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2007 Featured Shelter

Dogs Life Rescue Stories

These stories are representative of the dogs this shelter has rehabilitated. We are happy to say there are so many success stories that we are unable to bring all of them to you. Will you help us make the dogs waiting for a home part of the happy ending stories too?

Nancy Van Allen Chief Rescuer

Pippy@montana.com

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Hurricane Dogs

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Nalas Buddy Nancy Van Allen Newsclipping 2004


Missoula-area woman rescues dogs displaced by Southeast storms
By GINNY MERRIAM of the Missoulian

Nancy Van Allen Nancy Van Allen, a longtime Missoula animal rescuer, plays with Bones, one of 10 dogs she took in this week that had been displaced by hurricanes in the Southeast.
Photo by KURT WILSON/Missoulian

The 10 refugees that arrived in Missoula on Monday can't tell you their stories. They're not that sure where they are. All they know is they want homes to live in and people to love them.

Bones, Captain, Grits, Kelli-Sue, Sadie, Brogan, Chance, Hawk, Rascal and Winston were everyday pet dogs in the Southeast before this fall's hurricanes. Then everything got jumbled up. They ended up at Dothan Animal Control in Dothan, Ala. All 10 of them were set to be killed. It wasn't because anything's wrong with them. Dothan Animal Control has been swamped with pets since the destruction of people's homes by the storms.

These 10 dogs have landed at the home of Nancy Van Allen on Wornath Road just outside Missoula. Van Allen has a long history of rescuing animals. She read on the Internet about the pets misplaced by the hurricanes, and she had to help, she said Tuesday over the din of 19 dogs at her house.

"I look at it, some day we could need help," she said. "We could have fires. There could be earthquakes. We don't know."

This year, through October, Dothan Animal Control has taken in 4,636 pets, its director Renee Skipper said in a phone interview. The staff has had to euthanize 2,793 of them. The shelter's capacity is 500 animals, and it's always full. And their numbers are going up.

"It's pitiful," Skipper said. "It's just really, really sad. My staff works so hard to save them. When you have to put them to sleep, and those little eyes just look at you, and you just think, 'I know I could save you.' "

Dothan is at the southeast corner of Alabama, near where the Florida panhandle meets Georgia. The season's hurricanes hit all around the area, Skipper said, but Dothan was spared.

"People would come through Dothan to get away, and people would leave their animals here," she said. "They'd just leave them. They'd be shoved in my truck, in carriers in restaurants, in our parking lot."

Dothan Animal Control has two buildings. And the Wiregrass Humane Society next door has space for about 100 animals. But there are just too many. Dothan does not have spay-neuter clinics or low-cost spay-neuter rates, she said, so the birth rate is high.

None of the 10 rescues have been spayed or neutered.

Dothan has drawn attention in the region and help from Sav-a-Pet national rescue group and the Web site Petfinder.org. Dogs have gone to North Carolina, to Florida, even to Seattle, Skipper said.

About 50 dogs are coming to Montana and North Dakota, and 30 to 40 to Texas.

"Places like these, where people will help save them, that's just incredible," Skipper said. "Because these dogs were going to be put to sleep. To see these 10 dogs go, that was a huge accomplishment."

The 10 dogs left Dothan last Friday night with Stephen and MariBeth Constable of Dothan, who are volunteers at the shelter and have five dogs of their own. The trip was financed by Sav-a-Pet.

"We just kind of fell into it," MariBeth said.

On Saturday morning, they picked up Stephen's brother, Robert, in Louisiana and turned north.

"We're all truck drivers," MariBeth said. "So we're used to being on the road. That wasn't a problem."

Caring for the dogs kept them busy, especially when a couple of them got carsick, Stephen said. Two of the females went into heat during the trip in the van. All three people grew attached to the dogs in mere hours. They recognize every one's bark, Robert said, and had a hard time saying goodbye to them when they left Missoula late Tuesday morning.

"Bye-bye, Captain. You be a good boy," Robert had to say to the big black dog many times before he left.

"There's not an ill-tempered dog in the bunch," Stephen said.

"Our mom and dad brought us up loving animals," he said. "When it came to something like this, it was easy."

The Constables have another trip scheduled the Monday after Thanksgiving. They'll drive 10 dogs to Dillon. Later that week, they'll take about 40 rescued puppies, six to 10 weeks old, to Fort Lauderdale. Many of them were born to homeless mother dogs.

"I hate to say it," Stephen said, "but a lot of times when a storm comes, people just take what they can, and they forget about their animals."

Now, Van Allen is plunging in and trying to cope. Three of the rescued dogs - Chance, Rascal and Winston - went to the Bitter Root Humane Association shelter in Hamilton. Seven are still at Van Allen's, where they joined Van Allen's six dogs and six other rescues who are staying with her. A Missoula Humane Society staff member planned to visit the dogs and take one or more to their shelter.

The dogs have taken over Van Allen's house. The living room and the den are full of crates with dogs in them, bedspreads over the crates to keep them from getting too excited. The front entrance to the kitchen is blocked with furniture. Bags of dog food are piled on the floor. Van Allen's cats are in carriers in a bedroom.

"Like I said, I'm crazy," she said. "But you've got to be."

Van Allen is a little concerned because she was laid off from her job as a bookkeeper for a construction firm last week. She wouldn't mind donations of food or money for food and volunteers to help walk the dogs until they're adopted.

Van Allen has gotten some negative comments from other rescue groups in Montana and Idaho, she said, who said she's importing other people's problems that will take homes that could have been homes for local dogs. But Van Allen couldn't stand to know that well and happy pets were being euthanized for no other reason than no one wanting them.

"It's so they won't get put down," she said. "They needed the help.

"All they really want is love."

Dogs are at the home of Nancy Van Allen outside Missoula.
Reporter Ginny Merriam can be reached at 523-5251 or at gmerriam@missoulian.com

How to help - NOTE from Nalas Fund.  This article was written in 2004.  Nancy has recently (2006) rehabilitated and placed the last of the dogs that came from this event. There are new dogs to help so please consider donating to this worthy rescue through Nalas Fund.

Donations to Nalas Fund are tax deductible under non-profit guidelines. No one at Nalas Fund takes a fee out of your donation for expenses. For your convenience we offer several ways to donate

fund originated 2005 by S. L. Gardner - Spokane Valley Washington administrated by TKGM Nalas Fund non profit organization established in Washington State 1983.