September 8th, 2010
Submitted by UAN Emergency Services Manager Janell Matthies
As with all the others, this deployment brought us many challenges as well as successes. From the can opener that took an engineering degree to make it work, to tricky dogs who refused to stay in their kennels and found various ways to get out and run, frolic and play a one-sided game of chase, to dogs who had never set foot outside of the attic – let alone felt the touch of human hands. The one thing that continually stood out to me was the volunteers’ kindness toward the animals and to each other.
These were not your run-of-the-mill “neglected” dogs. These guys were taken care of, but with the inevitable limitations of what only one person can do with 100 dogs. Many seemed friendly, but would not allow us to touch them. This all came from fear of the unknown, but the volunteers took that in stride and showed the utmost patience and compassion for these animals. While calmly communicating with each other, backing each other up and spotting one another, the volunteers cared for these animals like they had never been cared for before. Cleaning their crates or even feeding thoroughly traumatized some of these dogs. The volunteers worked together as a team and spoke softly, moved slowly, and even sang to the dogs. That EARS magic did its trick.
After a day or two of being calmly and quietly cared for, many of these dogs started to show interest, curiosity, bravery and even affection. They would come toward the front of the kennel and give a few tentative kisses to the hands that fed them. Some allowed pets and scratches, some even rolled over for belly rubs. These small victories were shared among the team of red shirts with quiet rejoices and positive affirmations to the dogs. These were not the same animals who came into our shelter only days before. These dogs were interested in becoming family pets, an integral part of someone’s life.
The UAN team gently coerced the timid dogs to have a bite to eat, take a drink of clean water, accept a pat. The result was a new faith in people, a realization that our intentions were good. We were able to see these dogs show trust as they stood shivering on the vet table, tolerating thorough medical exams while the UAN volunteers held and comforted them. When we began loading the dogs up to be transported to rescue groups and shelters, many of them who were previously unhandlable were easily lifted from their crates and carried to the rig. The resilience of these animals continues to amaze me; going from knowing and trusting only one person their whole lives, to trusting an entire team of red shirts, so thoroughly and knowing we were there to help.
The environment these dogs came from was utterly indescribable, even to the veterans who have seen it all. Feces lay two- to three-feet thick on the floors and counter tops. The majority of these dogs had never set foot outside of the house or a particular room. The owner had given everything to his dogs and had nothing more than the shirt on his back, literally. These dogs were loved, but had never received medical care and were completely unsocialized. To see them go from frightened, unsure, trembling dogs to romping with each other in large kennels and then cuddling up to the volunteers made all of the hard work, sore backs and long days worth it. The dogs did not have a chance to become pampered pets in the environment they came from. Now with the help of the UAN volunteers, these dogs will receive that second chance they so deserve. Thank you to everyone for helping to make this happen.
The dogs were sent to the following shelters and rescue groups for continued socialization and eventual adoption:
Photos courtesy of EARS volunteers Ruth Koehler and Marsha Steckling.