Get Your Fix!

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Blog post by Kellie French.

Many people who work in animal rescue can relate to having to fight the thought, “there is no hope for humanity.” In addition to animal rescue, I have worked in the child welfare system for almost a decade, so there are plenty of days that I wonder about the human race.

However, there are also many days that remind me why I love doing what I do.

Days where I can see the full picture of the community who helped keep a family – human and animal alike – intact.

Days like the one that I witnessed a family’s struggle come full circle: from asking for help, to becoming the helper.

A Family Fights to Stay Together

As a representative of the MN Alliance for Family & Animal Safety (MNAFAS), I was contacted one afternoon by Minneapolis Animal Care and Control about two pit bulls in need of safe housing. Eva, the loving owner of Bubba and Pearl, had found herself in a scary domestic violence situation and entrusted her dogs to animal control to be held until foster homes could be located to keep the dogs safe until the woman could safely reclaim them.


Pearl

I met with Eva and her daughters to learn more about her situation, her dogs, and her safety plan. Eva shared with me her story, and her oldest daughter, Ashley, spoke about the behaviors, needs, and personalities of Bubba and Pearl. I was humbled to find out that Eva and her daughters were currently residing in a homeless shelter, kenneling their dogs in someone's garage overnight. They had to take their dogs from 5 am to 8 pm each day, but since they had no place to live, they would spend their days at parks with the dogs. This significantly affected Eva's ability to focus on other areas of her life, such as finding housing. Although the family had to make significant sacrifices to care for their dogs, they were happy and strong because they were together.

That was when MNAFAS stepped in to help. Eva, her daughters, and Bubba and Pearl were a perfect fit for the MNAFAS Pet Safe Housing Program and an example of the necessity of this service within our community: families are not only comprised of humans, but beloved animals as well, and some people will compromise their own safety and well-being in order to keep their pets.

It Takes a Community

Minnesota Pit Bull Rescue (MPBR), also a member of the MN Alliance for Family & Animal Safety, put out a request for foster homes for Bubba and Pearl. The dogs were subjected to a simple temperament test to ensure that they did not pose a danger to humans, and they were soon placed with foster homes. Bubba, a social butterfly, made quick friends with his foster family's dog. Pearl, who was much more mellow, was slowly introduced to her foster family's dog and cat.

Just like with any major change, adjusting to foster care was difficult for these two dogs. Bubba destroyed his kennel – he just wanted to hang out with his new foster family!

Pearl, on the other hand, was thought to have a bladder infection. But it soon became clear that it was something more serious. MPBR began to investigate why Pearl wasn't feeling well and, after countless tests, it was determined that she had an inoperable cancerous mass. MPBR volunteers were faced with the task of breaking this devastating news to Eva and her girls. Pearl was put on a medication that would keep her comfortable and pain free.

After a few months, Eva was able to bring her entire family back together, and Bubba and Pearl were reunited with their girls.

Bubba

The Giving Comes Full Circle

More than a year later, in September 2012, I again connected with this wonderful family – this time, at one of A Rotta Love Plus’ Get Your Fix! fairs, where they had come to get their dogs vaccinated and microchipped. Unfortunately Pearl had passed away, but Eva and the girls were elated to introduce me to their other dog, Golden, who they had just recently gotten away from their abuser. Bubba was with them too, exuberant as ever, and happily being wrangled by Ashley.

 Golden

That day, Ashley asked how she could volunteer with A Rotta Love Plus to help others, like those who helped her dogs. So in October, at our last Get Your Fix! fair of the season, Ashley joined the other ARLP volunteers in setting up tents. She listened to the precise directions necessary for recording microchip information. She spoke to people waiting in line, writing down their information and letting them know about the services being provided that day. Ashley also talked about her interest in keeping dogs safe and healthy, and her internship at a veterinary clinic.

Clearly, this teen and her family have not let life’s hardships affect their ability to show compassion.

With all of the terrible things that happen around us every day, I look at Eva, her daughters, and their dogs, and remember that what we do matters. It lasts.

The compassion we show others – animals and humans alike – sets an example that will be passed along to ensure a better place for all of us.

Fellow Get Your Fix! volunteers and me
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Story and photos contributed by Lp Reyes.

Zeke's mama brought him through the fair for vaccinations while his brother, Nightmare, was getting neutered. Nightmare charmed many volunteers before his surgery, and Zeke is best remembered for his bravery at the microchipping table that drew cheers from bystanders when it was done.

Nightmare, pre-neuter

Nightmare and Zeke's human, Gina, struck up a conversation with ARLP volunteer Paige as Gina sat with Nightmare in his post-op blur. Gina proudly told Paige about the professional photo session of her two boys that took place at a local pet store. A short while later she left the recovery room and returned to show off her two wallet-sized photos of Zeke and Nightmare, heads cocked to the side, wearing bright blue and red bandanas. Just like any proud parent, Gina carries her photos of her “kids” in her purse. Paige and Gina exchanged contact information so that Paige could send Gina more photos of her boys’ activities at the Get Your Fix! fair.


Proud mama: Gina and Zeke

The pride of ownership we witness so frequently at Get Your Fix!, such as that demonstrated by Gina, energizes us throughout tiring GYF fair days and deeply connects us to the human attendees. While ARLP volunteers may initiate their involvement in GYF because of their love for dogs, it is often the human-to-human relationships developed at GYF that drive their continued dedication to the cause.


Proud owner-in-training

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Rachel Anderson and Laura Anderson contributed to this story. 

Three young teenage boys and their guardian, who was also quite young, showed up to Saturday's Get Your Fix! fair with a beautiful blue and white pit bull.

Photo by Lp Reyes

ARLP volunteers noticed that the dog seemed to have hives, and told the dog's people so. The oldest of the three boys, his long hair combed into a ponytail, proudly told the volunteers, “I went up to Family Dollar and bought that pet shampoo and gave her a bath.”

He listened intently as Rachel A. explained to him that Benadryl would help with the hives and that he had allergies, like people get. Not only were we grateful for the opportunity to dole out a bit of health information but,  as Laura A. put it afterward, “The thought of the young boy using his hard-earned money on dog shampoo and lovingly giving her a bath was just so wonderful.”

Photo by Lp Reyes

Laura A. then asked if he was the dog's chosen human, which he proudly proclaimed himself to be. The other two boys reluctantly agreed that he was, indeed, the dog's favorite and was in charge of most of the dog's care.

Rachel told the boy that he had a wonderful dog and that it was clear how much he cared for her. He replied very earnestly, “I don't fight her or nothing, I love her.”


Photo by Sara Nick
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This year A Rotta Love Plus embarked on an exciting, ambitious new initiative: three Get Your Fix! fairs, which took place in June, August, and October in north Minneapolis and east St. Paul.

Puppy at October's GYF. Photo by Sara Nick

Thanks to the organizational prowess of ARLP Development Director Michelle Klatt – who ensured that even the very first fair bore shockingly little resemblance to a chickens-with-their-heads-cut-off scenario – GYF fairs became a fast favorite of ARLP volunteers. In the world of animal rescue, especially pit bull rescue, volunteers can quickly become overwhelmed with the immeasurable task before them: so many dogs to save, so little resources with which to save them. But with GYF, a direct impact was possible. So we exchanged giddy Facebook messages in the week leading up to the fairs, we spent our evenings putting up fliers in targeted neighborhoods (even in the pouring rain), we picked out our clothes the night before, and we woke up before our alarms went off. We felt like kids on Christmas morning, except we looked forward not to the potential to receive, but the opportunity to give.

ARLP volunteers Michelle, Paige, and Sara, up with the sun for our October fair

Now that the 2011 GYF fairs have come and gone, the ARLP team is hunkering down with our own beasts to endure the long Minnesota winter that is ahead of us, and taking the time to reflect on the influence of our fairs, the ways that they can be improved in the years to come, and the blessings we have received while having the pleasure of working smack-dab in the middle of the communities that need us the most.

The outcomes of our 2011 GYF fairs have ranged from pleasingly predictable to startling and unexpected. Combined totals from our 2011 fairs included 156 rabies vaccinations, 189 DHPP vaccinations, 63 spays/neuters (plus numerous vouchers given to owners who were unable to attend a fair), and 110 microchips. We also exchanged dogs’ old, worn, or inappropriate equipment for new leashes and collars. And, just prior to our most recent fair, a loose pit bull picked up by St. Paul animal control was able to be safely returned to his owner because of a microchip put in during a GYF fair.

We were over the moon when we received feedback from those who attended our fairs this year, such as Pamela H., who wrote, “You all do a wonderful thing. I love my pups and you made it possible for [my pit bull] to get spayed and live a healthier life. Thank you all for what you do.” Another attendee told us after our August fair, “You guys ROCK! Thanks so much for offering this event. Without it, many dogs, including my own, wouldn't get vaccinated or chipped due to cost. Thanks again!”

ARLP volunteer Nicole loves up a dog recovering from surgery. Photo by Sara Nick

In addition to accomplishing these predictable (but anything but mundane!) goals, numerous unanticipated gains have also occurred as a result of our 2011 GYF efforts:

  • At our June fair, one attendee introduced us to Mikey, a vibrant young pit bull who had been tossed over her fence the day before. The woman in whose yard Mikey landed was unable to keep him, so ARLP volunteer Laura M. stepped up and took him in as a foster. On her blog, Laura reflected, “It's easy to judge the person who dumped Mikey over that fence, but mostly, I pity them. What a difficult decision! To understand that you can't provide for your puppy, but to not have anyone responsible to send him to, and to know that sending him to animal control would be an almost certain death sentence. How hard it must have been to leave him on the other side of that fence not knowing what would happen, but praying that you'd made the right decision. I wish I knew who Mikey's first owner was so that I could tell them that Mikey is safe. He is loved. He will be cared for and protected and happy as long as he may live.” Mikey is now available for adoption with ARLP, has achieved his Canine Good Citizen title, and has already begun volunteering with our Dog Safety Program.
Mikey and Laura. Photo by Paige Reyes
  • Ha, a student at Johnson Senior High School, found ARLP through the GYF fair in August. He began volunteering with ARLP as part of his senior project in September and even brought his pit bull to be spayed at the October GYF fair.
  • One attendee offered to help us get the word out about our services, writing: “I really appreciate the shots you guys provided to my dogs and the other dogs [in St. Paul] a couple months ago. Me and my group are throwing an American-bully pit bull gathering and we are wondering if you guys are willing to come out and give shots again. We throw these gatherings about 2-3 times a year and we get about 50-60 dogs every time. It’s a chance for everyone to get to know each other and learn about each other and their dogs and it helps us better one another a lot too.” We have connected with Chou and hope to take him up on his generous offer in the spring.
  • While flyering prior to the October fair,ARLPvolunteers Michelle Klatt and Kellie French walked into a busy laundromat to hang a flyer. They were approached by a woman who stopped them as they began to explain the fairs, saying: “I know who you are. I brought my dog to the first fair to be neutered. I'd like the flyer for my second dog.”
  • A puppy named Daddy was too young to be vaccinated for rabies when his family brought him to the June fair, but came back in October for that, his DHPP booster, and a microchip. And just yesterday, Daddy’s family contacted MN SNAP to set up his appointment to get neutered, which will be paid for by ARLP.
Brandy, spayed at the June GYF fair. Photo by Paige Reyes

To the community of ARLP supporters who have donated their money, time, space, and ideas to GYF in 2011, we truly cannot thank you enough. YOU are responsible for these stories. We hope that everyone who has contributed to GYF this year will take time in the “off season” to appreciate the ways that their support and dedication are creating a better world for pit bulls and Rottweilers – today and tomorrow. Enjoy the well deserved feelings of satisfaction that come from supporting this cause. Oh, and rest up – we’re going to need you for next year’s fairs!

ARLP volunteers Randy and Kellie Exchanged Dogs' Collars and Leashes

We are looking forward to increasing the reach of Get Your Fix! in 2012. Help us help these communities and their dogs by making a tax-deductible donation at our Razoo site (no contribution is too small), by becoming a corporate sponsor of a 2012 Get Your Fix! fair (contact Michelle), or by spreading the word about our fairs to friends, family, and colleagues.

“I will never be famous. I will never be rich. I won't be a beautiful model or fancy actress. My house will never be clean - neither will my cars, for that matter. I have no great skill that is unique among people. There is nothing I do that someone else could not manage.

And yet, I am happy. I have my mission, my purpose in life…. I ease the suffering of animals as best I can. I adopt; I train; I volunteer. I may not make any revolutionary changes to the world, but I do make it a better place.

What I do may not be unique, it may not be huge - but it is important.” 

- Laura McKinney, ARLP Volunteer

Army of ARLP Volunteers. Photo by Paige Reyes

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