Compassion In Action

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Scotlund's Blog

The Mantle of Compassion

Deploying the Animal Rescue Corps rescue team—our staff, volunteers, vehicles, equipment, and supplies—to a distant location, where we work with law enforcement agencies to end situations of large-scale animal suffering, is a complicated and demanding process. We pride ourselves on the high standards and efficiency of our well-choreographed operations. Yet, less than a week into Operation Mississippi Blues, as I look at the hub of activity that is our emergency shelter, I find myself more astonished and grateful than usual at what the team was able to collectively accomplish.

Late in the afternoon of Monday, July 13, ARC received a call from the sheriff’s office in Union County, Mississippi, about 75 miles south of Memphis. We were informed that there were dogs, cats, and horses in dire conditions. It was clear that time was of the essence, and our window for planning would be extremely tight, because lives were at stake. We needed to get people on the scene, along with crates, medical supplies, and all of the other elements of a large-scale animal rescue, from shade tents to tables, dog food to the human needs, and much more. One of our biggest challenges when working in new communities, such as we are in this case, is locating and securing a building appropriate for an emergency shelter and have it ready to accommodate the animals removed from the scene. By Tuesday morning, ARC’s trained field team members were on planes and in cars, some traveling through the night from locations as far away as Illinois, Maryland, Tennessee, Virginia, and even Canada.

On Wednesday morning, we mounted a convoy of rescue vehicles—cars, box trucks for supplies, horse trailers, animal transport trucks, and off-road vehicles—and headed to the property. At 7:00 that morning, the temperature had topped 80 degrees, and by noon, the heat index hit 109 degrees.

We found ourselves faced with double the number of animals that had been estimated. In total, we found 76 dogs, 29 equine, and 24 cats on two properties, both of which presented challenges, but one was made up of acres of overgrown fields surrounding a ramshackle barn sitting atop a mud-covered dirt road accessible only by four-wheel drive vehicles. There, we encountered dogs running loose, covered by ticks so numerous that from a distance they looked like markings on the animals’ fur, and others inside chain-link enclosures, with virtually no shade and no water. There were also dogs and cats in a stiflingly hot, filthy, dilapidated building. On the second property, we found more suffering – dogs and cats covered in fleas and ticks and horses and donkeys with no food or water. One horse had an untreated, infected wound that had eaten away her flesh and you could see through her neck to the other side.

The team and I are used to steeling ourselves emotionally for the suffering to which we bear witness; we are used to dealing with rough terrain and the unique challenges each case presents. In Operation Mississippi Blues, we knew the heat that day would be brutal, but there was only so much we could do to prepare. The day became as much about sustaining our personal health and safety as it was about saving the lives of the animals.

As we struggled to stay hydrated, we faced nausea, and exhaustion from the heat, fighting to stay on task both mentally and physically. Most of us sustained bumps and bruises and a few team members took breaks in an air-conditioned ambulance on-scene and were assessed by medical personnel, but after a 16-hour day in extreme conditions, we got the job done because ARC is a united force – an assembled core of unique individuals, fueled by limitless compassion.

But the mantle of compassion does weigh heavy at times. The ARC team races across the country, from one rescue to another that might be hundreds of miles away. We have asked our volunteers to drop everything and respond to emergency calls at moment’s notice. I continue to be inspired by our team and am touched by their compassion for animals and their dedication to this organization.

In Tunica, Mississippi, nearly 50 people a day are driving to our emergency shelter each day to volunteer. Many of them are commuting two or three hours each way to clean, to provide food, to offer a loving embrace to the Operation Mississippi Blues animals. Many are new to ARC, some are regular volunteers, but they all are outstanding!

To date, despite the number of critical medical conditions that were present in these animals when we found them, we have lost only one of our precious charges, a puppy who succumbed to acute anemia and dehydration following every effort to save her life, including a blood transfusion. The rest of the dogs and cats are on their treatment regimens and are thriving. Our equine partners, Redemption Road Rescue and Safe Harbor Equine and Livestock Sanctuary, are doing stellar work bringing the horses and donkeys back to life as well.

In addition to the animals from Operation Mississippi Blues, we have pulled all the dogs who were in the Union County Animal Shelter, 20 in total, including a mother and five pups. With no adoption or transfer program, ARC was these dogs’ only hope for life as a loved member of a family. And, just this morning, four starving 10-day-old puppies were dropped off in a cardboard box at our emergency shelter. They are currently being warmed and bottle-fed by ARC’s animal care team and have guaranteed safety through the ARC placement partner program.

The selflessness that our staff and volunteers display, in their commitment to every animal who crosses their path and to each other, is unmatched.

Now, at the Operation Mississippi Blues emergency shelter, as the dust settles and the animals begin to reclaim their lives, it is with great pride and joy that I witness the tremendous accomplishments achieved collectively by ARC’s staff, volunteers, donors, and supporters. It has been a unique privilege to stand in the presence of your compassion this past week.

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5 responses to “The Mantle of Compassion”

  1. patti zimmerman says:

    So very proud of each of you and the job you do. You have my utmost respect!
    Have made donations to you folks and Safe Haven. Will continue to stay posted and hope that you continue your fabulous work!

    Most sincerely,
    Patti Z.

  2. Thank you for ALL of your hard work saving all animals

  3. Cherie. Huntet says:

    You all are angles to the animals you rescue. I thank all of you for your dedicated. I love the love you share with each other and the animals.

  4. Sandy Copley says:

    I am more than touched by this kind of life you lead. God be with you because to these animals you are God incarnate.

  5. Darlene Johns says:

    Yall are all a gift from God . Thanks for all the help that is put into helping these animal and others . It was a pleasure coming to Tunica and watching how professional yall are and how caring yall are with the animals . May God always shine down in your work . Thanks

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