Wanted. Forever Homes. 3/19/2012

I’m double-posting my Lake Blackshear blog tonight to the Mackinac Island bog because 1) there IS a Mackinac connection (as you’ll see as you read; and 2) this is a cause very close to my heart.  After you’ve read it, regardless of where you are in the U.S., please consider adopting or making a donation (if not to this shelter, to one near you – the need is always there), or sharing this with friends who might have room in their hearts and homes for a four-legged bundle of unconditional love. 

See you back here on Wednesday for news from the Island!  God bless.

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Take one group of dedicated and determined animal lovers.  Add a city and county with a real sense of what it takes to offer animal control that is effective, but also compassionate and humane.  What do you get?

Best Friends Humane Society in Worth County.

I chanced across Best Friends on Facebook after I returned home from Michigan last fall.  A few FB friends from my hometown of Sylvester reposted some photos of handsome dogs looking for forever homes, and it was the photographs that drew me back again and again.  The photos on the site are snapped by Beckstrom Photography owners, Melody and Josh, who volunteer their time each month to ride out to Best Friends and turn lost pups into glamorous stars.  I firmly believe those photographs are one reason Best Friends’ rate of adoption is so high.

Marsha – a 2 1/2-year-old female terrier mix.
Blue – a 6-month-old Aussie/Border Collie mix with amazing eyes!
Rambo – a handsome 2-year-old male Labrador Retriever.
Little Piper – a 3-month-old yellow Lab mix.
Eli – an awesome male Heeler mix.

Another reason is Best Friends’ President and Shelter Director, Shelly McPhaul, and her amazing staff – mostly unpaid volunteers (including Shelly).  Shelly and her family moved to Sylvester, where her husband’s family has lived for generations. five years ago.  They moved there from California and settled into the quiet life of small-town America.  A year ago, Worth County (Sylvester is the county seat) decided to use some left-over SPLOST money to construct a new animal shelter, and Shelly (an avid animal lover) volunteered to be the director for six months.  A year has passed, and Shelly is still there.

Shelly McPhaul, President and Shelter Director of Best Friends Humane Society. Her passion and love for animals is evident in every word she speaks, and her commitment to assuring as many of her charges as possible find good homes is her driving force.

Two or three weeks ago, I shared on Facebook a group of dogs available for adoption at Best Friends.  Not many days later I received an email from a friend we met the first summer after we bought our condo on Mackinac Island.  Jeanine Kramer was a taxi driver on the Island and one of the first people I did a “Day in the Life Of” story on for the Mackinac blog.  She has since moved to Savannah and drives for a carriage tour business there.  Jeanine had fallen in love with Jordan, a female black and white border collie mix.  She planned to drive from Savannah to Sylvester on Friday (over four hours), bring her other dog (Lucy) with her – to make sure there were no jealousy issues – and hopefully return to Savannah with a new lifetime friend.

Jeanine in her taxi on Mackinac Island.

I immediately contacted Shelly to ask if I might do a story about the adoption, and she said “yes”!  Lake friend Samille rode down with me Friday, and we arrived shortly before noon, just minutes ahead of Jeanine.

The first meeting went well. Neither Lucy (black and tan) nor Jordan showed any aggression – just checked each other out . . .
. . . and soon Jordan was leaning on Jeanine and using those beautiful blue eyes to say, “Of course you’re going to take me home . . . right?”

The shelter accepts all dogs (they accept cats also, but adoptable cats are soon transferred to the Adoption Center of the Companion Animal Hospital in Albany, where veterinarian Dr. Carie Wisell has an outstanding record of adopting them out.  Dogs can come in as strays picked up by animal control or found by citizens, owner turn-ins, or as troubled dogs who have bitten someone.  Best Friends does an outstanding job of finding homes for adoptable dogs, but unfortunately not all dogs are adoptable.Those who are remain as long as possible – even if that turns into months.  Puppies, of course, are what most people want, and most puppies go quickly.  Adoptable adult dogs are harder to place, but because Best Friends advertises on Petfinder.com (as well as local newspapers and television), the entire world has access to the shelter on the Internet.  Dogs have been placed as far away as New Jersey, and many have been placed in Florida, North and South Carolina, and, of course, all over Georgia.  One dog was leaving Monday for his new home in Washington, D.C.

An article in The Sylvester Local about the New Jersey adoption.

We took a tour of the shelter, and the first thing Samille and I noticed when we entered the kennel area was how clean everything smelled.  The kennels were spotless (unless someone had just had an accident – in which case it is almost instantly cleaned up).  There are 48 kennels, but in the case of puppies or very small dogs, each kennel can hold more than one.  Each larger dog has a kennel to himself.  Twenty-four kennels are reserved for new arrivals or sick animals.  Each new arrival is quarantined until the health of the animal is determined, and they are released to the “adoptable” side of the kennel only after any health issue is addressed.

The facility is bright and clean everywhere – from this area where some lab work is done . . .
. . . to the bathing area . . .
. . . . to the kennels. . .
. . . where perfectly wonderful dogs, like Callie – a Beagle – reside in spotless accommodations.

In the year Best Friends has been open, 987 dogs have entered the shelter, and 520 of those dogs were placed in forever homes.  Through the generosity of veterinarians like Dr. Wisell and Dr. Allan Gardner of Sylvester Animal Hospital, medical costs are kept to a minimum, but funds are always needed for other essential items.

We sat down and talked about the many joys of finding homes for the dogs Best Friends accepts.  We also talked about the pain of the decision to humanely euthanize any animal.  As in most shelters, there is only so much money available, and dogs cannot be kept indefinitely.  The majority of dogs who are euthanized are very ill, injured, aggressive, have unacceptable temperaments, or are suffering from stress brought on from being confined in a space for too long.  Since opening, the staff has learned that kennel stress can cause aggression, withdrawal, hair loss, chewing on their feet, rubbing on fencing or a host of other things, even ulcers.  There is no magic “timeline” for this, and each animal adjusts differently.  One may be fine for months, while another may begin to show signs of stress after only a few weeks. Very few dogs are put down due to lack of space because foster families step up to help out.  Fosters take dogs into their homes – one at a time, maybe two.  Fosters socialize puppies who have never been around people and help animals with curable illnesses get healthy so they can be placed.  The animals stay with a foster family as long as the family will keep them – or until a forever home is found.  There is no time limit for dogs placed in foster care – AND no chance of kennel stress. 

Shelly shared with us that she used to go with the animals to the veterinarian’s office and stay with them until they were euthanized by injection.  She felt a need to follow through with them from the moment they entered the shelter until, if a home could not be found, they go to the Rainbow Bridge with someone they know with them.  Other staff members have taken on that responsibility now (although Shelly still occasionally goes), and it is Shelly who must make the final decision to euthanize.  It breaks her heart to do that, but in today’s world the only other decision – a cruel one indeed –  would be to turn them loose to starve, to freeze, to be hit by cars, or worse.  

How can you help?  Adopt an animal from Best Friends (www.bfhsworth.com) or from any animal shelter near where you live.  Yes, I now have purebred dogs, but in the past there have been rescued dogs in the Horton house, and I can tell you right now that the next dog I own will be a shelter dog. If you can’t adopt, donate.  A monetary donation would be so welcome. Money pays for medical bills, supplies, and DOG FOOD!  Checks can be mailed to Best Friends Humane Society, P.O. Box 5894, Sylvester GA 31791.  The shelter accepts ANYTHING.  Before you throw out those old ratty towels you’ve had for years, send them to the shelter – they will be used a few more years drying bathed dogs.  Old bathroom mats are also useful, as are bottles of bleach, paper towels, and dog toys.  In other words, anything you would use in your daily life with YOUR dog, the shelter can use.  Box it up and send to the shelter facility at 787 Ephesus Church Road, Poulan GA 31781.  Volunteer workers are always welcome at Best Friends – to socialize puppies, walk dogs, play with dogs, bathe dogs, clean cages . . . whatever you want to do, there’s a place for you.  Just call the shelter at 229-777-7774.

By now you must be wondering, “What about Jeanine and Jordan?”  I’m so happy to report that Jordan is now calling Savannah home.  When I spoke with Jeanine Friday night, she said that Jordan rode beautifully in the car and was introduced to her cats without any problem at all.  As she talked with me, both Jordan and Lucy were curled up on the couch, taking a nap.

A brand new family member – little blue-eyed Jordan.
Here’s “Pippa” on Saturday (Jeanine renamed Jordan “Pippa”, which means “lover of horses”. She’s all decked out and enjoying the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in downtown Savannah. Jeanine said she was so well behaved no one could believe she had only been adopted the day before.

Of course, I fell in love with a few dogs myself on Friday.  One in particular was Winston, who staff found when they arrived at the shelter one morning last week.  His owner had tossed him over the fence and left him.  Shelly said he “is just lost.”  He is so well-behaved that he has free run of the shelter and constantly goes to the glass front door, looking out as if to say, “When are you coming back for me?”  His story broke my heart. 

Winston is a 3 to 5-year-old neutered male and is probably a Lab/terrier mix. He is very laid back, and if Ted hadn’t specifically said “don’t come back with another dog” when I left the house on Friday, this wonderful gentleman would be snugged up with Maddie and Bear right now.

Visiting this wonderful shelter made me want to find a way to volunteer there on a regular basis.  I’m going to try and do that.  But one thing I know I can do is pack a box of goodies and write a check.  I hope you will do the same . . or even better – give one of their residents a forever home.  You’ll be so glad you did. 

I promise.

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3 thoughts on “Wanted. Forever Homes. 3/19/2012

  1. A couple of weeks ago we took in a 12 year old german shepard, chow and collie mix. His human “dad” had to go into a nursing home and my husband’s boss is his son and he and his sister already have dogs ( and he is and has always been an “only child”,so we have now adopted Sam! He had cataracts and arthritis, but still has spunk left in him and what a great dog!! I was reading about Winston and I think that Sam feels the same way about maybe his “dad” will come back to get him. My hubby assured me that we would share the duties, but somehow I now have a new best friend! I am very happy to give Sam the best rest of his life that I can provide. Thanks for the wonderful story.

    • Sue, I can almost guarantee that you will ream many rewards from your generosity to Sam. Old dogs are a special gift to their owners. Yes, they have their challenges, but the love they give in return will stay in your heart long after they are gone. God bless you and your husband.

  2. What a story! So sad isn’t it…how people can just leave their pets for someone else to take care of. I would have a backyard full of dogs if I could afford it….we just love them. I’ll try and send a check over to this shelter to help them out. Some of the situations just make you want to cry!

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