PAWS of Southwest Virginia is a rescue group in the heart of Appalachia that has saved the lives of countless cats and dogs, which has some jumping for joy.
Brisco is the perfect example. Volunteers pulled him from the Wise County shelter and now he’s a champion agility dog and loving life. He’s won a bunch of ribbons and trophies – along with the hearts of his new owners. Below is a picture of Brisco in the shelter. It’s crushing.
PAWS was initially founded to try to decrease the number of dogs and cats being euthanized in Wise County.
“When we first started we were just pulling animals, taking them to local adoptions and adopting them to people we thought would give them good homes,” said PAWS vice president (and repeat foster failure) Jo Anne Harding (pictured below). “We did not make sure the animals were spayed or neutered. We were just focused on saving their life.”
The hard work has paid off.
Look at the numbers back in 2010. According to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, 2,132 animals were euthanized in the Wise County Animal Control and Public Animal Shelter.
Compare that to 2015. Stats show that the number is down to 553 animals euthanized.
Now PAWS has been able to work on being even more proactive about reducing the homeless pet population.
“Pets in our care are now vaccinated, spayed or neutered – if of age, and our dogs are microchipped,” said Jo Anne. “If the pet is too young when adopted, we follow up to make sure it is spayed or neutered when it is old enough.”
Despite the progress, there is no sign that the need for PAWS is letting up.
“Over the past year we have been taking more and more pets from the community as people are giving up their pets as the economy has taken a downward spiral,” said Jo Anne. “The pets suffer too. More and more people are saying they can’t afford to take care of their pets or they are having to move and can’t take their pets with them. And the cat population has been overwhelming this year.”
It’s tiring and thankless work. And sometimes PAWS’ members feel like they’re facing an uphill battle.
“I just wrote a letter to the editor (of the local paper) berating the Town of Wise for banning dogs from all their parks,” said Jo Anne. “So I guess by default I have been the public voice of the rescue.”
Jo Anne says her job would be a lot easier if everyone would just work together when it comes to making this a pet-friendly community – which would in turn mean more animals getting adopted.
“It truly takes an army to save just one,” said Jo Anne.
The pleas for help never stop. Sleep is often optional. But Jo Anne and her fellow volunteers continue to save lives because they know what they’re doing truly matters.
“What keeps me motivated — my friends in rescue who are in the trenches just like I am,” said Jo Anne. “And hearing from the ones we adopted, getting pictures, seeing the difference we have made in these animals’ lives.”
And the difference Jo Anne and the PAWS volunteers have made for Brisco is obvious in these pics. Brisco now lives in a Chicago suburb and travels all over the country in an RV with his people and two doggie siblings.
“All my dogs are, and have been, rescues, and without volunteers like Jo Anne and others many dogs would not be given the opportunity to find their furever homes,” said Brisco’s new owner Nancy Kois.
“We actually bought the motor home because of our dogs so we can always take them with us,” explained Nancy. “Everybody always says our dogs have won the lottery.”
Brisco also goes to plenty of agility competitions where he LOVES to show off his skills.
“He’s a very smart dog and a lot of fun,” said Nancy. “He’s a very happy, spoiled dog. He has 3 different beds he can sleep on in our house.”
Apparently the couch is not off limits either (big smile). Love this shot of Brisco cuddling with Nancy’s hubby. Brisco the former shelter dog – so very loved.
“That’s what keeps me going,” said Jo Anne.
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