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Thursday, Sep. 29, 2016

No Stephanie, There Really Is No Santa Claus.

Posted Wednesday, December 12, 2012, at 9:57 PM

A view from the ''yard'' at Villalobos Rescue Center, New Orleans, LA. Home to some 200+ pit bulls.
Just about a year ago, I found myself in a position to expand my pit bull volunteer work. The famous Villalobos Rescue Center was asking for volunteers at their new facility in New Orleans, LA. For those of you that are not familiar with VRC, it is the largest pit bull rescue/sanctuary in the U.S. It is run by the famous Tia Torres, her daughters, and parolees needing work. I had faithfully watched many season of Pitbulls and Parolees on Animal Planet and had always cheered them on in their fight to save pit bulls.

I spent my last paycheck on an airplane ticket to The Big Easy for a week of hard work. I was up for the challenge, ready to clean kennels, walk dogs, build kennels, paint, whatever that needed to be done. It would be long hours and little down time.

After a 2 hour layover in Denver, I landed in NOLA and met up with 20 other women from all over the U.S. We all had one thing in common, we wanted to help these 200 dogs in any and every way we could.

After we picked a cot that would be our bed for the next 5 days and grabbed our gloves, we were ready to walk some dogs. At that time, there were dogs in pet carriers and crates all day, every day. They had come up short on kennel runs, so some were kept in tight quarters. We were handed over a dog and instructed to walk the dog around the area of the facility. About 10-15 minutes later, we were called back and the dogs were put back in their crates. Okay...we thought, we must have a lot to do and need to keep moving along. Nope, break time. A half hour later, we were put in cleaning groups. It was time to clean kennels. The VRC employee removed the dog from its kennel while the rest of us scooped poop changed bedding, removed food dishes, refilled water pails, scrubbed down the runs with bleach and water and then used a shop vacc to suck up the water. The kennel attendant brought the dog back in and we moved on. This procedure took a couple of hours. Break time, again. We would wait around for the next activity, wondering when we would actually be able to spend some time with these dogs that had been moved half way across the country only to be put back in a crate or kennel with little attention nor enrichment. We were told we were not allowed in any of the kennels with any of the dogs and to stay out of the warehouse where they were all kept because it would get them all riled up. We walked the crated dogs a couple of more times during the day. The rest of our time we could do what we wanted. What we wanted was to spend time with the dogs!

The experience, to say the least, was heartbreaking, maddening, and disappointing. I had convinced myself that I was going to help make a difference in these dogs lives. Give them some human interaction, some exercise, some love that they so desperately wanted and deserved. That is far from what I felt I gave.

Even though the VRC part stunk, I met and have made some great friends. We keep in touch and support one another in our quest to make some animals lives better. For that, finding out that things weren't as great as I had expected, made the trip well worth it.

Love my NOLA girls:-)

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JTennant, we were allowed in the warehouse to clean kennels, but that was it. No other time, except for one night when there was a storm and we were able to drag our cots and lay outside of the kennels to calm the dogs. Make sense to you? Couldn't be in there when all was good, but was shamed into it when the dogs were upset. It was cold, damp, horrific odor, and miserable. Also, when we cleaned kennels there was loud, obnoxious music blaring, employees yelling at dogs to shut up, smoking and drinking going on. Tattoo shop in one room, an old school bus for ''hanging out'' in and an alligator and two dingos there. All of which are illegal without proper license.

We would have played, pet, walked, groomed, trained, any of those dogs all day long if given the opportunity. Instead we tried to clean up around the facility to make it safe for the dogs when they were out. One of the areas was under a bridge, so needless to say plenty of trash, broken glass, and car parts everywhere.

Such a disappointment. I could have gone on a very relaxing vacation with the money I spent to be there.

-- Posted by Foster Mom on Sun, Dec 16, 2012, at 9:23 AM

A sad, but not untypical, experience. You spent your own money to go help and ended up sitting around instead of doing the work you'd hoped to do.

Sounds like you did some good for the dogs that were crated, by walking them, but to be told you couldn't even see the dogs in the warehouse makes me wonder what was in there that they didn't want any witnesses to see. That's worrisome.

-- Posted by JTennant on Sat, Dec 15, 2012, at 2:38 PM

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It's a Dog's Life
Stephanie "Foster Mom" O'Brien
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My name is Stephanie O'Brien. I'm an animal lover and enjoy volunteering. I have combined those passions into providing a temporary home to animals that would otherwise be sitting in a shelter or worse, euthanized due to lack of room in a shelter. For the past two years I've fostered pit bull type dogs for a rescue in South Dakota. I've also had the opportunity to do some presentations on responsible pet ownership and have been involved in fighting breed specific legislation in SD and IA. I'm looking forward to providing the readers with animal related topics and possibly answer any questions you may have. Enjoy! Stephanie Sioux Empire Pit Rescue Volunteer
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