October 7th, 2013
At a temporary shelter in the southeastern United States, hundreds of dogs are receiving loving care and medical attention, perhaps for the first time in their lives, after their rescue from the second largest criminal dogfighting ring in the history of the United States.
Such a high-profile criminal case requires extreme discretion by everyone involved, including the seven RedRover Responders volunteers who were asked to deploy to the temporary shelter managed by the ASPCA.
Once the RedRover team arrived at the shelter, they were immediately briefed about the medical, physical and behavioral conditions of the dogs. As the total number of dogs increased (pregnant dogs gave birth to litters of puppies and additional dogs have been surrendered), volunteers knew it was critical to work together to care for the dogs who had been forced to fight for profit.
This tight-knit team of RedRover Responders volunteers worked alongside members of other animal welfare and rescue agencies and the ASPCA to provide food, water, medical care, clean cages and socialization and behavioral enrichment to the dogs – all in the effort to help the dogs recover from the cruel and inhumane conditions they were living in.
“Meeting these dogs is an experience I’ll remember for the rest of my life,” said Joyce Nelson, a RedRover Responders volunteer who was tasked with documenting fellow volunteers’ work to provide daily care for the dogs.
One dog, a small brown-and-white pit bull mix, stared soulfully at Joyce with inquisitive eyes. Piles of puppies slept, piled warmly together, and a small brown pit bull with big ears cocked her head from side to side. One black-and-white puppy was sleeping on her side; when she awoke, volunteers were delighted by her curious expression and the revelation of her adorable two-tone belly.
For RedRover Responders volunteers, the greatest reward is witnessing a dog who was once timid and afraid begin to show confidence and trust around humans. “The transformation you can see is amazing, even if it is gradual,” said Joyce. “The experience is overwhelming.”
Though they’d been through so much, these dogs exhibited many behaviors just like dogs at home: An excited bark; an unsure glance at an unknown experience; a happy, panting grin; and the desire to warm up to a caring human being – for the first time in their lives.
And while varied in their behaviors, personalities and physical states, all these dogs had one thing in common: They were finally receiving the care they needed and deserved, all the way from their rescue and into the hearts of RedRover Responders volunteers.