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by Jordan Graustark
At some point, special circumstances requiring an intensive rescue effort will occur during a brief period of time. Common scenarios include the expeditious removal of a number of dogs from a racing/breeding kennel that is about to close, transportation of an especially large number of dogs from a defunct track, and the removal of dogs from an abusive or neglectful situation. A few years ago, a number of people involved in Greyhound rescue in New England came together to remove to safe surroundings a group of Greyhounds living in squalor. This combined effort was not only successful and efficient but a warm reminder of the synergistic effect of several individuals donating their respective time and talents for a common passion.
On New Year’s Day 1997, friends in Middleboro, Massachusetts called me about a group of nine Greyhounds living in a kennel-cum-converted garage in their neighborhood. The dogs were owned by an elderly woman and her aged partner; the latter was also the caretaker for the dogs, and he had just suffered a massive stroke. Because the dogs were no longer being cared for, my friends jumped in to provide help.
What they found was appalling: the dogs were very thin, living in dirty, malodorous conditions. The kennel was unheated and extremely cold. Amazingly, the elderly woman who was the co-owner was not only unaware of these conditions, but per instructions from her partner, she had not been allowed in the kennel in many years. My friends, Abby and Frank, cleaned the kennel and the pens as best they could and began visiting several times daily to feed the dogs, turn them out, and tend to their needs. Frank felt that there was one dog that was in need of medical attention and possibly euthanasia.
Although I was not able to drive down to see the kennel for myself that evening, I felt that an immediate intervention was imperative. Thus we began several days of an intensive rescue effort. Listed below are the steps taken by a group of dedicated people to rescue the “Middleboro Nine.” These steps may prove useful to other Greyhound rescue groups who find themselves in a similar situation.
Identify Potential Resources
Identify other rescue individuals/groups in your area who might be of assistance. The Greyhound Project online directory of adoption agencies and contact people, (www.adopt-a-greyhound.org) lists individuals and groups by state and town and provides phone numbers and/or e-mail addresses. Through this resource I was able to identify other rescue groups in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire to which we could potentially turn if we needed temporary kennels or foster homes.
Post a message to the Greyhound Lists.
The Greyhound List (Greyhound-L@APPLE.EASE.LSOFT.COM) is a subscriber-enrolled group of over 2,000 people who share the common bond of a dedication to Greyhounds. The Greyhound Rescue List (GHRESCUE-L@APPLE.EASE.LSOFT.COM) is a smaller group of people whose communications are limited to the topics of rescue and adoption. After posting an “urgent” message advising the subscribers of our situation, I received numerous replies offering help with transportation, fostering, and even monetary donations. Of the people who ultimately wound up as foster homes for the “Middleboro Nine,” the majority came forth as a result of Greyhound-L/GH-Rescue list postings.
Place Calls to Friends
Enlist everyone you can think of throughout the area who might be able to pass along the story, since there is always the possibility that someone along the line might be willing to foster or adopt one of the dogs. Speak with representatives of adoption groups at a greater distance to see if they have any openings in their kennels or foster networks, just in case you can’t find enough spots for these dogs locally. In our case, I felt we couldn’t have too much assistance on tap. I continued calling. Numerous people in Massachusetts and Rhode Island offered their help in fostering and/or transporting dogs from the Middleboro kennel. These individuals also formed their own telephone chains and continued to make phone calls to help identify more potential foster or adoptive homes within their rescue group networks.
Secure Permission For the Release of the Dogs
Get permission from the dogs’ owners. Go to the kennel and assess the situation in person; it is imperative to have a knowledgeable Greyhound rescue representative visit the kennel. Kathy Morrill of GPA/Middleboro agreed to go to the kennel the following morning to conduct the assessment. She identified the dogs, their ages and their conditions, and assessed how quickly we needed to remove them and in what order.
Document What You Find
On January 2, Kathy reported that there were six males and three females. Through their ear numbers, she established their ages: seven of the dogs were 6 years old, one 10, and one was 11. She gave a good description of the kennel environment. Kathy believed that the dogs were in fair weight and in reasonably good health. She did, however, feel that the most aged dog did not appear healthy. He was quite thin, and she was not optimistic about his adoptability. Like Frank, she also thought he might have to be euthanized.
Relocate the Dogs
Once this information was obtained, it was rapidly distributed to the members of the rescue team, who further filtered it through their respective networks. Unfortunately, early January is a very slow time for adoptions in the Northeast, due partially to inclement weather conditions and partially to the holiday season. As a result of a dearth of potential adopters, there were few (if any) kennel spaces available at any of the adoption groups. We determined that the majority of these dogs would go to foster homes.
By the afternoon of January 2, we had several firm commitments to foster dogs. Bruce Skinner offered to go directly to the kennel to bring home one of the dogs for fostering. He took the 11-year-old male in order to get him out of the cold environment and to more carefully determine the dog’s state of health as well as his adoption potential. Bruce took him to his own vet the same day. Jonesy was pronounced to be in reasonably good health, albeit very thin and needing care of several pressure sores as well as extensive dental work. He was immunized and then went home to live temporarily with Bruce, his wife Chris, and their two Greyhounds RC and T. Bruce’s initial impression was that Jonesy would indeed be quite adoptable!
Plans were made for the removal the next day of four additional dogs. Claire Sygiel of Greyhound Options in Western Massachusetts agreed to take three dogs into her group for fostering and placement. Two of Claire’s volunteers were willing to take the 10-year-old male, and two additional dogs the next day. Kathy agreed to take a male to her GPA/Middleboro kennel for placement through GPA. Several others volunteered to provide foster homes: Meredith Pickering of Rhode Island could foster one dog, Jess Holderbaum of Cape Cod could foster two dogs, and there was one dog not yet designated whom one of us would take.
On January 3, our plans were finalized. The four dogs that were to be taken to their new foster homes were removed. Left at the kennel were two males and two females, all 6 years old. A group of us met at the Middleboro kennel the following morning to bring “home” the remainder of the dogs.
The Final Day
On January 4, more rescuers arrived. Bob Carson of Greyhound Friends, Nancy Buckland of East Bridgewater, Massachusetts, and Joan Blair joined the others to see to the safe removal of these special hounds.
Jess bathed his two fosters at a local kennel, while we held a mini dog wash for the remaining dogs in the kennel owner’s extremely small bathroom. The dogs looked considerably better after being scrubbed with flea shampoo, although her bathroom certainly didn’t. By early afternoon, the decrepit kennel was empty, and all of the dogs were on their way to warm, loving homes.
Most of us came together from different areas and different rescue groups that often have conflicting philosophies and don’t always work together as cordially as would be optimal. But when the “Middleboro Nine” team came together, we worked in unison with a common purpose. We learned lessons about how to coordinate an urgent rescue effort, and we enjoyed the experience of making new friends within the adoption community.
Three Years Later ….
Jonesy was adopted by Ann Bodkhe, was renamed Buddy, and was adored and pampered for three more years. He recently passed away and is sorely missed.
Guy was also adopted by Ann. Guy’s interest in cats and small dogs became a bit too much for the Bodkhe’s to manage, so he was returned to Greyhound Options. Claire Sygiel found him a home with his littermates Robert and Thelma. Sadly, he had to be re-homed when his owner died. Recently, Guy suffered a stroke and passed away.
Robert and Thelma pictured with Guy and Sharon Lewis were fostered by Claire and Cliff of Greyhound Options Inc. They were placed together in a very loving home, and later joined by littermate Guy. Due to the death of their adoptive owner, they, too, had to be re-homed. They remain extremely bonded to each other and are living with their now permanent owners, Claire and Cliff. Robert has laryngeal paralysis, but the two are otherwise healthy.
Buddy was fostered and adopted by Claudia and Dick Nixon of Oakham, Massachusetts. Buddy was ill through his first few months with the Nixons, but after receiving treatment for a gastrointestinal infection, he thrived. The Nixons’ hearts were broken when Buddy became seriously ill and passed away in 1998.
Tessa was fostered by Lisa Rosenberg of Wayland, Massachusetts and subsequently was placed with a family in New Jersey.
Roan was fostered by Jess Holderman. Nancy Buckland drove him to Maryland where he was adopted by a Greyhound-L list member. The adoption did not work out. He was re-homed with a close friend of the owner.
Banshee was also fostered by Jess Holderman and now owns and controls Rachael Cappizzi of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Banshee accompanies her mom on dog-sitting assignments.
Buddy Bear was at the Middleboro GPA Kennel for many months awaiting a home. Greyhound Options asked if they could bring him to their program for placement, since many of his kennel-mates had found homes through GO Inc. Husband-and-wife team Claire Sygiel and Cliff Kerr fostered this sweet boy. Shortly after Buddy Nixon’s death, the Nixon’s decided to adopt Buddy Bear. He is now happy, healthy, gorgeous, and cherished.
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