Early last month, we were notified that live greyhound racing would end on August 19th at the track in Mobile Alabama, and would we be available to take in some of the dogs who would not be continuing their racing career. Of course, as is our typical response when asked about something like this, we said yes, we’ll do all we can do.
Shortly thereafter, some of our people began contacting the local media about doing stories and articles to raise awareness of the need for foster families to take in some of these dogs. We received air time in South Bend and Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Chicago and Champaign, Illinois. And the outpouring of interest in adopting and fostering a greyhound was just a bit beyond overwhelming. Since the beginning of August, American Greyhound has received almost 100 adoption applications and almost 100 fostering applications. 100 of each, not 100 combined. Almost 200 people came out of the woodwork and offered a hand, and that, my friends, is a very good thing.
Now, to put this into some perspective, in a typical month, American Greyhound receives around 15-20 adoption applications and maybe 3-5 fostering applications. So August 2017 has been nothing short of amazing. However, due to all the interest in greyhounds as a result of these news articles and the resulting flood of applications, we have added 4 new people to process these applications. And, we’re still playing catch-up, though things are beginning to return to some level of normalcy.
Our first trip to Mobile left Valparaiso, Indiana, at around 12:30 AM on Saturday, August 12, piloted by Diane Hubka, Megan Dinse, Casey Rinker and Pat Redman, pulling into the Mobile kennels around 4:30 PM. They loaded 21 dogs onto the hauler and recorded the location of each hound in the trailer and by 6:00 PM they were back on the road to Valparaiso.
Early Sunday morning our new volunteers along with many of the old stand-bys began arriving at American Greyhound’s temporary facility (my house) to prepare for the arrival of their new foster dogs. Because of the large numbers of new fosters/volunteers, we decided to direct the lion’s share of these dogs into these folks (nothing worse than telling people you need their help and then not giving them anything to do). Well over 40 volunteers were there as the hauler pulled in. The dogs were quickly unloaded and allowed to stretch their muscles and relieve themselves, at which time we began processing the dogs.
First they were tested for cat tolerance (huge thanks to Erin Snyder for bringing her “baby tiger” to test the dogs), then they were micro-chipped, tagged, de-ticked, nails trimmed, and sent off to the local dog-wash before heading home with their new (temporary) families.
Our plan was to hold off a week, process more applications and then head down the weekend of August 25, 26, 27. However, things don’t often go as planned.
During that next week we were notified that all dogs had to be off the property by that coming weekend (August 18,19, 20-closing weekend), and that the dogs that were to be held back for the September 7th TGIE class would have to be picked up as well (Mobile, AL has been the source for all TGIE dogs since inception of the program so it’s closing has TGIE working on finding other sources for their/our dogs). So, rather than 20 dogs already vetted, arriving at the prison in September, each group would be responsible for obtaining their dogs, vetting them (spay/neuter, dental, shots up to date, etc) and fostering them until they entered the prison on September 6th. In conversations with GEM reps (Greyhounds of Eastern Michigan-another TGIE partner and a group we’ve worked well with over the past few years), they weren’t sure if they could absorb that many dogs into their foster program for three weeks or if they would be able to have the vet work done in that time either. So, after internal discussions, American Greyhound offered to place the GEM dogs into several of our foster homes, vet them at our veterinarians, and deliver them to the prison in Coldwater Michigan, on September 6th (with GEM covering the costs associated with vet care of their dogs).
So, new plans were drawn up. New hauler pilots were recruited. And, the hauler was prepped for its 2nd voyage south in a little over a week.
In the early morning hours of August 19th, the hauler pulled out of Valpo, this time piloted by Brooke Artley and Barb Coggins from American Greyhound and Gaye Ann Weaver and another one of her volunteers from TGIE, The Greyhound inmate Experience. They arrived around 6:30 PM and began the process of loading the trailer with the 20 dogs and soon were on their way home. Again, well over 40 volunteers and fosters were waiting on the dogs as the hauler pulled in front of AG’s temporary headquarters (again my house). And, again, the dogs were quickly unloaded, processed into our foster care, washed and were on their way to their (temporary) homes.
While I have mentioned many of the folks who have made this past month such a resounding success, there are literally too many to name them all. But, I would like to point out a few others who have really stepped up and made a difference in how this massive transport of dog was able to work out.
First, the Adoption Coordinators-Ashley Sammut, Sharon Larson, Christina Robbins and Sarah Laufenberg, our regular people who handle this job, plus Casey Rinker, Stephanie Jones, Nicole Graves and Barb Coggins who stepped into the mix and helped out as well. Good job knocking those applications out. But, there are still more to go-so get back to work!
Next, coordinating the foster homes were Nicole Graves and Stephanie Jones. Even though Nicole Lives outside St Louis, MO, she did a wonderful job handling the planning and logistics. And, Stephanie was Johnny-on-the-spot, testing dogs, assigning dogs to foster families, and running all over delivering dogs, picking up dogs, etc, etc. Another good job ladies! You guys get back to work too!
Next, we had some outstanding public relations. Good job setting that up Stephanie Jones and Andrea Pelligrini (and I’m sure I’m missing someone here, and I’m sorry). And, good job speaking with the media Sarah Laufenberg, Stephanie jones, Sarah Gasienica, Andrea Pelligrini, and newcomer Andrew Sullivan. You guys-take a break!
And finally, the dozens and dozens of fosters families, and volunteers who got up early on a Sunday morning (and in some cases mornings), drove to Valpo (in some cases over 100 miles one way), and helped welcome the dogs to their new life, THANK YOU. YOU are what American Greyhound is all about and YOU are why we are so successful at what we do.
Since 2010, American Greyhound has brought no less than 45 dogs up from Mobile every year (we put 45 dogs per year into the TGIE program) and many years we have brought many more (this year 86 of our dogs have come from Mobile). So, we have had a long history of working with Lil Buchanon at the Mobile adoption center and I for one will miss her helpfulness and friendly demeanor.
But, life goes on and we have already begun working on additional hauls for later this month. And, look for news of these upcoming hauls and the unique dogs they bring. And, hey, if you’ve ever though you’d like to take a ride somewhere with us to pick up dogs, give me a call at (219)771-0892 or better yet, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You’ll have a great time, meet some new friends and get a better idea of what it’s all about.