how 19 hours in a car to alabama opened my eyes to a different side of rescue

It’s been a minute since I’ve sat down and written a post. Honestly, I’ve just been so busy. Between my new job with Second City Canine Rescue (more to come on that!), Rescue Chicago, my finance job, and volunteering, I’ve had a lot on my plate. But, you’re not here to listen to me blab on about my schedule, you’re likely here because you read that title and you were curious. Maybe you weren’t aware there was any controversy in rescue, or maybe you are a longtime volunteer. Regardless, I hope today’s post will bring together the rescue community a bit more.

Two weeks ago, I signed up to drive to Alabama with my friend Jennifer to pick up 16 dogs for Second City Canine Rescue. Second City Canine Rescue has partnerships with several organizations in Alabama. Every other week, about 15 dogs come up from these partners to Chicago where they become part of Second City Canine Rescue. They go straight into foster and then are made available for adoption.

If you’re wondering why they take dogs in from the South, you’re not alone. Many of my friends are surprised when they learn that the majority of rescue organizations in the Chicago area take in dogs from Southern states. PAWS Chicago, Anti-Cruelty Society, One Tail at a Time, and many others get a good amount of their adoptable dogs from partner organizations in the South.

Thankfully, Chicago is comprised of so many incredible rescue organizations that dogs in and from Chicago have a really good chance at finding their forever homes. In 2019, Chicago Animal Care and Control, the city’s municipal open-access shelter, had a 91% Live Release Rate. Meaning that 91% of the animals that came in through their doors, left either with rescues, their owners, or adopters. So, we are in a really fortunate place in Chicago, and while we still have some work to do, we are able to help other cities that don’t have the rescue resources that Chicago does.

Of course, majority of my work focuses on Chicago animals. As a volunteer at Chicago Animal Care & Control, I never really explored the needs of other states. I’ve never been against transporting animals to Chicago, I simply didn’t know much about it. After all, as a friend once told me, why should an animal be punished for being born on another side of an imaginary boundary?

States like Alabama are in great need of help. The municipal shelters are not as lucky and overflow with animals in need of help. Without organizations like Second City Canine Rescue, those animals would have such little chance of ever getting adopted. Between spay/neuter, beliefs about pets, and attitude towards adoption, there is a major overpopulation issue in some Southern states.

The two partners Second City Canine Rescue works with are HASRA and TARP. Both of these organizations pull from municipal shelters in their area. They have facilities that house animals until they are able to transport animals to partner organizations like Second City Canine Rescue. Because of COVID, we weren’t able to go to the physical shelters or facilities. I hope to do that on my next trip!

When we met with HASRA and TARP, it was overwhelming. Each dog they unloaded from their cars into ours had a story and the volunteers knew them. They were telling us about each one, sharing anecdotes and insights about their personalities. I could feel how much they cared for these animals. The HASRA and TARP volunteers cried a bit saying goodbye. They told each pup to be good and to enjoy the good life. I cried right along with them, knowing how long both the volunteers and dogs waited for this moment.

When the van was fully loaded and we pulled away, it was an overwhelming feeling. Knowing that we just opened 16 spots in Alabama for other dogs in need. Sometimes I think I’ve seen it and felt it all, and then a new experience catches me off guard and I’m in awe of just how incredible animal rescue is.

Perhaps the other highlight of the trip was pulling into the parking lot at the Second City Canine Rescue Adoption Center. We were greeted by cheering volunteers ready to help unload, bathe, and walk the dogs. It was another moment of realizing just how impactful each volunteer is. How none of this work can ever be done by one person. A great reminder that collaboration, teamwork, and compassion are three keys to saving animals.

My husband picked me up from the long journey and we drove home, chatting about the experience and the dogs. Some of those dogs are now available for adoption through Second City Canine Rescue and I cannot wait to see where each dog ends up. Getting to be a part of their journey is something I won’t forget soon.



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