I am still struggling on a daily basis to accept that Frankie is gone. To say I miss him doesn’t even begin to touch what I feel. Caring for the other dogs gets me out of bed, but moving forward? That seemed out of reach. I need to do something with my grief – so the trip that Ian and I have been planning since winter has been the perfect panacea.
I had hoped to share about this trip weeks ago, but like so much else in my life right now, it was pushed aside. We’ve shortened our originally planned trip in terms of days and distance, but it feels right to be doing this now and I’m grateful for the distraction and the chance to do something to honor Frankie.
Ian is my 17-year-old son, my youngest.
He’s my baby, despite the fact that he towers over me these days. He has always been a sensitive soul, so when I returned from my first trip to the shelters last fall and he asked if I would take him next time, I hesitated. I know how hard it was to see the situation in our rural shelters and be helpless to do anything about it.
Ian has been a partner in this foster adventure from the very beginning. He’s walked dogs, cleaned up after too many dogs, fed dogs, and taken over 100% when Nick and I are out of town. He’s helped care for dog after dog, falling in love and saying good-bye again and again.
He wanted to see where our dogs had come from. I asked him why. He told me he wanted to photograph them – and use those photographs to raise awareness. He’s heard me preach again and again, that people just don’t know what is happening in the southern rural shelters, if they did, they wouldn’t stand for it. So, he’d like to take his camera and his talent and go there. Risk his heart, knowing it will be hard.
So, we’re going. We’ve considered many options but finally decided that we will focus on one aspect of the situation. Instead of going to the big county shelters that I have spent so much time in, we’re going to travel to the tiny shelters in western Tennessee, the ones that don’t have a big budget or a lot of dogs or even much of a staff because there are dogs suffering and dying there too. The numbers may be smaller, but the need is just as great, if not greater.
We leave this Sunday to drive just south of Nashville, where we will visit two large shelters – one that I’ve visited before. Maury County Shelter is an open intake shelter that still regularly euthanizes for space.
Later that day we’ll tour a shelter in Franklin, a large progressive shelter that does not euthanize any treatable or adoptable dogs and has a 97% save rate. This will give Ian an idea of the spectrum of traditional shelters.
While we’re in Tennessee we’ll stay with Laura, one of the superheroes of the rescue world I was privileged to meet last September while on the book/shelter tour. I’m excited to spend time and learn from this remarkable generous woman.
We will spend at least two days with another rescue wunderkind, Trisha, from Rural Animal Relief Effort, an OPH partner rescue. We will travel with her several hours west to the tiny municipal shelters reminiscent of the traditional ‘dog pounds’ of my childhood, forgotten places where animals are in desperate need of rescue—many times rescues like RARE are their only hope.
We are still mulling over several other possible stops outside of Nashville to meet more heroes and understand the situation. We leave Sunday, but still don’t know when we’ll come back.
Ian and I are going with no real agenda other than to learn the stories of the shelters, the dogs, the people. To document what we see and try to figure out how we can help, hopefully offer some donated food or treats or other items they have too little of.
We’ve created a blog (WhoWillLettheDogsOut.org) where we will post pictures and stories. I’ve also added a Facebook page and because Ian is not on Facebook and prefers to communicate in pictures, he is creating an Instagram account. We would love for you to follow along on one or all of these sites, to help us spread the word.
As we travel, we will share the needs and the mailing addresses of any of the shelters that will allow it. If you’d like to donate towards our efforts, you can send donations via paypal (firstname.lastname@example.org), donate through our Facebook fundraiser, or send Tractor Supply, Wal-Mart, or Petsmart gift cards which we will use to purchase donations for the shelters once we are in Tennessee.
If you’re local, you can drop off any of the following items before Sunday: high-quality dog/puppy food or treats, tough-chewer toys, flea/tick preventatives, harnesses, martingale collars, or dewormers. Message me or leave them on our porch.
Four of Thelma’s puppies went home this past weekend:
Which leaves Slat still here with us. He is a smart and independent puppy, so if one had to be left he’s a good one. He’s not a whiner (thank goodness) and is content to play with his toys by himself.
He’s already doing great on a leash and is nearly housebroken. He was zooming around the yard yesterday and inadvertently did a double somersault when his body got ahead of his feet on the hill and it made me laugh out loud. He is good for my heart, but I hope he finds his family soon.
His mom, Thelma, is morphing into quite the character. As I said on her OPH bio, “Thelma will make an excellent mother’s helper, teaching your children not to leave their shoes lying about and to put their belongings where they belong.” There is definitely some beagle in this dog – we haven’t experienced a chewer like this since our very first foster, Galina.
Despite the chewing habit, she is a doll-baby of a dog and will make some family very happy. She enjoys playing with other dogs and has done well with every person she’s met – male, female, older, younger, not matter, she loves them all. She and Flannery have become best buds and when I see them together, I picture Frankie there in the midst of them. He would have loved Thelma.
Daisy is still waiting for her family. She is spending most of her days outside in the playyard, where she is happiest. Health-wise, she is doing great – she’s gotten back her pre-puppy figure and has plenty of happy energy. She’s finally decided that she loves Nick. When he appears, she inevitably gets a case of the zoomies. He still can’t approach her or put a leash on her, but when he is outside, she follows him around and when he sits down, she is all over him with kisses and insists that he pet her. Their improving relationship makes me confident that Daisy could learn to love men, as long as they take it slow and don’t force things.
So, we are full-up on dogs at this foster home but missing the dog of my heart. It will be a slow healing. Traveling to Tennessee and trying to save more dogs feels like something I can do to honor his memory.
I’m not sure I’ll ever love a dog the way I loved Frankie, but I hope I can take that love and channel it towards saving more dogs because I know that he would have loved every one of them. That’s the kind of dog he was. His end was tragic, but his life was a lesson for us all.
Thanks for reading!
If you’d like to know more about the book, Another Good Dog: One Family and Fifty Foster Dogs, visit 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, and what you can do right now to help shelter animals! You can also purchase a signed copy or several other items whose profits benefit shelter dogs!
If you’d like to know how you can volunteer, foster, adopt or donate with OPH, click here. And if you’d like more pictures and videos of my foster dogs past and present, be sure to join the Another Good Dog Facebook group.
Released August 2018 from Pegasus Books and available now