You can tell just by looking at this dog that she’s had a rough life – you can see her ribs, the patchy spots of missing fur, she needs a bath, and if you look closely, you can see that she recently had puppies. Yet when I met this dog at the Beaumont Animal Shelter, she was calm and sweet and had such hopeful eyes. I’m not sure what happened to her. In an ideal world, she found a loving home that spoils her and loves her more than anything. But after spending the past couple of months in Beaumont, Texas and volunteering at the shelter, I’m obliged to think happy endings for these dogs are far and few between.
Coming here from Austin, Texas after working at the largest no-kill shelter in the U.S., it’s been pretty traumatic volunteering at a small shelter that still imposes what I consider outdated standards and protocol. I know they have good intentions and want to help the animals that come through their shelter, but they are also struggling in a region that isn’t as open minded and modern in their thinking of how pets and animals should be treated. I first visited Beaumont’s city shelter on my birthday back in May of this year. Here are a few of the dogs I saw —
Most of the dogs and cats that come through here are never given names by the shelter. There are no toys or blankets in their pens. People come to give up their family pets on a regular basis, and officers are constantly picking up strays that are in horrifying condition. A lot of pregnant cats and dogs end up here because people don’t understand the important of spay/neuter, or simply don’t care.
This sign was hanging up in the lobby during my first visit to the shelter. After walking around, I didn’t feel like I’d seen that many pit bulls or pit bull mixes. It wasn’t until my first day volunteering months later, that I was introduced to the “Pit bull room,” which isn’t typically on the tour given to the public. It’s a row of pens in a separate room that is specifically for pit bull looking dogs. It’s definitely the most depressing area of the shelter. They are hidden away like outcasts and hardly get any attention or interaction. Many of them have cropped ears or shows signs of potential past abuse, and are terrified and lonely. I’m assuming they are the first to be euthanized when there’s a shortage of pens.
This is Ollie. My friend and I were leaving a Mexican restaurant near downtown Beaumont and this cute puppy was literally trying to run inside through the open door. I scooped him up, thinking that maybe he’d somehow gotten ahead of his owner. Then I looked down at his back. It was healing from a fresh burn.
We took him home, named him Ollie, and I set about figuring out what to do with him. One thing was certain, he would have a much better chance away from Beaumont. The local vet told me she was seeing numerous incidents of dogs like Ollie having hot oil or battery acid poured on their backs either as a form of abuse or because some people think it gets rid of fleas.
Luckily, the burn on his back didn’t seem to bug him much although he’ll always have a scar. I contacted a pit bull rescue group that I volunteered for in Austin called Love-A-Bull and the very next day I had a foster family interested in taking him! I was driving into Austin that weekend for work and on my way in, I took Ollie to his new fosters, which included a older fur sister to play with. It worked out amazing and a friend of the foster family ended up adopting him within a couple of weeks!
This lil nugget is Parker. He’s my latest project. He was found sitting on a couch on the side of the road with a collar embedded in his neck. He’s only 5-6 months old, a hound/cur mix, and super sweet! He needed a nice place to stay while his neck heals, and there was too much risk of infection at the shelter. When I went to pick him up, he was in a crate with a towel covering it, in the garage of the shelter. He came out of the crate, I picked him up, and he immediately buried his head in my neck 😇
His neck still looks pretty yucky. The top of it is healing quickly, but underneath is where the most severe damage was done. The collar sliced deep into his neck and just looking at it makes me queasy 😰 But he still gets to snuggle with me and do everything a normal puppy does. He loves to chew on tennis balls, get belly scratches, run around the living room, and snuggle. He gets homemade meals by yours truly, healthy treats, and vegan dog cookies!
Even with the best intentions, no shelter can run efficiently and humanely without committed volunteers, foster families, community support, and sufficient funding. In order to obtain all these things, people have to care. And that’s hardest part. Most people don’t realize that when they care about helpless creatures, they are bringing peace and good karma into the world, which will affect humans and animals alike ☯🌏☮
Spread the word. Shelters need foster families. They need volunteers. They need donations. They need you to inform people about the importance of spay and neuter. Every time I go to the shelter to volunteer, I know I’m going to leave sad and worried, but I just remind myself that for some of these animals, the few moments I interact with them may be the best moments of their lives. It’s definitely worth it 🌈