Picture this: It’s a beautiful, sunny day and you’re driving from Nashville, Tennessee
to Lebanon, Tennessee.
Basically... from a city you don’t know very well to a city you know even less!
“Why would one find themselves driving to Lebanon, Tennessee” you might ask?
Well, that’s a great question!
If you’re me (or if you know me) you’ve probably already guessed the reason I’d be driving to Lebanon, Tennessee is to help animals in need. I mean let’s be honest…. I won’t even drive 5 minutes to the market when I’m out of milk…
But tell me there’s an animal in need, and I’ll get there, no matter how far or
how long it might take!
So here I am driving to volunteer with an organization called “Animal Rescue Corps," (which we will call ARC for short.)
I had actually worked with ARC once before when I was in Louisiana with Cathy Bissell.
Cathy runs her own non-profit, Bissell Pet Foundation, and is nothing short of amazing.
She’s the real deal, a TRUE rescuer, mentor and inspiration.
And if she says another rescue organization is “excellent,” you don’t have to ask twice.
So back to my drive…
As I exited the freeway and attempted to find the facility, I was soon faced with another challenge. Actually finding the facility!
This place is located in a labyrinth of buildings that makes finding a needle in a haystack sound easy!
Luckily, a nice man working nearby saw I was driving in circles and offered to hop into his car and escort me to the facility, as he was on his way out of town anyway!
I was very appreciative because there’s no way in heck I would have found it on my own!
That said, when you finally find ARC and enter its doors, you can’t help but feel a wave of emotion wash over you.
The giant warehouse, turned emergency animal refuge, is massive. It has tall ceilings, rows of kennels lining each room, a myriad of workers and volunteers moving about like bees in a beehive and an exceptionally organized “hub” in the center of the main room full of everything these poor animals may need (or desire.)
Food, enrichment toys, comfort toys, beds, towels, sheets, blankets, treats, cleaning supplies, etc…
Because as ARC's Michael Cunningham told me, “we want to spoil the shit out of these animals while they’re here!” A sentiment I fully supported and was happy to do!
Why? Because all the animals at ARC have sad stories to tell. While some are sadder than others, you wouldn’t wish any of them upon your own worst enemy (even if you REALLY didn’t like them!)
These four-legged gentle creatures have been saved from overcrowded shelters, shelters in harm’s way due to natural disasters, hoarding situations, criminal seizures, underground breeding operations, etc…
Most of these babies are NOT pets (yet.) But thanks to ARC, they FINALLY have the opportunity to become one!
These babies have been discarded…. trashed…. dumped…. neglected…abused….and used (just to name a few.)
But don’t worry, today is the first day of the rest of their lives (as Dr. Phil says!)
And as a volunteer…I was ecstatic to be a small part of the process!
Before you can put on your official ARC Volunteer shirt and play with the pooches, you sit through a very informative orientation.
I found it extremely fascinating to learn that ARC is not a shelter or rescue, per se. They don’t adopt their animals to the public. They don’t spay/neuter their animals. They don’t act as a “walk-in” shelter.
They work with law enforcement and other organizations as an emergency shelter to quickly and efficiently get animals out of bad situations. Then are then brought to Lebanon where they can decompress and be treated for any medical issues.
To put it in perspective, some of these animals have never even eaten out of a dog bowl…been given a warm blanket…been inside a building…felt air conditioning, been touched by a human in a kind way. It’s utterly devastating.
Once they're stable, ARC will then coordinate these dogs to be transported to shelters and rescue organizations across the country.
Shelters and rescues that are specifically set up to be able to work with these babies and give them the absolute best care until they find their forever homes!
As I sat listening to these stories about how vital ARC is in the animal rescue world, I was overcome with gratitude to them AND secretly chomping at the bit to get out on the kennel floor and love on these animals.
After the wonderful tour, it was finally time!!!!
We were the given the green light to head out to the dogs!
It was like being a kid in a candy store….
But as I made my way to the kennels, it suddenly struck me, “where should I even start?” There were just SO.MANY.AMAZING.DOGS!
Luckily, the shelter manager came over and assigned me a row of kennels to narrow my choices. Phew!
Now if you’ve never volunteered with rescue animals in a hands-on capacity, this might sound a little nuts…. but it’s a magical experience!
The non-verbal communication that takes place when you share space with these majestic creatures is transformative (for them and you.)
It’s hard to explain, but for me there’s nothing that quenches the thirst of my soul more than seeing an animal finally realize that you (and other humans) are no longer a symbol of pain.
Hearing that deep sigh of relief when they realize that they’ll never have to live outside in the cold.
They’ll never be forced by humans to reproduce.
They’ll never be hit, struck, or beaten as punishment.
They’ll never have to fight other animals to get a morsel of food.
They’ll never have to wait for rain to fill up their water buckets if they’re dying of thirst, is what it’s all about.
This transfer of energy and understanding from human to animal doesn’t usually happen within a few minutes or a few days. In fact, it can sometimes take a few months or years for these creatures to even START building their confidence again….
But when it DOES, it’s the most gratifying feeling you’ll ever experience.
Over the next few hours at ARC, I was able to sit and interact with about 15 dogs. Some were petrified and shook in the corner of their kennel. Some were cautious but eager to sniff me out and see what I was all about, and some were outright playful and couldn’t wait to get on with their new lives. It was a beautiful sight to witness and once again filled me with pride to be part of this crazy animal rescue world!
As I’ve always said…. being a rescuer is NOT for the faint of heart. You see the absolute worst in humanity as well as the absolute best. And it’s the moments of “best” that you have to keep remembering during all the times of “worst.”
I have so much respect for all humans that dedicate their lives to helping animals in need, and the wonderful team at ARC is among that long list!
Thank you for everything you do and for allowing me to witness it first-hand!
Please don’t ever stop!!
If you'd like to find out more about ARC and their non-stop work to save animals in need, please check out their website : https://www.animalrescuecorps.org/