Spreading the Word
As the number of dogs being rescued grew, fundraising and communications became increasingly important. We started going to events at Petsmart, Petco and other places to promote the dogs. Many of the dogs were in horrific shape after leading lives of neglect on isolated farms, where food and medical care were in short supply. Some dogs required expensive orthopedic operations and we needed to make people aware of this. We joined Facebook and Twitter in 2008 and began publishing a newsletter to keep everyone informed. We had our first calendar contest, which was a fundraising success, in the summer of 2009. Contest winners Zoe and Willis were NGPR dogs adopted by Pam Vierling in Rhode Island. In the fall we moved four adoptable dogs to Canada, crossing the border for the first time. 2010 was notable for the debut of our first calendar, and the June 19 event of 2Dogs2000 Miles in Boston where representatives of several Pyr rescues got together. When Lisa Thornton and Jack McQuade in Washington State adopted a Pyr from the Great Pyrnees Rescue Society in 2009, no one knew it was going to set off a trend. The McQuades now have 16 rescue Pyrs from around the country and have become staunch supporters of rescue. In late 2010, NGPR established a Petfinder account in Portland, Oregon and the Great Pyrenees Rescue Society started transporting the first of thousands of dogs to the Northwest. Terry McCabe stepped forward to lead the effort there.
The growth of social media showed how technology once again would dramatically change the way rescue was being done. Stefanie Smith showed us the value of Facebook and her role was later assumed by Michelle Dines, who has been our Facebook coordinator ever since. All of a sudden we were living in a world where dogs needing rescue were coming at us from everywhere. Sue Carlin became our intake coordinator, working tirelessly to cover shelters from Ohio down to Mississippi and Louisiana and across Tennessee, Kentucky and the Carolinas. We will always be grateful to Michael Whalen in California, who started promoting all the Pyrs across country who desperately needed rescue and used social media to get donations for them.
In 2011 we saw further western expansion when the Oklahoma and Montana Pyr Rescues signed on with NGPR. The neediest cases kept coming in and in 2012 the threshold of what seemed manageable hit a new ceiling with Spiro (GA), Ice (AL) and Al (AL). Vet bills for some of these neediest cases soared to over $3,000 and we found there was enough support to help them. We faced an awful hording situation in New York when a breeder there died at the end of year and spent the first half of 2013 rehabilitating and rehoming these scarred creatures.
Getting It Together
The heavy volume of incoming dogs necessitated getting better organized on the administrative end. Debi Freedman, who adopted Sammy early on and later Howard, became our graphic artist and Petfinder listing guru. Ren Gallo became our adoption hotline contact. Kelly Schorr signed on as foster coordinator and joined the board of directors while mastering the tough role of finding temporary homes for the dogs coming up north. She introduced us to Catherine Phillips in 2008, who also became a director and later, vice-president. Catherine took on the job of implementing Rescue Groups management program for tracking dogs and adopters. By 2011, Jodi Bialik, who adopted her dog Morgan from another Pyr rescue, joined the board and volunteered to take on the task of helping incoming owner surrender dogs. We were hearing about more dogs from shelters, and the Surrender Hot Line and online surrender information form were bringing more dogs to our attention, so someone needed to manage the program. Our website needed updating so NGPR co-founder Tom Pletcher developed a new site that debuted in 2011 and then another new site in 2015. Sue DeBili, who adopted Maddie and Barley from Missouri in 2007 and volunteered with us soon after, added her organizational skills to the administrative mix, joined the board and became NGPR’s Secretary in 2013. Laurie Spraga joined our board and helped us understand the medical issues many dogs faced. In New Jersey, Barbara Cusack became an adopter and board member and Gail Frelich stepped up to manage our heartworm program. Michele Arnold gave rescue a boost when she signed on to run our first membership campaign in 2014.
There were more challenges to come. In March 2014, GPRO faced one of its biggest challenges with the surrender of 13 Pyrs in the Tulsa area and in KY. GPRS rescued 30 dogs in Texas, NGPR rescued Job in Kentucky, aptly named as he was anemic, emaciated and afflicted with one of the worst cases of mange we’ve seen. He was cured and adopted by Katie McGill, who has gone on to rescue and adopt many other dogs. Kentucky remains a constant challenge and we've had many wonderful fosters there over the years like Marie Bowden, Julie Coon, Marilyn Horne and Gloria Floyd. Joye Estes stepped up to the plate, when Kerry Burkhardt moved to Oregon and volunteered to help there, later joining the board. Suzanne Eckhardt, a transport coordinator for NGPR in the Northeast, also relocated to Oregon and now volunteers there.
Two of our pups, Hudson (Tobias) and Theory (Shyla) were entered into the 2014 Puppy Bowl and we all enjoyed their antics on and off the field. They were part of a litter born in June 2013, where Sophie, the Mom, started giving birth in a car on the way out of a KY shelter. In February, two pups, Kajika and Kitchi were rescued from under a mobile home in Alabama. Kajika, the male is deaf and blind, and his sister Kitchi is blind in one eye and partially blind in the other one. Three years later, both are thriving in their adoptive home.
Marshmallow came into rescue at the end of 2014 and was one of our neediest cases for 2015 along with Barnabas in Texas and Link in Oklahoma, who was adopted in October 2016. Volunteers Jim Jones, Carl and Sandy Davis, Denyce Matlin, Lorraine Cunningham, Teresa Mercer, George Mirones, Karen Tuell and Megan Hellier stepped up as state foster coordinators along with Carolina Bourque, who also joined the board. In 2016 Colleen Diller because our Treasurer and Michelle Stout took on operational duties and responsibilities. In September we leased a kennel in Springfield, Ohio managed by Steve Kalko, to house and train some of the many dogs coming in.
Jonas, Sasha, Seneca and Jeff were some of our neediest cases in 2016. We understand these will never stop. We have gotten blind dogs, deaf dogs, crushed dogs and mentally broken dogs and our wonderful volunteers have stepped up to the plate for all of them. We will never stop, even though we all have days when Joan Fremo’s poem “I Want to Quit” seems more meaningful than ever.