You could call these guys The Three Musketeers of animal rescue, the Three Amigos…but they are certainly no stooges. They are dedicated, hardworking heroes when it comes to saving the lives of homeless pets through the group Happy Tails Animal Rescue of Washington County, Virginia.
The ringleader, as I’ll call him, is Walter Stewart. He’s been doing this for a DECADE. And once a week, it’s game day.
“I probably spend 12 to 14 hours on Thursdays with travel and handling animals,” explained Walter. “Then, 3 to 4 hours cleaning the van and getting it ready for next week.”
Happy Tails volunteers pull animals from the local shelter and transport them to other areas of the state where spay/neuter laws are stricter and, as a result, adoptable animals are in higher demand. It helps increase the odds they’ll be adopted quickly. They’ll go to no-kill shelters and into foster care until they find their forever homes.
Walter’s sidekicks are Jim Davis and Jack Dove. All three are retired and could do whatever they want with their time. They choose this.
Jim says it may not be glamorous work, but even when he’s on poop patrol, it’s worth it! Check out the picture below — Jim is cleaning up after one of the dogs did his business in the back of the van. Ewwwwww. I can kinda smell it from here.
At least two of them make the 600-mile journey each week. They are long and tiring days but there’s always something that keeps them coming back.
“Seeing the shelter animals’ sad eyes,” said Walter. “One rescue in particular that keeps me going was a Great Pyrenees that I went to a home to pick up. He was chained to a metal stake, the chain around its neck had a pad lock and there was no grass or shade. He had dug a ditch on the higher side of the of dirt circle where he’d worn the ground around the post. At the end of the ditch he had made a little cave to back into the hill in order to keep himself cool. When the lady who was giving up this dog finally found the key to get the chain off, the Pyrenees knew exactly what was going on. I put a leash on him and we walked to the back doors of the van where the extra big carriers are and he looked at me with happy eyes and leaned against me. All I had to do is point into the crate and he climbed in. When we got to our destination there was lady from a Great Pyrenees rescue to meet him. He gave me another happy glance and climbed in her car and off he went to find his forever home.”
Jim Davis and his wife have adopted, rescued and acquired more than 20 cats over time. That’s how he got linked up with Happy Tails 6 years ago. He will never forget a dog named Ludwig.
“He’s a Great Dane who was bare bones when he was rescued,” said Jim. “A very gentle giant who would lean on whoever would walk him. Walter took this picture because Ludwig was so unique in temperament and appearance and I happened to save the photo. Ludwig was adopted immediately and I’m sure has put on lots of weight since this photo was taken back in 2014.”
Jack Dove is the new kid on the block. He’s been part of the team for a few months now. He used to be a truck driver so long days on the road are no big deal to him.
“You hear them meowing or barking along the way,” said Jack. “We stop and give them water, feed them and walk them and make sure they’re okay.”
Even though he’s only been doing rescue for a short time, Jack has seen way too many abuse cases.
“These animals are family,” he said. “You can’t just throw them outside in the cold and the heat. Good grief. If you can’t care for them, don’t have them. ”
In the meantime, Walter, Jim and Jack are all about second chances.
“It makes me feel good to be part of giving these animals a chance at a new life,” said Walter.
If you would like to help Happy Tails Animal Rescue of Washington County, Virginia carry out their mission to save the lives of animals in need, you can shop Fetching Apparel through the end of the month. We give 40% of profits to rescue efforts and spay/neuter program and Happy Tails is our August beneficiary. Use the coupon code: HAPPYTAILS2016 to support Walter and the other volunteers. That code also grants you FREE SHIPPING with no minimum order!