Every year, the national dog advocacy group I’m Not a Monster hosts and coordinates a massive holiday donation drive for animals in need. Sweetie the Incredible is the network’s Dallas-Fort Worth “Monster” Elf and has selected three local beneficiaries: North Texas Pet Food Pantry, Dallas Animal Services and Adoption Center, and rescue animals receiving medical care through non-profit organizations at Denton County Animal ER. Because of the large area these folks service and the amount of dogs and cats under their care, many donations are needed to ensure each animal receives a toy, bed, blanket, food, etc.
To date, we have collected quite a few items, and thanks to all who’ve been so kind and generous. However, nobody wants to decide which dog or cat receives a warm blanket or toy and which one doesn’t. That said, we really have a long way to go in order to meet our goal.
Each of the organizations and all of the animals within their spectrum are truly worthy of your donations, so when doing your holiday shopping and planning, please consider assisting the “Monster” holiday drive by:
hosting a holiday party where guests bring a pet supply item
asking pet supply stores if they have any items to donate
Your contribution can make a big difference this season. It’s a great way to get the kids involved in charitable volunteer work and can be a fun, rewarding experience. There are various donation collection areas for the drive, and our volunteers are happy to assist as well. Please see contact info below for inquiries.
Check out our wish list here. There are a ton of great items left to purchase. Thanks greatly.
Yesterday, I read Emily Mathis’ article “Dallas’ Animal Services Department Is Hot, Tired, Cranky, and Killing Too Many Dogs.” Oh, man. That’s catchy, yeah? For those who may not have seen it, the writer discussed how DAS employees are “clearly nearing a breaking point,” that the air conditioning issues in the facility are causing communication probs, and: “Cash-strapped Dallasites are leading more people to give up their pets.” She dredged up and hyperlinked an old story about animal abuse and neglect that has nothing to do with anything going on in that building half a decade later. Then Emily wrapped up her untimely billet-doux with this visit into the WTF files: “[…] the shelter and its employees appear in danger of devolving back to old habits […]”.
In complete sincerity, I dislike busting a young writer’s chops who’s working through a semi-quasi new fellowship, but anything that could potentially paint DAS in the undeserved light of negativity can’t go without being addressed right now. See, facility programs and the offsite adoption clinic are at a crucial fork in the road — one that is facing an important city council budget briefing on August 12, with the funding vote occurring as early as September 3. Errantry like “the shelter and its employees appear in danger of devolving back to old habits” is damaging, especially given the extremely painstaking work and huge success achieved by DAS and its many rescue partners. Unless I’m incorrect, and Emily Mathis is the High Oracle of All Things DAS, her unsubstantiated prediction is unfair. It’s hurtful. It’s harmful.
As Mathis detailed in her article, DAS is taking in a hundred plus animals each day in a space that is set up to accommodate 650. Pointing fingers online at hot-and-cranky city employees isn’t providing valuable information or solutions. The people who truly care about alleviating this crisis spend their days and nights addressing the needs of those who are unable to speak for themselves — the animals. But now somebody’s probably got to stop what s/he’s doing to address a superfluous blog post that could affect thousands of animals’ lives after taxpayers read it and assume the shelter is undeserving of receiving further funding.
Let’s talk about this funding, though. Did Emily read this list of what the city dubbed “enhancements?” Perhaps, no. The word “enhancements” is kinda ridiculous, really, because these items include…oh, you know…FOOD. Yes, food. That’s an “enhancement.” Pfft. Something else that’s on the table here: protection against rabies for employees. People just assume that’s a given, but no. Animals are also facing the inability to receive immunizations upon intake. This is a big deal. Disease spreads like wildfire, which is the reason doggy daycares, boarders, and groomers request shot records before admitting new clients. If a dog or cat becomes ill with something easily prevented, that could deter placement and the ability for rescues to pull otherwise adoptable pets. Face facts: These animals initially arrive at DAS from a variety of environments, mostly not ideal. They need food. They need preventative care. The employees deserve to be protected. All of this is truly just the tip of the iceberg.
Going back to what I wrote about the city’s folks grinding away day and night to help these homeless dogs and cats and pigs and snakes and lions-and-tigers-and-bears-oh-my (and their people), however. . . in volunteering for a rescue group that’s worked after-hours on numerous occasions with city employees, I have witnessed the emotionally challenging and endless stuff DAS does in order to assist the community and its animal friends. They see the worst of the worst: Dogs that have been burned alive, cats that have been impaled, animals used as target practice, ears mutilated by kids who thought cropping was something you could perform with a dull pocket knife. While we’re at Starbucks, these employees and volunteers get to watch kids cry as they helplessly, hopelessly have to say goodbye forever to their beloved friend. Employees get the honor of meeting hundreds of neat animals that nobody claims every week, feeding them their last meals — knowing it. Those workers clean the kennels of dogs and cats, who are often so terrified that they’ve eliminated all over themselves. These people answer emails and make calls non-stop in order to network dogs — and I mean NON-STOP. They care. They are doing what they can and then some. Anyone with half a heart who’s braved the myriad of kennels at DAS will tell you the facility needs more, not less, and that the public is in serious need of education.
Despite the legitimate call for more funding, Rebecca Poling, who is a member of the City of Dallas Animal Shelter Commission, points out the great achievements DAS has reached. “Having served on the City of Dallas Animal Shelter Commission since 2007, I know very well how bad it was and how good it is now – and I have the stats to prove it.” Have a look:
5,366 more lives saved in 2013 than 2007;
LRR (Live Release Rates) increased 31% from 12.7% in 2007 to 43.9% in 2013;
4,000 live outcomes in 2007 vs 11,800 live outcomes in 2013;
In 2007, 28,095 pets were euthanized. In 2013, that number was down to 15,067.
Perhaps, that would have been better subject matter for Mathis’ blog post. She could have called it: “Dallas’ Animal Services Department Is Hot, Tired, Cranky, But Not Killing As Many Dogs.” Still eye-catching, no?
When asked about the article in question, Poling stated, “In regard to Emily Mathis’ article, Dallas’ Animal Services Department Is Hot, Tired, Cranky, and Killing Too Many Dogs, I was very disappointed to read the final sentence, ‘But with increasingly stretched resources, the shelter and its employees appear in danger of devolving back to old habits, at least until summer finally gives way to fall.’ That statement seems irresponsible and unnecessary. True, there are a lot of animals coming in. Yes, it’s a lot of work. Indeed, people need to be patient when surrendering pets. But none of that leads to the conclusion that anyone is at risk of ‘devolving back to the old ways’.
“The staff and management at DAS are good, caring, compassionate people. They have worked tirelessly to turn things around these past few years, and yes – they are dealing with hot temperatures, hurried customers, and lots of pets being surrendered. But implying that 3 years of hard work will go down the drain because it’s hot out and a lot of animals are coming in belittles the hard work and commitment they’ve made, as well as that of City leaders, City staff, the public, and the local animal welfare community, all of whom are working hand in hand to help DAS save more lives.”
Additionally, Rebecca Poling mentioned she would happily give Emily Mathis a personal tour of DAS. I’d like to invite Emily to take that one step further by shadowing a rescue volunteer to see what a day in the life of one of us is like and incorporating that into Rebecca’s offer. The relationship DAS has forged with rescue partners plays an intricately vital role in a multi-layered facet of community outreach that extends beyond the shelter, and I’d like for her to see this firsthand. Since Emily’s public Linkedin profile indicates she served time volunteering at Denton’s animal shelter, she is probably already aware of the dire needs associated with that kind of thing, and I believe she didn’t intentionally mean harm with her words today. However, this is a great opportunity for Emily to show the large animal welfare community she can write something next giving DAS the kudos it deserves…and the help it needs.
Animal peeps aren’t all hot and cranky, but we are in it together — Emily included — and would like to prove it. (I promise we don’t bite.)
If readers would like to become part of the solution and ensure Dallas Animal Services receives the support it needs, there are a few easy steps you can take right now:
The Observer has now amended Emily Mathis’ original post. The action is appreciated and certainly a step in the right direction. The publication kindly posted: “Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this story incorrectly cast blame for recent issues on the shelter’s employees.” It’s hoped Emily will also accept the offers above, as well. They were extended as an olive branch and in good faith.
Last night concluded our group’s second 24-day State Fair of Texas adoption drive in conjunction with Dallas Animal Services. With happy tears in my eyes, I’m excited to report 120 dogs are safe in new homes. To be clear, that’s 120 dogs who — as a direct result of this large scale adoption effort — escaped death and life on the streets. Pop a champagne cork now. Big news.
For me, this was a different year volunteering with DFW Rescue Me at the fair. It wasn’t something I wanted to do for fun or because I thought it’d be a learning experience for my kiddo; I did it because these dogs have now become part of my family. The little rescue group with less than 200 followers I discovered during a bored afternoon spent rabbit-holing on Facebook last year has morphed into a network with well over twelve thousand fans. Since the last fair, we’ve developed educational programs, dog socialization programs, and enlisted assistance from countless caring and resourceful people. Perhaps the most monumental change enacted by the group over the course of the last year is the Justice Fund, which serves the needs of neglected and injured dogs who might otherwise be turned away from adoption.
When we lost Justice in April, people around the globe reached out and mourned alongside us. Hundreds attended his candlelight vigil. Many waited hours in line to sign his remembrance book at the funeral. When legal hearings for Justice’s accused attackers were held, supporters flooded the courthouse to stand against animal abuse. In the end, it seemed one heartbreakingly unfortunate dog, who represented a huge failure of humanity, served as a binding beacon for others needing a voice.
With sadness, our group privately gathered for a small ceremony in July. Volunteers placed a beautiful headstone over Justice’s grave, and we said goodbye.
I regularly walk our dogs along the trails surrounding Justice’s burial site. We pause while I read: “All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.” Even though the inscribed words were meant for poor Justice, they’re applicable to each dog in our group, in all groups, in every shelter, in every home lacking heart. Judging by the thoughtful notes and trinkets regularly left on his grave over half a year later, the light Justice left behind continues to shine brightly on many paths threatened by the darkness of man.
During this year’s fair event, Justice was definitely with us in spirit. The crowd asked for legal updates on the abuse cases. Attendees wanted to know progress reports on our Justice dogs and visited with beneficiaries of the program, like Hudson the Rottweiler mix. Although it’s not the way I would’ve ever wanted to grow community involvement, I’m grateful people from many walks of life have banded together out of compassion.
These animals truly are our beloved companions as we travel life. The stories people shared with me at the fair weren’t always unfamiliar; I can relate to the sorrow of something like losing a dog pal. However, there’s something to be said for a simple tent at the fair where so many strangers gathered and unexpectedly found themselves trading tales about Fido. More than once, I stood before potential adopters who apologized for crying when telling me about how much they’d loved past dogs. Likewise, more than once, I caught myself awkwardly choking up when I told people the stories of my fosters and how much I also love them. As I said before, this fair was a different place for me a year later, and as happy as I am to see it end, I’m still very sad to say goodbye.
Although we celebrated the good fortune of 120 dogs who found new families, this year’s fair wasn’t without trial. The crazy storms during opening weekend, followed by extreme weather changes the next week and more rain, produced lower attendance. People were trapped at the top of the Stratosphere for most of Saturday evening as live news covered the rescue effort. Naturally, the biggest blow was the “death” of Big Tex, our historic State Fair of Texas champion of hearts. I admit, as I watched him burn from my TV that morning, it was traumatic. He wasn’t a structure for most of us who love the State Fair; he was the epicenter of fair magic. Fortunately, volunteer photogs were able to take some amazing images of our dogs with the ginormous man in the cowboy hat before Big Tex was lost that day.
Eighteen minutes before the State Fair of Texas 2012 ended, I realized I still hadn’t enjoyed a single caramel nutty apple. Usually by that point, I would’ve consumed enough of those things to fill a couple tents. This year, I guess I was sidetracked. Luckily, I found a few tickets to add to the ones another volunteer had in his pocket and I raced from the western end of the park to the other side of the Midway to buy the apple from my favorite stand.
Victory apple acquired with minutes to spare.
Here’s to the dogs. Here’s to the volunteers and the DAS employees and the fosters and the dog walkers and the kissing booth leash holders and the t-shirt peeps and the donors and transporters and home visitors and everybody I’m mistakenly forgetting. Here’s to Justice. Here’s to the people who adopted a new friend. Here’s to the “Friendly Maker.” Here’s to new nicknames. Here’s to not-so-new nicknames. Here’s to my homeboy Big Tex.
Here’s to my Sweetie, who didn’t find her home but enjoyed a few car rides anyway.