An aging animal rescuer

me An aging animal rescuerToday is my 57th birthday.
I don’t feel 57, but then I have never been 57 before so I don’t really know what it is supposed to feel like.
Last week I heard rumor from several of the staff where I was volunteering that I was too old and could not handle their dogs. So for the past several days I have been evaluating myself for capability, since I am getting older.
Don’t laugh! I seriously thought about what I used to do in rescue and what I am capable of doing now.
I have come to the conclusion there is not much I cannot do. I am not as strong physically as I was in my 30′s and 40′s, but who is? This does not show so much when I handle a large, strong dog as it does the next day after the wrestling match.
So I took a journey down memory lane to evaluate my importance to the animals I love and decided that the staff I was dealing with were simply ignorant because they do not know me.
Since I began in this crazy venue called animal welfare, I can honestly say I have helped hundreds of dogs and cats find safe, loving homes. I have written stories and articles to promote dogs and cats. I have given numerous hours to clean kennels, do laundry, walk dogs, train dogs, hauled scrap for money, landscaped until I had blisters and then came home to network animals on social media.
I have fallen in love a thousand times and had my heart broken twice that. I have met wonderful people who I consider friends and some, not so much. I have cried tears for animals I have never met, been scratched and bitten by dogs I wish I hadn’t met and gotten up the next morning to start all over again.
I have preached education and animal legislation, argued for spay/neuter and backyard breeding laws and generally lost friends on social media due to the flood of homeless pets I post on a daily basis.
I can still work circles around several women I know who are younger than me and don’t really think about slowing down.
So, I guess what I have decided is the old saying is true. You are only as old as you feel. So on the mornings I feel 57, I may not do as much as I normally do. But most mornings, I still feel like kicking ass and taking names and that is what I continue to do.
So for all the animals who have crossed my path, this column is for you. From Munson to Bubba, Bruiser to Abe, all my dogs, the dogs of Satchel’s Last Resort and the HSSC, all the animals I have come in contact with either in person or on social media: don’t worry, I am still out here for you. This old lady ain’t going anywhere!

Negativity when dealing with volunteers

shoveling pea gravel1 Negativity when dealing with volunteers

Me shoveling pea gravel at the new warehouse.

I left here last Monday so excited to be traveling to New Orleans to volunteer for the week at Villalobos Rescue. I have followed this rescue since before the television show and could not imagine doing anything more worthwhile than giving some of my time to this fabulous organization.
Having been involved in rescue and working in kennels, I knew that with every year that passes, my abilities to do actual hard, physical labor would decrease. Not that I cannot still do it now.
I was actually surprised upon my arrival at the shelter as how large it actually is and it is booming with dogs of all shapes and sizes, not just pitbulls. I arrived at the B&B and got settled in, met some other “booties” who became my roommates and we decided to hang out until time for our orientation. Of course, being from here, the heat and humidity did not bother me as much as it did the other booties, but it was hot and humid.
There is also still a lot of work going on there and the remnants of Katrina still line all the streets. This is sad to me because it only adds to the despair which in some areas still hangs like a curtain over the people.
At orientation given by Tia Torres, we were instructed about things we were not allowed to do. It was an excellent presentation and I felt very welcomed. Tia stressed how difficult it was to see the number of animals they see on a daily basis. She also asked us to be mindful that the television show is just that and to please understand that the dogs must come first so if we had any thoughts about becoming a cast member or getting close to any of the staff, we should leave then because it wasn’t going to happen. The stories she told us of the shenanigans from volunteers stunned me. I had no idea that people were that stupid or inconsiderate but I guess that is just my being naive.
The first day, the first dog I walked got loose when I tripped and busted my knee open after a spin from her and my klutzyness on broken pavement. When I went down, the leash jerked off my arm, although it was over my wrist and wrapped twice per their instructions. Clementine was caught with no stress (I think), my knee would mend and the rest of the week would get better.
I shoveled pea gravel at the new warehouse. I toted old wood and scrap to dumpsters to be disgarded. I walked 2, count them, 2 dogs. Over and over Vinnie and Eddie received the benefit of my attention.
Everyone at the warehouse was extremely nice except for one staff member who just happened to be in charge of us for a couple of days. She, for whatever reason, did not like me, treated me like pond scum, would not allow me to walk any dog but Vinnie or Eddie and I don’t believe she trusted me to walk them, although I didn’t have any problems after the first time.
She berated the booties continually, not allowing us to do anything, and having us stand out on the blacktop for hours waiting for some kind of instruction. The only time we were allowed to actually work, was when Tia came in and saw us simply standing there and instructed them to let us work.
I understand the staff not trusting us. I have been in that situation before. But the staff member who took a dislike to us had no reason to be so rude and negative. On the last night I worked, in front of all the volunteers, she relayed the story of the fall and instructed the new pack walk volunteers that if I had had the leash on my wrist properly, the dog would not have escaped. She didn’t use my name, but who else had a dog escape that week?
Dealing with the staff who did not seem to want us there. Dealing with that kind of mental stress on top of the physical work we were doing and being 57 years old and too old to be treated like I was stupid and pond scum made the decision for me.
Before I opened my mouth and lost what little bit of credibility I have and was ordered off the property, I decided it would be best to leave.
I didn’t want to fight with anyone. That was not my goal in going.
I could list the wonderful staff who did appreciate what we were doing and are some of the nicest people I have met: Tia, Chloe, Bree, Brandy, Toney, Earl, Destry, Jenny, Ben and Sugar.
I won’t name the ones who were not pleasant, did not endear themselves to anyone and should really not be working around the public.
I still love Villalobo’s mission, but maybe the shine has worn off just a bit because of the treatment I received.
I won’t be going back. The small donations I send them in food or money will be spent closer to home. I won’t recommend anyone else go through the program. I hope they fix the problem. I hope they make the program better.
But I have always heard the reason people work in animal welfare is because they don’t like people. I have found that to be true in a lot of cases. It is too bad they have to be so negative when they are dealing with volunteers who want to help.

Road trip to NOLA for the dogs

I am a traveler. I believe my growing up in the military lit a bug within me and I am never happier than when I am on a road trip somewhere. For the past several years, money has been an issue and my trips, even for a weekend have been few and far between.
Imagine my surprise when I saw a flyer posted on Facebook about the Bully Boot Camp at Villalobos Rescue in New Orleans. So I am packed and ready to go.
Now, I am sure (especially after the past several days of posts about helping local) that there are many people who might have something to say about traveling out of state to help animals out of state, even for 5 days. Of course, I never heard anything when someone might mention going to Kanab, Utah to help at Best Friends for a week. I guess NOLA and pitbulls are a little different than that. ( I am not sure how. Perhaps someone could explain the difference)
For me, this is a match made in heaven. I love the mission of Villalobos. I love that they not only help the animals but help people, too! I love that they do it their way, in their time, on their spot, following their rules. I get to be a part of that. How exciting!
I have never been to New Orleans. I almost went with a friend long ago. I didn’t because my mother told me I had to wake up my father to tell him I was going and I was scared to do that so I stayed home. (I was of legal age, just cared about my father killing me.) I love to drive and find cool things along the way.
So tomorrow morning, early, I am packing the truck and taking off for the Big Easy. The list I was sent is complete. The dogs know something is going on. I am taking my camera in case I can take some pictures but must see what the rules are. I can take photos along the way and am in no hurry because I don’t have to report in to them until Wednesday. I would love to be able to meet the dogs from the Swamp Dog Project Villalobos has just begun, but am there to work where they need me.
I hope I have the opportunity to visit a little of New Orleans while I am there because it is on my bucket list. I have meet several others who will be “booties” along with me and think we will have a good group.
I am a sponge when it comes to education of any sort, so this will be a good trip for me.
Hopefully, I will be welcome to come back and plan on writing about my experiences after the trip.