8.25.2011

A Day in My Shoes

What's it like to walk a day in my shoes?  Well, it ain't always pretty. There's a lot of dirt, sweat, and actual crap involved in running an animal rescue shelter. It's hard work, in the heat, every single day. If you've got a weak stomach, you'll likely bail Hour 1... and if you're not big on getting your hands dirty... well... I doubt you'll be impressed. It's far from Hollywood... this is Lucky Dog Rescue, Meridian, Mississippi.

For those who think that I've got some massive animal rescue operation going here, I have news for ya: It's just me... and a lot of rescue dogs. I have several volunteers who come when they can, and I'm beyond thankful for their help each and every time. But most days, it's just me... and some super- awesome pups.

And it goes a little something like this...

Each morning, when I arrive at Lucky Dog Rescue, my crew of peacefully sleeping dogs is suddenly awakened by the familiar sound of my footsteps on gravel... and the excitement and barking begin: "Mom's here! Time for breakfast!" I head for the building, unlock the door, and walk inside my second home: my animal shelter. 

From there... I enter "work mode." Work-Ash moves quickly, efficiently, and without stopping. Anyone who's ever witnessed my kennel routine becomes exhausted, just from watching the process. It's a lot of work, and in short, here's what goes down:

I fix bowls, while an audience of excited barkers demands their breakfast. Then, I greet each of my babies, as I gently place food in each dog kennel. Next, I wait for one, or several, of them to excitedly jump into their food bowl and spill the contents all over the floor. For those extra-neat eaters, I fix another bowl, and as I hand it over, I say: "It would really mean a lot to me if you could keep the food in the bowl this time, and just eat it. Thanks." Sometimes they listen; sometimes... not so much.

When tummies are full, I open the doggie doors to let each pup into their adjoining outside run. Then, I start cleaning all 30 dog kennels.

Here we go: Pick up bowls. Remove toys, water, and beds. Scoop poop. Grab pump sprayer. Spray first dog kennel. Hose-out kennel. Squeegee kennel. Move hose, cleaner, and squeegee to next kennel. Repeat. Clean and squeegee walkways. Spray resulting nastiness down trough into drain. Start fans to dry floors. Wash bowls. Re-fill waters. Wipe down beds. Move fans to other areas to finish floor drying. When floors are dry, place water bowls, toys, and beds back in kennels. Let dogs back inside.

In conjunction with my cleaning routine, I'm also moving rescue dogs in their "buddy groups" out to the yards. Group 1 to Yard 1. Group 2 to Yard 2. Clean more dog kennels. Swap out dogs. Group 1 back inside. Group 3 to Yard 1. Group 2 back inside. Group 4 to Yard 2. Clean more kennels. Start the fans. Swap dogs again.

Then... once the inside is clean (which won't be true for long), I move to the outside runs... which means 30 more dog kennels to clean. If you don't understand what I mean, each indoor kennel has a doggie door that leads to an adjoining outdoor kennel. Those outside runs have to be cleaned as well. Sooo...

Scoop poop. Grab pump sprayer. Spray kennel. Hose-out kennel. Squeegee kennel. Re-fill water bowl. Shut gate. Replace lock on latch. Move hose, cleaner, and squeegee to next kennel. Repeat. Spray down troughs. Finish one side of building. Move cleaner and squeegee to other side of building. Scoop poop. Grab hose. Repeat hose/cleaner/squeegee process. 

Again, in the meantime, I'm still swapping dogs to yards for outside playtime. That alone is an all-day process, because each dog gets outside playtime at least 2 times per day. So... Group 3 back inside. Group 5 to Yard 1. Group 4 back inside. Group 6 to Yard 2. 

I should also mention that, for safety reasons, each rescue dog within each group is taken outside, and back inside, separately (with only a couple of exceptions). So when I say "Group 1 to Yard 1." That may imply one trip. Wrong. The number of trips depends on the number of rescue dogs within that group. If there are 2 dogs in a group, for example, Freddy and Pepsi's group, then I make one trip to take Freddy to the yard, then I walk back inside to grab Pepsi, and I make another trip to take Pepsi to join Freddy. The same is true for their return trip.

Next, I bag up the poop, and undoubtedly make a disgusting mess doing so. Then, I take the poop to the dumpster at the back of the property. I open the dumpster, which smells like pure ass, as it contains actual-ass contents. Next, I clean the pooper scoopers and place them back in their respective locations. I reel up the hoses, 2 hoses inside the dog shelter, and the 2 outside hoses. I re-fill the pump sprayers with water and cleaner and return the squeegees to their locations.

I swap more rescue dogs to and from yards, and then, it's time for walks. There are trails around the property, and each dog gets walked at least twice a day, in addition to their outdoor playtime. Walking time allows each dog to be special... it's when they get the extra love and one-on-one attention they deserve.  

This is where Lucky Dog Rescue volunteers are so helpful. Volunteers can handle walks as I clean, so that the walks are nearly done by the time I'm finished. Plus, this allows the dogs to play with a new friend for a bit... which is really fun for them.

So... each dog is walked and returned to the air conditioned building, then I take another. This process continues until each dog has been walked. Honestly, when the last walk is finished, I'm about to pass out... but it's nearly time for the afternoon routine to begin. If I have time, I'll eat some lunch and check some emails. If not, I just start the process all over again. 

It never fails, some dogs insist on using the bathroom in their damn kennels. They'll go outside and play, then they'll take a long walk... and as soon as they get back inside, they pee on the freaking floor. Soo... I'm always cleaning extra kennels as needed. Just gotta laugh about it.

In addition to the rest of the work, throughout the day, I'm in and out of yards throwing balls and frisbees, giving belly rubs, and refilling water bowls and kiddie pools. Some of my babies love to tackle me, so I tend to have dirt on my face, arms, legs, and usually, my ass too. 

But I'm actually very proud of every dirty paw print that graces my body... there's a lot of love behind each one... and I'm covered in them.

I try to make animal rescue work as fun as possible. Ask any volunteer who's ever worked with me... A LOT of laughs take place at Lucky Dog Rescue. My pups are hilarious, and I can be pretty funny, too. There's so much love involved... hugs and kisses and positive energy. It's an awesome place to be. 

I should also mention the numerous trips to-and-from the vet each week for basic care. Then, there are the weekly baths, which leave the pups extra-clean, and me extra-dirty. Once a month, each dog is given heartworm, flea, and deworming meds. On that day, no one is happy with me.

At the end of each long day, I take care of Pet Pardons, Lucky Dog Rescue Blog, pet adoption applications, and emails. I won't lie... on the days when I'm most exhausted, I pretty much suck at these computer tasks... but I try my best. I really do.

Sooo... to make a long story short, this is my life (the simplified version), and I'd love some help. If you need to lose a little (or a lot of) weight, I've got a job for you. If you need some free therapy, I've got a job for you. If you want to make a difference, guess what? I've got a job for you. 

Each day, I've got lots of jobs for me. If you're willing, I've got a job for you, too. I'm a cool chick. I've got lots of awesome rescue dogs. Seriously, what are you waiting for??? Email luckydogrescueblog@gmail.com to volunteer! 

55 comments:

  1. Tammy, I can't donate today, but will do so in the future. I love what you are doing! My brother may possibly want to help out, too but he does not want to sign up for Facebook. Please tell me how he can donate/help.

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  2. Ashley, thanks for posting this. I have a much better understanding now of what you do!

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  3. dang, i wished i lived in Mississippi!! i would soooo love to be there with you and the pups!

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  4. I know the feeling and can feel for you. I worked in an animal shelter in Las Vegas, and a Veterinary hospital & doggie daycare/boarding/training in Texas. People have no idea how hard of a job it is. BUT when you see a baby find their forever home; it's all worth it. If I lived in the same state as you organization, I would be there a few times a week for sure. God Bless you for all the good you do. Teri

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  5. As an animal keeper...I can relate. This was great and well said and most importantly made me smile and laugh. Thank you for sharing and all that you do!

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  6. Have you ever considered a visitation-volunteer program for folks to come and spend a week or so chipping in? Families, couples, singles, could venture to your neck of the woods, find somewhere to stay (maybe you have suggestions on that?) and descend upon the place for a few days or however much time they can spare, HELPING you?! My email is 4dogsake@gmail.com if you would like to discuss this further.

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  7. Yep the life of a dog rescuer! Much admiration to you! I am a volunteer for DDB - Oregon / foster dog parent and on and on and on. I will save my $ and fly down to your neck of the woods and spend a few days volunteering with you. It will be good for me b/c I plan to have a similar type of rescue as you one day here in the pacific nw. and it will be good for you to get some extra help! And i can totally relate to the 'smells like poop' and 'picking up endless poop' part of your story. that's just one thing in the long list of unglamorous sides to rescue. And as you know, the reward in the end is well worth the exhaustion and poop! You are an inspiration to all of us dog rescuers and dog lovers alike. Thank you for telling it like it is!!

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  8. Brenda J - Terre HauteAugust 25, 2011 at 4:14 PM

    Ashley, you are one truly remarkable lady...IDK how u find the time and/or energy to do everything u do...Love u & wish u the best!! If I ever get down to Mississippi, I'll be sure to look u up!!

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  9. Ashley, in case nobody has told you yet today, you ROCK.

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  10. Sounds like you're doing a great job. I volunteered for a rescue for awhile that had a shelter and the routine was very similar to yours (with one person doing the entire job). I only did the shift a couple days a week and it was tough enough! The biggest difference is the dogs never got walks. I eventually left because they were warehousing pets and the place was clean but I felt the dogs were suffering there because they lived for months or years with almost no attention. That one on one time with people is so important! I applaud your efforts for these guys, and I hope you and the dogs get a lot of new volunteers!

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  11. Ashley, I was tired by the time I finished reading that. You amaze me more every day. Keep going and much love from Vermont.

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  12. As a Veterinary Tech I can relate but not to that volume. I have had my fair share of kennel "dooty" (LOL) and know exactly what you mean by them hearing you pull up and walk in the door. Sometimes the singing begins before you even get there because dogs are smart and know the routine. You are an awesome person and wish I lived nearby to volunteer. I am in Florida and a good 4 hours or so away. I wish I had the time, space and money to do what you do.

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  13. You are amazing!! Thank you foall you do.

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  14. I am with Trisha on a volunteering vacation program. What about a Lucky Dog retreat week, pick a week. Being a travel agent I can set up a meeting fare 5% discount with say American airlines or something that allows people from all over to fly in during a specific set of dates. Group hotel reservations etc. Just a thought...I know you need help all year not just a week but if you wanted to start small, and maybe supervise and give yourself more of a break for admin blogging or shopping or whatnot for a week, it's doable. :)

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  15. Leela G in HoustonAugust 25, 2011 at 4:45 PM

    Hi Ashley. I don't know about Mississippi high schools, but here in our area of Texas, it's a *requirement* that graduating seniors have at least five documented hours of community service work in order to participate in graduation. Maybe Mississippi has something similar. Maybe there are a couple of students who dream of Vet School, and who might be really excited to help you. It might be worth checking into... ? If Texas weren't so far away, I would volunteer at least once a week. Hoping the best for you, dear. I have such admiration for you.
    Leela in Houston

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  16. ASHLEY YOU ARE SO INCREDIBLE--I AM SO PROUD THAT YOU ARE AN ANGEL--THANK YOU

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  17. Ashley, if I lived closer to you I sure would be there everyday for a few hours to help you. I love what you are doing and only wish that I could start something like that.You are a wonderful person for saving each and every animal that you can. I love dogs and have always had one or more in my life. I just don't understand how some people can be so cruel to these poor babies.I wish I was in the position to donate some money to you to help you out, but I am on disability and barely making it but I promise if things get better for me I sure will send you whatever I can because I know every little donation will help.I have been following you and I advocate for as many dogs on pet pardons as I can and it just makes me smile when i open my e-mail and see all the pets that have been pardon.Keep up the good work Ashley and may God bless you every day.

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  18. I wish I lived near you! I've got an idea though, I don't know how you go about it but you could be a place where people that have to do community service work
    I just bet you would make a difference in their lives also!

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  19. I much appreciated reading this blog post. It gives amazing perspective. I'm with the others regarding a volunteer/vacation ... even without a formal program set up I'd love to come down to help you out sometime (I'm in Milwaukee, WI). I've wanted to do this at Best Friends but you need the help way more being all on your own! I have two rescue beagle boys who I love to death, but I also LOVE pit bulls! It would be a dream to have 30 pits to play with and walk (and even clean up after) and even better to be able to help you!

    Oh, and I won't lie ... my favorite quote from this post is "I open the dumpster, which smells like pure ass, as it contains actual ass contents." Hilarious!

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  20. Love your blog! Such an inspiration!
    Dave N. :)

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  21. I sincerely wish I lived nearby you, or that your fantastic Rescue organization was near me! Thank you for all that you do!

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  22. Although I don't do what you do on a daily basis, I volunteer at a shelter locally(NY) and each summer, in the Bahamas~ and you are so right about the therapy I get from the dogs! It takes you out of yourself completely.
    God love you for what you do every day for all those wonderful dogs!

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  23. I wish I lived closer by because as an Animal Science student I have a flexible schedule and would love to volunteer. If you have any connections up in Connecticut please let me know! We fostered for a while, but ended up being foster failures and now have five of our own babies so being able to help in another way is totally doable. Thank you so much for the time, devotion, and love you put into what you do every day-you inspire me.
    Rachel

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  24. AShley, you are a super organized person..all I can say is God Bless you and your puppies...I will volunteer if I was anywhere where you are...hopefully some people who read this and are near you will be motivated to help..because yeah they can lose weight and get lots of love in the process..I would totally do it...I wish they have one like here. :=)

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  25. If i lived near you, you bet I would volunteer! Thank you for all that you do Ashley!

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  26. OK Folks, I'm gonna lay it out there because I know Ashley is way too kind.

    Ashley has one HUGE obstacle. Another rescue. Another rescue who, seemingly, goes out of their way to bad mouth Ashley on a personal level as well as a professional level.
    They tell people she is only in it for the fame and her personal agenda and she does very little for the dogs she rescues. They talk about the way she dresses, etc etc etc. Therefore less donations/volunteers means less rescue.

    Ashley has a boarding facility. This is the money she uses to live on AND fund her rescue. They have told people that her dogs are sick and not vetted. They tell them they should not use her because their dogs will get sick or harmed in her care. Therefore less boarding equals less rescue.

    The list could take up a page. It is such an EXTREME amount that Ashley, although she never would, could EASILY win a slander law suit against them.

    But guess what? Yes, they talk about Ashley on a personal level and it hurts, but the thing that hurts the most is all the horrible things they say about her rescue. That is taking it to another level, THAT IS ONLY HURTING THE ANIMALS.

    It makes me wonder why. If this other rescue is only making it about the animals, then why in hell do they do things over and over and over and over again that hurts them? And yes, by bad mouthing another rescue like Ashley, that is exactly what they are doing. Whether they want to admit it or not. (maybe they should read their page for some examples of how they have twisted people against her)

    Every time Ashley has to say no to a dog because of lack of space, funds and volunteers, in my opinion, it's their fault. She has a huge support base across the entire world, yet has very little in her own hometown.

    I'm saying all this with the SLIGHTEST of hope, that this rescue will just stop. That this might open their eyes to the harm they are doing. If they are truly only in it for the animals, then they should welcome another rescue trying to do the exact same thing they say they are doing.

    Run your rescue, take care of your animals and keep your mouth shut. It's really very simple. STOP SLANDERING Ashley and Lucky Dog Rescue.

    In the end, they ONLY ones who are suffering are the animals. How sad.

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  27. god bless you for all you do....................

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  28. Oh dear, I do hate "rescue drama". It makes me so sad when people turn it into a competition instead of being supportive and collaborative. You're clearly working hard so I'll keep my fingers crossed that you get some local support soon.

    I know what you mean about the smell! I was volunteering at the local open-access facility yesterday and boy did I feel self-conscious on the train on the way back home after a dozen dogs in various stages of stankiness rolled all over me (most hadn't been bathed after being recently picked up off the streets or dropped off by neglectful owners).

    http://bwpaws.blogspot.com

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  29. Girl, I would love to volunteer for you but I'm a bit too far to leave my own rescue babies for the day. ;) I feel your pain, while I wish I had a separate facility to house mine in... my rescue is in my house. I do understand the clean, move, clean, move...rotate, clean, move...process. It's exhausting and NEVER ends. But at the end of the day when there is a pile of tired out pups all around you ...it's ALL worth it!!! Keep it up girl...you ARE making a difference.

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  30. I wish I was anywhere near you so I could help - I have to be content with advocating and sharing and I hope sometimes I make a difference. God bless you for all your hard work and for caring about these furry friends. I am making a small donation but being on SS now and a really tight budget it isn't possible to do more, but I know that every little bit helps. I will try to do it monthly. I wonder if it would be possible to clone you and scatter you about the country LOL.

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  31. I would absolutely come for a week (or two!) to help out in any way possible, love that idea! If I lived close, you wouldn't be able to get rid of me! You are an amazing person Ashley, and have been a key inspiration in my getting involved with local rescues here in NY, including as a cage cleaner at a no-kill cat rescue, so I understand about poop issues!! Keep up the wonderful, and inspirational work.

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  32. dear everyone; just by reading this day in the life you know the woman needs a steady supply of cleaner, rags, bowls, food, dog toys, leashes and trash bags.. even if u can't help you can donate these items or send a little money. If everyone sent $5.00 think how much help that would be.

    Also vote for Lucky Dog in the shelter challenge on the Animal Rescue site

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  33. Oh, how I wish I lived close enough to come and help you! I would clean so YOU could walk the dogs! :) Bless you for all you are doing. A small donation coming your way from Canada with much love and a big hug!

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  34. I wish you got all help you need but I know that is never going to happen. Have you reached out to any of these celebrities who support dogs. You write so well have you ever tried to get a book published. Somewhere out there must be a producer who could build a reality show about you. If I ever find myself down in Mississippi, and don't get killed for being a Yankee, I would be proud to scrub your kennels on my hands and knees

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  35. That rescue should be ashamed of themselves. I have been working with a rescue group for over a decade and have seen some of the same things happen and it's disgusting. We all have to remember WHY we are involved in rescue work. If your actions do anything to harm a dog, prevent their rescue, or adoption, then you have NO business calling yourself a rescuer. If you're doing your best, and proud of your work, you shouldn't have to waste your energy slandering others. Now STHU about Ashley and go rescue some dogs!!
    Lisa

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  36. Hey, Ashley....I have been 'studying up' on how to make those cool dog beds, like K*****a ones out of PVC pipe and canvas. I'd love to get a project together to make those for y'all if you don't already have those? I can send a link that shows the assembly methods.
    Yours for the homeless ones,
    Donna Bloomer
    Wilmington, NC

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  37. Too the Annonymous who wrote the book on how people are so against Ashley..
    I put myself out there (allot of us did) to Help Ashley when she first opened up.. She quickley let me know she didn't need any help from me..(I'm Ok with that) Ashley has done this to allot of us who live in and around the Meridian area. Put some of the Blame for no help where the Blame belongs..It's a 2 way street there..
    I don't have anything against this Young Lady who's doing her best to Help all these animals..& she is doing a Damn good job....
    I wish You all the Luck in the world Ashley because I believe what you do for these Babies (K9's) does come from your Heart....
    Ashley were not all against you nor what you are doing....

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  38. I wish we lived closer but I am in Utah. I hope more volunteers will help you with walking and caring for the dogs. You do an amazing job Ashley and animal lovers like me are truly grateful. I am not in a position right now to offer a donation but I promise I will as soon as I'm able. You are my hero!

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  39. I noticed almost everyone here said "I wish" I could do this or that. Hey everybody - just donate some money. I don't have a job right now and am losing my house but I donated money. I think Ashley would greatly appreciate it but she is too nice to ask here... Don't quarrel about how or what or why, just listen to your heart and click on her link and donate! ♥♥♥♥♥ woof!

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  40. Anonymous @ 11:36 pm,
    Keep in mind that the "Anonymous" title doesn't truly mean that I don't know who you are. Therefore, we both know that you have never offered me any such help, and I have never refused legitimate offers.

    I would never say that no one helps me at all. As I stated in this very blog and several other posts, I'm so grateful for the help and support I receive. But in rescue, one can't really have "too much" help, and I've learned that I must ask for help when I need it most. That's what I did here.

    Anyone who knows me knows that I don't like to burden people with my struggles... and I feel guilty asking for and accepting help.

    Regardless, I wrote this post per the request of a friend, and it's honest and true to my life. Your comment was pretty irrelevant, since I wasn't accusing anyone of not helping me... I was simply asking for anyone who is interested in helping to step-up and get started.

    I'm constantly amazed at the people who want to bring negativity to my blog. There are plenty of other places for you, but this shouldn't be one you seek.

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  41. "11:36 pm Thursday....Anonymous"

    I could care less that U know who I am...

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  42. I don't recall saying that people are so against Ashley. What I DID say was that another rescue was.
    I will stand by my statement that their slanderous comments, all over town, are Ashley's biggest obstacle.
    It's actually very sad that these middle aged women have nothing better to do than attack Ashley. Spend the time with the animals. I am sure they would LOVE the extra attention.

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  43. If I lived in Mississippi or your rescue was in Florida i would volunteer in a heartbeat! You are supermom!

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  44. I can't tell you how excited I am to read this! I was JUST TODAY thinking how I would love if you'd do a "day in your life" post and now here it is!! I had to rush down to the bottom to comment because I was so excited by this coincidence, so now I'm gonna go back to the top and finish reading! Yay! Thanks for reading my mind, haha! <3

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  45. Ok I read it and - whew! I'm exhausted just reading it! How do you do all that eery single day?! Wow. No wonder you have such a great lil figure! I so wish I was in your area so I could volunteer to help you but I am in FL. :(. So, do you ever get to see your hubby? Do you ever get to go out of town/on vacation?

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  46. Oh my goodness! A reality show. What a fantastic idea. Ashley is absolutely gorgeous, and would look fantastic on TV and the dogs would have incredible exposure to the whole country to get adopted! And there would be plenty of drama and joy and happiness and all the things people like to see. I think that was a BRILLIANT suggestion. At the end of the show you could show dogs who want their forever homes with a phone number.

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  47. If I had only lived in missisippi and not in Norway.

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  48. A Lucky Dog reality show would be kick ass!! And would help save so many dogs!

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  49. I volunteer with a wonderful rescue group in Nj! We rescue many of our dogs fromkill shelters :( I love being able to relate to what you say in your blog! I know you work hard in every way to keep your group going dispite the rough times you may have or lack of volunteers! Rescue work never ends! We both know that! Good luck with your rescue! You are doing wonderful!!!

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  50. Ashley I just read your blog on A day in the life of. . . YOU! I really wish I lived close enough to Lucky Dog Rescue to volunteer. I would in a heartbeat! But instead I have sent you a little donation and am sending you a lot of love and admiration! Keep up the good work and I will give when I can so that you can!
    g_wonder@hotmail.com Claire

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  51. Amazing work you do! Wish I lived closer by so I could help you out. Keep up the great work.

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  52. Too bad I'm marooned out in Cali, or else I'd jump on volunteering. When I lived in Oregon, I volunteered for an awesome shelter and severely miss helping out.

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  53. bought a raffle ticket!!
    thanks for all that u do! =)
    -mommy of 5 awesome rescue pups

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