December 3rd, 2009
Submitted by UAN Communications Director Alexis Raymond
This week I spoke to several EARS volunteers who have returned from the emergency horse shelter in Tennessee about their experience. The only thing I can say is, “Wow.” United Animal Nations is lucky to have so many amazing, kind and dedicated people on its EARS team.
Melissa Richards (pictured at right) helps animals every day as the president of the board of directors of New Leash on Life in Lebanon, Tennessee. She is a member of her local Disaster Animal Response Team and has rescued animals from puppy mills and a tornado that hit Tennessee a few years ago.
Melissa deployed to the emergency horse shelter in Nashville from November 24 to 28, where she said she spent most of her time “scooping poop – seriously!”
“It was one of the best Thanksgivings I ever had,” Melissa said. “I couldn’t have sat home eating and watching television knowing that the horses needed help. I would do it every Thanksgiving.”
Melissa said that in her four days at the shelter, she literally saw the starving horses “fatten up” and become less fearful. “Their ribs were showing less by the time I left,” she said. “They were terrified the first day, but by the last day I was getting kisses and hugs from them.”
Nicole Tipton worked so hard in Tennessee that she had to see her chiropractor for an adjustment when she returned home to Georgia. Nicole said she did “anything that was needed” during her deployment – including mucking stalls, filling water buckets and lifting horses (like Longshot, pictured at right) who had fallen.
“Even though they were malnourished and 400 pounds underweight, they still weigh a lot and it took six to eight of us to pick them back up,” Nicole said.
Despite the physically demanding work she did, Nicole said the experience was rewarding – so much so that she is returning this weekend.
“It was wonderful knowing that the animals didn’t have to suffer anymore, and I was part of that,” she said. “Some of them were on the verge of dying had they not been rescued … it felt great to be able to show them love and kindness.”
Karen Little is a librarian at the University of Louisville and brought some of her organizational skills to work at the emergency shelter, helping the veterinarians take records on the horses and keep them organized.
“It is critical that those records be kept well, and if that is the best way I can help, I am thrilled to do it,” Karen said.
Karen has been helping animals in her own community for years – 16,000 animals to be exact. Ten years ago she and her husbanded founded the nonprofit organization Alley Cats Advocates, which has 120 volunteers who care for feral cats through the Trap-Neuter-Return method.
Karen trained to be an EARS volunteer in the mid-1990s and deployed to UAN’s Hurricane Katrina response in Monroe, Louisiana in 2005. She said her experience in Tennessee was “life changing.”
“It is always interesting to be among a set of people who are going to do whatever they need to do to help an animal, even if they don’t know that animal,” Karen said.
I couldn’t have described the EARS volunteer team more accurately myself.