The high-flying heroes saving animals from kill shelters.

On a clear, sunny day, Galaxy took flight.

The lanky white German shepherd soared high above the clouds on a private plane, a far cry from the streets of Southaven, Mississippi, where she was found. After getting used to the motion, Galaxy settled in to relax. She was finally going home.

All images via Pilots N Paws, used with permission.

Galaxy is one of the many lucky pets rescued and transported by Pilots N Paws, a nonprofit that pairs volunteer pilots with animals in need.

Pilots N Paws (PNP) was created in 2008, when Debi Boies asked pilot Jon Wehrenberg to help her fly a Doberman from Florida to South Carolina to save it from a cruel fate. The successful flight sparked the idea to rescue and relocated more animals — a service that is sorely needed.

Despite the success of spay and neuter campaigns, pet overpopulation remains a serious issue, and kill shelters are common, with an estimated 1.5 million dogs and cats euthanized each year. This problem is especially pronounced in parts of the rural South where there is limited access to affordable spaying and neutering services and poorly enforced leash laws.

PNP has more than 5,000 volunteer pilots using its online message board to look for animals in need of relocation.

Some pilots may be flying for business or pleasure and will pick up an animal headed to or from their destination. Others will take to the air specifically for PNP missions, each about 300 miles, bringing their kids or families along. It’s a great way to volunteer, take to the skies, and see a new city outside of lunch at the airport.

PNP executive director Kate Quinn shared a recent e-mail from one of the pilots who wrote, “For me personally, I love to fly, my kids and I love animals, we always adopt rescue dogs. PNP gives me a rewarding reason to fly rather than just getting a burger.”

The organization boasts another 12,000 volunteers on the ground who assist as foster parents, help out with transport to and from the airport, and coordinate rescues and pick-ups from shelters. A few of these volunteers have even started taking flying lessons so they can fly for PNP.

This year, PNP pilots will transport more than 15,000 animals.

Since the organization’s founding, more than 150,000 animals have been rescued and relocated, including sweet Galaxy.

After getting picked up in Mississippi, she was taken in by a white German shepherd rescue in Tennessee then flew with pilot Jim Carney to her foster home in Alton, Illinois.

All of this may seem like a lot of work, time, and effort to save one pet, but it’s bigger than that.

Each animal rescued becomes a beloved family member, trusted companion, loyal best friend, or even a hard working service dog. The animals are grateful beyond measure to live out their lives with loving families. For the humans, the gratitude is mutual.

“It’s amazing to see the pilots stay in touch with the adoptive homes. They’ll get Christmas cards and updates,” Quinn says. “It’s something that has a ripple effect. … I think it just enriches peoples lives.”

After all, they’re good dogs, Brent. And good people too.

Source: http://www.upworthy.com/

On a long shot, one community rallied to help save hundreds of homeless cats.

Any warm-blooded animal lover knows the importance of spaying and neutering cats what you may not know is how intensive the logistics are of pulling it off.

In 2016, Ruff Start Rescue in Princeton, Minnesota, a nonprofit that works to help homeless animals find fosters or forever homes, decided to expand their program, which they describe as one of the most important that they run.

This particular initiative is a crucial one for Ruff Start because it prevents even more stray kittens from being born, thereby preventing the homeless cat community from growing even larger.

All images courtesy of Ruff Start Rescue, used with permission.

That’s why they decided to seek extra funding to help expand it and they had their work cut out for them.

Jenna Trisko, the program’s development director, had been reaching out to people in her network for new ways to find funds when she came across something different: the State Farm Neighborhood Assist grant.

Unlike Jenna’s other grant proposals, the Neighborhood Assist program didn’t require an in-person meeting or the approval of a board. State Farm would narrow down the applications to the top 200, then applications would be put to a vote and the decision based on whose community presented the strongest showing.

They kept their fingers crossed, hoping to get the extra funding needed cover the surgeries, which can be expensive.

The existing fundraising they had could only cover a fraction of the surgeries they wanted to provide in order to help keep the homeless cat population under control and healthy.

Jenna had no idea whether Ruff Start would be a strong contender, but she decided to give it a shot, for the love of kitten-kind.

“It was very unlike me to do that,” Jenna laughs.

A few months later, she received a notification. Ruff Start was a top contender for a $25,000 grant.

The Neighborhood Assist program that had seemed like a long shot was now within reach. Given the green light by the State Farm team, all that stood between Ruff Start and a $25,000 check was one round of community voting.

It was time to get the Ruff Start community involved.

Ruff Start doesn’t have a shelter because all of its animals are placed in foster homes, so the community is tight-knit and full of individuals willing to provide temporarily love to adoptable kitties until they can find permanent homes for them.

This style of animal welfare brings foster families together more closely than at a typical shelter.

“Ive been with the organization for four years, and many of the people Ive never met,” Jenna says. “But they feel like family. Its just amazing.”

That family came in especially handy when it was time to vote for Ruff Start in the Neighborhood Assist program. They were able to rally the community to participate in the voting every day for three long weeks.

Plus, since no one else in Minnesota was nominated, all of the animal welfare supporters in the state could easily support their cause.

“We reached out to our other partners and got the word out that we needed people voting every day.”

This continued for three excruciatingly tense weeks.

“It was the biggest nail-biter ever,” Jenna laughs.

Finally, the winners were announced and Jenna’s proposal for Ruff Start was among them.

“I think I cried for two days!” she says.

In all, the Neighborhood Assist program helped Ruff Start spay and neuter over 500 cats.

The program was so popular that Ruff Start spent the entire grant in just five months, less than a third of the time they originally anticipated.

Ruff Start recently received a second grant, which is being used to build a facility to house cats before and after their spay/neuter surgery.

They’re now working on building a facility where cats can be temporarily housed post-surgery a project for which their community helped win another Neighborhood Assist grant.

Volunteers at Ruff Start are also focused on teaching the public things like how to read “cat body language.”

Those volunteers design learning materials about animals and their care such as how to understand their body language, what to feed them, or what do if you find an injured or stray animal and then, they take them to schools, youth groups, YMCAs, and more.

By extending their mission beyond foster and adoption, Ruff Start can spread knowledge that helps improve the lives of animals that aren’t necessarily part of their direct community.

In the end, Neighborhood Assist gave Ruff Start more than just a grant, it gave them a bonding experience.

“It’s so touching to see a community come together for an initiative,” Jenna says. “I’ve been writing grants for 11 years. I have never had an opportunity to be part of something like that.”

The effort that Ruff Start and the animal welfare community put into winning the grant proved that regular people have the power to do what might, at first, feel impossible.

If you want to find out more about Neighborhood Assist, and how it’s helping improve communities across the country, check out the program here.

Source: http://www.upworthy.com/

Love dogs? This woman’s amazing corgi rescue group will fill you with joy.

Susan Luong first discovered the magical healing power of dogs when she was in the hospital for an autoimmune disease.

She was only 7 years old and recovering from juvenile polymyositis, a muscular dystrophy disorder that affected her ability to walk. But when a group of therapy dogs paid her a visit, they had a miraculously therapeutic effect on her.

From that moment on, she was hooked.

Luong with Corey the corgi. All photos via Queen’s Best Stumpy Dog Rescue, used with permission.

Susan felt profoundly connected to dogs, especially shelter dogs that ended up being returned for medical or behavioral issues.

“I know what it feels like to be different from everyone else,” Susan says. “The medical issues, the pain that they go through. The rehabilitation. I’ve been through chemo, through learning to walk again.”

So she threw herself into volunteering at shelters and never looked back. And the more she learned about shelter animals and the reasons they’re given up, the more she felt pulled to save the ones in the most dire straights.

But corgis tugged on her heartstrings the most  — even after she and her husband had a tricky experience with the first one they adopted.

Rotti, one of the Luong’s adopted corgis, and a friend.

He was as cute as a corgi can be but came with a number of issues.

“[Oliver] put us through the ringer,” Susan recalls. “Everything that could’ve gone wrong with a first-time corgi went wrong.”

After adopting what they thought was a healthy 2-year-old corgi, they learned he was actually 7 or 8 and had everything from pneumonia to hip dysplasia. They ended up spending almost $2,000 to get him healthy again.

Then there were his behavioral issues. He was aggressive with strangers, other dogs, and even his owners. It got so bad that friends started telling them to give him up.

But of course they didn’t do that. Instead they stepped up their game as pet owners and, slowly but surely, trained his bad behavior out of him.

Two years later, they adopted a second corgi named Eva that the shelter had labeled aggressive and implemented similar training methods on her.

Eva in the car.

Now both dogs are best friends and have earned their Canine Good Citizenship (CGC) from the American Kennel Club, which is the equivalent of getting a degree in doggie college. If dogs pass their behavior test, they’re awarded a certificate declaring them a CGC.

A year after adopting Eva, Susan started Queen’s Best Stumpy Dog Rescue (QBSDR) to help rehabilitate corgis like Oliver and Eva.

“I started the rescue because I was seeing more and more dogs being given up, corgis specifically, for reasons that were no fault of their own,” Susan explains.

It became her mission to give them a leg up on getting re-homed.

Corgis that have been surrendered to QBSDR are given specific temperament assessments. Susan has them interact with her own, well-trained dogs to see what their behaviors are — if they’re confident, reactive, etc. Once they determine that, they design a targeted training program for the dog.

Susan with her corgi brigade.

“We work on relationship building and trust, then from there work on boundaries and control,” Susan says.

The dogs that are surrendered for medical issues have a slightly more complicated path. While some may need a few surgeries and time to heal, others are beyond help. For the furry friends that are terminal, QBSDR volunteers help make their time left as comfortable and happy as possible. They actually fulfill a bucket list made up of adventures and experiences the volunteers think the pup will love.  

Rotti, a terminal corgi, on the Mount Hollywood trail.

Their ultimate goal, of course, is to get all their rescued pups adopted. So far they’re doing a pretty bang-up job.

Miss Dixie and her dads!

Posted by Queen’s Best Stumpy Dog Rescue on Thursday, November 9, 2017

While there is an extensive application process, the goal is to really get to know each prospective owner’s lifestyle, household, and habits so they can be matched with the perfect corgi companion.

Like most dogs, each corgi has specific personality traits that may mesh better with one type of person than another. And the better the match, the more likely they’ll remain family forever.

Adoptees Twinkie and Gizmo.

But it’s also about making sure each prospective owner knows their dog’s history and is prepared for what life with them could entail. As the Luoungs found out firsthand, there’s a lot of shady business that goes on in the dog breeding world, and it infiltrates shelters and adoption organizations.

That’s why Susan believes in full transparency so that new owners don’t encounter any surprises that might make them rethink their decision.

QBSDR shares all this and more at Corgi Beach Day — a yearly event in Southern California where over 800 corgis storm Huntington Beach — aka the best day ever.

SoCal Corgi Beach Day!

QBSDR is partnered with Dan and Kelly Macklemore, the architects of SoCal Corgi Beach Day, who help them get the word about about their corgi rescue. Proceeds from the event also go to support their dogs’ medical, training, and shelter needs.

And, of course, it’s a match made in heaven for the corgis, who love to swim and frolic on the beach.

At the end of the day, however, it’s just about helping people build a lasting relationship with their dogs.

That’s why they offer training advice outside of their adoption services; they want to be a continual resource for the community.

“We’re here to help them bridge that communication gap, help them work on their relationship with their dog and turn things around the way me and my husband did,” Susan says.

QBSDR recently moved to a new facility in Acton, California, so they could use some extra help during this transition. You can donate to their cause here, or if you happen to live nearby, they’re always looking for volunteers and foster families.

Source: http://www.upworthy.com/

They fled their home with just their pets and some clothes. Then strangers stepped in.

Driving back to her apartment in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, last Monday afternoon, Rachel Gilliam weaved her way through smoke so thick she couldn’t make out the mountains south of town.

“Everything had this brown and yellow haze to it, like there was a sepia filter over the world,” Gilliam says.

When she arrived home, she called local police and emergency services, who told her that no evacuations were planned. Gilliam’s wife, Jess, who had just finished her shift at the distillery where they both work, wasn’t willing to wait for an update:

“We need to go,” Jess said.

Gilliam grabbed the couple’s dog, their two cats, some clothes, and a bag containing their birth certificates and marriage license and fled north to Jess’ parents in Knoxville, where they watched the next part of the story unfold on television and through panicked calls and text messages from friends.

Wildfires blew into town, killing at least 14, injuring dozens, and destroying hundreds of homes, including the apartment complex where the couple had just moved two months prior.

“It was like a bad dream. It was completely heart-wrenching,” Gilliam says.

Just a few miles away in Knoxville, Lacy Mellon and her husband Jonathan were following the same news reports with growing alarm.

A Tennessee native and real estate agent, Mellon regularly rents out two spare bedrooms in her home, and a bungalow listed on Airbnb as, “good for couples, solo adventurers, business travelers, families (w/ kids), big groups, & furry friends (pets)!”

With no guests on the horizon, she saw a better use for the empty space.

“This is my home and these are my people,” Mellon says. Hoping to provide some relief to residents displaced by the fires, she sought out a friend who works at Sugarlands Distillery, the same Gatlinburg distillery that employs Rachel Gilliam and her wife.

“I immediately texted her and asked if she knew anyone directly needing housing and told her about our open home,” Mellon explains. The friend referred her to Gilliam, who moved into Mellon’s bungalow with her pets soon after.

“I have no words to describe how amazing it felt to have a safe place to live and for the animals to be at no charge,” Gilliam says.

In the wake of the Gatlinburg fires, Airbnb has made it easier for its Tennessee hosts to offer their properties to evacuees free of charge.

According to a statement from the company’s head of global disaster relief, the Disaster Response Tool will be available to hosts in the Knoxville and Gatlinburg areas through Dec. 13. Airbnb activated the function after Hurricane Matthew slammed the southeastern United States in October.

A review of the site on Monday morning showed dozens of listings available to evacuees in Knoxville, and several more in the surrounding areas.

“I want her to know she has people in Knoxville now, and we are here for whatever she needs.” Lacy Mellon

Amanda Lane, a nursing student at University of Tennessee, saw donating her space as an alternative to giving money or purchasing other needed items for evacuees, which she can’t afford.

“I personally feel like I’ve lost part of my ‘home,’ but I can’t imagine actually losing my house as well,” Lane, who grew up camping and hiking near Gatlinburg, says. “I am devastated watching the news, seeing all of the damage, and I really just wanted to be able to help out in anyway that I can.”

Others, like Liz Candlish, who operates the Glenwood Inn in Knoxville with her husband J.R., praised the company for making it easy to assist with relief efforts. “I really feel for all the people who lost everything in the fires and since we have the space, would love to offer it to help out,” she explains. “We can’t imagine what it would be like to have our house burn down, especially right before Christmas.”

This is just one of many ways locals are coming together to provide relief to evacuees from the fires.

Other Knoxville businesses have been active in assisting the recovery effort, including local food truck Oishii Knox, which has been giving away free meals to first responders and Liberty Ink Tattoo, which created a special design, with all proceeds going to the Gatlinburg Relief Fund.

Last week, singer Dolly Parton, whose Dollywood amusement park sits right outside Gatlinburg, announced a fund to provide residents who lost their homes, like Gilliam, $1,000 per month for six months to help them re-establish themselves.

Mellon, who manages a Facebook group for Airbnb hosts in the local area, praised the Knoxville community for rallying to support their neighbors.

For her part, she said she plans to take Gilliam out for dinner and host her until she gets back on her feet.

“I want her to know she has people in Knoxville now, and we are here for whatever she needs.”

Gilliam said she’s enormously grateful to Mellon for putting her and Jess up and to Sugarlands Distillery for its support.

According to Gilliam, the company has pledged to help her and Jess find permanent housing in Gatlinburg. The couple is committed to returning, and Gilliam hopes that visitors will continue seek the city out as she and Jess did many times early in their relationship, before they lived there despite the tragedy.

From time to time, Gilliam regrets what was lost in the fire her grandfather’s handkerchiefs, a collection of Disney and Star Wars memorabilia, and hundreds of movies. Still, she’s thankful for what wasn’t.

“Things are just things, but we are safe, and that’s what matters.”

Source: http://www.upworthy.com/

Meet the organization doing everything it can to make sure pets go to forever homes.

There are few things quite as special as adopting a pet.

Take it from someone who hates a mess but ended up bringing two rescue kittens into her tiny New York apartment. After years of fretting over the decision, it took just one day for me to realize the amazing amount of love you receive far outweighs any annoyance.

Did they run around like wild cheetahs and scratch all the furniture? Sure, but I also woke up to one sitting on my pillow and the other squished into my moccasin. It was love at first meow. Just as you adopt a pet, they bring you into their pack, and the bond only strengthens with time.

My husband, Mark, with our cat, Bill.

That, in essence, is why organizations like the Michelson Found Animal Foundation do what they do — put pets in good homes.

However, there are always more pets waiting to find theirs, and they require food, love, and care too.

Approximately 7.6 million pets enter animal shelters in America each year. According to Aimee Gilbreath, executive director of Michelson Found, there are currently several thousand pets in 20 different shelters in Los Angeles alone. Unfortunately, shelters rarely have enough time, money, or manpower to care for all of the animals that come to them, which, in some cases, results in animals being euthanized.

But that’s where Michelson Found Animals Foundation comes in — they’re an animal rescue umbrella organization that offers a variety of resources that help make pet adoption easier and more accessible. Their thousand volunteers work tirelessly to make sure as many pets as possible get to go home.

A kitten at an Adopt and Shop shelter. Photo via SoCal Honda Dealers.

“Our mission is saving pets and enriching lives,” Gilbreath says. “And that’s not only the lives of the pets that we save, but also the people who love them.”

The people who love them includes the many volunteers and staff members who interact with them on a daily basis.

“I like knowing everyday when I wake up and come to work, I’m making a difference in an animal’s life, says one staffer.

Sure, they’re giving them care and attention, but they’re also helping them get ready to head on to greener pastures, aka a new family. What could be more fulfilling?

“Being an adoption counselor is so gratifying because you see an animal find its forever home and walk out that door for the last time,” says one volunteer.

One kitten going to their forever home. Photo via SoCal Honda Dealers.

While the job may be its own reward, these people definitely deserve some recognition.

SoCal Honda Dealers thought so too.

That’s why they surprised the Michelson Found Animals Foundation volunteers with free lunch.

A Helpful Honda person with Lori Hitchins, chief people officer with Michelson Found Animals Foundation. Photo via SoCal Honda Dealers.

But that wasn’t their only surprise. They also provided lunch for all the animals in the shelter. That’s approximately 44 dogs, 66 cats, and 168 kittens in foster care and at the adoption center. And they made sure to buy through the organization’s Adopt and Shop program too, so all the money went to saving more animals.

Needless to say, the volunteers were incredibly grateful, and even more so when the staffers stuck around and played with some of the shelter’s residents.

But more importantly, the gesture is a great example of the little things anyone can do to help enrich the lives of shelter animals, even if it’s just one bag of kibble at a time.

A Helpful Honda person playing with one of the shelter dogs. Photo via SoCal Honda Dealers.

Adopting and shopping can go together, so long as you do it at a place like this.

Even if you’re not ready to adopt right now, if you have friends with pets, consider getting them a gift from Adopt and Shop or donating to Michelson Found Animals Foundation in their name. They, their pet, and all the prospective pets and pet owners out there will thank you for it.

Learn more about these amazing organizations here:

SoCal Honda Dealers: Adopt & Shop

These volunteers are paid in love by the sweet animals they rescue.

Posted by Upworthy on Wednesday, November 15, 2017

This was written by Upworthy writer Ally Hirschlag.

Source: http://www.upworthy.com/

The high-flying heroes saving animals from kill shelters.

On a clear, sunny day, Galaxy took flight.

The lanky white German shepherd soared high above the clouds on a private plane, a far cry from the streets of Southaven, Mississippi, where she was found. After getting used to the motion, Galaxy settled in to relax. She was finally going home.

All images via Pilots N Paws, used with permission.

Galaxy is one of the many lucky pets rescued and transported by Pilots N Paws, a nonprofit that pairs volunteer pilots with animals in need.

Pilots N Paws (PNP) was created in 2008, when Debi Boies asked pilot Jon Wehrenberg to help her fly a Doberman from Florida to South Carolina to save it from a cruel fate. The successful flight sparked the idea to rescue and relocated more animals — a service that is sorely needed.

Despite the success of spay and neuter campaigns, pet overpopulation remains a serious issue, and kill shelters are common, with an estimated 1.5 million dogs and cats euthanized each year. This problem is especially pronounced in parts of the rural South where there is limited access to affordable spaying and neutering services and poorly enforced leash laws.

PNP has more than 5,000 volunteer pilots using its online message board to look for animals in need of relocation.

Some pilots may be flying for business or pleasure and will pick up an animal headed to or from their destination. Others will take to the air specifically for PNP missions, each about 300 miles, bringing their kids or families along. It’s a great way to volunteer, take to the skies, and see a new city outside of lunch at the airport.

PNP executive director Kate Quinn shared a recent e-mail from one of the pilots who wrote, “For me personally, I love to fly, my kids and I love animals, we always adopt rescue dogs. PNP gives me a rewarding reason to fly rather than just getting a burger.”

The organization boasts another 12,000 volunteers on the ground who assist as foster parents, help out with transport to and from the airport, and coordinate rescues and pick-ups from shelters. A few of these volunteers have even started taking flying lessons so they can fly for PNP.

This year, PNP pilots will transport more than 15,000 animals.

Since the organization’s founding, more than 150,000 animals have been rescued and relocated, including sweet Galaxy.

After getting picked up in Mississippi, she was taken in by a white German shepherd rescue in Tennessee then flew with pilot Jim Carney to her foster home in Alton, Illinois.

All of this may seem like a lot of work, time, and effort to save one pet, but it’s bigger than that.

Each animal rescued becomes a beloved family member, trusted companion, loyal best friend, or even a hard working service dog. The animals are grateful beyond measure to live out their lives with loving families. For the humans, the gratitude is mutual.

“It’s amazing to see the pilots stay in touch with the adoptive homes. They’ll get Christmas cards and updates,” Quinn says. “It’s something that has a ripple effect. … I think it just enriches peoples lives.”

After all, they’re good dogs, Brent. And good people too.

Source: http://www.upworthy.com/

On a long shot, one community rallied to help save hundreds of homeless cats.

Any warm-blooded animal lover knows the importance of spaying and neutering cats what you may not know is how intensive the logistics are of pulling it off.

In 2016, Ruff Start Rescue in Princeton, Minnesota, a nonprofit that works to help homeless animals find fosters or forever homes, decided to expand their program, which they describe as one of the most important that they run.

This particular initiative is a crucial one for Ruff Start because it prevents even more stray kittens from being born, thereby preventing the homeless cat community from growing even larger.

All images courtesy of Ruff Start Rescue, used with permission.

That’s why they decided to seek extra funding to help expand it and they had their work cut out for them.

Jenna Trisko, the program’s development director, had been reaching out to people in her network for new ways to find funds when she came across something different: the State Farm Neighborhood Assist grant.

Unlike Jenna’s other grant proposals, the Neighborhood Assist program didn’t require an in-person meeting or the approval of a board. State Farm would narrow down the applications to the top 200, then applications would be put to a vote and the decision based on whose community presented the strongest showing.

They kept their fingers crossed, hoping to get the extra funding needed cover the surgeries, which can be expensive.

The existing fundraising they had could only cover a fraction of the surgeries they wanted to provide in order to help keep the homeless cat population under control and healthy.

Jenna had no idea whether Ruff Start would be a strong contender, but she decided to give it a shot, for the love of kitten-kind.

“It was very unlike me to do that,” Jenna laughs.

A few months later, she received a notification. Ruff Start was a top contender for a $25,000 grant.

The Neighborhood Assist program that had seemed like a long shot was now within reach. Given the green light by the State Farm team, all that stood between Ruff Start and a $25,000 check was one round of community voting.

It was time to get the Ruff Start community involved.

Ruff Start doesn’t have a shelter because all of its animals are placed in foster homes, so the community is tight-knit and full of individuals willing to provide temporarily love to adoptable kitties until they can find permanent homes for them.

This style of animal welfare brings foster families together more closely than at a typical shelter.

“Ive been with the organization for four years, and many of the people Ive never met,” Jenna says. “But they feel like family. Its just amazing.”

That family came in especially handy when it was time to vote for Ruff Start in the Neighborhood Assist program. They were able to rally the community to participate in the voting every day for three long weeks.

Plus, since no one else in Minnesota was nominated, all of the animal welfare supporters in the state could easily support their cause.

“We reached out to our other partners and got the word out that we needed people voting every day.”

This continued for three excruciatingly tense weeks.

“It was the biggest nail-biter ever,” Jenna laughs.

Finally, the winners were announced and Jenna’s proposal for Ruff Start was among them.

“I think I cried for two days!” she says.

In all, the Neighborhood Assist program helped Ruff Start spay and neuter over 500 cats.

The program was so popular that Ruff Start spent the entire grant in just five months, less than a third of the time they originally anticipated.

Ruff Start recently received a second grant, which is being used to build a facility to house cats before and after their spay/neuter surgery.

They’re now working on building a facility where cats can be temporarily housed post-surgery a project for which their community helped win another Neighborhood Assist grant.

Volunteers at Ruff Start are also focused on teaching the public things like how to read “cat body language.”

Those volunteers design learning materials about animals and their care such as how to understand their body language, what to feed them, or what do if you find an injured or stray animal and then, they take them to schools, youth groups, YMCAs, and more.

By extending their mission beyond foster and adoption, Ruff Start can spread knowledge that helps improve the lives of animals that aren’t necessarily part of their direct community.

In the end, Neighborhood Assist gave Ruff Start more than just a grant, it gave them a bonding experience.

“It’s so touching to see a community come together for an initiative,” Jenna says. “I’ve been writing grants for 11 years. I have never had an opportunity to be part of something like that.”

The effort that Ruff Start and the animal welfare community put into winning the grant proved that regular people have the power to do what might, at first, feel impossible.

If you want to find out more about Neighborhood Assist, and how it’s helping improve communities across the country, check out the program here.

Source: http://www.upworthy.com/

Meet the organization doing everything it can to make sure pets go to forever homes.

There are few things quite as special as adopting a pet.

Take it from someone who hates a mess but ended up bringing two rescue kittens into her tiny New York apartment. After years of fretting over the decision, it took just one day for me to realize the amazing amount of love you receive far outweighs any annoyance.

Did they run around like wild cheetahs and scratch all the furniture? Sure, but I also woke up to one sitting on my pillow and the other squished into my moccasin. It was love at first meow. Just as you adopt a pet, they bring you into their pack, and the bond only strengthens with time.

My husband, Mark, with our cat, Bill.

That, in essence, is why organizations like the Michelson Found Animal Foundation do what they do — put pets in good homes.

However, there are always more pets waiting to find theirs, and they require food, love, and care too.

Approximately 7.6 million pets enter animal shelters in America each year. According to Aimee Gilbreath, executive director of Michelson Found, there are currently several thousand pets in 20 different shelters in Los Angeles alone. Unfortunately, shelters rarely have enough time, money, or manpower to care for all of the animals that come to them, which, in some cases, results in animals being euthanized.

But that’s where Michelson Found Animals Foundation comes in — they’re an animal rescue umbrella organization that offers a variety of resources that help make pet adoption easier and more accessible. Their thousand volunteers work tirelessly to make sure as many pets as possible get to go home.

A kitten at an Adopt and Shop shelter. Photo via SoCal Honda Dealers.

“Our mission is saving pets and enriching lives,” Gilbreath says. “And that’s not only the lives of the pets that we save, but also the people who love them.”

The people who love them includes the many volunteers and staff members who interact with them on a daily basis.

“I like knowing everyday when I wake up and come to work, I’m making a difference in an animal’s life, says one staffer.

Sure, they’re giving them care and attention, but they’re also helping them get ready to head on to greener pastures, aka a new family. What could be more fulfilling?

“Being an adoption counselor is so gratifying because you see an animal find its forever home and walk out that door for the last time,” says one volunteer.

One kitten going to their forever home. Photo via SoCal Honda Dealers.

While the job may be its own reward, these people definitely deserve some recognition.

SoCal Honda Dealers thought so too.

That’s why they surprised the Michelson Found Animals Foundation volunteers with free lunch.

A Helpful Honda person with Lori Hitchins, chief people officer with Michelson Found Animals Foundation. Photo via SoCal Honda Dealers.

But that wasn’t their only surprise. They also provided lunch for all the animals in the shelter. That’s approximately 44 dogs, 66 cats, and 168 kittens in foster care and at the adoption center. And they made sure to buy through the organization’s Adopt and Shop program too, so all the money went to saving more animals.

Needless to say, the volunteers were incredibly grateful, and even more so when the staffers stuck around and played with some of the shelter’s residents.

But more importantly, the gesture is a great example of the little things anyone can do to help enrich the lives of shelter animals, even if it’s just one bag of kibble at a time.

A Helpful Honda person playing with one of the shelter dogs. Photo via SoCal Honda Dealers.

Adopting and shopping can go together, so long as you do it at a place like this.

Even if you’re not ready to adopt right now, if you have friends with pets, consider getting them a gift from Adopt and Shop or donating to Michelson Found Animals Foundation in their name. They, their pet, and all the prospective pets and pet owners out there will thank you for it.

Learn more about these amazing organizations here:

SoCal Honda Dealers: Adopt & Shop

These volunteers are paid in love by the sweet animals they rescue.

Posted by Upworthy on Wednesday, November 15, 2017

This was written by Upworthy writer Ally Hirschlag.

Source: http://www.upworthy.com/

They fled their home with just their pets and some clothes. Then strangers stepped in.

Driving back to her apartment in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, last Monday afternoon, Rachel Gilliam weaved her way through smoke so thick she couldn’t make out the mountains south of town.

“Everything had this brown and yellow haze to it, like there was a sepia filter over the world,” Gilliam says.

When she arrived home, she called local police and emergency services, who told her that no evacuations were planned. Gilliam’s wife, Jess, who had just finished her shift at the distillery where they both work, wasn’t willing to wait for an update:

“We need to go,” Jess said.

Gilliam grabbed the couple’s dog, their two cats, some clothes, and a bag containing their birth certificates and marriage license and fled north to Jess’ parents in Knoxville, where they watched the next part of the story unfold on television and through panicked calls and text messages from friends.

Wildfires blew into town, killing at least 14, injuring dozens, and destroying hundreds of homes, including the apartment complex where the couple had just moved two months prior.

“It was like a bad dream. It was completely heart-wrenching,” Gilliam says.

Just a few miles away in Knoxville, Lacy Mellon and her husband Jonathan were following the same news reports with growing alarm.

A Tennessee native and real estate agent, Mellon regularly rents out two spare bedrooms in her home, and a bungalow listed on Airbnb as, “good for couples, solo adventurers, business travelers, families (w/ kids), big groups, & furry friends (pets)!”

With no guests on the horizon, she saw a better use for the empty space.

“This is my home and these are my people,” Mellon says. Hoping to provide some relief to residents displaced by the fires, she sought out a friend who works at Sugarlands Distillery, the same Gatlinburg distillery that employs Rachel Gilliam and her wife.

“I immediately texted her and asked if she knew anyone directly needing housing and told her about our open home,” Mellon explains. The friend referred her to Gilliam, who moved into Mellon’s bungalow with her pets soon after.

“I have no words to describe how amazing it felt to have a safe place to live and for the animals to be at no charge,” Gilliam says.

In the wake of the Gatlinburg fires, Airbnb has made it easier for its Tennessee hosts to offer their properties to evacuees free of charge.

According to a statement from the company’s head of global disaster relief, the Disaster Response Tool will be available to hosts in the Knoxville and Gatlinburg areas through Dec. 13. Airbnb activated the function after Hurricane Matthew slammed the southeastern United States in October.

A review of the site on Monday morning showed dozens of listings available to evacuees in Knoxville, and several more in the surrounding areas.

“I want her to know she has people in Knoxville now, and we are here for whatever she needs.” Lacy Mellon

Amanda Lane, a nursing student at University of Tennessee, saw donating her space as an alternative to giving money or purchasing other needed items for evacuees, which she can’t afford.

“I personally feel like I’ve lost part of my ‘home,’ but I can’t imagine actually losing my house as well,” Lane, who grew up camping and hiking near Gatlinburg, says. “I am devastated watching the news, seeing all of the damage, and I really just wanted to be able to help out in anyway that I can.”

Others, like Liz Candlish, who operates the Glenwood Inn in Knoxville with her husband J.R., praised the company for making it easy to assist with relief efforts. “I really feel for all the people who lost everything in the fires and since we have the space, would love to offer it to help out,” she explains. “We can’t imagine what it would be like to have our house burn down, especially right before Christmas.”

This is just one of many ways locals are coming together to provide relief to evacuees from the fires.

Other Knoxville businesses have been active in assisting the recovery effort, including local food truck Oishii Knox, which has been giving away free meals to first responders and Liberty Ink Tattoo, which created a special design, with all proceeds going to the Gatlinburg Relief Fund.

Last week, singer Dolly Parton, whose Dollywood amusement park sits right outside Gatlinburg, announced a fund to provide residents who lost their homes, like Gilliam, $1,000 per month for six months to help them re-establish themselves.

Mellon, who manages a Facebook group for Airbnb hosts in the local area, praised the Knoxville community for rallying to support their neighbors.

For her part, she said she plans to take Gilliam out for dinner and host her until she gets back on her feet.

“I want her to know she has people in Knoxville now, and we are here for whatever she needs.”

Gilliam said she’s enormously grateful to Mellon for putting her and Jess up and to Sugarlands Distillery for its support.

According to Gilliam, the company has pledged to help her and Jess find permanent housing in Gatlinburg. The couple is committed to returning, and Gilliam hopes that visitors will continue seek the city out as she and Jess did many times early in their relationship, before they lived there despite the tragedy.

From time to time, Gilliam regrets what was lost in the fire her grandfather’s handkerchiefs, a collection of Disney and Star Wars memorabilia, and hundreds of movies. Still, she’s thankful for what wasn’t.

“Things are just things, but we are safe, and that’s what matters.”

Source: http://www.upworthy.com/

The high-flying heroes saving animals from kill shelters.

On a clear, sunny day, Galaxy took flight.

The lanky white German shepherd soared high above the clouds on a private plane, a far cry from the streets of Southaven, Mississippi, where she was found. After getting used to the motion, Galaxy settled in to relax. She was finally going home.

All images via Pilots N Paws, used with permission.

Galaxy is one of the many lucky pets rescued and transported by Pilots N Paws, a nonprofit that pairs volunteer pilots with animals in need.

Pilots N Paws (PNP) was created in 2008, when Debi Boies asked pilot Jon Wehrenberg to help her fly a Doberman from Florida to South Carolina to save it from a cruel fate. The successful flight sparked the idea to rescue and relocated more animals — a service that is sorely needed.

Despite the success of spay and neuter campaigns, pet overpopulation remains a serious issue, and kill shelters are common, with an estimated 1.5 million dogs and cats euthanized each year. This problem is especially pronounced in parts of the rural South where there is limited access to affordable spaying and neutering services and poorly enforced leash laws.

PNP has more than 5,000 volunteer pilots using its online message board to look for animals in need of relocation.

Some pilots may be flying for business or pleasure and will pick up an animal headed to or from their destination. Others will take to the air specifically for PNP missions, each about 300 miles, bringing their kids or families along. It’s a great way to volunteer, take to the skies, and see a new city outside of lunch at the airport.

PNP executive director Kate Quinn shared a recent e-mail from one of the pilots who wrote, “For me personally, I love to fly, my kids and I love animals, we always adopt rescue dogs. PNP gives me a rewarding reason to fly rather than just getting a burger.”

The organization boasts another 12,000 volunteers on the ground who assist as foster parents, help out with transport to and from the airport, and coordinate rescues and pick-ups from shelters. A few of these volunteers have even started taking flying lessons so they can fly for PNP.

This year, PNP pilots will transport more than 15,000 animals.

Since the organization’s founding, more than 150,000 animals have been rescued and relocated, including sweet Galaxy.

After getting picked up in Mississippi, she was taken in by a white German shepherd rescue in Tennessee then flew with pilot Jim Carney to her foster home in Alton, Illinois.

All of this may seem like a lot of work, time, and effort to save one pet, but it’s bigger than that.

Each animal rescued becomes a beloved family member, trusted companion, loyal best friend, or even a hard working service dog. The animals are grateful beyond measure to live out their lives with loving families. For the humans, the gratitude is mutual.

“It’s amazing to see the pilots stay in touch with the adoptive homes. They’ll get Christmas cards and updates,” Quinn says. “It’s something that has a ripple effect. … I think it just enriches peoples lives.”

After all, they’re good dogs, Brent. And good people too.

Source: http://www.upworthy.com/

If you have your heart set on a puppy, this older beagle might just change your mind.

The moment we met Odie, we knew he was the dog for us.

In fact, I fell in love with this sweet little beagle as soon as he laid his head on my lap and looked at me with his big, brown eyes.

Odie at the Broadway Barks adoption event. All images by Simone Scully/Upworthy.

My husband and I had talked about adopting a dog for almost as long as we had known each other. But after nearly six years of talking about it, we finally decided it was time to bring one home. Still, we hadn’t actually expected to find one so quickly — but there he was at New York’s Broadway Barks pet adoption event. And we certainly never expected that the dog we picked would be an older, former medical research beagle.  

In fact, we had assumed that we would bring home a young dog — maybe even a puppy. But out of all the adoptable dogs that we met that day, from goofy bulldogs to beautiful cocker spaniels to excitable puppies of all colors and sizes, none of them felt quite right to us.

Odie was the one — and we both knew it immediately.

We adopted Odie from the BeFreegle Foundation, an organization that rescues and rehabilitates former research dogs. He came home with us one month before his seventh birthday.

Odie on his seventh birthday.

While it varies depending on breed or size, dogs over age 7 are often considered “senior” because at this age, they can begin to show signs of aging. Plus, given Odie’s background, it’s possible that he could have a slightly shorter life — although because of a nondisclosure agreement signed by his rescuers, we cannot know that for sure.

All we knew when we brought him home was that he had received a clean bill of health from the vet, he was up to date on his vaccines, and, most importantly, he was deemed ready to join our family. We were committed and ready to love him for as long as he would be with us — no matter how long that might be.

When we brought Odie home, we were told that he would most likely be a little shy.

After all, lots of things were new for him. He was in a new city with new humans and even things like walking on a leash or playing with toys were new and foreign to him.  

He didn’t know what to do with his toys at first.

But Odie surprised us all with just how quickly he settled into his new life.

Within a week, he had begun to wag his tail when we talked to him, he quickly conquered going up and down the five flights of stairs to our walk-up apartment, he started playing with his favorite squeaky toys, and he became comfortable walking around the block with us on a leash.

Within a month, we were comfortable taking him to the dog park, where he could meet other dogs. And although he liked saying “hello” to the other dogs, he seemed a little ambivalent about actually playing with them, preferring to sit and watch all the others play fetch.

Today, he still doesn’t love loud noises — especially motorcycles or trucks — and he can be a little shy around big groups of new people. But other than that, he’s pretty much a normal dog. He’s silly, he loves treats, and he’s very calm around cats, other dogs, or children and he’s well-behaved — or, at least, usually…

I had worried that an older dog might be stubborn when it came to training, but it turns out that old dogs can learn new tricks.

Odie was eager to respond to commands, especially “up” or “spin,” when treats were involved.

Odie taking a rest after a long hike.

Adopting an older dog into our family was one of the best decisions we ever made.

While we may not have known Odie since he was a puppy, we get to know him in the best years of his life — and that has been rewarding.

Odie is going to be 9 this year. But aside from being a little stiff when he wakes up in the morning, he’s still very healthy and happy. We feel lucky to have him, and it means a lot to know that we have made a good life for him in his older years.

There are lots of older dogs like Odie in shelters all across the country, and some of them end up spending more time in shelters waiting for a home than younger animals. Luckily, there are also lots of shelters and rescue groups that are working hard to get the word out about how great these animals really are. Plus, they are always looking for fosters or new families that are ready to adopt.

While adopting an older, former research dog wasn’t what we thought we were looking for, our laid-back pup is perfect for our family.

Source: http://www.upworthy.com/

On a long shot, one community rallied to help save hundreds of homeless cats.

Any warm-blooded animal lover knows the importance of spaying and neutering cats what you may not know is how intensive the logistics are of pulling it off.

In 2016, Ruff Start Rescue in Princeton, Minnesota, a nonprofit that works to help homeless animals find fosters or forever homes, decided to expand their program, which they describe as one of the most important that they run.

This particular initiative is a crucial one for Ruff Start because it prevents even more stray kittens from being born, thereby preventing the homeless cat community from growing even larger.

All images courtesy of Ruff Start Rescue, used with permission.

That’s why they decided to seek extra funding to help expand it and they had their work cut out for them.

Jenna Trisko, the program’s development director, had been reaching out to people in her network for new ways to find funds when she came across something different: the State Farm Neighborhood Assist grant.

Unlike Jenna’s other grant proposals, the Neighborhood Assist program didn’t require an in-person meeting or the approval of a board. State Farm would narrow down the applications to the top 200, then applications would be put to a vote and the decision based on whose community presented the strongest showing.

They kept their fingers crossed, hoping to get the extra funding needed cover the surgeries, which can be expensive.

The existing fundraising they had could only cover a fraction of the surgeries they wanted to provide in order to help keep the homeless cat population under control and healthy.

Jenna had no idea whether Ruff Start would be a strong contender, but she decided to give it a shot, for the love of kitten-kind.

“It was very unlike me to do that,” Jenna laughs.

A few months later, she received a notification. Ruff Start was a top contender for a $25,000 grant.

The Neighborhood Assist program that had seemed like a long shot was now within reach. Given the green light by the State Farm team, all that stood between Ruff Start and a $25,000 check was one round of community voting.

It was time to get the Ruff Start community involved.

Ruff Start doesn’t have a shelter because all of its animals are placed in foster homes, so the community is tight-knit and full of individuals willing to provide temporarily love to adoptable kitties until they can find permanent homes for them.

This style of animal welfare brings foster families together more closely than at a typical shelter.

“Ive been with the organization for four years, and many of the people Ive never met,” Jenna says. “But they feel like family. Its just amazing.”

That family came in especially handy when it was time to vote for Ruff Start in the Neighborhood Assist program. They were able to rally the community to participate in the voting every day for three long weeks.

Plus, since no one else in Minnesota was nominated, all of the animal welfare supporters in the state could easily support their cause.

“We reached out to our other partners and got the word out that we needed people voting every day.”

This continued for three excruciatingly tense weeks.

“It was the biggest nail-biter ever,” Jenna laughs.

Finally, the winners were announced and Jenna’s proposal for Ruff Start was among them.

“I think I cried for two days!” she says.

In all, the Neighborhood Assist program helped Ruff Start spay and neuter over 500 cats.

The program was so popular that Ruff Start spent the entire grant in just five months, less than a third of the time they originally anticipated.

Ruff Start recently received a second grant, which is being used to build a facility to house cats before and after their spay/neuter surgery.

They’re now working on building a facility where cats can be temporarily housed post-surgery a project for which their community helped win another Neighborhood Assist grant.

Volunteers at Ruff Start are also focused on teaching the public things like how to read “cat body language.”

Those volunteers design learning materials about animals and their care such as how to understand their body language, what to feed them, or what do if you find an injured or stray animal and then, they take them to schools, youth groups, YMCAs, and more.

By extending their mission beyond foster and adoption, Ruff Start can spread knowledge that helps improve the lives of animals that aren’t necessarily part of their direct community.

In the end, Neighborhood Assist gave Ruff Start more than just a grant, it gave them a bonding experience.

“It’s so touching to see a community come together for an initiative,” Jenna says. “I’ve been writing grants for 11 years. I have never had an opportunity to be part of something like that.”

The effort that Ruff Start and the animal welfare community put into winning the grant proved that regular people have the power to do what might, at first, feel impossible.

If you want to find out more about Neighborhood Assist, and how it’s helping improve communities across the country, check out the program here.

Source: http://www.upworthy.com/

Meet the organization doing everything it can to make sure pets go to forever homes.

There are few things quite as special as adopting a pet.

Take it from someone who hates a mess but ended up bringing two rescue kittens into her tiny New York apartment. After years of fretting over the decision, it took just one day for me to realize the amazing amount of love you receive far outweighs any annoyance.

Did they run around like wild cheetahs and scratch all the furniture? Sure, but I also woke up to one sitting on my pillow and the other squished into my moccasin. It was love at first meow. Just as you adopt a pet, they bring you into their pack, and the bond only strengthens with time.

My husband, Mark, with our cat, Bill.

That, in essence, is why organizations like the Michelson Found Animal Foundation do what they do — put pets in good homes.

However, there are always more pets waiting to find theirs, and they require food, love, and care too.

Approximately 7.6 million pets enter animal shelters in America each year. According to Aimee Gilbreath, executive director of Michelson Found, there are currently several thousand pets in 20 different shelters in Los Angeles alone. Unfortunately, shelters rarely have enough time, money, or manpower to care for all of the animals that come to them, which, in some cases, results in animals being euthanized.

But that’s where Michelson Found Animals Foundation comes in — they’re an animal rescue umbrella organization that offers a variety of resources that help make pet adoption easier and more accessible. Their thousand volunteers work tirelessly to make sure as many pets as possible get to go home.

A kitten at an Adopt and Shop shelter. Photo via SoCal Honda Dealers.

“Our mission is saving pets and enriching lives,” Gilbreath says. “And that’s not only the lives of the pets that we save, but also the people who love them.”

The people who love them includes the many volunteers and staff members who interact with them on a daily basis.

“I like knowing everyday when I wake up and come to work, I’m making a difference in an animal’s life, says one staffer.

Sure, they’re giving them care and attention, but they’re also helping them get ready to head on to greener pastures, aka a new family. What could be more fulfilling?

“Being an adoption counselor is so gratifying because you see an animal find its forever home and walk out that door for the last time,” says one volunteer.

One kitten going to their forever home. Photo via SoCal Honda Dealers.

While the job may be its own reward, these people definitely deserve some recognition.

SoCal Honda Dealers thought so too.

That’s why they surprised the Michelson Found Animals Foundation volunteers with free lunch.

A Helpful Honda person with Lori Hitchins, chief people officer with Michelson Found Animals Foundation. Photo via SoCal Honda Dealers.

But that wasn’t their only surprise. They also provided lunch for all the animals in the shelter. That’s approximately 44 dogs, 66 cats, and 168 kittens in foster care and at the adoption center. And they made sure to buy through the organization’s Adopt and Shop program too, so all the money went to saving more animals.

Needless to say, the volunteers were incredibly grateful, and even more so when the staffers stuck around and played with some of the shelter’s residents.

But more importantly, the gesture is a great example of the little things anyone can do to help enrich the lives of shelter animals, even if it’s just one bag of kibble at a time.

A Helpful Honda person playing with one of the shelter dogs. Photo via SoCal Honda Dealers.

Adopting and shopping can go together, so long as you do it at a place like this.

Even if you’re not ready to adopt right now, if you have friends with pets, consider getting them a gift from Adopt and Shop or donating to Michelson Found Animals Foundation in their name. They, their pet, and all the prospective pets and pet owners out there will thank you for it.

Learn more about these amazing organizations here:

SoCal Honda Dealers: Adopt & Shop

These volunteers are paid in love by the sweet animals they rescue.

Posted by Upworthy on Wednesday, November 15, 2017

This was written by Upworthy writer Ally Hirschlag.

Source: http://www.upworthy.com/

They fled their home with just their pets and some clothes. Then strangers stepped in.

Driving back to her apartment in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, last Monday afternoon, Rachel Gilliam weaved her way through smoke so thick she couldn’t make out the mountains south of town.

“Everything had this brown and yellow haze to it, like there was a sepia filter over the world,” Gilliam says.

When she arrived home, she called local police and emergency services, who told her that no evacuations were planned. Gilliam’s wife, Jess, who had just finished her shift at the distillery where they both work, wasn’t willing to wait for an update:

“We need to go,” Jess said.

Gilliam grabbed the couple’s dog, their two cats, some clothes, and a bag containing their birth certificates and marriage license and fled north to Jess’ parents in Knoxville, where they watched the next part of the story unfold on television and through panicked calls and text messages from friends.

Wildfires blew into town, killing at least 14, injuring dozens, and destroying hundreds of homes, including the apartment complex where the couple had just moved two months prior.

“It was like a bad dream. It was completely heart-wrenching,” Gilliam says.

Just a few miles away in Knoxville, Lacy Mellon and her husband Jonathan were following the same news reports with growing alarm.

A Tennessee native and real estate agent, Mellon regularly rents out two spare bedrooms in her home, and a bungalow listed on Airbnb as, “good for couples, solo adventurers, business travelers, families (w/ kids), big groups, & furry friends (pets)!”

With no guests on the horizon, she saw a better use for the empty space.

“This is my home and these are my people,” Mellon says. Hoping to provide some relief to residents displaced by the fires, she sought out a friend who works at Sugarlands Distillery, the same Gatlinburg distillery that employs Rachel Gilliam and her wife.

“I immediately texted her and asked if she knew anyone directly needing housing and told her about our open home,” Mellon explains. The friend referred her to Gilliam, who moved into Mellon’s bungalow with her pets soon after.

“I have no words to describe how amazing it felt to have a safe place to live and for the animals to be at no charge,” Gilliam says.

In the wake of the Gatlinburg fires, Airbnb has made it easier for its Tennessee hosts to offer their properties to evacuees free of charge.

According to a statement from the company’s head of global disaster relief, the Disaster Response Tool will be available to hosts in the Knoxville and Gatlinburg areas through Dec. 13. Airbnb activated the function after Hurricane Matthew slammed the southeastern United States in October.

A review of the site on Monday morning showed dozens of listings available to evacuees in Knoxville, and several more in the surrounding areas.

“I want her to know she has people in Knoxville now, and we are here for whatever she needs.” Lacy Mellon

Amanda Lane, a nursing student at University of Tennessee, saw donating her space as an alternative to giving money or purchasing other needed items for evacuees, which she can’t afford.

“I personally feel like I’ve lost part of my ‘home,’ but I can’t imagine actually losing my house as well,” Lane, who grew up camping and hiking near Gatlinburg, says. “I am devastated watching the news, seeing all of the damage, and I really just wanted to be able to help out in anyway that I can.”

Others, like Liz Candlish, who operates the Glenwood Inn in Knoxville with her husband J.R., praised the company for making it easy to assist with relief efforts. “I really feel for all the people who lost everything in the fires and since we have the space, would love to offer it to help out,” she explains. “We can’t imagine what it would be like to have our house burn down, especially right before Christmas.”

This is just one of many ways locals are coming together to provide relief to evacuees from the fires.

Other Knoxville businesses have been active in assisting the recovery effort, including local food truck Oishii Knox, which has been giving away free meals to first responders and Liberty Ink Tattoo, which created a special design, with all proceeds going to the Gatlinburg Relief Fund.

Last week, singer Dolly Parton, whose Dollywood amusement park sits right outside Gatlinburg, announced a fund to provide residents who lost their homes, like Gilliam, $1,000 per month for six months to help them re-establish themselves.

Mellon, who manages a Facebook group for Airbnb hosts in the local area, praised the Knoxville community for rallying to support their neighbors.

For her part, she said she plans to take Gilliam out for dinner and host her until she gets back on her feet.

“I want her to know she has people in Knoxville now, and we are here for whatever she needs.”

Gilliam said she’s enormously grateful to Mellon for putting her and Jess up and to Sugarlands Distillery for its support.

According to Gilliam, the company has pledged to help her and Jess find permanent housing in Gatlinburg. The couple is committed to returning, and Gilliam hopes that visitors will continue seek the city out as she and Jess did many times early in their relationship, before they lived there despite the tragedy.

From time to time, Gilliam regrets what was lost in the fire her grandfather’s handkerchiefs, a collection of Disney and Star Wars memorabilia, and hundreds of movies. Still, she’s thankful for what wasn’t.

“Things are just things, but we are safe, and that’s what matters.”

Source: http://www.upworthy.com/

The high-flying heroes saving animals from kill shelters.

On a clear, sunny day, Galaxy took flight.

The lanky white German shepherd soared high above the clouds on a private plane, a far cry from the streets of Southaven, Mississippi, where she was found. After getting used to the motion, Galaxy settled in to relax. She was finally going home.

All images via Pilots N Paws, used with permission.

Galaxy is one of the many lucky pets rescued and transported by Pilots N Paws, a nonprofit that pairs volunteer pilots with animals in need.

Pilots N Paws (PNP) was created in 2008, when Debi Boies asked pilot Jon Wehrenberg to help her fly a Doberman from Florida to South Carolina to save it from a cruel fate. The successful flight sparked the idea to rescue and relocated more animals — a service that is sorely needed.

Despite the success of spay and neuter campaigns, pet overpopulation remains a serious issue, and kill shelters are common, with an estimated 1.5 million dogs and cats euthanized each year. This problem is especially pronounced in parts of the rural South where there is limited access to affordable spaying and neutering services and poorly enforced leash laws.

PNP has more than 5,000 volunteer pilots using its online message board to look for animals in need of relocation.

Some pilots may be flying for business or pleasure and will pick up an animal headed to or from their destination. Others will take to the air specifically for PNP missions, each about 300 miles, bringing their kids or families along. It’s a great way to volunteer, take to the skies, and see a new city outside of lunch at the airport.

PNP executive director Kate Quinn shared a recent e-mail from one of the pilots who wrote, “For me personally, I love to fly, my kids and I love animals, we always adopt rescue dogs. PNP gives me a rewarding reason to fly rather than just getting a burger.”

The organization boasts another 12,000 volunteers on the ground who assist as foster parents, help out with transport to and from the airport, and coordinate rescues and pick-ups from shelters. A few of these volunteers have even started taking flying lessons so they can fly for PNP.

This year, PNP pilots will transport more than 15,000 animals.

Since the organization’s founding, more than 150,000 animals have been rescued and relocated, including sweet Galaxy.

After getting picked up in Mississippi, she was taken in by a white German shepherd rescue in Tennessee then flew with pilot Jim Carney to her foster home in Alton, Illinois.

All of this may seem like a lot of work, time, and effort to save one pet, but it’s bigger than that.

Each animal rescued becomes a beloved family member, trusted companion, loyal best friend, or even a hard working service dog. The animals are grateful beyond measure to live out their lives with loving families. For the humans, the gratitude is mutual.

“It’s amazing to see the pilots stay in touch with the adoptive homes. They’ll get Christmas cards and updates,” Quinn says. “It’s something that has a ripple effect. … I think it just enriches peoples lives.”

After all, they’re good dogs, Brent. And good people too.

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/these-pilots-volunteer-their-skills-to-rescue-homeless-pets

If you have your heart set on a puppy, this older beagle might just change your mind.

The moment we met Odie, we knew he was the dog for us.

In fact, I fell in love with this sweet little beagle as soon as he laid his head on my lap and looked at me with his big, brown eyes.

Odie at the Broadway Barks adoption event. All images by Simone Scully/Upworthy.

My husband and I had talked about adopting a dog for almost as long as we had known each other. But after nearly six years of talking about it, we finally decided it was time to bring one home. Still, we hadn’t actually expected to find one so quickly — but there he was at New York’s Broadway Barks pet adoption event. And we certainly never expected that the dog we picked would be an older, former medical research beagle.  

In fact, we had assumed that we would bring home a young dog — maybe even a puppy. But out of all the adoptable dogs that we met that day, from goofy bulldogs to beautiful cocker spaniels to excitable puppies of all colors and sizes, none of them felt quite right to us.

Odie was the one — and we both knew it immediately.

We adopted Odie from the BeFreegle Foundation, an organization that rescues and rehabilitates former research dogs. He came home with us one month before his seventh birthday.

Odie on his seventh birthday.

While it varies depending on breed or size, dogs over age 7 are often considered “senior” because at this age, they can begin to show signs of aging. Plus, given Odie’s background, it’s possible that he could have a slightly shorter life — although because of a nondisclosure agreement signed by his rescuers, we cannot know that for sure.

All we knew when we brought him home was that he had received a clean bill of health from the vet, he was up to date on his vaccines, and, most importantly, he was deemed ready to join our family. We were committed and ready to love him for as long as he would be with us — no matter how long that might be.

When we brought Odie home, we were told that he would most likely be a little shy.

After all, lots of things were new for him. He was in a new city with new humans and even things like walking on a leash or playing with toys were new and foreign to him.  

He didn’t know what to do with his toys at first.

But Odie surprised us all with just how quickly he settled into his new life.

Within a week, he had begun to wag his tail when we talked to him, he quickly conquered going up and down the five flights of stairs to our walk-up apartment, he started playing with his favorite squeaky toys, and he became comfortable walking around the block with us on a leash.

Within a month, we were comfortable taking him to the dog park, where he could meet other dogs. And although he liked saying “hello” to the other dogs, he seemed a little ambivalent about actually playing with them, preferring to sit and watch all the others play fetch.

Today, he still doesn’t love loud noises — especially motorcycles or trucks — and he can be a little shy around big groups of new people. But other than that, he’s pretty much a normal dog. He’s silly, he loves treats, and he’s very calm around cats, other dogs, or children and he’s well-behaved — or, at least, usually…

I had worried that an older dog might be stubborn when it came to training, but it turns out that old dogs can learn new tricks.

Odie was eager to respond to commands, especially “up” or “spin,” when treats were involved.

Odie taking a rest after a long hike.

Adopting an older dog into our family was one of the best decisions we ever made.

While we may not have known Odie since he was a puppy, we get to know him in the best years of his life — and that has been rewarding.

Odie is going to be 9 this year. But aside from being a little stiff when he wakes up in the morning, he’s still very healthy and happy. We feel lucky to have him, and it means a lot to know that we have made a good life for him in his older years.

There are lots of older dogs like Odie in shelters all across the country, and some of them end up spending more time in shelters waiting for a home than younger animals. Luckily, there are also lots of shelters and rescue groups that are working hard to get the word out about how great these animals really are. Plus, they are always looking for fosters or new families that are ready to adopt.

While adopting an older, former research dog wasn’t what we thought we were looking for, our laid-back pup is perfect for our family.

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/if-you-have-your-heart-set-on-a-puppy-this-older-beagle-might-just-change-your-mind

On a long shot, one community rallied to help save hundreds of homeless cats.

Any warm-blooded animal lover knows the importance of spaying and neutering cats what you may not know is how intensive the logistics are of pulling it off.

In 2016, Ruff Start Rescue in Princeton, Minnesota, a nonprofit that works to help homeless animals find fosters or forever homes, decided to expand their program, which they describe as one of the most important that they run.

This particular initiative is a crucial one for Ruff Start because it prevents even more stray kittens from being born, thereby preventing the homeless cat community from growing even larger.

All images courtesy of Ruff Start Rescue, used with permission.

That’s why they decided to seek extra funding to help expand it and they had their work cut out for them.

Jenna Trisko, the program’s development director, had been reaching out to people in her network for new ways to find funds when she came across something different: the State Farm Neighborhood Assist grant.

Unlike Jenna’s other grant proposals, the Neighborhood Assist program didn’t require an in-person meeting or the approval of a board. State Farm would narrow down the applications to the top 200, then applications would be put to a vote and the decision based on whose community presented the strongest showing.

They kept their fingers crossed, hoping to get the extra funding needed cover the surgeries, which can be expensive.

The existing fundraising they had could only cover a fraction of the surgeries they wanted to provide in order to help keep the homeless cat population under control and healthy.

Jenna had no idea whether Ruff Start would be a strong contender, but she decided to give it a shot, for the love of kitten-kind.

“It was very unlike me to do that,” Jenna laughs.

A few months later, she received a notification. Ruff Start was a top contender for a $25,000 grant.

The Neighborhood Assist program that had seemed like a long shot was now within reach. Given the green light by the State Farm team, all that stood between Ruff Start and a $25,000 check was one round of community voting.

It was time to get the Ruff Start community involved.

Ruff Start doesn’t have a shelter because all of its animals are placed in foster homes, so the community is tight-knit and full of individuals willing to provide temporarily love to adoptable kitties until they can find permanent homes for them.

This style of animal welfare brings foster families together more closely than at a typical shelter.

“Ive been with the organization for four years, and many of the people Ive never met,” Jenna says. “But they feel like family. Its just amazing.”

That family came in especially handy when it was time to vote for Ruff Start in the Neighborhood Assist program. They were able to rally the community to participate in the voting every day for three long weeks.

Plus, since no one else in Minnesota was nominated, all of the animal welfare supporters in the state could easily support their cause.

“We reached out to our other partners and got the word out that we needed people voting every day.”

This continued for three excruciatingly tense weeks.

“It was the biggest nail-biter ever,” Jenna laughs.

Finally, the winners were announced and Jenna’s proposal for Ruff Start was among them.

“I think I cried for two days!” she says.

In all, the Neighborhood Assist program helped Ruff Start spay and neuter over 500 cats.

The program was so popular that Ruff Start spent the entire grant in just five months, less than a third of the time they originally anticipated.

Ruff Start recently received a second grant, which is being used to build a facility to house cats before and after their spay/neuter surgery.

They’re now working on building a facility where cats can be temporarily housed post-surgery a project for which their community helped win another Neighborhood Assist grant.

Volunteers at Ruff Start are also focused on teaching the public things like how to read “cat body language.”

Those volunteers design learning materials about animals and their care such as how to understand their body language, what to feed them, or what do if you find an injured or stray animal and then, they take them to schools, youth groups, YMCAs, and more.

By extending their mission beyond foster and adoption, Ruff Start can spread knowledge that helps improve the lives of animals that aren’t necessarily part of their direct community.

In the end, Neighborhood Assist gave Ruff Start more than just a grant, it gave them a bonding experience.

“It’s so touching to see a community come together for an initiative,” Jenna says. “I’ve been writing grants for 11 years. I have never had an opportunity to be part of something like that.”

The effort that Ruff Start and the animal welfare community put into winning the grant proved that regular people have the power to do what might, at first, feel impossible.

If you want to find out more about Neighborhood Assist, and how it’s helping improve communities across the country, check out the program here.

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/on-a-long-shot-one-community-rallied-to-help-save-hundreds-of-homeless-cats

They fled their home with just their pets and some clothes. Then strangers stepped in.

Driving back to her apartment in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, last Monday afternoon, Rachel Gilliam weaved her way through smoke so thick she couldn’t make out the mountains south of town.

“Everything had this brown and yellow haze to it, like there was a sepia filter over the world,” Gilliam says.

When she arrived home, she called local police and emergency services, who told her that no evacuations were planned. Gilliam’s wife, Jess, who had just finished her shift at the distillery where they both work, wasn’t willing to wait for an update:

“We need to go,” Jess said.

Gilliam grabbed the couple’s dog, their two cats, some clothes, and a bag containing their birth certificates and marriage license and fled north to Jess’ parents in Knoxville, where they watched the next part of the story unfold on television and through panicked calls and text messages from friends.

Wildfires blew into town, killing at least 14, injuring dozens, and destroying hundreds of homes, including the apartment complex where the couple had just moved two months prior.

“It was like a bad dream. It was completely heart-wrenching,” Gilliam says.

Just a few miles away in Knoxville, Lacy Mellon and her husband Jonathan were following the same news reports with growing alarm.

A Tennessee native and real estate agent, Mellon regularly rents out two spare bedrooms in her home, and a bungalow listed on Airbnb as, “good for couples, solo adventurers, business travelers, families (w/ kids), big groups, & furry friends (pets)!”

With no guests on the horizon, she saw a better use for the empty space.

“This is my home and these are my people,” Mellon says. Hoping to provide some relief to residents displaced by the fires, she sought out a friend who works at Sugarlands Distillery, the same Gatlinburg distillery that employs Rachel Gilliam and her wife.

“I immediately texted her and asked if she knew anyone directly needing housing and told her about our open home,” Mellon explains. The friend referred her to Gilliam, who moved into Mellon’s bungalow with her pets soon after.

“I have no words to describe how amazing it felt to have a safe place to live and for the animals to be at no charge,” Gilliam says.

In the wake of the Gatlinburg fires, Airbnb has made it easier for its Tennessee hosts to offer their properties to evacuees free of charge.

According to a statement from the company’s head of global disaster relief, the Disaster Response Tool will be available to hosts in the Knoxville and Gatlinburg areas through Dec. 13. Airbnb activated the function after Hurricane Matthew slammed the southeastern United States in October.

A review of the site on Monday morning showed dozens of listings available to evacuees in Knoxville, and several more in the surrounding areas.

“I want her to know she has people in Knoxville now, and we are here for whatever she needs.” Lacy Mellon

Amanda Lane, a nursing student at University of Tennessee, saw donating her space as an alternative to giving money or purchasing other needed items for evacuees, which she can’t afford.

“I personally feel like I’ve lost part of my ‘home,’ but I can’t imagine actually losing my house as well,” Lane, who grew up camping and hiking near Gatlinburg, says. “I am devastated watching the news, seeing all of the damage, and I really just wanted to be able to help out in anyway that I can.”

Others, like Liz Candlish, who operates the Glenwood Inn in Knoxville with her husband J.R., praised the company for making it easy to assist with relief efforts. “I really feel for all the people who lost everything in the fires and since we have the space, would love to offer it to help out,” she explains. “We can’t imagine what it would be like to have our house burn down, especially right before Christmas.”

This is just one of many ways locals are coming together to provide relief to evacuees from the fires.

Other Knoxville businesses have been active in assisting the recovery effort, including local food truck Oishii Knox, which has been giving away free meals to first responders and Liberty Ink Tattoo, which created a special design, with all proceeds going to the Gatlinburg Relief Fund.

Last week, singer Dolly Parton, whose Dollywood amusement park sits right outside Gatlinburg, announced a fund to provide residents who lost their homes, like Gilliam, $1,000 per month for six months to help them re-establish themselves.

Mellon, who manages a Facebook group for Airbnb hosts in the local area, praised the Knoxville community for rallying to support their neighbors.

For her part, she said she plans to take Gilliam out for dinner and host her until she gets back on her feet.

“I want her to know she has people in Knoxville now, and we are here for whatever she needs.”

Gilliam said she’s enormously grateful to Mellon for putting her and Jess up and to Sugarlands Distillery for its support.

According to Gilliam, the company has pledged to help her and Jess find permanent housing in Gatlinburg. The couple is committed to returning, and Gilliam hopes that visitors will continue seek the city out as she and Jess did many times early in their relationship, before they lived there despite the tragedy.

From time to time, Gilliam regrets what was lost in the fire her grandfather’s handkerchiefs, a collection of Disney and Star Wars memorabilia, and hundreds of movies. Still, she’s thankful for what wasn’t.

“Things are just things, but we are safe, and that’s what matters.”

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/they-fled-their-home-with-just-their-pets-and-some-clothes-then-strangers-stepped-in