By Gayle M. Irwin - Casper
A decade ago a new Wyoming pet rescue appeared on the scene. Based in Cheyenne, this group of volunteers saw a need to save dogs in our state from euthanasia. They began at a facility in the community where I live: Casper’s Metro Animal Control. Dogs there were being killed at an alarming rate. Seeing an opportunity to save dogs’ lives, Britney Wallesch and others stepped in, seeing the “black dogs,” the ones people overlooked, with Black Dog Animal Rescue (BDAR). Now, ten years later, Britney and her committed crew have ridden many waves to become a significantly strong voice for dogs and cats in Wyoming and the surrounding region.
I don’t remember when I first heard about BDAR, but I’m sure it was within the first year of its founding. I’ve been a supporter ever since. Why? Many reasons, starting with commitment. Experiencing the faithfulness of Britney and others to pull dogs that would die in the state’s kill-shelters made me take notice. I’ve been a pet rescue and adoption advocate for decades, even working at no-kill shelters in Montana and Wyoming promoting pet adoption as part of a job as well as personally in my life. I’ve served as a transporter and home evaluator for various rescue organizations, and I continue to contribute funds to such groups, including BDAR.
In addition to commitment, which is critical to pet rescue, I support BDAR for other reasons:
Pet rescue is necessary. With more than six million animals going into shelters across the country every year, rescues are necessary for the health and welfare of both animals and humans and their communities.
Pets and people need one another. Studies show dogs and cats help human health, from lowering blood pressure and alleviating depression to helping people socialize (think of the interactions at dog parks) and proving physical and emotional service (leading the blind, helping the anxious, etc.). Additionally, pets benefit from being with kind, loving people who care for (and spoil!) them.
BDAR isn’t simply another animal shelter with cages. Foster families take in animals as they await new homes, and the P.A.C.K. program (partnership with a medium-security state prison) helps dogs become more adoptable through obedience and agility training (this program benefits not just the dogs, but also the inmates, giving them important work and opportunity to bond with, and empathize with, the dogs in that program).
Pets without homes need to be adopted. Although euthanasia rates in shelters have decreased significantly in the past several years, nearly 1.5 million animals are still killed. Without rescues like BDAR and the volunteer foster families who care for and socialize them, more pets in Wyoming and the surrounding area would lose their lives. And, without adoption and adoption promotion, dogs and cats would not find their forever families.
Knowing that pet adoption around the country is vital and that more than one million animals are still euthanized in shelters, BDAR meets a crucial need. I have friends who have adopted through BDAR, and I have referred potential adopters to the organization. One recent P.A.C.K. program graduate named Niffy was adopted by a friend. Barb Martin began looking for a dog a few months ago and asked me for advice on where to adopt. I gave her several suggestions, including BDAR. She was familiar with the organization from a family member living in Cheyenne. Barb and her husband drove the three hours from Casper after putting in an adoption application for the 2-year-old border collie cross they had seen on BDAR’s website. Barb was looking for a dog that would hike, run, and bike with her, and Niffy appealed to her and her husband due to the breed’s energetic nature, size, and age. She was impressed with both Niffy (re-christened Tiffy) and BDAR.
“They were very knowledgeable and answered all of my questions,” she told me after adopting the dog. “It’s been a long time since I’ve adopted a dog. It was a pleasant and positive experience, and I’d recommend BDAR and do it again. And Tiffy – I just love her! She was shy the first few days, but she is smart, she is affectionate, and she learns quickly. I’m excited to see how she does with agility.”
She plans to enroll Tiffy in the local agility club if she responds well after the initial meet-ups. The dog’s intelligence impresses her after more than a month together. And though it took a bit of time, Tiffy and the Martins’ older Lhasa Apsos have found their comfort zones with each other.
“She learned the routine of the house quickly, including leaving the other dogs’ food alone,” Barb said. “She’s gotten much better at heeling. She knows the ‘wait’ command, and she understands she has to wait to be invited onto the bed. She and the other dogs have adjusted to each other and she will lay by Chico and allow him to lay his head on her for head scratches.”
Barb credits BDAR’s commitment to helping dogs, as well as their potential adopters, for Tiffy’s success in adjusting to life in the Martin household.
“The adoption was very easy and effortless,” she said. “The foster family brought her, and we got to meet them and ask questions. We received a lot of good information.”
Why do I support BDAR? Barb’s story – and the pictures she provided – say it all.
Gayle M. Irwin is a pet rescue and adoption advocate who lives in Casper. She is also a freelance writer and author, creating inspirational pet books for children and adults. She is a monthly BDAR donor and also contributes a portion of book sales to BDAR and other pet rescue organization. Learn more about her work and read her weekly pet blog at www.gaylemirwin.com. You can also sign up for her free monthly pet newsletter and receive a free short story collection from her when you do.