On Saturday, the weatherman gleefully announced that the temperature would “feel like 19 degrees.” I reluctantly dragged myself out of bed and donned two pairs of pants, faux-fur-lined socks, two shirts, a coat, a scarf, gloves and waterproof shoes. I left my warm home, drove to the SPCA, and climbed into the transport truck. I had filled it the day before with bales of hay, wooden posts, fencing, chicken wire, tools and an auger.
Nineteen might not be cold to some of you Northerners, but to me, planning a day of hard work outdoors in wintery weather is a fate worse than death. It’s not that I’m a stranger to manual labor. My husband says I’m tougher than a Waffle House steak. It’s the cold. I was born in the South, and I’m not leaving. Not even for vacation unless it’s somewhere warmer than it is here.
I hit the road, bemoaning the cold truck seat and coveting flip-flop weather. I tried to remember the last time I had worked outside in below freezing temps and couldn’t come up with much, certainly nothing I did by choice.
I settled in on a memory that added insult to injury. When I was 15, my dad bought me a 1972 baby blue Volkswagen Bug. But with my less-than-stellar grades, my dad soon sold the Bug and purchased lumber to build a dock with the money. The loss of the car was punishment enough, but as reinforcement, my dad “let” me help build the dock. In December. Knee-deep in lake water.
I was just conjuring up the image of me at 99 pounds, bracing the 6-by-6 posts that far outweighed me as my boots filled with freezing water when Sarah McLaughlin cut in. I hate that song. You know the one. The sad, sad song that accompanies the ASPCA commercials? But one line in that sad, stupid song caught my attention and saved me from further self-pity. “… find some peace tonight …”
Suddenly tearing up, I remembered why I had dragged myself out of bed and into the
cold wearing work gloves: dogs. Dogs chained to posts with no more than a 6-foot diameter to move around. Dogs eating and sleeping and going to the bathroom in that 6-foot radius. Then I thought, maybe through my small sacrifice and the sacrifice of many wonderful volunteers, those dogs will find some peace tonight.
And they did.
In a collaborative effort to free these dogs, FOTAS and the SPCA, along with several
other interested volunteers, erected two fenced areas and a long trolley line to release the four large-breed mixes from the chains that bound them. The entire project took half the time I anticipated and was much more fun than I expected, too. I met some great people and shared a few laughs, and, before I knew it, we were done.
At the conclusion of the project, we released the dogs into their new quarters. They played. They pooped. One buried a bone. They did what dogs do, but it was like seeing dogs do what they do for the first time ever. It was awe-inspiring.
The dog that seemed the most distraught when we arrived, the one that for lack of being able to go anywhere else often leapt on top of his dog house, the one whose neck had finally given way to the chain and open sores – this dog was laying on his stomach in a patch of sunlight when I left, his front and back legs stretched as far as they could stretch, his tail wagging furiously in a helicopter motion. He was (they all were) content. And I thought, “Yes, they will find some peace tonight.”
There are not enough thank yous to express my gratitude to the people involved in this endeavor. From the folks that generously donated money to the project (Sue and Dave Bender, Carol Botsch, Clyde and Kit Bryant, Annie Cheeks, Jody Clark, Linda Feffer, The Goff Family, Greystone Farms, Jeffcoat Realty, Sandy King, Joe and Pat Miles, Betsy Minton, Cherie Moritz and Tony Spence, Marcia Plunkett, Lauri Privot, Keelin Redmond and Lewis Vannote, Mike and Laura Regan, The Ritner Family, Nancy Schmalz, Angela and Art Stremm, Linda Vola, MaryLou Wright, plus several other anonymous), to those that donated the use of tools and supplies (Aiken Saddlery and Supply, Inc. for 15 bales of straw), and a long list of hard-working volunteers who hit the cold, hard ground running on Saturday (Steve Allen, Bobby, Arthurs, Martha Chadwick, John Cosgrove, Heather Dry, Pat Khan, Connie Jeffcoat, Bill Joos, Ann Kinney, Jack McElee, Martha Meier, Andy Merriman, Peter and Jennifer Miller, Kellyn Morrison, Sarah Neikam, Phil and Shana Pearsons, Laura Phillips, Joanna Samson, Brian Saunders, Frank Townsend, and many others whose names I may not have gotten).
Finally, I’d like to especially thank two gentlemen without whom the fences would have been nothing more than glorified guinea pig cages. First, Ben, the fellow evidently in charge of the fencing department at Lowes: Ben is one of those people that seems to have sarcasm bubbling up from beneath the surface. Maybe he isn’t naturally a people person, but he never once showed it. He was absolutely patient and professional, a gentleman and a scholar ALL THREE TIMES I pestered him for advice and pricing.
Second, Rob Chadwick: From the planning stages to the last bale of straw, Rob was with us every step of the way with a “can do” attitude, knowledge and know-how, and some really handy tools, too! I simply can’t thank these two guys enough. At least Rob got an opportunity to see first-hand what his generosity and skill produced.
The future of Fences4Fido looks great (and the weather is looking better, too!). There are many more candidates that can benefit from more hardworking and generous souls. Look for more to come from this project soon!
Chrissey Miller, CAWA
SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare
Please visit www.crowdrise.com/Fences4Fido if you would like to donate to this project. Email our Volunteer Coordinator if you're interested in volunteering with a future fence building project.