|To celebrate the release of Everything But a Dog, I'm talking to people who work with, or have adopted, rescue animals!|
When I started writing, I joined a group of other writers online. It's been well over a decade, and though we don't talk as often as we once did, I still count them as some of my first and best writing friends. Tami is a part of that group. I've always known what a big heart she has...and I'm glad that I get a chance to let the rest of you meet her and find out for yourselves!
Because I'm a veterinarian and I am active on animal issues, especially rescue, I have made a lot of friends on social media sites involved in the same thing. So it wasn't unusual one day to switch on Facebook and see a photo of a little dog sitting in a stark cage.
It was posted by a rescue worker in Florida and asked simply, "Can someone in Georgia please help this dog? She's on death row." Death row is the term often used in rescues for animals whose time is nearly up at the animal control facilities.
With trepidation, I asked "Where in Georgia?" I hoped it was up in the far north of the state, somewhere too far to get to easily. Then she would be someone else's problem. It's not that I don't like to help out, but with 5 rescued dogs as well as rescued cats and horses there was not much room at the inn, so to speak. Plus my husband was going to kill me if I carted home another animal.
Her answer came back, "middle Georgia". Uh oh, that's where I lived.
"Where in middle Georgia?"
"Warner Robins" was the answer.
Great. 30 minutes away in the city where I worked.
But the good news was the vet clinic where I'm employed also works with several rescue organizations.
They offer low cost spays, neuters and medical treatment to the rescued animals. Several of the technicians are even foster parents, and Linda, the head tech handles all the paperwork for one group, Starbright Rescue.
So I told my Facebook friend to hang on and called Linda. "Do you think one of the rescues has room for another dog?" I asked.
Linda told me she'd check and made some calls. "Misty at Starbright knows exactly the dog you're talking about. She'll pull her tomorrow. "
I was relieved. Good deed done. I notified my friend that the pup would be in the hands of a rescue the next day.
The following morning when I got to work, Linda greeted me with a smile. "So what do you want to name your dog?"
"My dog?" I sputtered. "I don't want the dog. She was for the rescue to find a home!"
"And they will," Linda said. " But someone has to foster her until they do. And you volunteered!"
"My husband's gonna kill me!" I sighed.
A little later, Misty from Starbright Rescue showed up with this medium sized Australian Shepherd mix. She was about 7 months old, and just happy to be there. Her plumed tail waved as she greeted everyone.
Many rescue dogs come from the pound unsure and frightened. They don't know how to trust, or just seem very sad. Not this little girl. Even when we put her back in the kennels, she just looked around happily as if to say, "Heyyyy. New digs!"
I pored over possible names. Since she wasn't a tiny cute puppy and would be on Petfinder among hundreds of other dogs, I needed something that would make her stand out. I'm part Native American and my last two rescue horses were given native names. I found the perfect name almost instantly when I looked up Cherokee words. "Aylen" It meant "happiness" and was perfect for a happy little dog.
So then the work began. Aylen was tested for parasites, bathed, spayed and given her vaccinations.She was photographed and I wrote up her bio for the Petfinder site. And she was taken home to meet the rest of my gang.
Aylen settled in immediately. Still happy, she befriended dogs and cats alike. She loved all people, especially kids. And my husband didn't kill me after all, and even let Aylen crawl up into his lap. Crate training and house breaking went relatively easily.
Within 2 weeks of posting, there were 3 people interested in Aylen. My naming and bio had gotten her noticed and her cute face did the rest.
They let me contact the potential adopters and the first one was a young couple in Maine who had finally moved into a home where they could have dogs. I spoke to the wife for an hour and knew they would be perfect.
So then began the process to get Aylen to Maine. Another physical exam was done and a health certificate written out and added to all her medical info, along with a photograph and microchip to identify her. Linda is an ace at organizing all the paperwork so that transport goes smoothly.
Transport day is like a carefully orchestrated three ring circus. There are two gentleman who work a full time job during the week, then every other Friday drive a specially renovated RV from Georgia to Maine carrying rescued pets to their new forever homes. They drive straight through, stopping every couple of hours only to walk and water the dogs. They have regular drop off points along the way where they meet the adoptive families.
These men are volunteers. They receive no pay. They leave on Friday, deliver all the dogs to their families on Saturday, and on Sunday make the long drive home so that they can be back at work on Monday. They do it all for the love of the dogs.
When the transport arrives on Friday morning there is a flurry of activity at the veterinary clinic. Some pets are left at the clinic overnight to get their health certificates and to be there if the foster parents can't bring them on Friday. There also volunteers for Star Bright and foster families bringing their foster pets. There is laughter, hugs, and tears as each dog is told goodbye and loaded onto the RV to head to it's forever home.
I hugged Aylen to me, my face buried in her soft fur. In only 5 weeks this little dog had won my heart. This is the main reason I hate fostering. I get so attached to these guys and then I have to tell them goodbye. The only reason I'm able to let go is knowing they're going to a wonderful forever home.
Aylen, for her part, never looked back. She bounded into that RV, tail wagging, looking forward to her future with that same happy outlook on life.
I get updates from time to time from Aylen's new parents. It took her awhile to win over the family cat, but finally they are friends and will share space on the couch together. Her new family is very active and Aylen enjoyed a summer of hiking and boating. With her thick coat, she really loves the snow, something she would never experience here in the Deep South.
But Aylen's very favorite thing is to lay on her back on the couch with her head resting in her new Dad's lap.
Aylen. A happy little dog who made the long journey from death row in Georgia to a forever home in Maine.
~Tami McGraw, DVM