ANNAVILLE – Last Thursday at 9 a.m., the temperature was already in the mid-90s range when a Howl on Wheels transport van pulled into a Family Dollar parking lot where foster families waited in their air conditioned vehicles.
Dogs from Mathis and Sinton waited in the cool air for what would be the next chapter in their lives, which if it wasn’t for those women fosters in those vans, would never have happened.
Dea Brite from Mathis and Ursula Harvey from Sinton are fosters to more than 70 dogs between them at any given time and were there to meet the transport which spent three days on the road to get to Texas. A few weeks prior they were on the road driving to Alabama to meet another transport in a donated van just to keep cost down.
Transports for animals costs upwards of $175 per crate, and when you’re dealing with packed county shelters that can only hold a dog a few days before euthanizing them, there’s always plenty of dogs ready to go.
“So the way it works for us is we look at dogs that are in the shelter that need to get out,” Brite said. “Then we get a rescue in another state that does what’s called tagging. If they tagged the dog they’re responsible for it which means food vetting, transport, and then they find an adoptive home. We do this in other states because of the overpopulation in Texas.”
The dogs travel as far as Oregon, Washington, Minnesota, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Wisconsin to awaiting families.
But fostering isn’t easy – or cheap. While most rescues will pay for fosters to keep animals out of shelters, its not the same for those who are picked up from the streets and are sick or have mange.
That’s where Harvey comes in.
“I Don’t say no because I’m lucky I can pay off my bill by my vet,” Harvey said. “I don’t have to pay right away, so that’s how I can ask for donations and people will donate some money.
“It’s the only way that the puppy has a chance to survive.”
The social network
Harvey gets donations by posting her needs on Facebook and hopefully finding someone willing to make a donation to help with the bills. She is also one of the few fosters who will take in dogs with heartworms and parvo, which is a big deal since the dogs need to be keep separate and cross contamination is a huge risk.
The ladies are constantly tagging rescues on the social platform and are also getting tagged themselves when someone finds a stray or sick animal.
“So we have some of the same partner rescues of course,” Brite said. “And then we have some that are different that we developed relationships with. And you kind of already know what the rescue takes.
“So when I have a great (labrador), I can reach out to my Mile High Dog Rescue and more than likely they’ll take that dog for me.”
Harvey added, “They already see my posts pop up all the time and then they message me saying, ‘I will take that one, I will take that one.’
“That’s how you do it.”
She also said that she had a dog for eight months that no one wanted named Freckles. When she got the dog it was heartworm positive but after six months of treatment it was cured.
After months of trying to find her a home, a simple post to the right rescue found her a rescue which transported Freckles to a family that was already waiting awaiting her arrival.
“You just have to find the right rescue who knows the right people,” Harvey said.
“In Oregon they love big dogs; in Maryland they love dogs that are little yappers like Chihuahuas because they don’t see him up there. They ask, where do all those Chihuahuas come from and I tell them South Texas. Everything is Chihuahua mix here.”
High cost of saving lives
Another reason rescues from out of state do what they do for Texas animals is the cost.
Treating a dog with a hernia in Texas would cost around $150 with medicine. In Maryland, the cost would skyrocket to more than $800 for the same surgery.
According to Harvey, heartworm treatment locally can cost between $450 and $600, which isn’t anything to wag your tail about. But in Maryland or New Jersey, the price leaps upwards to nearly $3,000.
Foster families wanted
“You know, we really really need fosters,” Brite said. “Even a foster that can take one dog is one more dog that can survive.”
Harvey said, “In Sinton especially, we can’t get them out we have no fosters. We have the rescues to take them, but no fosters.
“I’m overwhelmed and I cannot take anymore or my husband will divorce me,” she joked.
The women said they have rescues willing to pay for fosters to take dogs – which can last anywhere from three to four weeks before transported out of state.
Brite said if anyone is interested in fostering dogs or donating to their efforts they can call 361-678-4079 or contact their local shelter because fosters are like gold in the area.
“We’re so grateful if someone will just foster one dog, then that puppy gets socialized and we have one more that’s taken to the vet,” Brite said. “And we absolutely help facilitate a new foster rescue.”
With the amount of dogs they foster, they consider themselves transitional shelters, with Brite even officially naming her’s A Dog’s Way Home Animal Rescue. And the ladies know not everyone can’t foster as many dogs as they do, but they’re always looking for just one more.
“We know if we don’t take them they’ll die.
“A foster that takes just one is huge for us. The dog gets socialized and people become comfortable with it, everything’s reimbursed for them and it’s not stressful, like what we do.
“We choose to go at this level.”