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It all started with some plastic bags.
Feb 12, 2007 12:00 am
It all started eight years ago when people started dumping dogs on Sharon and Edith Smith's DeKalb County rural property located on a dead-end street in the backwoods.
It is a perfect place for those wanting to wash their hands of unwanted dogs to surreptitiously discard the innocent creatures. And, most likely, word got around the two sisters would not turn a blind eye, and this was a bit of knowledge irresponsible pet owners used to ease their guilt. More dogs were dumped.
The sisters refused to ignore the abandoned animals and took them in, providing food and shelter.
"These ladies have kindly fed the dogs," animal lover Lisa Tarbet said. "However, none of animals have ever been altered."
Through the years, that first dumped litter has grown to well over 50 dogs. The situation got out of hand and today the Humane Association of Wilson County, along with volunteers, will take part in a massive dog rescue.
When Tarbet, along with Susan Heard and Deanna Trietsch, found out about the situation, they began to contact their network of friends in the animal community. One of those contacts was Sara Felmlee who heads the Humane Association of Wilson County (HAWCO).
"Thanks to an angel at HAWCO we have a window of opportunity to get these dogs fixed and vetted on the spay station," Tarbet said.
That "angel" is Felmlee who used her contacts and secured a generous $1,000 grant from Petco corporate. That's enough money to get half of the dogs spayed or neutered. She hopes to garner the rest of the money through donations for the effort. Felmlee said the association gets involved in such situations on a regular basis, and this weekend's effort is just on a grander scale.
"We do what we can to help," she said. "The people and the dogs need help here and we are going to assist."
Heard said the situation came to light when people began to complain. DeKalb County Sheriff Patrick Ray was contacted and visited the home to observe the situation.
"He assessed the situation and realized no laws were broken," Heard said.
Last weekend Heard traveled to DeKalb County to have a look herself. She said the property is in the backwoods. Along with the sisters' home, there are two barns on the property.
"Most of the animals looked great," Heard said, indicating this was not characterized as any kind of abuse. "They were well fed."
However, because of the number of dogs, most were either confined to a barn or tethered day and night with metal drums for shelter. It appeared the dogs in the barn rarely got out and that shelter was full of feces. A litter of two-week-old puppies was found in the house. Most of the dogs appear to be just grown and there are more males than females. Several dogs were pregnant and many in heat.
Heard said the sisters realize things have to change and today they will surrender the dogs to Heard and her group so the animals can eventually be adopted. More than likely, the siblings will be able to keep a couple of the dogs. They've named each and everyone. However, every bit of their income is spent on dog food and utilities. They have no life outside of caring for the animals.
"This is basically what happens when kind hearted people attempt to take up the slack for the much greater number of people who don't take responsibility for their animals," Tarbet said.
The extraordinary grass roots effort to rescue these dogs will be in full swing today. Over 35 volunteers from Wilson County and across middle Tennessee will converge on the residence and crate the animals. The dogs will be transported to the DeKalb County Fair site in Alexandria where the HAWCO spay station will be waiting.
After the procedures, most of the males will go back to the sisters' barn. However, volunteers will have already cleaned it up, disinfected it and filled it with straw. The female dogs will go to various boarding places.
"We are now begging every rescue group to come and take one or more of these dogs," Heard said. "My biggest fear is we will rescue these dogs, get them altered and not have homes for them."
Already, one volunteer's heart melted when she saw a pretty dog just ready to give birth. She took her home to keep her safe.
"These dogs are great," Heard said. "But, people need to realize they are rescued dogs. These are not doggies in the window. They've been given a second chance and will have to be socialized."
Most of the animals had little contact with humans and few have never been in a home or on a leash.
"They'll be fine when they find good homes," Heard said.
"You know we talk about dogs smiling. These dogs are all smiling. They will make good pets in the end."
Nemoy, an Australian Shepherd mix, never took his eyes off Heard once he spotted her. The animal lover sat on a drum and rubbed his fur. He seemed to know his second chance had come.
"There's just so much to be done educating people about responsible pet ownership," Heard said sadly. "These dogs never would have been dumped here if people were responsible."
For more information about how to adopt one of the dogs, log onto www.AnotherChanceAR.petfinder.com.
Mt. Juliet News Managing Editor Laurie Everett may be reached at 754-6397 or via e-mail at email@example.com.