I Need A Break

Today is just “one of those days.” I’m exhausted. I’m sad. I’m flat-broke. And I’m broken.

I need a break… and I DON’T mean a break from rescue.

I need a break from PEOPLE… people who demand of me, take advantage of me, and lack respect for me. I need a break from those who make false promises… who tell me that I can depend on them… and then constantly let me down.

I need a break from people who think that their own commitments, families, and lives are more important than mine. I need a break from people who take from my life... so that they can live stress-free. I need a break from people who believe I must be obligated… just because I care…

I need a break from expectations of help, when I have no more help to give. I need a break from those who always need me, but turn their heads when I need them. I need a break from those who say they support me… but in truth, are never there for me.

I need a break from the 6 a.m. rude phone calls, and the ones at half past midnight. I need a break from the assumption that I get paid to help them, when I don’t make a dime. I need a break from paying out of pocket, when my bank account is empty. I need a break from the perception that I’ve got help, when it’s honestly just me.

I need a break from the hatred of the world, and the ignorance of society. I need a break from awful animal abusers, and those who just don’t care. I need a break from irresponsible owners, and the suffering they create. I need a break from authorities that could help them, but just don’t see the need.

I need a break from the indifference of owner surrenders, and the resulting euthanasia. I need a break from the public blaming shelters, for an obvious societal problem. I need a break from so-called “rescue supporters,” who buy their dogs from breeders. I need a break from people who don’t spay/neuter, then expect me to take the offspring.

I need a break from puppies being born… and innocent puppies dying. I need a break from Senior dogs on death row, and little dogs in cages. I need a break from the sea of black dogs waiting... for a home that will never come. I need a break from shelters packed with Pit Bulls, who never stand a chance. I need a break from Breed Specific Legislation (BSL), and the idiots who support it. I need a break from a government that takes my money, but never helps my cause.

I need a break from a world that doesn’t get me… and the loneliness I feel.
I need a break from the constant daily struggle... and a battle that's all uphill.
I need a break from people who think I’m crazy… and all the tears I cry.
I need a break from feeling like a failure… because I even try...

Of course, I’m just venting… and tomorrow will be better. Because when I feel like this, I take the break I need from people, and focus on the ones who keep me going… the dogs.

And honestly... that’s all the break I need.


You Lucky Dog

Each rescue dog manages to touch my heart in a way... I didn’t know possible. However, few dogs have ever impacted my life... quite like my foster baby, Lucky.

In January, my rescue friend, Lisa Hathcock, called me about a Pit Bull, who had been dumped at the Louisville, Mississippi shelter. This boy needed help... immediately... and Lisa knew I wouldn’t let him down.

Earlier in his life, this Pit Bull’s owners had made the cruel decision... to crop his ears... with an old pair of scissors.

As heartbreaking as that may sound... sadly, it doesn’t make him unique.

Many dogfighters, thugs, and just-pain cruel people give their dogs "homemade crop jobs," often using an old knife or a rusty pair of scissors to remove the dog's ears. Tail docking is usually done in the same manner. No anesthesia is used. No pain meds are given. No sutures for the blood loss. Basically... one person holds the dog down… while the other mutilates their body with household cutting utensils. It’s unbelievably cruel… but sadly, very common.

Why do they do this? There are several ridiculous reasons, none of which is justified. First, since cropped ears convey a more “vicious” appearance, the dog's ears are often removed, in an effort to intimidate others. Secondly, because the ears and tail can be a “hindrance” in dogfighting, they're usually removed, for sadistic purposes. Further, the tails of female breeder dogs are often docked... to make it easier to breed them.

This particular dog was subjected to an especially painful crop job; as his ears were cut... right-down to his scalp, leaving no ear flaps whatsoever. Further, the dog suffered from a badly broken leg, which the owners never treated… leaving him with a front leg... he can no longer use.

Then, he was dumped at the pound... and scheduled for immediate euthanasia.

The shelter had given Lisa until 5:00pm that day... to find a rescue for the dog. At 4:45pm, I answered Lisa’s call… and said, “I’ll take him.”

I wanted to meet him... before choosing his name. Then, when I pulled up, I saw the most precious, happy dog... rolling in the grass, with a big smile on his face. Obviously the pound was a step-up for him... and he felt lucky to be alive.

That’s when I decided to give him the name... that I’d been reserving for a very special dog… “Lucky.”

The word “lucky” has always had a special meaning for me. In fact, it’s so special to me, that I named my business “Lucky Dog Retreat,” and my rescue, “Lucky Dog Rescue.” My birthday is 7/11… two “lucky” numbers, and I’ve endured some things in my life... that have made me feel extremely lucky to be alive.

So... I named him “Lucky,” deeming him the mascot for my life and my work. My nickname for him is “Lucky-Buppy” … don’t ask me why. Each dog gets a special nickname, and usually... it makes zero sense to anyone...other than me and the dog.

Lucky-Buppy has lived with me since that fateful day in January… the day he was meant to die. Despite the horrors of his past, Lucky is hands-down THE HAPPIEST DOG I’ve ever known. The joy he’s brought into my life is unreal.

Lucky represents everything good in the world… wrapped- up in a badly-damaged package.

His incredible spirit has truly changed my life. I’m so moved by his ability to forgive, and forget, and to love with a warmth that sets my soul on fire. I honestly can’t explain the beauty of my Lucky-Buppy in words… you’d  have to meet him to understand. He’s amazing.

Despite all of his special qualities, I knew the harsh reality for Lucky. I knew his chances of ever finding a family of his own... were so slim.

Lucky is a Pit Bull. Strike one.
Lucky has no ears… giving him a very severe, intimidating appearance. Strike two.
Lucky is a special needs dog, with a bum leg. Strike three.

Lucky is the kind of dog that people feel sorry for
Lucky is not the kind of dog that people want to adopt.
And even though I knew that Lucky would be happy living with me forever… all of the hope in my heart has been set on finding a special home for Lucky.

And... I gotta be honest...
I’ve also secretly wished that his new family would live in Meridian, so I could see him again someday.

Even still... each time I’d think about the likelihood of these things… the tears would flow, as I'd realize that my dream for Lucky … and his dream for himself... was nothing more... than a dream...

Now… let me backtrack a bit. A couple of months ago, Dustin’s 13-year-old step-sister, Libby, started visiting the rescue pups at Lucky Dog. She immediately bonded with Lucky, for obvious reasons… he’s awesome. Lucky’s incredible love made Libby feel so special… as he’d follow her every move, and give her lots of kisses.

Libby would laugh and say, “Hey Ashley. If you get here one day and Lucky’s gone… I promise I didn’t take him, okay?”

I’d say, “Okay Libby. I promise I won’t drive to your house and check under your bed for Lucky. I’m sure he won’t be there…” And we’d both laugh.

One day, after Libby and Lucky had the best time playing together, I said, “Libby, you know... you could always foster Lucky, even if just for the weekend. I’m sure he’d really love that, and then you could play with him all weekend long.”

In that moment, Libby’s eyes lit up. I knew she wanted to foster Lucky... more than anything, but she’d have to ask her mom, Beth, first. Luckily, Beth had also fallen in love with Lucky over the months, so they decided to foster him over Memorial Day weekend. My heart was elated.

When they got home with Lucky, Beth immediately called ... to tell me how much fun Lucky was having with their 2 other pups, Champ and Charlie. She said, “Ash! He’s having a blast! It’s like he’s always been here!” I was so happy… hoping maybe they’d decide to foster him long-term, until I could find Lucky's forever family.

So then... yesterday... I was working at Lucky Dog, when Beth came through the door. I was surprised to see her, and I couldn’t wait to ask how Lucky was doing.

But... before I could ask, Beth said, “Ashley, I wanted to tell you... that we’ve made the decision to adopt Lucky, if that's okay with you.”

I was shocked.
I dropped whatever I was holding.
I honestly couldn't believe it. 
I felt the tears welling up in my eyes, as I said, “Really?!”
Beth said, “Yes. We love him, and we want to adopt him.”
Suddenly, tears of joy were streaming down my face…
And then, I was sobbing.
I could barely muster the words, “Beth... thank you,” as I gave her a hug.

 That moment, was—without a doubt—one of the best moments of my life. It’s the best news I’ve ever received… and I didn’t even see it coming.

Since day one with Lucky... I’ve had a dream for him:

I wanted Lucky to live in a home with a big yard and other dogs. I hoped they’d have children. I prayed they wouldn’t live far from me. I wished... upon all wishes... that they’d let me see him again someday.

But after months of waiting... I realized that my dream... may never become a reality for Lucky-Buppy.

And yet... with one sentence: “We’ve made the decision to adopt Lucky,” Beth made all of my dreams come true. This was beyond what I’d dreamed for him. I just can't tell you...

Lucky will have a huge backyard... and other pups to play with. He'll live with his best friend, Libby. His new home is just down the street from my house, and I can see him whenever I want... which will be often.

But the best part of the story…
The part the brings me to tears every time I think about it… 
Is that Lucky is finally home…
And his new family...
Is my family.

Lucky is now a Hill… just like me.

Lucky you…
Lucky me.

*I love you Lucky-Buppy Hill! I’ll see you later this week, okay?!


Care2's America's Favorite Shelter Contest

The other day, I ran across a link posted on my Lucky Dog Rescue Blog facebook wall. The blog by Kol’s Notes was titled, “You Lucky Dog,” with a picture of my foster baby, Molly. I was so touched... and also curious... so I clicked the link to read the post…

And suddenly, I was speechless. Kolchak Puggle, a blogger dog, wrote the most touching post about my work. I felt the tears streaming down my face, as I read some of the most incredible words ever written about me. With each sentence, my heart filled with more joy and gratitude. I honestly had no words… only an immense appreciation and sense of amazement that anyone would do something so kind for me.

In addition to the inspiring post, Kolchak also asked everyone to vote for Lucky Dog Rescue in the Care2.com America’s Favorite Shelter Contest. The grand prize is $15,000 for the winning rescue/shelter, and Lucky Dog Rescue is currently in 1st Place. However, the contest doesn’t end until July 10th, and there are many amazing groups competing.

This prize money would do more for my rescue dogs than you could ever know, and it would help me save so many more lives. Lucky Dog Rescue is a very small, under-funded rescue group. I do all of my rescue work myself, out of my own pocket. I’m lucky enough to have a couple of amazing volunteers, and a few generous donors, but help and funds are so limited here.

So, I’d like to ask you to PLEASE CLICK HERE TO VOTE FOR LUCKY DOG RESCUE in Care2’s America’s Favorite Shelter Contest, and please ask all of your friends to do the same! Don’t forget to confirm your vote in your email!

Also, because I could never accurately describe the amazingness of Kol’s blog, I’m asking all of you to PLEASE READ the touching blog post about Lucky Dog Rescue by Kol’s Notes: You Lucky Dog, By: Kolchak Puggle.

Thank you, Kolchak Puggle and Mama Jodi, for touching my heart and making my dream of inspiring others come true. I’ll never forget what you did for me, for as long as I live.


Greta, the Deaf Pit Bull Puppy

Earlier today, I received a call about a puppy, who needed somewhere to go… immediately. Greta is a 10-week old, Pit Bull puppy.... who is completely deaf.

When her family became aware of her hearing impairment, they no longer wanted anything to do with her. Just like that.

So... I get the call, and I’m thinking, “Ashley, there’s just no way you can take in another dog right now. Say NO!”

For a while now, I’ve had to tell people, “I’m sorry. I have no more space for rescue dogs" ... which is 100% factual information.

Not only am I full, but I’ve already agreed to rescue several urgent dogs from another shelter... within the next week. So, I’m WAY full.

At the same time, it’s impossible for my heart to look away from those who truly need help. So... while my head said, “NO,” somehow... my mouth said, “I’ll take her.”

My decision to take her ... wasn’t because I need another puppy.
Trust me, I’ve got plenty… with more “puppy donations” being offered by the day.

It wasn’t because I need another Pit Bull.
I think it’s safe to say... there’s no Pit Bull shortage at Lucky Dog Rescue.

But in my heart, I knew what would happen to this sweet baby girl...  if I didn’t take her. At the pound, Owner Surrenders are often euthanized immediately, especially when space is limited.

Basically, the pound must hold stray dogs for 5 days, to give owners time to reclaim.

But... with an Owner Surrender, there’s no reason to "hold" them, because the owner is already known. And if space is needed... Owner Surrenders are usually the first to go. (Remember this if you ever want to dump your dog at the pound. You’re killing them, in every sense of the word.)

More specifically, when it comes to Pit Bull Owner Surrenders at our pound… the dog will—without a doubt—be euthanized immediately. The same is true for special needs dogs.

 Greta is a deaf (aka-- "special needs") Pit Bull, who was also an Owner Surrender. She didn’t stand a chance.

I thought about this special little girl... who clearly doesn't have the ability to hear... but does have every bit of her ability to love. And yet... her love was taken away, when her family realized that she was "different."

Just like that... she was no longer special to them. She no longer mattered. She was no longer deserving of life. All they could see… was her disability.

And to them, having a disability… made her worthless.
So, I got off the phone, immediately got into my car, and drove to save Greta. When I arrived, I saw the most-perfect little dog on this earth... right there, waiting for me. Greta is perfection, in puppy form.

Then, I scooped her up, and held perfection in my arms. I kissed perfection. I hugged perfection tight, and rocked her back and forth.

Next, I lifted her up, so her perfect little eyes met mine. Then, I whispered: “I know you can’t hear me, but feel these words in your heart. You are perfect. You are worthy. You are special. And now… I am more special… because I met you today. I’m sorry your family didn’t love you. But now... you have me, and I promise... I'll love you forever.”

I know she understood me, because she immediately kissed my nose, and snuggled close to my body.

And just like that… Greta became special again.


A Home for Sissy

Back in April, I rescued 6 Pit Bulls from ARF of MS, when a County Breed Ban (BSL) threatened the dogs’ safety, forcing ARF to find immediate placement for them. Sissy was one of those special dogs. Two years ago, ARF rescued Sissy. She was found, lying in a ditch, with horrible compound fractures to her leg. Her injuries were so severe... that she had to live at the vet’s office for 4 months. For the next 2 years, Sissy lived happily on the ARF Farm.

Then 2 months ago, she came to live with me. I immediately fell in love with Sissy’s gentle spirit, and I longed for her to have the family she’s always wanted. While I’m never sure if --or when-- the right family will come along for each of my rescue babies, my heart always remains full of hope.

So... I was elated when my amazing volunteer, Kathy Penn, began spending extra time with Sissy. When I saw their connection, I prayed that Kathy may adopt my special girl one day.

And this week… my prayers were answered. I’ll let Kathy tell you about her volunteer experience with Lucky Dog Rescue, and her life-changing decision to adopt one my rescue babies…

Adopting my very own Lucky Dog, By: Kathy Penn
All my life, I’ve wanted to be a veterinarian. Earlier this year, I started doing some research into getting my volunteer hours for vet school. I contacted all the local vet clinics, and another rescue group in my area, but I just wasn’t feeling any of them. Then... I stumbled upon Ashley Owen Hill’s Facebook page…

I'll be honest... I started “stalking” her (Sorry Ash). I quickly added her as a friend, and Liked both her Lucky Dog Rescue Blog and Lucky Dog Retreat Facebook pages. I was so excited, because I just knew that helping Ashley and Lucky Dog Rescue would truly be the BEST volunteer work I could ever do! Soon thereafter, I messaged her and asked if she needed any help.

Ash said: "Um... yeah girl!!! Come on over!!!"


Then, I began volunteering. When I first got there, I felt like I already knew all of the dogs... because... in addition to stalking Ashley, I'd been stalking her dogs on Facebook too! I knew all of their names and their stories… but I didn’t know their little personalities. I was so excited to finally meet each of them! I felt like I was meeting little celebrities!

I decided to spend most of my time with the 6 Pit Bulls that Ashley had recently taken in from ARF: Mimi, Bonnie, Pinky, Sissy, Capone, and Molly. The blog Ashley wrote about these Pits had really touched my heart. So, to lighten Ashley’s load, I began feeding these pups every morning, cleaning their kennels, and taking them for walks. The first day, they were all so full of excitement and energy! Sure, it was a lot of work, but I loved every minute of it!

My second day at Lucky Dog, I decided that Sissy, a black and white Pit Bull mix, was the best walker. She listened, she could untangle herself from her leash, and she didn’t drag me around. She also made me laugh.

Also, I'm not a skinny girl, by any means, so I loved Sissy's short little legs, which gave her a cute, chunky appearance!

Every day, I spent extra play-time with Sissy. She warmed up to me quickly, and we had a special connection. Sissy would always bark, as I walked the other dogs… knowing that her turn was coming soon, and yearning for my attention. But I’d always save Sissy’s walk for last, so I could spend some extra time with her. Sissy and I would take a stroll, and then we’d sit in the shade and play together. I’d take pictures and give her lots of hugs and kisses. I loved her so much, and I could tell she loved me too.

As we spent more time together, I soon realized that I wanted to adopt Sissy. Our bond was so special… I just knew she was meant to be my dog! I think Ashley knew it too, but she’s not the type to say anything. I could tell... she was just waiting for me to be sure...

Plus... Ashley doesn’t like to get her hopes up... because people let her down so much. But, in the meantime, I’d see Ash smiling and laughing... as she watched us play together… hoping in her heart of hearts... that Sissy had finally found her family.

While I'd stay with Sissy as long as I could, I was always heartbroken when I had to leave her to go home. One afternoon, I asked Ashley if I could take Sissy home for the day, to see how she’d do with my other dogs, Gilligan and Colston. I was so excited... when Ashley said yes! When we got home, I was amazed at how great they did together! Sissy absolutely loved them! My heart was so happy, watching them play together! I’d never seen Sissy’s tail wag so much! We had the best day ever... and to be honest,  I didn’t want to take her back to the rescue that night. But of course, I know how much Ashley loves Sissy too, so I was okay with it.

Over the next couple of weeks, I continued to volunteer and hang out with Sissy. Then, this past Monday, I asked Ashley if I could take Sissy home for the afternoon. Of course, she said yes! Sissy came home with me, and we played all afternoon. When it came time for her to go, I didn’t want to take her back. So, I sent Ash a text... and that's when she asked...  if I wanted to keep Sissy overnight. Next, I asked my mom if we could keep her for the night, and guess what? My mom said yes!

It was a done deal… Sissy and I would have our first sleepover together! And it was the best night ever! We laughed and played, and she slept in the bed with me. But then, I got so upset when I thought about taking her back the next day. So... finally... I decided to ask my mom if I could adopt Sissy!

My 19th birthday is coming up in a couple weeks, and I’d originally asked for a new cell phone. But hey! Mine works fine. So instead, I asked my mom if I could adopt Sissy for my birthday. I promised to pay the adoption fee myself, and take full responsibility for her care. My heart was set on adopting Sissy… I just wanted her to stay with me... from that night... until forever.

My mom knows that I’ve always been super-responsible with my dogs, and she knew I’d do the same for Sissy. I also reminded her: If we adopt Sissy, Ashley will have another spot... to save another life.
Plus... let's be honest... my mom’s a sucker for me, and for dogs, so she said YES! I couldn’t wait to tell Ashley: I'm officially adopting Sissy!

When I finally told her, Ash cried tears of joy... saying, “Thank you,” over and over. She’d been hoping all along that I’d adopt Sissy… and in her heart, she knew Sissy was hoping the same.

Since I adopted Sissy, she’s been the happiest girl in the world! I’m the first family she’s ever had, other than Ashley, and Pippa with ARF. Sissy loves her new home! She’s so funny… she loves simple things:  like lying near the air conditioning vent, and chewing up the stuffed animal my boyfriend bought me for Valentine’s Day! And she really loves sleeping on the beds she stole from my other dogs! It’s so funny! I also taught her to jump up on the couch, and now, that’s her new thing! Sissy’s a super happy girl… which makes me a super happy girl. Out of my 19 years of life, adopting Sissy has truly been the BEST BIRTHDAY PRESENT EVER!!!
*Dear Kathy,  thank you... for making Sissy's dreams--and, in turn--my dreams--come true.



Unchained Melody

Last week, one of my favorite rescue friends, Adrian  in Huntsville, Alabama, sent me a message about a shelter dog he’d just posted on Pet Pardons. He asked if I knew of any rescue groups that may be willing to take a 10-year-old Senior dog, who had just survived the recent, horrific tornado—on a chain.

Obviously, he already had a rescue in mind: me... Lucky Dog Rescue.

The shelter, Huntsville Animal Services, was severely overcrowded, due to the influx of dogs following the storms... and this special girl didn’t have much time. But the wonderful shelter director gave Adrian a time extension, to find rescue placement for the Senior dog. So, he posted the dog on Pet Pardons.... in hopes of finding someone who'd be willing to save her life.

However, Adrian knew the reality for an older Pit Bull mix, who had lived her entire 10 years on a chain. She’s the kind of dog... no one wants.

But... he also thought, after all she's been through... she deserves a chance, and he wanted to give that to her.

Adrian sent me the link to the Pet Pardons profile he'd created for "Junebug" (the name she'd been given at the shelter).

I clicked... and this is what I read:

Junebug is a tornado survivor from the April 27th storms that came through Alabama. Her owners' house was completely destroyed—as it took a direct hit from the tornado. Junebug was chained in the backyard when the tornado swept through… and her life was somehow spared. However, her owners surrendered her anyway, because they said they were trying to get rid of her... even before the storm. Shelter staff has not seen any aggression from this girl… just a bunch of sadness.

Reading those words... my heart shattered. "Junebug" had lived all 10 years of her life on a chain. She was rarely given any love or affection… but she loved her family anyway. Even more, this poor girl was forced to endure a horrendous storm—outside, on that chain—as the devastating tornado destroyed her house and yard. I picture her body flailing in the wind… I imagine the terror that filled her eyes… I can see her crying out for the family... who had left her there to die. I have no idea how she survived… considering that her family’s home was completely wiped away. Nothing was left… except for Junebug.

But what’s even more heartbreaking… is that she DID survive… and her family still didn’t want her. The family said they'd wanted to “get rid of her,” even before the storm. In all honesty, they probably hoped that the storm...  would just kill her for them.

But Junebug survived. And then... after 10 years of love and devotion, the family she trusted with her life… left her in a shelter... to die.

Her fate was almost certain… death in a shelter. Ask any shelter worker… 10-year-old Pit Bull mixes.... almost never leave the shelter alive.

Unless... their name is "Junebug" …

As soon as I read her Pet Pardons profile, I told Adrian: “I’ll take her. I’ll give her the life she deserves. After 10 years without love, it’s about damn time she got some.” Adrian was so relieved and thankful... but also lightened the mood by saying: “That must be a Pet Pardons record-save, huh? Pet posted... and less than a minute later… Pardoned by Ashley.”

At the pound, Junebug was terrified and broken. After days of waiting for her family to return, she soon realized: they would never come back for her… she would never go home again. Each day, she’d cower in the corner of her kennel, as she waited… to die.

But just before her time ran out, Adrian pulled Junebug from the pound and took her into his home ... until she could be transported to me. Her gratitude renewed Adrian’s spirit… as he told me, “Now I know, without a doubt, that they know when you save them.” He also renamed her “Melody,” after the song, “Unchained Melody.” We both thought it was fitting.

Then, this past Sunday, Melody traveled from Huntsville, AL to Meridian, MS... to live with me as one of my foster pups. When I met her, my heart instantly melted. Melody is beautiful. She’s incredible. And despite the horrors of her past… the sincerest hope and innocence shine through her eyes.

Upon arriving, she immediately gave me a kiss, and I felt the love pouring out of her heart… the love that’s been waiting for 10 years—on a chain—to be given. As a tear rolled down my cheek, I said, “It’s all better now, baby girl. You’re safe… forever.”

It’s been several days now, and Melody hasn’t stopped smiling. Her favorite thing: running in the yard. For 10 years, she’s never been able to run free, but now, she can play whenever she wants. As she takes off through the grass, I watch the years of pent-up energy being released from her body… and I cry tears of joy, because I gave that to her.

In the middle of her joyful romp, she’ll suddenly stop… scan the yard for me, and rush over... to give the sweetest kiss I’ve ever received. A kiss that says: “Thank you. This is all I’ve ever wanted.”

And then, she’s off again…

Dogs know when you save them. They just know. And in return, they thank you every day… with a love that will soften your heart, remove your sadness, and change your life. A love that you can’t even imagine… until you experience it…

Do your heart a favor. Adopt a rescue dog.

*Melody will live with me until she finds her forever family. She’d prefer to be the only dog in the home, so she can have all the love to herself. If you’re interested in adopting Melody, please fill out the online Adoption Application: http://www.petpardons.com/adoption/


An Inspiring Shelter

I’ve been so inspired by an incredible shelter in Andalusia, Alabama: the Andalusia Animal Shelter. This shelter has one very special mission: to make the facility—and the world—a better place for pets... and they work toward that goal every day.
I recently had the privilege of talking with the amazing Shelter Manager, Christin Ball, about the changes she’s made to their program, including her decision to end the use of gas chambers in their facility. In the state of Alabama, death by gassing is still a legal and highly-used method of euthanasia. But Christin made the noble decision to put an end to the gassing in her shelter, opting for the more humane Euthanasia-by-Injection (EBI) method. In addition, she’s improved shelter life as a whole for the pets, as she tirelessly works to give all pets in her care a chance at life and love. Please read Christin's story. I hope it will inspire you... and renew your faith in shelters...
Christin Ball, Shelter Manager for Andalusia Animal Shelter, describes her shelter experience:
I have been employed with the City of Andalusia/Police Dept. for 7 years now. When I first started, I couldn’t believe the challenge I was taking-on. The shelter was dark, cold, and everybody (including myself) hated coming here. So of course, because I love bright and cheery colors, I first made the decision to liven it up—not just for the people, but it’s really helped the pets as well.
In the beginning, the animals were not given a chance AT ALL. If they were still in the shelter after 7 days, they were automatically gassed. I could NOT believe that this was happening. So I started trying to make small changes that I knew would pay-off one day. I prayed often to God, to give me the strength to come back each day, because I knew He had to put me here for a reason. And soon, I found out what that reason was: to save these poor animals’ lives, promote adoptions, and create a more pleasant environment to encourage more people to come here. I fought long and hard to change the public's perception of the shelter, due to the fact it was given such a bad name over the years. I was able to accomplish that goal, and I was elated to find more support in the form of volunteers and help etc.
So all in all, I have taken on the job of mentor, manager, friend to the animals, EBI tech, and on and on. I have many hats, and love every single one of them. You see, I have to make judgment calls that most would run from, but I make every decision out of my desire to be the best I can be in my field—and most importantly, to be able to look at myself in the mirror every day. While I feel I have accomplished these things, I still have a long way to go!
Why I made the decision to end the gassing in my shelter: When I started here, euthanasia was performed strictly by gas chamber, and I hated it. I had nightmares about it, and literally cried every single time we had to do it. But at the time, that’s all we had.
Then, I was offered a class to become a Euthanasia-by-Injection (EBI) tech, and I couldn't wait to end the gassing. I was sent off to the class, passed with a 98, and was thrilled to come back home to Andalusia from Huntsville with loads of information to share with my employees. I wanted to get us going in that direction right away. But it was no easy task. I had to endure a lot of scrutiny and negative comments, like, "Why waste all that money when what we’ve got is soooo much cheaper and it gets the job done?" That was unacceptable to me. EBI is far more humane for the animals than the gassing method, and as far as the cost aspect, isn't that much more expensive. It was a struggle, but we managed to make the transition with relative ease. I have to say it was one of the best decisions I have ever made!!!
Getting critical vet care for our animals: We were once again blessed when Dr.Bush (Veterinarian) moved back from North Carolina to practice here in Andalusia, AL. He has become our knight in shining armor. Dr. Bush has helped the shelter offer new services to our adopters, such as significantly reduced rates for spay/neuter and mobile vet services. His office is a RV, so he can come to us at the shelter anytime and conduct rabies clinics. He's also able to do all of our spays and neuters right from his RV-turned-surgical-suite, along with a host of other things. Dr. Bush is so great! He does all of these things for the "greater good" of the animals… and that’s the only way we do business here!
What drives me to make a difference for the animals each day: For me and the Andalusia Animal Shelter, it’s always about doing better… not merely striving… but grasping, climbing, and reaching to be the absolute best. I refuse to euthanize ANY PET that is adoptable or that can be placed with a rescue for more training or help! I hope to one day be able to offer more services to our community, like puppy training classes and adult dog obedience training… but I’ve not yet been able to find anyone to volunteer that is qualified.
Trust me, I have grand plans for our shelter… it just takes working toward those goals one day at a time, with a solid vision of what you want to become. I am a firm believer that I was put here at Andalusia Animal Shelter because of my great love for all animals and willingness to make the shelter-world a better place for them. That passion is what drives me every day.
*The Andalusia Animal Shelter needs volunteers! They could especially use a qualified volunteer to help with Christin’s dream of providing training classes for the community! If you can help this incredible shelter, here is the contact info:

101 Coliseum Ave, Andalusia, AL 36420
(334) 222-8705
Hours: Mon-Fri 9:00am-4:30pm