From time to time we get feedback from a visitor to the GARD shelter who shows up after a week of solid downpour and is put off by the fact that it is muddy and maybe the grass is a little on the long side and, heaven forbid, a dog has pooped somewhere. We thought it might be helpful to convey a realistic understanding of exactly what we are about and what you can expect to see or not see when you’re here.
GARD is all about the dogs. Almost without exception, every dog here (including most of our 20 or so personal dogs) would already be dead if they were not with us. Your taxpayer dollars would have been used to euthanize them. A word here about euthanasia: for most, it’s not the pleasant slipping away peacefully experience that most people picture it to be. GARD’s primary mission is to save as many animals whose only crime was to be unwanted, unloved, abandoned or neglected from this fate and place them with folks who will love them and give them a life worth living.
That being said, what you will not find here is a bunch of wealthy socialites looking for a way to spend their idle time and possibly make the 11PM news. You will not be entering a doggy boutique or pooch parlor. You will not be led down a concrete walkway lined with camellias and shaded by graceful palms. What you will find here is a working rescue shelter dedicated to saving as many lives as possible. We try to make our shelter as user-friendly as is reasonably possible but the fact that the GARD shelter is utilitarian in nature does not condemn it to being substandard. We are regularly inspected by the Department of Agriculture and comply with their rules and standards. In a number of areas, we substantially exceed their requirements. With the exception on some recently added paid part-time kennel workers, GARD folks don’t get paid for their efforts. A number of us, although we have all of the physical and financial responsibilities that come with homes and families, have dumped buckets of cash, hundreds of hours of work and a wealth of donated services and expertise into this venture. It’s a little overwhelming at times and yes, we could scale it back and dress it up but that’s not why we’re here. To do so would condemn literally hundreds of dogs to death or worse. Please take no offense here, but we are not in the people business. Our goal is not to live up to the perceived notion of how the world should look to every individual who passes through here and if it were, it would be impossible to live up to. It’s not that people are not important to us but you all are capable of taking care of yourselves, the hundreds of dogs that we save are not. On the contrary, people are very important to us. Without adopters, adoptions would be very dull events. We have had numerous wonderful interactions with other animal lovers and depend on people like you to take in these refugees and give them a second chance at the life they deserve. We sincerely hope that you reap the rewards that your kindness entitles you to but please keep in mind, the dogs come first and they always will. Sure, it might be a little less chaotic here and a little more pleasant experience for you if we didn’t let a bunch of dogs run around the shelter for the day but, keep in mind, we take in a great number of harder-to-place dogs (i.e. older dogs, black dogs, hunting dogs that won’t hunt etc.) and sometimes they are here for one or more years before we can match them up with a family or individual. That’s a long time to stay cooped up in a 10×10 pen. Quite a few of the dogs you see out and about are in the process of being socialized. Nobody is interested in adopting a dog who is jumping and clawing at the chain-link run. We have volunteers who come in just to let these guys out to play for a while and yes, one of the dogs may poop. Relax, someone will clean it up.
For those of you who understand what we do here and why we do it and support us in this endeavor, you will always have our profound thanks and gratitude. For those who choose to criticize and condemn, we invite you to “walk a mile in our shoes”. Please come with us to see the hundreds of dogs and puppies that we have to leave behind because we have no room for them. They will be dead before we ever get back to our home. Come with us to visit the facilities that employ what we consider to be torturous methods of euthanasia to gain a better understanding of what we here at GARD are all about. Come volunteer 40 hours of your time scooping poop and washing kennels with us, vetting sick or injured dogs and saying goodbye to those who are beyond our help. Spend a day or two helping to clear land for the new sanctuary area we are building or come sit with me while I balance our books and try to juggle our very limited financial resources in order to keep as many pets as possible out of the local landfills. If, by then, you still have criticisms, there is a strong possibility that they would merit our attention.