“I’m not sure, there are six up here but I don’t know how many are back there. Snoopy got hit by a car and he’s having a hard time getting around.”
We already knew the situation was bad, but with those words, we realized that it was even worse than we thought.
On the other end of the phone call was Walt, a disabled veteran who was in over his head and quickly running out of options. His rent was overdue, his furnace was broken during the coldest months of the year and he was facing eviction. We would eventually learn that there were 20 dogs and one rabbit living in different parts of the house.
Walt was desperate for help … for his animals and himself.
At Animal Friends, we are no strangers to meeting people where they are.
We know that when people who love their pets fall on hard times, they will often put the needs of their animal companions before their own. But, in the most extreme cases, the pets and the people suffer and go without basic necessities.
Walt loved his pets. Each one of them had a name and a story. But his situation had quickly gotten out of control and had become a crisis. He couldn’t leave his house, hadn’t been in his kitchen in months and was down to his final bag of dog food – barely enough to last him a week.
Even worse, one of the dogs was nursing a litter of young puppies and another, Luna, was pregnant. The others were separated into different parts of the house to keep them from fighting.
Several of the dogs had wounds and were in serious need of medical attention – especially Snoopy who was yet to see a veterinarian.
So, we jumped into action to do everything we could to help. But we knew the animals weren’t the only ones who needed us …
As our team approached the house, they weren’t sure what to expect. Walt had agreed that it would be best for us to take Snoopy and the new mother with her puppies to receive the veterinary care and attention they needed. We had bags of food and supplies to help Walt provide for the other dogs in the home while we worked with him to determine the next steps to support them.
But, it soon became clear that helping Walt and his pets would be no easy feat.
Walt was having second thoughts. He feared what would happen to his beloved pets once they left his home. We needed to gain his trust – and we were willing to do whatever it took to help him and his animals. We left the supplies and connected Walt with resources through several veterans affairs organizations to assist with his rent, utilities and access to health benefits.
That night, we got another call from Walt. As much as he was struggling with the difficult decision to give up his beloved pets, he knew that it was what they needed to be safe and healthy. Reluctantly, he asked us to come back.
Back at the house, after a long conversation and some reassurance that he was making the right decision, Walt went inside and came back with Snoopy. After a second trip into the house, he returned with two puppies – one lovingly tucked under each arm. With three of the dogs safely out of the home, we returned to Animal Friends.
The next call we received was more frantic. Another fight had broken out in the home – this time resulting in more severe injuries and a kerosene heater being knocked over, starting a small fire. It was clear that conditions in the home were growing more unsafe by the day and we needed to act faster.
We returned the next day to take two more dogs – Daisy and Cooper – who had visible bite wounds and brought them to safety.
Our Mass Rescue Team – a group of staff and volunteers specially trained to assist with large-scale rescues – was called upon and we returned to Walt’s house one last time. One by one, the remaining dogs and Max the rabbit, exited the home and were transported to Animal Friends.
Since leaving Walt’s home that day, we have stayed in close contact with him. He often calls to check in and asks about the animals by name.
And, as Walt takes this time to get the support he needs, we are working to one day reunite him with Luna, one of the dogs with whom he had a particularly close bond.
Once her newborn puppies are no longer nursing, Luna will be spayed and we look forward to reuniting them – with access to all of the support and resources they need to live happily ever after.
Because of you, Animal Friends is able to go above and beyond to help the pets of our community and the people who love them.
Your generosity enables us to do whatever it takes to support people like Walt and animals like Snoopy, Daisy, Cooper, Luna and Max who still need our help.