The following piece was written by Kaitlin Becraft, SICSA Marketing Manager & participant in the Austin, Texas Transport.
Earlier this year, national news outlets covered the winter weather that turned Texas upside down. The typically warm state was suddenly experiencing temperatures more familiar to those of us here in Ohio. This unexpected shift caused numerous issues, including power outages and frozen pipes. Many were without electricity or water for a number of days, with some in rural Texas still struggling today. Animal shelters throughout Texas were heavily affected, with animals in underserved areas facing the risk of euthanasia.
As they often do, Austin Pets Alive (APA) stepped up to save as many pets as possible. They immediately shifted gears and, while continuing all of the other incredible work they do, began focusing an immense amount of energy on rescue transports. They worked with shelters throughout the state of Texas to transfer animals from areas in grave need to their facility. From there, they connected these pets to rescue partners where the animals would have a second chance at life. When APA reached out to SICSA’s President & CEO Nora Vondrell, she dove into planning mode. “While our greatest responsibility is regionally, SICSA also has an obligation to the greater, nationwide animal welfare community”, states Vondrell. “We cannot turn a blind eye to those communities experiencing disasters and crisis when I know we can help”.
SICSA staff quickly jumped on board with the plan to provide animal transport from Texas to Ohio. Volunteers were recruited, animal numbers were discussed, and a draft itinerary developed. Less than a week later, SICSA staff member Kaitlin Becraft, and volunteers Lynn Woodard, Ann Long, and Sharron Mattingly, were headed southwest to APA.
Two days and 1,176 miles later, the team met Clare Callison, the Maddie’s Director of National Pet Supply and Demand for American Pets Alive. Clare had been in contact with Nora, preparing our team before and during the road trip down to Austin for the pets we would be bringing home. With the help of some wonderful staff and volunteers at APA, Clare aided our transport team in loading 12 dogs into our vehicles. Putting adorable, loving faces to the names of each dog made the entire journey worth it. Cardi, Merry, Hemmy, Bugsy, Brody, Lulu, Little Bear, Timmy, Sonny, Brother, Wallaby, and Snowflake each had their own unique personalities. Before they could even be loaded into their vans, our transport team had fallen in love.
When the vans were loaded with pups, the team said goodbye to their new friends at Austin Pets Alive and began the long journey home. While the driving was tiring, having the dogs on board reminded them of why they had been so eager to make the trip in the first place. At each stop, as they took the dogs from their kennels for walks, treats, and bathroom breaks, the team was greeted with grateful kisses, tail wags, and even some puppy breath from Wallaby and Snowflake. Hours after their pickup that morning, the team made it to Cabot, Arkansas.
In Cabot, the team was greeted by Mike Wheeler of Cabot Animal Support Services. Mike met the team with a smile and an eagerness to assist. Mike had been in contact with Nora as well, and Cabot Animal Support Services graciously offered the 12 dogs a comfortable kennel to spend the evening in before continuing their transport the next morning. Mike and the Cabot team provided the pups with food, water, and bedding, never once complaining about the barking or excitement of 12 dogs after a long car ride. The following morning, the team arrived at Cabot Animal Support Services once more to serve the pups breakfast, walk them, provide any necessary medical support, and even bathe a stinky Snowflake. They finished loading the pups once more, thanked Mike for his unyielding kindness, and set off on the final leg of their journey.
After one more walk/treat/bathroom stop midway between Arkansas and Ohio, the team was headed home, with the twelve tails from Texas in tow. When they crossed the state line into Ohio, the team cheered. Roughly an hour later, they pulled into SICSA with Animal Care Manager Maria Ochs, and a team of volunteers ready to receive the highly anticipated pups. The Animal Care Staff had set up kennels for each dog, taking special care to place those with unique conditions in the appropriate spaces. From underserved shelters all over Texas, to comfortable beds and play yards to explore, our new furry friends were finally safe in their temporary home.
After being checked by our vets, some pets went to foster, others prepared to be spayed/neutered, and some headed straight to the adoption floor. Many of the pets from Texas have found their new families right here in Ohio. Some are currently being spoiled by our wonderful foster volunteers, and a few, like Tiny Tim (now Timmy) are still on the search for their perfect forever homes. After their long road to SICSA, one thing is certain: These pets will be loved beyond measure.
Thank you to our Road to SICSA Rescue Transfer sponsor, Flying Ace Express Car Wash. We truly could not have made this rescue transport possible without you.