.

As Phoenix’s horribly burned body healed the skin surrounding the deeper burns began to pull. Any little bump evoked a cry. Her first shot was an ordeal. Because her skin was thickened and scarred the needle couldn’t easily penetrate. Precious little Phoenix screamed and struggled in terror of experiencing more pain. While she may not have realized this human had intentionally caused her suffering, she was acutely aware of the pain she’d endured and she wanted no part of anymore of it.

This little darling pup had been scalded and then transported and dumped on a rural road with few residences. It was quickly established that she wasn’t the companion of any of the residents. Project Hope sanctuary’s mother organization, In Defense of Animals, offered a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the torture of Phoenix. So far the perpetrator hasn’t been caught.

When young perpetrators act out their disrespect for life they usually brag. Vengeful adults who act in fits of aggravated anger are usually wise to the need for relishing their satisfaction in silence.

Phoenix on the road to recovery.

When IDA members and the public learned of the dastardly torture of Phoenix adoption offers poured in. We realized that the offers were well intentioned, but were inspired by sympathy. Phoenix would need an understanding guardian with patience for a little mischief maker. She delighted in getting into things, hiding things, chewing, and skirmishing with the “grazer pack” at Project Hope. The grazers are the dogs with disabilities and personalities that prohibit them from sharing communal quarters with other matched dog groups, but they share a special bond and mischief is their game.

As Phoenix was dearly loved by both Project Hope staff and the grazers there was no rush to place her. I wanted to wait until her image as an abused animal faded. She wanted Phoenix to be loved for the vivacious, delightful imp with Disney character lashes that she was. The smart, strong-willed champion of survival.

Amy White, founder of the MSU “Homeward Bound” student group, matchmaker for regional dogs and adoptive guardians and east coast rescue groups and shelters, called to say Phoenix had been chosen for adoption through an animal shelter in New Hampshire. The Project Hope staff sucked up their tears and rejoiced in Phoenix’s chance for a fresh start.

A week later and Phoenix was on her way. She was transported first to West Virginia where volunteer transporter Glenn Bidwell of Rhode Island met the Homeward Bound group. Glenn would shuttle the dogs on the second leg of the trip from West Virginia to the Salem Animal Rescue League in New Hampshire.

Upon arriving at their destination Glenn and Phoenix had sparked a bound that neither wanted to end. Glenn shared that Phoenix didn’t want to get out of his van and he was crazy about her. With three prospective guardians waiting to meet Phoenix, Glenn rushed home to Rhode Island to return with Samus, his best friend and constant companion.

Back at the Salem Animal Rescue League, Glenn and Phoenix bonded, were approved for adoption, and were homeward bound.

Glenn and I have spoken often and little Phoenix’s fantasy life has been realized. She has a big buddy to pal around with, a work at home guardian with whom she takes many trips to their favorite lake and the beach. Now Phoenix has everything she loves.

Phoenix, nearly fully recovered,
takes a dip in a puddle.


Friday, March 6, 2009

Update for March 6, 2009

Wendy, Simone, Ali and Drew were rescued
from a dumpster at the Winona, MS dump.

It’s been an exciting and very rewarding week. Two precious men donated the funds for us to transport 20 dogs and 8 cats to Every Creature Counts (ECC) in Ft. Lupton, CO, just outside Denver. They are our marvelous partners in adoption and have a shelter, surgery room, and sanctuary to care for and place animals.

There’s always much preparation for our trips. Medical records are used to prepare transport papers and a health certificate is required for the inter-state travel of animals. Photos of the animals are forwarded and if any shots or preventive medications are due, they’re administered. “Doc”, Dr. Abernethy, our primary veterinarian came out to aid with rabies shots, reexamined the traveling animals and prepared the health certificates. He’s a jewel. He was to geld Otis and perform a procedure for Buttercup, the newly rescued mare we’ve given haven to. This had to be postponed as we had torrential rains.

Chele Whitehead, MSU staff member and loyal volunteer and advocate for Hope Sanctuary accompanied me on the trip to Colorado. We make a good team for such a trip. Besides the 24-hour trip, including stops for giving the animals a break from their cages, there’s music and snacks to enjoy. The flat treeless horizon of Kansas roadways requires diversion.

We arrived at ECC just before they opened Friday morning. The care and concern their staff and volunteers shower on arriving animals is a tribute to the amazing work they do. They have a sanctuary and an in-town shelter for intake and adoption. They also have a volunteer team that takes animals to adoption centers they’ve established with regional businesses.

ECC has aided with the adoption of an average of 50 animals a month when we are able to afford the trip. It’s a complete blessing for us as we’ve loved animals back to health and want to see the completion of our mission – their adoption into homes with loving guardians who’ll treasure and provide for them for life.

Support for our care for and partnership for the adoption of animals is vitally needed. Just as we were leaving for Colorado we were alerted to the need for sanctuary for four families of pups - one group was saved from dumpster at the Winona, MS dump by Lauren and Elizabeth after we were alerted that someone had dumped them there. Only one of the families has there mother. They range from from 4 weeks to 12 weeks in age.

These animals too will need homes. Our “Homeward Bound” friends of MSU are already posting these animals on their adoption site.

We ask that you become a partner with us in our efforts and please, please share reports of our work with friends and acquaintances.

Without you on our team the challenge before us may prove to be too great.


Monday, March 2, 2009

An Amazing Transformation

A couple of days before Christmas this past December while I was down at Project Hope, Doll went to talk to a man about three donkeys of his that she had rescued. The donkeys had escaped his property and were on their way to Interstate 55 - which would have been disastrous. Fortunately, Doll and her two sidekicks, Lauren and Elizabeth, were able to wrangle the donkeys back to Project Hope and into a secured fenced-in area.

The man wasn't in a hurry to get the donkeys back to his property since Doll was caring for and feeding them. And frankly Doll wasn't in a rush to give them back either. She didn't consider him an animal abuser, but he had certainly proven himself to be neglectful over the years.

When she returned from her trip down the road to his property, I walked out of the office to meet her in the driveway. As I approached she looked visibly upset and was yelling something at me that I couldn't quite make out. Once I was within sight of the passenger seat, it became clear. There in the passenger seat were three of the most pathetic looking puppies I had seen in a long while. Bellies distended to the point where it looked like each of them had swallowed a football and it was sitting sideways in their stomachs - nearly hairless from mange - terrified.

Doll had asked this man to bring her a pregnant momma dog that was on his property over the previous summer for a free spay surgery. He never did. These puppies were her puppies. They had been living outside with little to no shelter. On this day, the day they finally made it to Project Hope, it was in the 20's in the daytime and near the single digits at night.

Doll had been yelling for me to get the camera, which I quickly did. We snapped a few pictures and took some quick video and rushed them into the quarantine room.

That afternoon we drove them to the vet for a quick check-up, shots and a wormer. Their recovery was underway, but it was by no means swift. Doll cared for these puppies over the last three months and nursed them back from certain death. Wednesday morning of last week two of the three, Larry and Itamar, left for Every Creature Counts in Denver. They're absolutely beautiful now and will surely be adopted to a good home quickly.

Below are some before and after photos and a short video from the day they arrived.

Larry and Itamar on December 19, 2008.

Larry and Itamar on February 20, 2009.


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