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A brand new start

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Fur-Get Me Not Rescue and Transport aims to see that all animals get a second chance through rescue, rehabilitation, and rehoming

By Shaina Stockton

It was a typical weekday afternoon when the Angels of Assisi rescue van pulled around the curve on Fair Street, Galax, into the Galax Carroll Grayson Animal Shelter; sending many of the four-legged patrons inside into barking fits as the engine cut off and the door opened. For shelter dogs, this sound usually means that at least one animal might be about to meet its forever family and get a second chance; but little did they know, second chances on this particular day would be ten-fold.
Angels of Assisi volunteer coordinator Jessica Worrell was greeted by several members of Fur-Get Me Not Rescue and Transport; and at least a dozen carriers with foster dogs and cats prepared for a road trip. The two non-profits have been coordinating for a while now to arrange transports at the animal shelter; Fur-Get Me Not increases pickup numbers by fostering shelter animals between Angels of Assisi visits.
“The city manager [Keith Barker] had contacted Angels of Assisi before, and they worked out a plan to come to the shelter. But when they arrived, they only got six cats and three dogs,” Jennifer Roberts, president of Fur-Get Me Not Rescue, said in a brief interview before Worrell’s arrival.
Because the rescue van has to make the trip from Roanoke to pull animals from the shelter, they needed more rescues to justify the mileage. This is where Fur-Get Me Not came in. “They wanted more animals; and when the staff [at the shelter] told us about it, I contacted them and said, ‘If you continue to work with the shelter, we can help to provide you with the amount of animals you want,’” Roberts said.
Angels of Assisi typically arranges a pickup from the Galax shelter every two weeks. “When they arrive, they do temperament tests for everyone in the shelter. The last couple of times, they’ve pulled everyone that was available,” said Roberts.
Prior to the shelter animals’ mass liberation, Worrell needed some help clearing out her van. As a gift to Fur-Get Me Not volunteers, Worrell helped the volunteers unload a stack of food, puppy pads, and other goodies into the back of one of the volunteers’ trucks. After the van was empty, the shelter staff and volunteers helped Worrell corral available shelter pulls and fosters into their crates.
This is only one example of a day in the life of Fur-Get Me Not Rescue. Now under non-profit status, Fur-Get Me Not Rescue and Transport operates a volunteer animal fostering, rehabilitation and transportation network out of the Twin Counties, in partnership with several rescue organizations located as far out as Washington, D.C. Since becoming an official rescue in March, more than 100 pets have come through the rescue’s care. At the end of June, the numbers stood at 114 pets — 68 cats and kittens and 46 dogs; with nine adopted, 52 transferred to other rescues, and 49 under foster care.
“Our motto is ‘Rescue, rehabilitate, and rehome,’ and our mission statement is that every one of God’s creatures deserves a second chance,” said Rescue Director Denise Davis, in an interview.
In addition to a core group of 15 people, Fur-Get Me Not Rescue has around 50 members, on top of a slew of community support.
“We have a lot of support, community-wise. Stores have set up bins for people to buy and drop off items for us; people are offering their talents — one lady has even offered to make decals for us,” said Roberts.
The seed was planted when Davis, who has worked with animal rescue in the past, was contacted by the animal shelter in August, 2016.
“I got a call from shelter staff, saying that no dogs had been pulled from the shelter in three months,” said Davis. As a result of the call, Davis reached out to surrounding rescues, and put in paperwork to pull on their behalf. She began transporting dogs to Wytheville, Abingdon, Augusta, and anywhere else that had space for them. “At first, it was just two or three at a time, and I quickly realized that I would need help. So, I reached out to everybody I knew and trusted who had been involved at some time with animal rescue,” Davis said.
Davis sent a Facebook message to 15 people, who agreed that they wanted to help. So they decided to get organized.
“We decided that we wanted to form our own nonprofit, as opposed to working under somebody else,” said Roberts.
Achieving nonprofit status isn’t an easy task; and the group thought it would take more than half a year just to get through the first step. But amazingly, everything was approved in just three months.
“That is just unheard of,” said Davis.

A typical day for the Fur-Get Me Not group involves a variety of networking: answering phone calls with requests for owner surrender, coordinating with the shelter and other rescues to set up fostering and rescue transports, taking animals to the vet, and community networking to spread the word about their efforts.
As the organization’s rescue director, Davis is licensed to pull animals from the shelter; in fact, out of the list of rescues that can pull from the city’s shelter, Davis is on the pull list for seven out of nine.
“I try to go to the shelter at least four days a week,” Davis said. “I check often because you can go from only two dogs one afternoon, to 27 the next day.”
Once an animal is pulled, it is fostered by a volunteer and given any medical treatment necessary. The animal is then either adopted or scheduled for one of the transports.
The organization works with a variety of rescues, including Animal Welfare League of Alexandria, Angels of Assisi, Wythe County Humane Society, Roanoke Valley SPCA, House of Puddles Senior Basset Rescue, and City Dog — which operates out of Washington, D.C., but has a hub in Smyth County.
For veterinary care, the group works with the Galax Veterinary Clinic and Mt. View Veterinary Clinic. “Those two have been a God-send to help us be able to afford what we do,” Roberts said.
The group shared that they recently approved an adoption coordinator, Debs Harrison, so they are stepping up their focus on finding forever homes for the foster animals themselves.
Roberts shared that their main focus at this time is the shelter; but owner surrenders are also accepted if there is still a foster volunteer available.  
While dogs and cats are the norm, Roberts added that Fur-Get Me Not has volunteers willing to foster pretty much anything the shelter has to offer. Fur, feathers, scales; you name it, someone is willing to take it.
“We’ve placed a snake already, a boa constrictor, from the shelter; and we’ve placed three guinea pigs from the shelter,” Davis told the Declaration.
“Almost any animal that goes into the shelter is fine. I will not foster a spider, but we have someone who would,” said Roberts. “We all seem to have something in particular we’d be willing to help with. If it comes to the shelter floor, it’s fair game.”
When asked what her preference was, Roberts answered, “Whatever is on top of the list, and needs help the most.”
Davis, who has always had a soft spot for senior dogs, declared, “Give me your old, your sick!”

In addition to helping pets, Fur-Get Me Not has also launched a program called Felines for Farmers. Through this program, feral cats are captured so they can be spayed or neutered, and vaccinated. Their ears are then notched to provide an easy visual that the cat has been treated, and they are turned back out into barns.
The rescue provides food for the cats’ continued care, and volunteers with the program are welcome to contact the rescue if any more help is needed.
As of June, four feral cats had been entered into the program.
The rescue also has a program for community cats. “When we have funding available, we will send volunteers vouchers to spay and neuter community cats. We have traps, and can cover the cost of spaying, neutering, and notches too,” Roberts said.
At this time 50 people have lined up for the effort. Roberts shared that the vouchers are sent out as the funding becomes available.

When asked to give an example of why this effort is so meaningful, Roberts shared a story with the paper of one of her rescues that resonated with her the most.
“There was a starving dog, completely emaciated, and tied outside. It probably should have weighed around 90 pounds, but it was between 30 and 40. It was so hungry, it was eating the tip of its tail,” she said.
When the dog was given to Roberts for fostering, she kept him for 10 days before he was transported to the Roanoke SPCA. In those ten days, he’d already gained 20 pounds.
“I was surprised they took him as fast as they did. I thought I would have him with me for several months,” she said. “I’ve loved all of my fosters, but that one was my most personal. That one is a good example of why we’re here.”
For Davis, her most memorable case was a newly-diagnosed diabetic dog, that unfortunately didn’t make it through rehabilitation.
“We thought we’d be able to manage it, but after we’d picked him up, he crashed. He was in the vet under our care for a week, but they ended up having to put him down,” Davis said.
Despite the loss, Davis stressed that any animal in any shape, in concurrence with their motto, is an animal they want to help. “We don’t just take the healthy, young dogs. Every one of them stands a chance,” she said.
Whether the solution is to find an animal a new home, finding them a better chance with a bigger rescue, or simply keeping them comfortable at the end of their lives, helping the four-legged population is what it’s all about for the volunteers.
“Our last foster dog was a transport to us from Greensboro. He had been at the shelter since February, and there was no interest in him whatsoever. He was scheduled to be euthanized the day we picked him up,” Roberts said.
In less than two hours, they received to adoption applications for him.  
“Every animal has a chance. Just because their family is not in the area, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have one somewhere,” said Roberts.

For more information about Fur-Get Me Not Rescue and Transport, visit their page on Facebook.

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