How do you begin a blog? How do you sum up four months when the last four months have seemed like several lifetimes? Begin at the beginning? And when was that exactly? Was the beginning when Janine & I met during our Hurricane Katrina Animal Rescue experience in Tylertown, MS? Was it when my friend Kim recruited me to volunteer for a local animal rescue group? Was it when we arrived back in town with two vans full of the first 33 Safe Hands dogs, greeted by Stephanie T. and Dr. Charlie and our first volunteers? Was it further back in our childhoods filled with family pets, collecting the baby frogs that lived in the yard to save them from the lawnmower each week and saving the baby rabbits who’s hutch was destroyed and momma ran away?
In any case, our paths have led us here. To Safe Hands Animal Rescue. To 116 dogs rescued and rehomed through our group in the last four months and transport arranged for an additional 72 to other rescue groups.
Safe Hands Animal Rescue started with an email. A plea for help. There were dogs in Harlan County, KY that were going to be euthanised – a lot of them. The shelter was completely full. The community adoption rate was very low. There weren’t many rescue groups pulling dogs from the shelter. We wanted to help, we wanted to save them. We were particularly struck by the pathos evident in the photo of dog named Goldberg. We didn’t want to let him die.
We planned to work within the framework of another organization but their resources were already tapped. We had to come up with foster homes, crates, food, gas and van money and more to pull off the rescue. I sent an email to friends, I included photos of Goldberg, Helena, Buster and Shaycee, four of the dogs that were supposed to come home with us. I asked for help. I asked for foster homes, food donations for the shelter, crates for transport. I hoped to get maybe six or eight homes and maybe some supplies. The email went viral. The pictures struck a chord in the people who saw them and they were forwarded on and on. Over 30 people volunteered to foster dogs. The donations came pouring in. In one night my yard was transformed into a sea of crates, dog and cat food, kitty litter and more. We were on our way.
They say necessity is the mother of invention… Somewhere between here and Kentucky it became apparent that the size and scope of this rescue mission had grown to something that the other group was not entirely comfortable with. Janine and I had talked about forming a rescue group that would focus on one community where we felt we had the potential to make a difference. We wanted to provide assistance in the community with spay and neuter and education and outreach and shelter improvements as well as saving dogs already in danger. We wanted to work on prevention as well as the cure. We had only just talked about this in the abstract, we didn’t even have a name. It was time to leap and we had just begun to look. But as the saying goes, the future has a way of arriving unannounced.
One of my favorite quotes has always been this one:
Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe – “The moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.”
Of course I’d always been afraid to really test the theory. However, we were committed to saving Goldberg and the pieces had fallen into place to make this rescue happen. Every time we faced an obstacle we thought would abort our mission the solution appeared. Kismet? Serendipity? It was entirely too much to be coincidence. We were excited by what was happening, by the energy that seemed to be moving us towards the goal of saving these precious lives, by the goodness that came out in people. Thank God for the exuberance of our youthful project, the kindness of strangers who I’ve come to think of as family I hadn’t or haven’t yet met, and for faith and hope that we carried with us. We would come to find we really needed all these things before our journey’s end.
So it was on this trip, with this rescue mission and the group of people who took time out of their busy lives and schedules to read an email, to care, to let it affect them. to drop everything to get supplies or dig out an old crate and drop them off to a stranger and be part of a life saving effort, that Safe Hands Animal Rescue was born.
We have learned so much and we continue to learn every day and every week. Some lessons come harder than others. There is much work to be done. We hope to use this blog for updates on SHAR (Safe Hands Animal Rescue), to offer our perspective on issues in rescue, the homeless pet problem and animal rights issues in general and hopefully to educate, explain and no doubt be educated in the process. We hope to provide a greater understanding of why we do what we do – both in the broader sense of animal rescue and in the narrower sense of our policies and procedures and why they are what they are.
We don’t know everything. We know a fraction of what there is to know. We make no claims to be the be all, end all, expert in the field. We have made mistakes. We will make mistakes. We are babies taking baby steps. But we are learning to walk so that we might run.
So I leave you tonight with these two quotes.
I am only one,
But still I am one.
I cannot do everything,
But still I can do something.
And because I cannot do everything
I will not refuse to do
The something that I can do.
-Edward Everett Hale
A lot of people are waiting for Martin Luther King or Mahatma Gandhi to come back — but they are gone. We are it. It is up to us. It is up to you. – Marian Wright Edelman
It is up to us, each and every one of us. We can all do something that will make at least a small difference. Together it all adds up to something pretty powerful.