In many jobs, you interact with folks that you’ll never meet, and some that you may never even speak to again. Social relationships gained from work may be fleeting, but I’ve found that in animal welfare they are often life-long, kindred spirits connected by common passions, heartache, and success.
Six years ago I met Stephanie via email. At the time, sending shelters were being connected with receiving shelters to increase the transport of highly adoptable animals. In this case, Stephanie wanted to send dogs and cats in need from her small, rural shelter in South Carolina to my busy shelter in Vermont. As a volunteer with her shelter, Stephanie was carrying the weight of a new program that had never been done before. She was eager, dedicated, and would do all that she could to save the animals of Marlboro County – and she worked hard. Late nights, seven days a week, thousands of text messages, emails, and calls led to a fresh start for almost 200 lives.
When I transitioned to work for RedRover, I knew I would miss the work with many partners — truly friends — like Stephanie. But I should have known that my new chapter would only bring us closer and allow for new opportunities.
When RedRover’s Safe Housing grants were made available to animal shelters in 2020, I knew that Stephanie’s shelter and her community would benefit from this funding. We worked together to brainstorm ideas, met virtually with the staff and board of the Humane Society of Marlboro County, and worked with the Pee Dee Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Assault. Stephanie worked on a plan for a new building, and in June 2020 the shelter was approved for a $20,000 grant to create new space that will temporarily board the pets of domestic violence survivors. This secure building will have five kennels with indoor/outdoor access, space for cats, and will include a lounge area where survivors can visit with their furry family members. It is a program that is the first of its kind in this rural community, and I am so incredibly proud of the work that they are doing.
In November, I had the honor of visiting the Humane Society of Marlboro County — and meeting Stephanie, now the shelter director — in person. The shelter, now responsible for running the county’s emergency animal shelter during a hurricane, requested training on how to operate a temporary emergency shelter, and additionally asked for specific training on dog handling and working with fearful dogs. I was beyond thrilled to help. Tears were shed, of course, as Stephanie and I were in the same room for the first time in six years! I was greeted with love and warmth from the staff who had heard of the shelter in Vermont and were so grateful for that partnership, and now, a new one with RedRover.
We filled our three days together to the absolute brim. Shelter staff and animal services participated in multiple training sessions, I worked on training plans for individual dogs, assisted in building a new enclosure for an owned dog in the shelter’s Unchain Marlboro program (modeled after The Humane Society of the United States’ “Pets for Life”), “fostered” and worked with a dog in need at my pet-friendly Airbnb, and helped remove six dogs from heavy chains in a neglect case that animal control just happened to be notified of while I was there. It was the most beautiful, raw 72 hours of partnership and collaboration.
I headed home from this trip with my heart absolutely bursting. Bursting for the shelter’s hard work, for the lack of resources, for the animals in need, and humbled by the amount of love and compassion I saw. I am grateful, time and time again, to be a part of the RedRover Responders team. Grateful to have the opportunity to help animals in crisis in a variety of ways, give back to communities in need, and truly make a difference in the lives of the animals and people we work with.