New Year, New Transports

Yesterday morning the alarm went off at 4:30 a.m. After going to sleep at midnight the night before I hit snooze and tossed and turned a few more times than I probably should have. And then I slithered out of bed, slipped slippers on my feet, and engaged with the day. Long before the sun was up, I made breakfast, poured a glass of tea, fed foster dogs, and quickly did a last minute cleaning of the house before our volunteer Katie, arrived to pick me up for our first cross country transport of 2018. 

And we were off. 6 a.m. and the sun still wasn't rising. We woke each other up as we caught up on life and chugged oversized customized coffees before hitting the road to pick up the transport van from Bonnie with Lola's Lucky Day. And again, we were off. Heading to meet at the newest meeting spot to swap vans with the Houston volunteers and transport 21 dogs back to Wisconsin to find their families. 

As Katie and I drove over highways and embarked in the new Lola's transport van, our conversation naturally flowed from "How's life?" to more intellectually driven, purposeful conversation. Travel always seems to have a way of guiding you through an honest questioning and understanding of why we're here, what's the point, how can we improve, and all the pros and cons of life. I traced our conversation between laughter, reflection and highs and lows as we swapped stories and offered insight, realizing how the conversation continuously travelled between ups and downs of day to day life and rescue work. Katie realized the same thing and both of us seemed to agree on the fact that we wouldn't change a thing.

So, pros and cons. That's life, right? Pros, ups, and cons, downs. Goods and bads and everything in between. But how you view it or look at it, makes the difference. In the final hours of that 30 hour total, no sleep trip, we were exhausted, cranky, and ready to be home to sleep for the first time in over a day. 

"Every time I do this, I get to that low point of tired and I think 'I am never doing a transport again,'" Katie said, "And then I look at the dogs and how happy all the volunteers are when we get back and I laugh and start planning for the next trip." 

We both laughed, because we know this tends to be a common feeling amongst anyone who has ever done a rescue transport. Pros and cons. This weekend we only took one dog, DeeDee, a 14 year old Bull Terrier who found herself at a southern sanctuary after being abandoned. DeeDee is sweet. DeeDee will climb into the front seat and gently lick the side of your face as she places her paw in your lap. DeeDee will sing to you. Although it might not be your music of choice, she'll offer up her own interpretation of "Sweet Caroline" or any other classic, free of charge. So, when all was said and done and the dogs were delivered to their various volunteers and organizations, Katie and I crawled back into the car to continue from Madison- northbound. All the while, DeeDee was singing in the back seat while Katie and I rubbed sleep from our eyes. 

Pulling into the driveway of my little bungalow on that busy corner in Oshkosh, Erin and Kayla arrived to take DeeDee the rest of the way to Green Bay. I joked with them about a bath and a nap and told them of DeeDee's cuddly and silly senior self. But the moment I walked in the door there was still work to do, paperwork to be filed and double checked, information to be gathered and arranged, and as Jamier drew a bath I thought, I'll sleep after, I'll sleep after. And I did, for an hour or two before we found out DeeDee doesn't actually like cats...

I awoke less than two hours after falling asleep to missed calls and messages because sweet, soft, simple  DeeDee, definitely doesn't like cats. 

Pros and Cons. And teamwork! By the time I checked my phone, the problem had been resolved and DeeDee had been moved into a new foster thanks to volunteers jumping up to help her (and our foster's cats. Did I mention, she apparently doesn't like cats?). And again, pros and cons. The cons will continue to come, but our hard working dedicated volunteers will always meet them with= pros and we will continue to work as a team to do what's best for the dogs who need us. 

 

Heres to the pros and cons and the first rescue transport of 2018 (and to hopefully getting more sleep this year than we did last year.) 

-M

 

 DeeDee, basking in the sun between her renditions of "Sweet Child O' Mine."

DeeDee, basking in the sun between her renditions of "Sweet Child O' Mine."

Fate and Four Leggers

Alright, late last night we teased on Facebook about sharing a story with you of our latest addition “Snoopy.” Who, by the way, is rightfully named after the California native, Snoop Doggy Dogg, AKA Snoop Lion, AKA Snoop Dog. Now, I will warn you, this is a long, crazy story. But I think the best ones always are. In Animal Welfare and in Rescue there is drama. As much as you try to avoid it, stay positive, and focus on the good, the negative will be there. The bad days, they will be there. But our focus, at Lucky 7, is to keep things positive because that is the only way you can continue doing good. We pride ourselves in honesty, we focus on transparency, and we strive to deliver every one of our dogs to their happily ever after, their forever home. Which is why, two weeks ago, on a Tuesday before Thanksgiving, when we received a phone call from Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control Commission (MADACC) we were stunned. One of our dogs, adopted back in May from us, had been brought in, emaciated, as a stray. "How did they know she was yours?" you might ask. Well, luckily, we believe heavily in the power of microchipping and this sweet girl had a microchip that connected her to our rescue. Frantically, we tried to instantly arrange transport to get her back to us. No owner had come forward and after several attempts to contact them and learn more about the story that led to her being brought into a shelter as a stray, we quickly learned that Layla (her previous name will not be revealed in order to protect her previous owner’s privacy) was back in need of a family and lucky for her, she always had a place with Lucky 7. 

 

Driving to Milwaukee, the next morning, the day before Thanksgiving, I wracked my brain. Over and over and over again. Searching and wondering “What happened?” “Did we make a mistake?” " I searched for answers in our adoption practices, our policies, and everything that we do because we think it is best for the animals. Everything we do is based off of best practices, off of experience, off of teamwork and positivity. And yet, somehow she ended up in this situation. As I continued to search for answers, I tried to tell myself that everything happens for a reason, that we work as hard as we possibly can and exhaust ourselves to find the best fit for our adopters and our dogs. And so, there must be an answer to our question, “why did this happen?” And then we got to MADACC and we met him, Snoopy. 

 

I am human. And therefore I understand that other people… are also human. That mistakes happen, that life happens, that circumstances change and that sometimes people find themselves in deplorable conditions unable to care for their loved ones. For that exact reason, every dog adopted from us is always welcome back into our rescue. They have a place with our fosters and our volunteers, they have a safe place where they will continue to feel love and kindness until their new family can be found. Now, we always hope and pray for our dogs that when they go home it is in fact for forever, but in the odd chance that it is not, we promise them that they will always have a place with us. When we walked into MADACC, we were greeted by kind and passionate staff who were so grateful for us for coming to get her. They had nothing to be grateful for, this was our job, our responsibility to her. Then they mentioned “another dog.” 

 

“She came in with another dog, a male, about a year old. Is he yours too?” But he wasn’t. I went  into the kennels to reclaim our Layla, and there he was. Leaning against the bars of the kennel, in the cage right next to her. “What’s his name?” I asked. “The staff member looked at his card. “His number is A339316.” The staff explained that he was unfortunately, not a candidate for their adoption program, but luckily, I told her, he was for ours. At Lucky 7, we want to be a place for all dogs, all breeds, all temperaments. If we have a foster for a dog in need, we will take them into our program. We will work with them to find the best possible outcome. We will exhaust trainers, explore resources, and research methods to make a dog as adoptable as possible. Luckily, being a foster and volunteer based rescue allows us to focus on helping specific dogs at a specific time. We are able to tailor the amount of dogs we have in our program so we can dedicate every resource to helping them in the exact ways that they need. This means that through teamwork with MADACC, we are able to give Snoopy additional resources to succeed and once his stray hold was up and no owners reclaimed him either, we could transfer him to us. One of the obstacles that made Snoopy and unadoptable dog at another organization, was his fear based reactivity towards other dogs in a shelter environment. This is a common occurrence in many shelter environments. Dedicated staff try to make a shelter as inviting, stress free and comfortable as possible, but the noise, the other animals, and the lack of consistent handlers will naturally create stress. In Snoopy's case, his stress caused him to act out towards other dogs. This meant that in order to create a successful program for him, we needed to find him a pet-less foster who could dedicate time to learning his behavior and potential triggers. But we didn’t have a pet-less foster. Seeing him in the kennel next to Layla, and knowing that he came in with one of our dogs, instantly made him apart of the family, and giving up on him was not an option.  The day before Snoopy’s time would have been up at the shelter, our amazing Transfer Supervisor, Sara, found the perfect match. A one man, no pet, awesome foster, who could focus all attentions on creating an adoptable dog in Snoopy. And we were one step closer to fate. Meanwhile, Layla was completely immersed in her foster home and showing off all of her lap dog (she is NOT a lap dog) skills. Her sweet, sensitive, affectionate, and honestly perfect personality stole the heart of one of our volunteers, Brooke, who didn’t even know she was looking for another dog. We did a playdate with Brooke’s resident dog and Layla the exact same day we found a foster for Snoopy, and everyone knew it was meant to be. Layla was home, again, and for good. Now, it was Snoopy’s turn. 

 

The next day, Sara, myself, and our awesome junior volunteer (also Sara’s daughter) Jolie, set off. The adrenaline was fueling. We were on our way. We got to the shelter and were again greeted by the same passionate, equally motivated individuals as the week before. We filled out our paperwork and before we knew it, Snoopy was walking through the kennel doors and into our hearts. And everything clicked. The answer I had been searching for for two weeks had been answered. “Why did this happen?” Well, it was meant to happen. Layla was meant to bring us to MADACC, to find Snoopy, to find our new foster Brad, to find her true forever family, Brooke, and to find a new partnership with our friends at Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control Commission. As we left the shelter, we walked away looking forward to the next time we could work with them again, the next time we could partner together to save a life in need. I found myself smiling as I watched Sara and Jolie and Snoopy, taking pictures, laughing and playing in the grass. Snoopy, was just as thrilled as we were and he showed off his famous Pitbull smile and his happy, wiggly, butt. He danced back and forth between the three of us, sharing kisses, crawling in our laps, and pawing for more and more attention. And we headed home, to get him situated into our rescue family. We were amazed at his gentle mouth with toys and treats, at his quick ability to catch onto “sit” and his eagerness to please. We were again, as we often are, reminded of the transformation from a dog in a shelter, to a dog in a home, and again I found myself saying “this was meant to happen.”  

 

From day one of Lucky 7, we have been blessed. We have been fated with volunteers walking into our organization at the exact time they were needed. We have been fated with things working out that were never meant to, of partnerships and organizations coming together to save dogs in need. Since day one, when we jumped in a Jeep and drove across the country to save seven helpless puppies (taking a wrong turn towards Indiana and getting rear ended in Arkansas), fate has been on our side; testing us and pushing us towards a better version of ourselves and towards the best possible rescue we can be. Yesterday, A339316 got a name. Today, Snoopy slept in, wrapped in blankets, with his foster dad. Today, Snoopy got a bath, and new toys, and a collar of his own. I warned you, this was a long story. But it’s not over yet, Snoopy’s journey is just beginning, and ours, as always, is continuing. 

24740026_1446995352064599_572630661_o.jpg
24819263_1446994905397977_1381729644_o.jpg
24726198_1446996908731110_291677057_o.jpg
24726153_1446996895397778_713432561_o.jpg
24726262_1446996872064447_1102966315_o.jpg
24740116_1446996782064456_1398672345_o.jpg
24740329_1446996748731126_597955378_o.jpg
24301116_1786334551377456_8122877780606277399_n.jpg
24177179_1786334591377452_1762193332532913687_n.jpg
24946125_1793490273995217_611469042_o.jpg
24726272_1446929575404510_1236646881_o.jpg
24819279_10210062802598145_629184730_o.jpg
24818886_1446929745404493_186014511_o.jpg

Day 1, Year 3

Yesterday morning I lay awake in bed at 6 a.m. and the pets were all quiet. Can you believe that? Foster pup Cookie, resident dog Eddie, and miniature pig Remy, were all sleeping silently. The first time I've slept in in weeks and I took the opportunity to recognize that on that very same day, two years earlier, we were taking the Little York exit in Houston, heading towards Harris County Animal Shelter. Yesterday, marked two years since our start. Two years since an impulsive decision led to a cross country road trip between three young college girls, the saving of nine dogs, and the infection of the animal welfare bug. 

Today, as we wrap up the first day of year 3, I find myself reflecting on the beauty of kismet. Fate. I think often about how nothing should have worked out on that first trip, that nothing should have panned out the way it did. And that honestly, we shouldn't have succeeded in our rescue mission. But for some reason, luck was on our side that day, and we did. Kismet. Today, marked day one of year 3. Today I spent time remembering our journey, how far we've come, and all we have left to accomplish. And that leads me to my next reflection: goals. 

For those of you who know me well, you know I'm anal. Like super over the top perfectionist who has to have everything planned out perfectly. Or, perfect in my mind... at the moment... this often ends up not being perfect later on, but my hearts in the right place. That should count for something; shouldn't it? ;) There's pros and cons to this attribute of my personality, a con being that I can drive myself absolutely crazy about following routine. A pro being that I love to set goals. So, today, we're talking goals. 

Year 3 Goals:

-adopt out 200 dogs (I think we're starting off on the right foot as this week we committed to taking 18 dogs on Sunday...) 

-place 250+ dogs (whats the difference between "place" and "adopt?" When we adopt out dogs, this means we are placing a dog with a foster home and working directly with an adopter to find them a suitable match. Occasionally though, our partner organization, Lola's Lucky Day, has dogs in need of placement, but we don't have available foster homes. THANK GOD FOR TEAMWORK! When we place a dog, we can utilize our connection with other incredible local Wisconsin shelters who have space to take on and adopt out these pups when we don't have space.)

-recruit 6 more reliable foster homes

-assist more local owners with properly caring for their pets

-enhance our foster program to improve our ability to work with dogs with behavioral modification needs

-develop our transfer program to work with additional organizations

-grow our low cost vaccine clinic and pet food pantry

-create more opportunities for community engagement

-and lastly... PURCHASE A TRANSPORT VEHICLE! (This last one is a big one, we've been working on fundraising $20,000 for the last year to purchase a 2017 Ford Transit Transport Vehicle to help us rescue an additional 20-30 dogs a month. We're about half way there! And I am really hoping we are able to make this happen soon.)

 

So, it looks like a lot. But two years ago our little group thought driving across the country randomly to pull some pups from an overcrowded shelter was a lot, and somehow, miraculously, we made that work. I'm continuously blown away by our volunteers. Every single day I remind myself how lucky we are to have found one another and to have formed a positive, committed, dedicated, passionate, and loving organization. Naturally, I'm entirely confident when I say our volunteers can accomplish anything. 

 

Here's to year 3, 

-M

 

 

 

 Left to right: Sam Parker, Maddy Vasseau, and Elizabeth Elliott. Teary eyed after rescuing 9 dogs from Harris County Animal Shelter in Houston, Texas on October 19th, 2015. 

Left to right: Sam Parker, Maddy Vasseau, and Elizabeth Elliott. Teary eyed after rescuing 9 dogs from Harris County Animal Shelter in Houston, Texas on October 19th, 2015. 

 Two of the original "Lucky 7."

Two of the original "Lucky 7."

 Cheté, another of the original Lucky 7, on his first day in his new home. 

Cheté, another of the original Lucky 7, on his first day in his new home. 

 Chenté today celebrating his second "birthday." Thank you MariaLaura for being one of the amazing adopters of such an incredible group of puppies. 

Chenté today celebrating his second "birthday." Thank you MariaLaura for being one of the amazing adopters of such an incredible group of puppies. 

Sweet Tooth

I think I'm in love. And as she lays her head in my lap and quickly dozes off, I know I am. She is outstretched over my legs as I respond to emails and start entering new intake information into our records. It's Sunday. Transport day. I run my fingers over her fur and she stretches out over me, yawning as she drifts back to sleep. 

As a foster, you fall in love with every new dog. But some, more than others. Cookie, my latest foster, is a 12 y/o cocker spaniel. And she has my heart. When new fosters arrive, the first few days are often spent taking our time, getting to know one another, introducing new routines, and potentially new animals. This was the plan I had for Cookie, but in a matter of hours, Cookie has introduced herself into our home and simultaneously, our hearts. New dogs, new people, strangers coming into the home, she's faced them all, unphased and with a tail wagging in turbo speed. Right now, she is exhausted and I don't attempt to wake her from her well deserved snooze as she naps away, curled up in my lap. I just adjust my computer and keep working. Over the last 24 hours, she has left her previous foster, travelled across the country by van, and been moved into a new home, our home, where we will continue to tackle cancer treatment and pain modification. I think she deserves to sleep. I must say, I'm pretty comfortable myself. 

My ideal Sunday evening is spent reflecting, lounged out on the couch with a Packer game on, the windows open, and if I have it my way, a dog in my lap. Today, I'm getting everything I could have asked for. It's 72 degrees out, the Packer's are up by 4, and this morning, we welcomed two well deserving and incredibly charming dogs into rescue. Cookie's travel buddy, Princessa, is likely enjoying her own nap in her foster home just over the bridge. Within an hour of arriving, Princessa's foster mom Judy sent me a text clearly stating she's having the same feelings right now that I am. It's so hard not to fall in love. Especially with someone so sweet. 

The week leading up to Sunday can be hectic, okay, if we're being honest, it is hectic. But on a Sunday night, when the efforts have paid off, the dogs have arrived, and the week has ended, I take a moment to reflect on our work from the week and be grateful for all our rescue family is accomplishing. Cookie is making it easy today to focus on the little things, as big accomplishments, and as I maneuver through my work for the night she turns and licks the side of my face, adjusting her position, and resting her paw on my hand. If she could talk, I swear she'd tell me to relax. And so, until Monday, indulge your sweet tooth, and enjoy a moment with Cookie. 

-M

Cookie Lounging
Cookie Napping
Cookie Helping