It’s not every day a band plays for a crowd only half human. However, local musicians Truth Unsold and Happy Fat did exactly that for a fundraising event conducted by Rescue the Animals on the 40th anniversary of Woodstock, aptly named “Woofstock.”
Noise filled the Kent’s Harley Davidson parking lot as people mingled, listening to live music, eating free hot dogs and spending time hanging out with their own dogs and other animal-lovers Saturday afternoon. Some even dressed their dogs up in tie-dyed “peace-full” 70s attire.
Kathy Walker, a regular Rescue the Animals volunteer, sent one dog home and sparked interest in another.
“It went really well,” Walker said. “Even though there weren’t a ton of people there, it was still a success as far as we’re concerned.”
JoAnn Bentley, who also works for Rescue the Animals, said RTA definitely will repeat something similar to “Woofstock” in the future.
“The band was phenomenal, so even though there were a bunch of things going on in the city, it was still a great time,” Bentley said. “We have a wonderful, caring community here in Abilene, and we are thankful for the people that help us out.”
Rescue the Animals: One at a Time
RTA, the largest no-kill animal shelter “from Dallas to El Paso,” conducts several events each year, like the annual Fur Ball in the spring, the annual Dachshund races every summer, in addition to events like a pancake supper with IHOP last May and the recent Melvin Martin appreciation dinner in September.
“We try a lot of different kinds of events, just to see what works, and we certainly are open to all kinds of suggestions for events,” Walker said. “These events are great because people want to do things and have fun with their dogs, and why not do something good at the same time?”
RTA was founded by Paul Washburn and started out as a rescue for Australian Shepherds, Washburn’s favorite breed.
“Finally we said, ‘well, why stop with just those, why not take them all?’ And it just grew and grew and grew,” Bentley said.
Bentley, who has worked with RTA for almost 10 years said RTA adopts out roughly 1000 animals each year, and since May, the facility has cared for more than sixty puppies and kittens in the nursery alone.
“We are very, very proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish in the 10 years or so that we’ve been in existence,” Bentley said.
Walker said a poor economy has caused an increase in animals coming into the shelter.
“Adoptions are down a little bit, but the number of animals that need help is growing at a huge rate,” Walker said. “We take as many as we can, but we get calls every day from people having to give up their house and move to an apartment, or people that just can’t keep a dog anymore.”
Walker said the shelter is running specials on dogs in an attempt to get them adopted and make space for other animals. These dogs aren’t “problem animals;” they don’t bite or try to escape. They just need a little extra attention.
Walker said Delta and Rio, sibling hound mixes, are a perfect example of two wonderful dogs at the shelter longer than expected – because they need to be adopted together. But as people tighten belts and cut budgets, even one dog can seem like an imposition.
Sadly, other dogs suffer because of below-average appearance – they just aren’t as cute as the dog with the big brown eyes in the next kennel.
“It’s not that these dogs are biters or that there’s anything wrong with them,” Walker said. “We’re just putting them on special because while we need the normal adoption fees to help with medical costs, we also can’t help more animals if the ones we have aren’t finding homes.”
Adoption rates and information, as well as pictures and profiles of dogs and cats can be found on RTA’s Web site, www.rescuetheanimals.org. RTA arranges to spay or neuter every adoptable animal and sees to all necessary shots and parasite tests. The organization sends home adopted animals with heartworm and flea/tick prevention and a bag of food.
Animals available for adoption range from purebred to mixed breed cats and dogs of all ages, shapes and sizes. RTA also offers a weekly low-cost shot clinic and affordable spaying and neutering for those who already own pets.
Get Your Paws Dirty
When Erin Smith showed up at Rescue the Animals to volunteer with a friend last February, she wasn’t sure what to expect.
“The first time we went, they had us fill out a form and then asked us what we were comfortable doing, said Smith, senior family studies major from San Antonio. “We told them, ‘Pretty much whatever you need us to do,’ and Mindi Qualls, a lady who works there, kind of smiled and said ‘How would feel about bathing some of the dogs?'”
Smith said she and her friend went with Qualls to the kennel. Qualls told them to start with the small dogs and work their way up.
“We ended up bathing about 30 dogs in this giant sink-bathtub,” Smith said. “It was crazy, but we had a lot of fun.”
She said she and her friend volunteered because they wanted to play with dogs.
“We thought we should play with some that might not get one-on-one attention a whole lot,” Smith said. “We got involved because we thought it would be a helpful thing to do for the community, but it also was kind of like therapy for me. It’s a fun, relaxing thing to do after a long week.”
Smith said on a typical day at RTA, she plays with dogs in the yard behind the kennel to give them some much-needed exercise. She also bathes and brushes dogs to clean them up for people coming to adopt. She weighs dogs for their profile on the RTA Web site and takes pictures for the site and the organization’s Facebook page.
Smith described RTA as a rewarding, convenient place to volunteer.
“I never feel like it’s some huge sacrifice, and it’s really stress-relieving for me, so I keep going back,” Smith said.
While she enjoys interacting with the dogs themselves, Smith said noncontact volunteer opportunities exist as well.
Walker, for example, said she works on the Web site, the Facebook and Myspace pages, and advertising and publicity.
“We need whatever people can give,” Walker said. “A lot of people can’t give time, but they can give money, and some people can’t give time or money, but they can give items like old towels or food. We do need volunteers, and it doesn’t have to be what you think.”
Walker conducts a low-key orientation for anyone interested in volunteering in nontraditional ways.
“There’s a lot of little things you can do that people don’t necessarily know about,” she said. “Things aren’t just about coming to the kennels and scooping poop or whatever they think volunteering is all about.”
In the end, RTA is about finding good homes for good animals.
Bentley helped raise six Chihuahua puppies, and RTA found homes for four of them. She said it was hard to see them go, but she was glad.
“It’s hard to not get attached,” Bentley said. “But that’s what makes us good at what we do, you know? If we didn’t care, we wouldn’t be there.”
The RTA Web site has a list of items it needs donated and volunteer opportunities. For more information, visit www.rescuetheanimals.org, or email Kathy Walker at email@example.com.