by Susan Spisak
Jeana Roth’s role as Director of Community Engagement for Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland aka ARLGP, includes participation in a bi-monthly national shelter Zoom call. On a recent pow-wow, a colleague shared that the 501(c) 3 no-kill Concho Valley PAWS (Pets Are Worth Saving) aka CVPAWS in San Angelo, Texas was in a terrible situation.
Part of CVPAWS’ problem is that the rural San Angelo has a transient community – the city is home to Goodfellow Air Force Base and a few colleges, so residents come and go. Because of this, there are very few foster homes and volunteers. This a marked difference to ARLGP who has an extensive base of fosters and volunteers.
Through a coordinated effort, ARLGP quickly put a plan in motion to help CVPAWS. Components of that included contacting CVPAWS as well as a nonprofit they’ve worked with before, Wings of Rescue, for a lift back to Maine. Wings of Rescue is a 501(c)3 charity whose volunteer pilots fly large-scale transports of at-risk shelter pets from disaster areas and overcrowded shelters to safe havens.
Jeana said they chose fifty-five dogs and eleven cats prior to the trip south in mid-April – they needed immunizations two weeks prior to their transport. In addition to pups, they wanted some of CVPAWS longer term residents. ARLGP wanted to give them an opportunity at a better life because they adopt out pets quickly to dog-loving Mainers. One canine, Shady, was especially happy to be included – he had been at CVPAWS for two years.
“Everything kind of fell into place,” Jeana said. ARLGP’s Marketing Coordinator, Kyra Hunsicker, and their Safety Net Manager, Sarah Lunt, were chosen to represent. (Through their IDEXX Safety Net, ARLGP partners with sixty rescues and shelters across Maine and the country. IDEXX’s support of these collaborations means they’re able to save more lives through the Safety Net program.)
They Zoomed with the CVPAWS team to understand the challenges they faced. In less than three weeks after the project took hold, Kyra and Sarah were packing their bags. “We put all our ducks in a row and sent the two down,” Jeana said. Once the duo arrived in Texas, it was a whirlwind of activity.
Sarah said on that first day, they toured both facilities and met staff members. Kyra captured content at the shelters and snapped pics of dogs. They aided with animal care, cleaning, and medical support. Additionally, they began posting their activities via notes and pictures on the ARLGP Facebook and Instagram pages.
The next day, the two were busy putting together the necessary sixty-six crates. All were labeled with the animals’ name, and water and food bowls were placed in each. They chatted and interviewed fosters who dropped off dogs for the transport. And they made time for plenty of canine interaction and snuggling. How were the animals? “They were excited to get to Maine and their new lives,” Sarah laughed.
On their last day, the Maine duo rose well before dawn and headed to the airport to load all crates on the Wings of Rescue plane. The plane, with Sarah aboard, headed back to Portland where ARLGP staffers awaited their arrival, thrilled to welcome the pets. Jeana live streamed the event, with a heartfelt narrative.
This was a brand-new experience for the duo. They witnessed and participated in the stage-by-stage import process. Sarah noted the amount of time and patience that’s involved. On past imports, they only participated on the receiving end at the airport. She added her favorite part of the mission was flying back on the Wings of Rescue plane with the pilot and pets. “It was surprisingly quiet the whole way,” she explained the pets slept during most of the flight.
Kyra, who flew home commercial, had a tough time choosing her favorite animal. “There were so many dogs, it’s hard to pick.” But she quickly changed her mind when she revealed she fell in love with and was fostering a Texas chihuahua/dachshund mix named Haltom who gets along splendidly with her older Pitbull mix. She added she was going to adopt him, so yes, she thought he was her favorite. And she’s going to rename the 3-month-old pup Hiu (Hugh).
Jeana has an overall viewpoint on all state shelters’ efforts: "For me, it’s so impactful for Mainers to see where our shelter dogs come from. Any dog you meet in a Maine neighborhood likely came from a shelter across the country before they landed at a Maine shelter for adoption."
Note: Many of their Texas dogs have been returned from their local foster homes and are ready to be matched with a family. See ARLGP’s website at arlgp.org/adopt/dogs/ for their hours, and visit their adoptables at 217 Landing Road, Westbrook, Maine.