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By Laura McAlister
The ornaments hanging on the Christmas tree at Whole Foods Market are not your ordinary ornaments.
They’re lifesaving – at least they are for some lucky dogs at the Shelby County Humane Society.
The ornaments are pictures of dogs currently at the shelter, and the $50 it costs to purchase an ornament will be used to cover the cost of sending a dog to a “forever home,” said Jenny Miller, president of the Shelby County Humane Society Board of Directors.
Since 2006, the shelter has participated in Shelter Partners, a program that moves Shelby County shelter pets to shelters in the northern United States, where strict neuter laws limit the number of dogs available for adoption. To date, around 3,600 dogs from the Shelby County shelter have found homes up north thanks to the program.
“As a result of those laws, the shelters we partner with have almost no dogs,” Jenny said. “Here in the South, our shelters are overcrowded. It’s very, very rare that all the dogs we transport aren’t adopted within a week of their arrival.”
The program relies on volunteers to transport the dogs to the New England shelters, and it costs roughly $50 per dog. The humane society provides a van, which will hold about 35 dogs, and money for gas, meals and one to two night’s lodging, as well as the animals’ vaccinations.
Though $50 may sound like a lot for an ornament, Brittany Maness said it’s worth every penny. She should know. She serves on the Shelby County Humane Society Board of Directors and has made three trips transporting pooches to a New Hampshire shelter.
“It’s kind of crazy, but it’s really great,” she said. “They have people on waiting lists for shelter dogs up there. These people really want these dogs.”
The trip takes 24 hours each way and requires two people, since the drive up with the dogs is nonstop.
Jenny and her husband, Zach, have made the trip seven times. Although it’s a long, sometimes tedious journey, she admitted, in the end, it’s worth it.
“It’s 24 hours straight on the way up, but the reward is so wonderful,” she said. “When you get there it’s just great. All the volunteers at their shelters cheer when we get there.
“It’s just really, really sweet. If you do it once, you want to do it over and over again.”
When the dogs arrive, they are unloaded and walked. Then they are quarantined for one week before leaving for their adoptive homes.
Brittany plans to continue making the drive north for Shelter Partners, and she’s also come up with a way to help fund it. She and her sister make collars and sell them online at www.altonh.blogspot.com or http://www.etsy.com/shop/OneDogAtaTime. So far, they’ve raised enough money for two trips.
Jenny said many volunteers who can’t afford to give financially to the shelter see the trip as a way they can help save lives.
“That’s why we like to provide money for gas, meals and lodging,” she said. “A lot of our drivers can’t support us financially, but they can give us their time.”
Although the first leg of the trip is nonstop for the most part, Jenny and Brittany both said the ride back can be a little more leisurely.
In addition to Whole Foods, the humane society ornaments can also be purchased online at shsornaments.blogspot.com.
For those who don’t want to spend $50, Jenny said there are other options. Ornaments are also being sold for $25 and fund anything from pet food to cat litter and other basic shelter needs.