Community Outreach & Puppy Rescues in Impoverished East St. Louis
Last week, I shared about my first experience with the Gateway Pet Guardians community outreach team.
I thought nothing could be as rewarding as fostering dogs with Gateway, but I was wrong. Driving down streets lined with burnt-out and abandoned homes, scanning the yards looking for dogs who needed our help, was one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.
Before we even headed back, I was hooked and knew I would be back.
Yesterday, I did it again. With a foot of snow and below zero temperatures predicted, we knew we had to get help to more dogs.
As soon as I heard about this storm, I’ve been so worried about the dogs who have no shelter. Some of these dogs are strays, wandering the streets and living in abandoned homes. Others are owned, but kept as outside dogs in deplorable conditions. Plus, there are always babies hidden away in the brush or rubble piles to keep them hidden from predators, and their mothers have no way of knowing that they needed to be moved. Imagine a mother and babies living under piles of overgrown brush…and then a foot of snow landing on top of them. Many simply won’t survive.
I’m Asking for Your Help:
I was so touched by the outpouring of supportive comments from people who read last week’s story.
The article has over 500 Facebook likes and almost 1000 page views at this point.
I started thinking about the difference we could make if every person who read the story I posted last week simply made a donation of just $10.
After you scroll down and look at all of the pictures from yesterday, please take the next step and make a donation to Gateway Pet Guardians. Bottom line…we are out of money and have vet bills that we already can’t pay. We simply can’t bring dogs to safety without money.
We will always find a way to pay for the dogs in desperate need…like the one saved yesterday by the feeding team who had a bad cut on his leg and a chicken bone stuck in his mouth. He went straight to the vet and to surgery.
Named Slash for that horrible cut you can see on his leg, he is doing well and needs a quiet foster home where he can recover.
But vet bills aren’t cheap. Slash’s surgery and care will probably cost us about $1000.
Plus we pulled this puppy out from under an abandoned house yesterday (more about his rescue below). Mighty Mackie, named for the street he was on and his determination to NOT be pulled from under the house, appears healthy. His vet bills will include 3 rounds of vaccinations, neuter surgery, microchip and deworming (done for all of the dogs since it is so rampant in strays). Even healthy puppies are expensive to rescue!
Grant My Birthday Wish:
Today is my birthday.
I’m asking you to give me a birthday present by helping Gateway Pet Guardians. Your donation will pay for vet bills, food for foster parents and strays, treats for neglected but owned dogs, dog houses, straw and will keep the heat on at our emergency shelter.
It will let us start rescuing the strays you see below…every one of which deserves a warm bed and loving family, but aren’t in desperate enough need yet for us to take them until we raise more money.
I’ve set up a fundraiser for my birthday month to raise money for Gateway. Please consider making a donation of $10…or more if you feel so moved.
You can also donate specifically to the fundraiser set up to buy dog houses for the ones living without shelter and we can’t rescue because they belong to someone. Every dog house costs about $80 and we have a donor who will match the funds we raise. So if you donate here, your donation will go twice as far and will be targeted for the dog houses.
Community Outreach – Helping the Owned Dogs:
It’s hard to understand unless you see it in person, but I worry more about some of the owned dogs than the strays.
The strays run freely and have plenty of abandoned homes where they can hide when the weather gets bad. They can rummage through the trash or count on PJ for a meal.
But owned dogs often have it worse.
Most of the dogs in East St. Louis spend all of their time outside.
Rain, freezing temperatures or heat waves, they spend their lives in a small fenced kennel or on a chain tied to a tree. They don’t get any exercise or have any toys. They are there simply to keep strangers from approaching the house.
Many don’t have any protection from the weather. Others have something makeshift like the 2 dogs that live in this yard.
They both got a new dog house before we left.
Other dogs actually have decent shelters but needed straw for bedding. And a reminder that Illinois just passed a new law that requires dogs to be on chains that are no more than 1/8 their body weight. This dog’s owner was told he needed to get the dog on a lighter weight chain.
And he got some treats from a volunteer with the permission of his owner.
This pet owner was thrilled with Gateway’s help. We gave her some cat food and information about how to get her 4 cats spayed and neutered for free.
One of our Junior Guardians, East St. Louis High 10th grader Tremaya, petting a cat
We also gave her a dog house. The dogs are standing on a good, igloo style dog house. But the back dog house was just a wire crate with plastic over the top.
Feeding the Strays:
Driving down the street, we noticed these 2 dogs on the porch of an abandoned house. They were very wary of us and ran back into the house when we approached.
A neighbor stopped to talk to us and said the family moved away and just left the dogs. They seemed to be living in the house so at least they have shelter.
We left a pile of dog food in the yard and will send PJ (our feeding lady who feeds the strays every day) back to check on them. As soon as we have money and foster homes, we can work on trapping them and giving them the life they deserve.
This pregnant dog was another stray we found. We left her some food and wrote down where we saw her so PJ can keep her eyes out for the puppies when they are born.
Another stray dog we found.
This one was hungry. He didn’t even wait for us to leave before he started eating. A lot of the strays keep their distance and wait to get the food until you drive away.
Neighbors let us know that there were puppies in another abandoned house, and we found the mother and her babies laying in piles of clothes. There was no way to safely get the babies from her, so PJ will have to go back with a rescue team to get them.
The dogs were in the opening where the flashlight is shining.
The house looks trashed, but this mother dog actually was a smart girl who found a really good place to take care of her puppies. The house was free of drafts and she tucked them safely into the eaves of the roof.
She was also doing a good job of feeding herself. We found a few dead birds in the attic. That said, no dog should have to live this way. This is the first floor of the house where the mother and puppies are living.
We need to line up some fosters and raise some money so we can rescue them before the puppies turn feral.
Rescuing Mighty Mackie:
While the goal of the day was to give out dog houses to owned dogs without shelter, we are always on the lookout for puppies. One of the homeowners we gave straw to told us that there were puppies living in the abandoned house next door.
As soon as we approached the house, we heard whimpering. Luckily, there were several openings where we could see under the floor and half of the floor was missing.
We finally located the puppy under the house, and scared him enough to get him to run to one corner of the crawlspace where he was trapped and couldn’t get out.
After using a crowbar that we conveniently found in the house to pull up some flooring, one of our volunteers crawled 15 feet in the 18 inch gap between the floor and the dirt slab, and emerged with a puppy in his arms.
Leldon was laying on his back on the dirt floor. It takes brave and dedicated volunteers to crawl under homes toward scared and cornered dogs who often react aggressively. This one nipped Leldon when he grabbed him.
Rescue work is a dirty job!
Mackie was all alone. His mother wasn’t around and there were no other puppies. He would not have survived the weekend’s below freezing temperatures.
He spent the next 6 hours being held while we continued our work, and then he was handed off to a foster family who showed him what sleeping in a warm house was like for the first time.
Another Puppy Rescue:
Shortly after rescuing Mackie, we got a call from another set of volunteers who rescue with Helping Strays for the Humane Society of Monroe County. They had been watching another recent mother to try to figure out where she had stashed her puppies and found them in an abandoned house. These puppies were hiding under a pile of debris and the volunteers needed help, so we headed over to help pull out the puppies.
This rescue was a lot harder. The puppies had a lot of places to hide and were terrified of the people trying to help.
Make a Donation:
If you were moved by these pictures and stories, PLEASE make a donation to help us rescue more dogs in need. Help us buy dog food and treats and dog houses. Sign up to foster a puppy or older dog.
We can’t do it without you.
See our dogs needing foster homes right now
We can always find foster parents to take the puppies (though we sometimes really scramble when we have a lot of puppies…so we still need puppy fosters!). But we absolutely can’t rescue older dogs without a place to take them. EVERY single kennel is full right now. We need foster parents or we can’t rescue anyone else. The dogs have to have someplace to go or they stay on the streets.
Read more about my experiences as a foster parent…