Lucky hound escapes death row for Minnesota relo
By Robert Willams, Editor
Kathy Morella found herself in an empty nest but managed to fill her quiet home quickly with the braying of hounds by creating Rescuecoop.org, a dog rescue with a focus on saving death row dogs in kill shelters out east.
Morella’s company is based in South Carolina, but she is willing to transport dogs to other regions of the country if it means saving a life. Unlike shelters in our area, east coast facilities are typically kill shelters. Upon arrival, many of those dogs do not have much time.
“I had been pledging for dogs for a while and I’ve been seeing them at the Rocky Mount shelter in North Carolina and they were always urgent and they only give them about a week to find a rescue or an adopter,” Morella said. “If they don’t have pledges, rescues aren’t likely to pull them and they don’t do any vetting at all. They give them a rabies shot but they don’t test for heartworm at all. The rescues are less likely to pull them because you just never know what you’re getting.”
Rescuing a dog that ends up being heartworm positive can cost upwards of $600-$1,200 to treat.
Dogs with an even worse fate are owner-surrenders.
One such animal was Ferguson Beagle. He allegedly bit an eight-year-old girl and her family decided he was no longer welcome after being a family member for three years. Not an easy decision and one that needs a solution.
That’s where I come in.
After returning to work full-time last spring, I had been mildly looking for a second beagle for my boy Jasper to hang out with while I’m at work. Jasper was rescued from death row in Ohio seven years ago. Ferguson was facing a similar fate at the Charlotte, North Carolina pound without any intervention.
“He would have been,” said Morella.
The Charlotte shelter is on code red, meaning at full capacity, and with the owner surrender tag his fate was sealed.
“That’s a strike right there,” said Morella. “Usually they give them even less time when they’re owner-surrenders compared to a stray. He would have had a chance that a rescue could have pulled him or he could have gotten adopted from the shelter in a couple days, but they wouldn’t even pick him up until November; they’re that full.”
Rescue Coop has been in business only since August but Ferguson is the ninth hound that Morella has managed to save.
“I have a rescue that I work with in North Carolina and they help me pull from the kill shelters and they know I love hounds and beagles, so they kind of keep an eye and alert me when they see one in need,” she said.
Finding dogs in need filled a need for Morella to avoid the quiet of her children having moved out of the house.
“I just felt like I was in a situation now, I’m a recent empty nester, I think I can do more,” Morella said. “I think I can help a little bit more than what I’m doing. I have empty bedrooms and I operate right out of my house.”
By doing more she also filled a need for Fergus, Jasper and I, making it a win-win for everyone involved. Even for the family that had to give him up. They will still be able to keep tabs on him through me.
The power of social media
Our Saving Fergus project is also a confirmation of the positive possibilities of social media. Jasper (@BeagsWilliams) is friends with Morella’s beagle Lola (@LolaPatolla) on Twitter. That’s how we met. I saw her post about Ferguson and something just struck me. That’s my next beagle.
Sometimes it’s just inevitable that a dog in need is going to find the right person and that can only happen because of the frontline workers who are opening their homes and lives to save these dogs, along with the ability to reach millions of people via the internet.
“I love it when they speak to people and that usually happens,” said Morella. “There’s someone for every dog and sometimes they look at one and fall in love and can’t really explain it and that’s the one that is for me and that’s a good feeling.”
How I got Jasper was a similar story.
Another agency I’ve used, MW Beagle Rescue, had a foster, Janet Lifer, who saved Jasper from being put down but he was the ninth beagle she had in her house. She was looking for a quick turnaround. I agreed to adopt him and we met at Beaglefest in Chicago a few days later. My beagle Tegen, before Jasper, is also a similar story.
Jasper is 8-years-old and suffers from separation anxiety while I’m at work. He needs a pal. Fergus is in the same age range, not a lot is known about his history other than the past three years, but he needs a pal too and a change of scenery.
But how do we get him from South Carolina to Minnesota?
Dog Twitter to the rescue.
Between Jasper, Lola Patolla and Rescue Coop we have a combined total of more than 15,000 Twitter followers, many of whom have become good friends, albeit digitally. With enough reach and a simple post of pictures of Fergus and Jasper and a humble request for assistance the trip was already in the planning stages.
“Thankfully, I’ve been getting donations,” said Morella. “People have been so supportive. Twitter has been huge with people supporting my little rescue.”
Kathy has built a relationship with a pet transport company and Fergus will be joined by two other dogs. She has others in the adoption process leaving South Carolina for Pennsylvania and Alabama.
Despite being so far away, Morella is committed to finding a home for dogs no matter where adopters may live.
“We will transport if anyone sees a dog they’re interested in on our site (rescuecoop.org),” she said. “I would even send a transport up your way if I could get two dogs on it.”
Her flexibility has led to consistently finding dogs a home and created a rewarding start for a rescue that’s only been in operation for three months.
What happens to dogs who don’t get saved is the exact opposite feeling.
“I’ve seen dogs who didn’t get out or they crack in the shelter because of the environment and then they’re put down,” she said. “It’s really heartbreaking.”
That fate is more prevalent for senior dogs like Fergus.
“The adoption rate is 20 percent as opposed to 80 percent,” Morella said. “It’s a crazy difference. Seniors just don’t get adopted very easily, in general.”
Having been involved with beagle rescues for more than a decade, I have learned the importance of saving an older dog. It is not a task for everyone and it takes experience to be prepared for potential challenges, but that’s a big part of the reward.
Ferguson Beagle leaves South Carolina Friday, Oct. 14, on an 18-hour trip to Wisconsin, where Jasper and I will be waiting to take him home the next day and you can follow along on our progress @BeagsWilliams.
Donations for transport costs can be made at rescuecoop.org, along with profiles of other dogs Morella has ready for adoption. Donations are tax deductible.