Animal Rescue of the Week: Episode 58 – Sweet Paws Rescue

Sweet Paws Rescue

Sweet Paws Rescue (SPR) is a registered non-profit animal rescue based in Massachusetts. They are a grassroots, boots-on-the-ground, shelterless, foster-based and volunteer-powered organization. They primarily work within two of the poorest counties in Mississippi and Alabama and since 2011, they have rescued over 10,000 dogs and cats that would not have a chance at life otherwise. They are also a New England resource for the abandoned, surrendered and displaced, and animals seized in cruelty cases within their home state.


Website: http://www.sweetpawsrescue.org/ 

“Welcome to the Animal Rescues the Week podcast, where we feature outstanding organizations from around the country that are helping animals and the people who rescue them. This podcast is probably sponsored by Doobert.com. Doobert connects animal shelters with volunteers to do animal transport and fostering. Learn more and sign up for free at www.doobert.com. Let’s meet this week’s featured animal rescue.

 Sweet Paws Rescue. SPR is a registered, nonprofit animal rescue based in Massachusetts. They are a grassroots, boots-on-the-ground, shelterless, foster-based and volunteer-powered organization. They primarily work within two of the poorest counties and Mississippi and Alabama. And since 2011 they have rescued over 10,000 dogs and cats, that would not have had a chance at life, if it weren’t for them. They are also a New England resource for the abandoned, surrendered and displaced, and animals seized in cruelty cases, within their home state.

 Hi Cynthia and welcome to the show. Hi, Thank you so much for having me. Of course, we’ve been kind of messaging back and forth now for a while. I’m so happy to finally have you on the show with me today. Yeah, me too. I’m so excited. So let’s jump right in and tell me more about your organization of what your role is over there. Yeah, So I run Sweet Paws Rescue. We are based just north of Boston, Massachusetts. We started, like, 2011 ish, sort of. So we’re going into our 10th year. But I started dog rescue in 2005. So I had just finished my master’s degree and had no idea about animal rescue or the domestic animal overpopulation in the United States. And the hurricane happened. The levees in New Orleans broke, and I was in front of my computer. This is pre-Facebook, pre-social media when it was still called, like the World Wide Web. So I was, you know, I was just sitting there at my new job. I’d only been there, like, five months and, you know, twiddling my thumbs. And of course, like any natural disaster, everybody was glued to their computer screens. And so somebody did like a, you know, they panned a whole bunch of dogs stuck on roofs and, you know, just like any horrible natural disaster, when you see images like that, that kick you in your gut, you feel helpless. I wasn’t married, and didn’t have any children. And I looked at my boss, as he walked past my office, as I’m sobbing into the computer screen and he said, “What’s wrong?” I’m like, “There’s dogs on a roof and I don’t know what to do!” And he looked at me and rolled his eyes like, “What do you want to do?” Like I need to go help the puppy dogs. He was like, uh and you know, and this happened so long ago and, you know, I could make it a 10-hour story. 

But basically what happened is I self-deployed, which is you know, what you’re not supposed to do anymore. I had no skills. I mean, I’m going into a crazy disaster zone, in an area where there is very little resources, in times of crisis like that. And I just got a one-way ticket with my flip flops and my shorts and my sports bra and a tank top, and I’m like, “I’m here to save dogs.” And so I ended up hooking up with some, like really professional rescue people. Ended up being just outside of New Orleans, for almost three weeks and obviously just like, you know, whether it’s 911 or hurricanes or floods, it was obviously very eye-opening, but very inspiring, because there were Americans, from all over the country, that descended on the Gulf to take care of these hundreds of thousands of animals that were left behind. But also there’s also a massive overpopulation to begin with, in the south. And so you had all of these animals that were in shelters. You had people that left their animals and people weren’t, you know, a lot of these animals weren’t spayed and neutered. So obviously, like any animal, what do they want to do is breed. And it was just a huge disaster. And so I was thrown into it with very little background, with very little skills.

 And so I came back in my life and I was totally a different person. I felt like I was in a war zone. I saw stuff that a lot of Americans have never seen before. And so I got back and I decided to, you know, maybe just, so I’m gonna rescue a dog or two, you know and I came back, and a few months later I drove to Tennessee. Oh my God to, like, rescue a dog. And then, you know, fast forward. 15 years later, my whole life has been taken over by animals. Right. So everything started as a result of Hurricane Katrina. But, I mean, that’s awesome. I mean, you never really get, like, those stories where you’re just like, all right, I’m just gonna up and leave my job right now. I’m gonna go and save some dogs. And, you know, I find it amazing that it touched you that much, that you did come back and you’re like, You know what? I’m gonna open up an animal rescue of my own. And you did it. And like, 15 years later and let me just say this really quickly. I am so drawn to your website, I think Roscoe on the front, I encourage our listeners, go check out their website SweetPawsRescue.org. Roscoe’s cute little face, blue eyes and everything on the front page, Oh my gosh, I love it! I know he’s amazing. Sweet little dog. That specific dog was, you know, semi-famous. Because those blue eyes are so extraordinary to see on such a little puppy. 

But the woman who did our website is one of our awesome volunteers. She runs Graphic Details. She’s out of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Her name is Brenda Riddel, so I’d like to give a shout out to her. Our website before, that was horrible and she’s one of our volunteers, and she did that whole thing pro bono. So she’s pretty engaged in our organization because images, especially images on rescue and stories, you know everything is online now. So I can talk and talk until the cows come home, but people are in front of their computers and they want to see nice images and good text on a website. Our other sort of huge, I don’t even know the word for it, but the way to get out our message is our Facebook page. We have 57,000 people on our Facebook page, and we’ve only been incorporated, I’ve just started that Facebook page nine years ago. We have 57,000 people and we’re a volunteer-run organization. So that’s, I like to give us a major pat on the back for our Facebook too. Yes, definitely. You guys are killing it. Literally, the first time that I opened up your website, I mean, instantly, I was drawn and I was hooked. The coloring, the text, the fun fonts. I mean, very awesome. Thank You. You’re welcome. I encourage our listeners to go check it out. 

So anyway, got kind of sidetracked here a little bit. So, fill us in a little bit as to what your community looks like. For those of us that aren’t in your area, just share with us, What are some of the challenges that you guys face as a community? But also the challenges that the animals face as well. Yep. All right. So if you can picture, we are just north of Boston. We are a pretty middle to upper class, affluent area. I have no money, I rescue dogs but sort of the philosophy, in regards to pet ownership, is you take your dog to the conservation land every day. You take him to the beach in the offseason or they go to daycare at 50 bucks a day. You know, they eat all raw. The pet industry is a multibillion-dollar industry. But in New England, all of the dogs come inside at night. People don’t chain dogs. We don’t have litters of puppies. We don’t have stray dogs. Again, that’s like a whole other conversation. But there are reasons for that.

 So, you know, Massachusetts is very liberal. We don’t have a lot of farm areas, so we don’t have a lot of, you know, cattle dogs that have been turned loose after they are no longer useful to a farmer. And so we don’t have a stray population. We sort of had a little bit of a stray population in the eighties, and I’m 44. I do remember this that there weren’t really shelters, but there were the pounds. Like you would go and you either get a dog from a breeder or you go to the pound and get your little brown mutt. And those were the only options, really. And, you know, we had no leash laws. Everybody let their dog out and they would roam around, have fun. They would come back when it was dinner time, sort of like kids. So again, we never had a massive overpopulation. But we’ve got some pretty incredible organizations here in the Commonwealth that have developed resources that people can take advantage of. You know, this is back in the eighties, when people were just having litters and people wanted to get their animals spayed and neutered. And so it sort of just never became a problem that was out of control. And so really, because of Hurricane Katrina and that being a national tragedy, where everybody was focused on the gulf, for all of those months, you have all of the people who were, all of the humans that were displaced. And then if you were an animal lover, you have all the animals that were displaced. And so that was really the eye-opening event in our nation’s history, that got people to realize, that we do have a massive overpopulation epidemic, and it tends to be sort of, you know, south of the Mason Dixon line. And I don’t want to be political. This is nothing to do, but it’s just geographical and socio-economic. 

 What New England has done over the last 15 years is I am not unique. I like to think our organization is unique. I like to think the way that we deal with the adopters and the way that I run my organization is unique. But Northern Dog Rescue that has Southern, you know, Southern Partners is not unique. So we probably have here in the Commonwealth, probably 100 rescue organizations. Some are small like some only do like Bulldogs or German shepherds. Or, you know, Chihuahuas. We do all breeds, all ages. We don’t discriminate against any breed out there. But the difference is that because New England is so animal friendly and we don’t have an overpopulation problem, and people are realizing that adopting an animal is the way to go and not to contribute to the breeding industry, where are they gonna get a dog? You know, they don’t have options. Around here, we don’t have a stray dog overpopulation.

 So over the past 15 years, Northern rescues have developed partnerships with Southern rescuers. And so where we rescue, in Mississippi and Alabama, I have been working with this handful of women, who are essentially my family. I’ve been working with them for 10 years and one of our sort of a cluster of women that we work within Mississippi, they’re in a few different counties. But one county is the poorest county in the entire state of Mississippi. And Mississippi is one of the poorest states in the entire country. So you can imagine the poverty level of where we’re dealing. And you’re from Texas. And, you know, there are little clusters of really poverty-stricken areas in all states. But when people aren’t able to feed their children, they’re not gonna be able to feed their dog, right? And so we live in this, you know, overly educated. We’re so obsessed with our animals, you know, we spend, you know, bazillions of dollars on grooming and high-end food and doggie daycare, up here. And then you go 2000 miles south, I’m trying not to make generalizations about the South in general. I’m just talking about where we rescue. So I just want to make that clear, because I know that there sometimes can be some animosity with, you know, Well, not all, you know, the whole South isn’t like that. Not all Southerners are like, Well, of course not. But I’m just talking about the few counties that we work within Mississippi and Alabama. So really socio, economically depressed. And huge methamphetamine problems, so not a lot of industry. So when people don’t have the means to make money, are feeling a little helpless in life because there’s really nowhere to make money, because we’re really talking about a lot of rural areas. You know there’s no cotton industry anymore. Unless you own a big cattle ranch or you own some type of, you know, semi-successful store or business. There’s not a lot of industry. And so what’s gonna happen when people don’t have jobs? Obviously, they look at doing, making money in illegal ways, whether that is selling drugs or pitbull fighting or not, even pitbull fighting, just dogfighting, cockfighting. And then on top of that, you know, you have this sort of I don’t really care about animals because how are they supposed too, when they’re just striving to survive every day? And so animals are sort of the last on the totem pole.

 So where we rescue in Mississippi, in the specific counties, there’s some beautiful areas. The people that we work with are phenomenal but for the most part one of my main partners I’ve been working with for 10 years. She’s really just, you know, sort of the Mississippi version of me. She sort of alone in her county. There’s only a couple of other people that help her out, and there’s no shelter. There’s no beautiful, huge, multimillion-dollar facility, like we have here in Boston. There’s not even a dumpy municipal pound, so this is really hard to hear, and I know some people might cringe or turn it off, but this is a reality of rescue. So if you are a resident of the county that I’m talking about and you have a dog that you don’t want or a cat that you don’t want, there is no physical facility that you can bring your unwanted pet to. Meaning, let’s just say you accumulated a dog from wherever you know picked it up on the side of the road. Your neighbor had an oops litter of puppies or whatever, and you decide to move away and you’re not taking your dog with you because the dog is the last thing on your priority list and you leave the dog or you don’t want to leave the dog because you might have a heart, and you think that’s cruel. There’s no place for you to bring that dog because people say, I don’t understand like I always hear words “dumped on the side of the road.” Yeah, that’s completely accurate. And the reason being is if you have no physical place, where you can bring an unwanted pet or a nuisance pet. Say you own a farm and a dog or a litter of puppies and a momma dog came up on your farm and they’re chasing your chickens and you don’t have the heart to shoot them, you have no place to bring those dogs. I mean, not to defend people who want to shoot dogs that come upon their property, but there’s nowhere to bring them. And so what ends up happening is they will drive them into the woods, drive them wherever, and they just dump them. And so when you say, on the side of the road, that’s because a dog will follow the path of least resistance. And they’ll just go wherever they can, where they’re not having to walk through tons of bushes or trees or whatever. And wherever they can smell freshwater, wherever they can smell anything that even remotely resembles food. And so that’s why you see dogs running down the side of the road because they’ve been dumped somewhere and they’re trying to find a place where they can get food.

And so in the counties where we rescue, there is nowhere to bring your dog. So they just end up in all sorts of places. And so what has happened in the counties where we rescue is, our women have essentially become the dog catchers. Like the animal control, they don’t get paid to do it. They’re not paid by the county. They’re not paid by anybody. They’re just paid by, you know, love and adopters love them because they save the dogs that, you know, a big deal. Yeah, so they will get a call from somebody,” Oh, hey, I got your phone number from X Y Z” and it’s, I found a dog on the side of the road. The dog has been hit on the side of the road. A dog wandered up to my property and had a litter of puppies, underneath my porch. I mean, you name it, any horrible situation that you could imagine an animal in, we get them. And then on top of that, we accumulate dogs from hoarding situations. So we have a lot of people that are backyard breeding since there’s not a lot of industry. And if they can make money breeding little dogs and selling them for $200 – $300 a pop, they’ll do it. Then you have people who sort of get out of control with their breeding. And so we deal with people who are living in mobile homes and trailers with 30 dogs in their mobile home. You could imagine what it’s like, you know, descending upon a mobile home with 45 Chihuahua’s in it.

 This is normal where, you know, in Massachusetts, and I don’t mean this in a condescending way at all. If you have a hoarding situation up here in Massachusetts, like the whole state knows about it, you know when it’s gone viral and whatever organization, whatever rescue organization is going to the aid or assisting in that sort of situation, you know, raises tons of money. Down South, it’s like they’re everywhere and nobody knows about them. Nobody really cares. But that’s why rescues are so important because those people are taking in those sort of really bad situations of animals who have been put in really bad situations.

It definitely sounds like in your area, you’re very liberal and it’s a great area for animals. But I find it intriguing that you are working with other organizations and areas that are much different than yours. Correct me if I’m wrong, but those areas that kind of need that extra help, those are where you’re pulling a lot of your dogs from, right? We average between like 12 and 1500 dogs a year. And cats, we do cats now. So Massachusetts, as of 4-5 years ago, is one of the first states that no longer euthanizes cats in shelters, for space. Like it’s almost an unachievable goal. And the reason being is because of resources and spaying and neutering feral cat colonies. So that’s amazing, right? The shelters in Massachusetts aren’t getting tons and tons of kittens. Maybe you go to Maine or northern New Hampshire; it might be a little different. But in Massachusetts, I think we maybe had one litter of kittens, that were local, local as in like, five miles away. In the four years that we’ve been doing kittens, one litter and it was like a litter of three. But the kitten overpopulation is not something that I think that Massachusetts has completely gotten a handle on. But we’re sort of light years ahead of the rest of the country when it comes to the cat overpopulation.

 Dogs, give somebody the analogy like this is 911 before and after 911 because I’m in my mid 40 s, and so with 9 11, I had used to live in Manhattan. All I want to do is go to Manhattan and help, Right? Every American wanted to descend upon New York City and help, and because it was a national disaster. The overpopulation, the United States, a national epidemic, and it is a human-created problem. And so how I describe it, in very simple terms, is that we are a bunch of New Englanders. We are animal lovers, and we, for a multitude of reasons, don’t have an overpopulation problem, period. You go down south. The women with whom I’ve been working for 10 years are overloaded. They’re rescuing litters and litters of puppies and dogs and dogs that were hit by a car, on the side of the road every single day. I’ve been on a Facebook thread with my partners down there for pretty much 10 years, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. That’s every day, all day. And so what I say is that we are up here in New England. A bunch of dog-loving people, helping our Southern friends, who are dog-loving people, in this national epidemic, this human-created problem. And so if we have the demand for people who want to adopt and not contribute to the breeding industry in the United States and want to save a life and there aren’t tons of tons and tons of puppies and dogs in Massachusetts to be saved, it just makes sense. We might as well save dogs that would ultimately otherwise be euthanized.

 But see, this is one of the things, too, like I love that you pointed that out because I always tell people, when I talk to them on the podcast, like I have learned so much from talking to different organizations, in different states and different areas. And I mean just different counties within a state, how different their challenges are and what’s the norm for these guys and what’s out of the normal for others. People don’t realize how different areas are and the struggles that you guys are facing as you know, rescues and other organizations. It’s just crazy. It’s mind-blowing honestly. And Massachusetts is far from perfect. We are in an area just north of Boston, but we’re also 20 minutes away from another city that you know, has a lot of financial struggles. And we get a stray and I air quotes,” stray”, we get a stray dog from that city, probably once every two weeks or so, And when I say stray, it’s really just a dog that was living in the apartment buildings that somebody didn’t want anymore, and they just let it out of their apartment. You know, it wasn’t like I thought, a feral dog. And so the dogs that are quote “strays” where we get in the city of Lawrence, which is about 20 minutes away from us. They’re just dogs that were accumulated. Most of them were forced to breed, and then when they are done having puppies and they can’t use the breeding female anymore, they dump her. And they tend to be, they’re either Pitbulls or Chihuahuas. Because it’s a city of a lot of high rise apartment buildings, and so it’s very difficult to breed a German shepherd.

 So we got a lot of little dogs. Little Chihuahuas, there were a lot of Shih Tzus, a lot of Yorkes, and they’re just breeding them in their bathroom. They’re not allowed to have dogs, and there are a lot of its Section 8 housing. And so a lot of people are doing it, literally in their bathroom. And, you know, if they get caught with the mother and the mother has done nursing, half the time, they’re taken away from their moms too young. They just dump the mama. So we get a lot of females that you can tell, have been bred, and then they’ll go and accumulate another. Because if you think about the mass or the economics of dog breeding, you know if you can get your hands on a male and a female and force them to breed and they just create your own breed and, you know, say it’s the new designer breeder or it’s a new fad, you can sell a puppy for six grand., if you wanted to. You know you could get a male and a female for 100 bucks apiece and then force them to have puppies and sell each for $500. I mean, it could be very lucrative, especially if you’re not paying taxes on it. 

And what rescues do, we’re cleaning up the mess that those people make, and we’re taking the dogs that people dumped in the street, once they get caught and they’re not allowed to have dogs in their apartment. And so our challenges here, where we are, north of Boston, are there is a huge Pitbull overpopulation problem. So the shelters in the state of Massachusetts, unless they have a Southern partner, where they’re transporting dogs from the south, into the shelters, which there are a ton of shelters in Massachusetts that do, which is great, right? Because we’re all at the end of the day, trying to combat the overpopulation problem. And I’ve been doing this for 15 years and do I see it getting better? Some days I do, some days I don’t. But for the shelters in the state of Massachusetts that don’t have Southern partners, you go into those facilities and 95% of the animals are Pitbulls and I love the breed. We rescue the breed. We adopt out the breed. But there are a lot of rescues that won’t touch the breed, for all of the horrible reasons that our society has discriminated against Pitbulls. But that’s this states’ struggle is the overpopulation of Pitbulls. Got too many, not enough homes, simple math. So those are our struggles.

 But the dogs that we get from animal control, the animal control in the city of Lawrence, the woman who is the animal control officer is probably one of the best people I’ve ever known in my life. She fights on behalf of these dogs. A lot of them are neglected. A lot of them are in really bad shape. And she fights to get animal cruelty charges brought against the people who, if she can find out who they are, which is doesn’t happen that often, but she’ll go to town. I mean, she’s not gonna sit down and just say I don’t worry about it. We have a rescue that will take that dog. Yes, we have a rescue that’ll take that dog, and I’m gonna charge you with animal abandonment or animal cruelty. or animal neglect. I mean, it’s all under the same umbrella.

 But those puppies, I mean, those little dogs are fairly easy for us to adopt out. When I say fairly, I tend to take those little dogs because sometimes they have to be rehabbed. I just adopted out one that I’ve had for three months. When I first picked him up, I thought, I mean, he was all of 9lbs and I thought he was gonna kill me. Just petrified of life, like this dog, just had the crap beat out of him, and it took him three months to just sort of like, be a dog, you know, like, have fun running around outside off-leash. Have fun playing with my dogs and just not peeing himself every time I went to go put a harness on him. But again, another dog from that area. So a lot of these little dogs is they’re sort of easy to adopt out, but they take some time to get to a place where they can just be a dog and do well during a meet and greet. So back to sort of like your original question is struggles, where we are north of Boston, are, pale in comparison. You know, we got a dog, every one dog to our animal control, when in a huge city whereas we probably get, we could get 10 dogs a day with our Southern partners in Mississippi and Alabama.

 I kind of want a pit it just a little bit, kind of just ask you. It’s kind of hard to ignore the whole COVID19 pandemic going on in our world right now, but how is that affecting your organization specifically? Where we are in Massachusetts, everybody wants to adopt a dog, and the people who are smart say, “Okay, I work full time or my kids are in school and you know, June is the best time, right?” Because either if they’re a teacher or their kids are out of school or their schedules are a little bit more flexible. So summertime for us, are the big times when people adopt. We’re getting 50-100 emails a day. We’re getting five times the amount of applications that we would normally get, on a weekly basis, which is great, right? Because we are trying to take advantage of the fact that we can educate all of those people on rescue and thank you for considering rescue and not going to a pet store and not going to a breeder. This is awesome, right? But if we’re getting 500 applications this month, I would love everybody, every single one of those person, those people. I would love to have a Sweet Paws dog or a dog from my friend who runs the rescue 20 miles away. Of course, that would be amazing. Yeah, I would love for all 500 of those people to have a rescue dog in their house. But we are not a factory. We are not adopting out dogs just to give everybody a rescue dog. Because what do we not want? We don’t want dogs returned to us a year later because they adopted the dog during the pandemic. And for the 1st 2 months, it was awesome, right? What we’re trying to prevent, as you know them adopting a puppy at 10, 12,16 weeks and it’s great and their home all the time because they can’t go anywhere. I mean, who knows? We could be going through the shut-in through June I mean, we have no idea, right? It’s completely unpredictable what’s gonna happen.

 And so what we’re trying to prevent is okay for the next two months, this puppy is gonna have a fantastic life. But, you know, say everything, sort of, you know, settles down. And your work is like, all right, we want you to come back to work full time, and that’s 9 to 5. And that’s not including your commuting hours. And so now you’ve got a six-month-old dog, that’s been with you for 24 hours a day, for the last three months. That’s just a recipe for behavioral issues. Unless you have your doggie daycare set up. Unless you have had a dog walker that’s coming in during the time of the pandemic, which you can’t do right now, right? So to just all of a sudden, go from being with your dog 24 hours a day, for three months straight, to then going back to work on a Monday and not thinking that that dog is not gonna have an adverse reaction, is silly.

 We have had to alter our conversations with people. We have had to alter the way that we are doing things because of the fact that there’s way more likelihood of a dog being returned to us if we adopt out a puppy now, a year from now, that it would just if it were quote normal times. Here’s the thing. What we’re constantly fighting against is “we tried to rescue a dog, But we didn’t have a fenced-in yard, so they denied us. We didn’t give them our firstborn child. They denied us.” I mean, it’s like anything right? And I’ve always tried to be a balanced rescue organization, where I don’t care if you don’t have a fenced-in yard. I’ve never had a fenced-in yard in my entire life. I used to live in downtown city ish right, third floor, walk-up. I had two dogs and I worked full time. What did I do? I ran them like crazy in the morning. I dropped them off at my mom’s, but then and then I would run them for at least two hours at night. Is that the life that I want for my rescue dogs? But I was a pretty good dog owner, and then on the weekends you know, the dogs ran amok and it was great. I mean, the reason why I’m bringing this up is because not having a plan, everybody wants a quarantine buddy. Everybody wants a dog because their kids are driving them crazy, right? You know, like little Johnny and Suzie like, Oh, here’s a puppy. Now go play with the puppy. And when life settles back down, it’s like, Hey, I’m still a live centeon being and I have needs. And if you didn’t plan for this, that’s a different story.

 So we wanna work with the people who had been planning to get a dog, all along, before this happened. And we wanna have constructive dialogues with people who say,” I really want a dog. I wanted to wait till the summer, but now seems like a good time.” Yeah, it does. Okay, but let’s talk about if your boss all of a sudden says, you know, Hey, Susie, you need to come back to work in six weeks and you don’t have a plan in place. All right, well, let’s call the doggy daycare. You can’t do anything right now, but at least have a call into them.  Call the doggie daycare, make some contacts and dog walkers. All these people are small businesses and they’re gonna be pretty stoked to get calls from you saying, Hey, in six weeks, if you guys are up and running, can I bring my dog in for, you know, an interview? Can you come meet my dog to be able to walk it? It’s great because we have so many applications, but we’re a volunteer-run organization. So you know, our adoption coordinators and our adoption manager and our foster people, are on overdrive right now. They’re doing 10 times the amount of work that they’ve done, you know, over the past how many years, that they’ve been with us. Because we want a harness, all this great energy and all of these people that want to adopt. But we want them to adopt for the right reasons, not because they’re bored, not because they’re lonely. You know, it’s sort of a bummer, because I wish that I could give everybody a dog. But not everybody right now is in a situation where they’re gonna be a great adopter for a nine-week-old puppy, once they go back to work in two months. Yeah, I just think this whole pandemic is just kind of crazy because I’m thinking, you know, people are home. But to hear that people are actually, like, left and right. Like I want to adopt a dog. I want to adopt a dog or a cat or just a pet in general. I mean, it literally kind of just, like, opens my eyes a little bit because I figured that more people would want to foster an animal right now. That would be like, my guess. Yep.

 Okay, So here’s the thing. If you think about it from the logistics standpoint, okay? Because myself and one of our volunteers, we are the people that answer the email every day. Every single foster email starts, “Hi. You know, like I’m working from home for the next two months. Great. That’s awesome.” But then you have to remember, there’s foster and there’s adopting. We have every Tom, Dick, and Harry that wants to adopt a dog. So if you think about, just numbers alone, so we have a transport tomorrow that’s arriving from Mississippi. We have our own truck. It’s our own driver. He drives down, spends some time with our rescue people and drives back up, drives all of our dogs up. So all of the animals that come from out of state in Massachusetts, have to be quarantined for 48 hours. It’s the Department of Agriculture regulation that we have to abide by. So they come to our building. They’re here for 48 hours, and our vet, who just happens to be across the street, comes and does a vet check, making sure that everybody, you know, no runny noses, no goopy eyes, that they could be released to their adopters and to their fosters. 

Okay, let’s just say we weren’t going through this pandemic. So and we had 30 dogs arriving tomorrow. I would say that probably 18 of them would be adopted and the other ones would go to foster. So we’re constantly working on applications like, “Okay, you want to meet Fluffy.  He is going to be fostered in Newburyport. We’re gonna hook you up with Fluffy’s foster and you can go meet Fluffy.” And it’s sort of like a very intimate process. You can get to know Fluffy’s foster. You can learn about where Fluffy was rescued. We’ll introduce you to Fluffy’s rescuer, in Mississippi or Alabama. So it’s very familial, right? So now you have a bunch of dogs that are going into fosters. So the difference is, is that everybody wants to foster and everybody wants to adopt. So tomorrow we have 30 animals adopting. 28 are adopted. We have a transport that’s going to arrive, probably usually do them every two weeks to 10 days. We have another transport of probably 40 puppies, in two weeks. 95% of those animals are adopted, and that’s two or three weeks from now. I was looking at our Excel spreadsheet for possible May dogs that will be ready, you know, will be vaccinated, spayed, neutered, everything, 60% of that transport. I mean, that’s never happened before. So how am I supposed to provide dogs for people who want to foster? There are none left. That is just crazy. 

Shelters in Massachusetts are closed down right now. Not only is everybody bored and wants to adopt a dog, everybody wants to foster a dog and there are no shelters. Right? Shelters have stopped transports because they don’t have the staff to man the shelters. So we’re foster-based, so all of our animals are in people’s private homes. And so if we’re adopting all of our dogs, we don’t have any dogs left over to send to foster. And remember, we have about 55 really amazing active fosters, and none of them have our dogs right now because they’re all adopted. So not only do we have our active, 55 amazing, very dedicated, loyal fosters, we have 200 people on top of that, who have offered. We just don’t have any dogs for them because all the dogs that we’re transporting are already adopted before he even arrived in Massachusetts. And so the foster-based organizations are all saying that everybody is sort of going through the same thing right now.

 First and foremost, I’m a Massachusetts registered nonprofit. I’m a Massachusetts rescue first and foremost always, so I will always, always, always help a Massachusetts dog, if you need to give up your pet. Whether or not it’s financial reasons, you’re getting a divorce. You’re moving or being deployed, the dog growled at the baby. You know you have a baby that’s just recently started crawling. We’ll take your dog. I don’t care what breed it is as long as the dog is good with people, hasn’t mauled a child. I mean, I can take nips and growls because you know a lot of dogs, nip and growl at kids. And if your dog is dog friendly, we could sometimes do up to 100 local surrenders. Those aren’t strays. They’re not, you know, dogs running down the side of the road. That’s just here in Massachusetts, of people who are needing to give up their dogs, for whatever reason, and I like to be a resource for those people. Reason being is because I want to keep those dogs out of the shelters because if you think about it if you are a married couple and you have a toddler and you adopted a dog before you got married and the dog has ever been around a toddler, and now you have a toddler that’s completely out of control. Pulling your nine-year-old lab mix’s ear. And your lab is like, uh, ah, right. And so now the dog turns, nips at the baby, and now the mom is like, “Oh, my God, my dog’s gonna eat my child in the middle of the night.” We get those at least twice a day. So that dog doesn’t deserve to be euthanized because it’s just telling the baby to, you know, screw off. Right?

 And so what we try to do is we’ll say, you know, if they give us a scenario, where we totally know that it’s the kids fault and it’s not necessarily it’s, you know, it’s just their babies, right? They don’t know. And you can’t watch your baby 24 /7. And if it’s in the company of your dog and it happens, it happens all the time. And so because it happens all the time when you apply to adopt one of our dogs before you even apply, you have to watch this really sad video. It’s called Stop the 77. It’s like 77% of dog bites are from dogs that the little kid knows, right? So it’s not like this random dog, that you see on the street. It’s because a kid has done something inappropriate. Hug it, pull it. You know, put their noses right up to their nose and the dog is like, I don’t want you in my face, you know, when their only way to react is to nip. 

My point is that we will always take Massachusetts dogs. And 99.9% of those dogs are just dogs that are being given up for moving, growling at the baby or whatever. And sometimes those dogs stay in foster for a long time. But right now you know we’ll get them a behavioral evaluation. We’ll make sure that they’re vetted. If they’re not spayed and neutered. Up to date on shots, we’ll do all of that. You know we will do a quick evaluation with our trainer, who was just doing quick evaluations for us, and we can put that dog and its sort of a quick turnaround. And so the last thing you want to do is put a semi-pissed off, little bit ornery dog, that’s just like, I’m nine. I just want to sit on the couch and, like, you know, chew on my bone every once in a while. Could you imagine putting that dog into a shelter environment? So when I say like we’ve taken in 100 plus Massachusetts dogs, it’s not 100 strays. Maybe 20 of them are quote, strays, dogs that are dumped and the rest are from people who, for whatever reason, can’t keep their dog anymore. And I like the fact that we’re a resource for those people because, you know, am I biting my tongue most of the time when people want to give up their pet. Absolutely. But it’s not about the people. It’s about saving the animal and making the animal not and trying to prevent that animal from suffering because the human let them down in some way.

It’s amazing to hear that you still support taking those animals in and not sending them to a shelter, where they’re gonna be uncomfortable and scared and probably not do so hot in there. So I want to give, like, kudos to you for that, because that does happen excessively, and I’ve seen it happen, And it’s definitely not something that you know you enjoy, but you gotta look at, I think those were the most heart-wrenching. Like getting a stray dog, any day of the week. If you’re a dog, in rural Mississippi, and you’re killing a chicken every once in a while or you’re getting into someone’s trash, maybe getting some food. It rains a ton, right? And you’ve got, you know, lots of puddles that you can drink out of, your free-range, like you are a free-roaming dog. Yeah. It’s like everybody thinks it sounds so awful, but yeah, of course. It’s like, would you want that dog to be in a loving home? Of course. But that life is 10 times better than being a nine-year-old lab mix, that went from living in a cushy home to all of a sudden, having to be in a shelter. 

And I just remembered, so yesterday our veterinarian, who is probably one of the best that’s in the whole world. Riverside Vet Clinic. They’re in Haven, Massachusetts. Shout out to them. The people that work there are super rescue friendly, but they’re like my second family, and we work together a lot when it comes to people giving up their animals. And a perfect example is an older gentleman called in the morning and said he was a client there. “I want to bring in my eight-year-old lab to put her to sleep there.” They were, like, “What? Yeah, she keeps nipping at the grandkids.” All right, well, we’re not gonna put her to sleep, but you could bring her and for like, an evaluation.” And so they called me. I went over there. And the guy, basically, he obviously didn’t realize that you can’t just dump your dog here and put it to sleep and drive away, right? And brought all of her stuff, and he’s like, “Well, I don’t want the dog.” Our veterinarian was like, “I’m not euthanizing your dog just because it nipped at your grandchildren”. Well, I can’t have this dog. But you can’t just kill this dog. You can’t just come here, stick a needle in it, and kill it. The dog is obviously not comfortable with all of your grandkids. And you clearly have done nothing, to help this dog. So he just surrendered it to the vet’s office. And ultimately, we will work together, as a team, to figure out what to do with her. But, you know, she’s super nervous. She has horrible hip dysplasia. She’s not on any pain meds. So she came into the vet’s office. Her whole entire body was quivering and he just drove away! And so it was gut-wrenching. And so they’re going to get her on, you know, some Prozac. They’ll get her on a lot of pain meds because she’s been a client there for years, and she has really bad hip dysplasia and can’t afford the operation. And he stopped giving her pain meds. So of course, a dog is gonna nip. You know, she’s annoyed and she’s uncomfortable. And so she’s there in our vets’ office. So she stayed the night last night. She’ll stay again tonight, and then we’ll sort of get together to figure out, Do we keep her on Prozac? Do we dose her with a ton of pain meds, to get her out of that? Cause her whole back quivers. And hopefully, we have 1,000,000 people that have offered to foster and get her into a home, where she doesn’t have little grandkids running amok. You know, and making her nervous and hopefully, we can save her life. And she’s so far, she’s petrified. But she’ll let you pet her but she’s just a really sweet old girl, that just obviously doesn’t like kids, but she doesn’t deserve to be euthanized just because it was sort of an inconvenience. We’ll find a place for her. You know, there’s a place for every dog out there. That’s my philosophy.

 You’re absolutely right. I agree 100%. There’s always somebody out there for every dog, and every dog is beneficial to somebody. You just need to find the right match. What works for one dog, may not work for the other. That’s why there’s different types of pet owners, you know.

 So I’m so excited. I got to talk to you today. You are so inspiring and you literally have so many good stories. And I’m thankful that you finally got to join me on the show, and I really just want to kind of close out the podcast with how people can get in touch with your organization. I know right now it’s super busy and super crazy, But if anybody wants to help you guys out or be a foster, just donate in any way that they can. How can they go about getting in contact with you? Yeah, absolutely. So we predominantly work with Western Alabama and sort of Mid Eastern sort of central-eastern Mississippi. And so if people are in those areas, again, people are interested in fostering and donating supplies, dog food, flea and tick heart guard. Or, if they just want help us pay our vet bills. We spend about $500,000 a year on vet bills alone. That’s just vet bills. We put a lot of money into our dogs. So if you’re in that area, definitely we can get you in touch with some of our Southern girls and boys. And then if you are in the Boston area or anywhere in New England, we’re always looking for fosters and for people to come and volunteer. So if you’re in the Boston area, you know we are located in Groveland, Massachusetts. We’re sort of nestled in between  495, 93, 95. But you know, we have fans who are from all over the country because I think our message is universal. We’re really trying to spread the word of obviously adopt don’t shop. But just adopting isn’t good enough because we’re never going to actually fix the problem.

 So Sweet Paws is an organization, we do a lot of legislative work. We are heavily involved in trying to create programming where we’re going to change mentalities, down south because again, I hate saying this word, but it’s sort of like, you know, you’re shoveling, you know what, against the tide. And we’re just gonna keep doing this and keep doing this and never really solve the problem. And so we as an organization, I think overall our mentality is we work really hard. We’re a huge family. We do a lot of really fun things. We get together socially, a lot of parties. We have fun, you know, kickball tournaments and karaoke nights because the work that we’re doing is really sad. But I think as an organization, we’re not just an adoption agency. We’re really trying to change the mentality across the country when it comes to rescue cats and dogs, but also just rescue in general. And that’s awesome. And I love hearing that. I love that you guys take that extra step to make sure that you’re communicating with each other and you’re working together and trying to make a difference as best you can, even though you know someday you hope that you won’t have to do this anymore. But realistically, unfortunately, unless we can get everybody in the world on board with our same goals and values, it’s just unfortunately not gonna happen. But I think that your organization is amazing. I think you’re amazing and what you’re doing is great, and.

I just want to give a shout out to our volunteers. Our organization can only succeed in their mission with the amazing dedicated volunteers. We have our foster team, our events team, our adoption coordinators, the people who volunteer at our building. We have a whole group of people, women who just are volunteering with all of our mama dogs and their nursing puppies. I mean, we have close to like 200 active volunteers. Nobody gets paid, and all of these people are busting their butts. Some of them could work up to 20 hours a week, on top of their regular jobs, on top of raising a family just because they believe in what we’re doing. So I like to say that this is not run by me. Yes, I founded the organization, but this organization is run by its volunteers. Absolutely. That’s a great way to close it out. So thank you so much for giving me this opportunity. It’s been awesome. Of course. Thank you for joining me, and I look forward to touching base with you in the future. Absolutely. Bye everybody,Thank you for listening.

 Thanks for tuning into today’s podcast. If you’re not already a Dooberteer, sign up for free at www.doobert.com. At Doobert, we know that together we can save more animals.”

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