Hurricane Florence brought not only wind and a tremendous amount of rain to the Carolina coastline, but it also brought dogs to Virginia with the help of PetConnect Rescue. In anticipation of the storm, some shelters cleared out the current dogs to make room for the displaced dogs and cats that will inevitably need help.
“We work hard to get dogs out before the storm hits because it clears space for those going in,” says France Bognon, adoption coordinator of PetConnect. “We know there will be ones coming in that are displaced and hope that they will be reunited with their families. We want the ones that have been in the shelter a long time.” Geraldine Peace, who also serves as an adoption coordinator, does the training and deals with the difficult cases. She determines the temperament of each dog to match it with the right foster/owner. “PetConnect has two shelters that are long-term partners in North Carolina,” explains Peace. “We have a link on our site for shelters to use if they are in desperate need of help. We received pleas from other shelters once the path of the hurricane was determined.” They have to be able to adopt out the dogs brought to Virginia, so photos and ages are very important.
“This was not usual in how we do things,” Bognon says. “We usually know which dog is going with which foster. Richard Roberts, huntsman for Middleburg Hunt, offered to help by finding room at his kennels. However, Peace remembered Dr. Betsee Parker had kennels on her farm, Huntland, that were not being used. The team called Steve Putnam, farm manager of Huntland, to ask if he would contact Dr. Parker in Scotland.” Dr. Parker agreed to help. “I was with the Duke of Argyll in Scotland when I got the call from Steven,” she said. “I was thrilled at the idea, but it never crossed my mind that we would have to do something like this. So, I said yes right away.”
“I know France (Bognon), and I know that they want to do the righteous things for these animals,” she continues. “It was not difficult for me to decide, that yes, we need to do this for the animals that have no voice!” Parker is a major benefactor to rescue organizations near and far. She supports the Middleburg Humane Foundation, the Blue Ridge Wildlife Center, and Danny & Ron’s Rescue, an organization that like PetConnect began in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina. She opened her heart and farm to house these dogs in her newly renovated kennels that date back 100 years.
Peace’s large horse trailer pulled up to the historic kennels on Sunday, Sept. 16 and was greeted by volunteers who give their time and their homes to these wonderful animals. Everyone had a job to do.
The volunteers walked the dogs and got them settled into each of their runs. The animals, some who were frightened when they arrived, soon relaxed and decompressed after a night at the Huntland kennels. Contributors Many in the community came together to help. The Piedmont Small Animal Clinic and Dr. Christy Moore donated vaccines and microchips. The Middleburg Community Center used their last Concert on the Steps as a fundraiser for PetConnect. Pet Valu in Purcellville donated food.
After seeing all the Facebook posts about PetConnect’s efforts, local yoga instructor Michele Trufant sent an email to her clients letting them know she was donating proceeds from a specific day of classes to PetConnect. PetConnect doesn’t have a central location to house the animals but relies on volunteers and fosters. Middleburg Humane has a facility, but neither nonprofit could survive without the volunteers and generous financial donations. “All cash donations go directly to the dogs,” says Bognon. “The fosters pay for the bed, food and toys. We pay for the medical bills of each animal, be it for spay/neuter surgery or to treat worms or something more serious. We pay for the trainer as well. She is indispensable.”
A lot has to happen before the transport. Fosters need to be lined up and matched with dogs explains Kristin Noggle, a Middleburg resident and foster for PetConnect. In this case, a facility needed to be acquired for the 15 dogs transported on Sept. 16. Noggle has fostered 38 dogs. After Peace trains and/or rehabilitates the difficult dogs, they move on to Noggle’s care so she can acclimatize them to people by walking them daily in town. This makes for a smooth transition to a forever home.
Pet Connect board member Barbara Kertess has worked with the organization since 2011 on the cat side. “We did a rescue earlier this week for 42 animals that are all in foster homes,” she says. “Today we took in 25 cats and another 15 dogs, so 40 today. On the cat side we have about 130 cats in foster care.”
Crooked Run Brewery in Leesburg has offered to host a fundraising event, so people can bring their dogs with them. Plans are underway for the next adventure. After exactly seven days, all but two of the dogs had either found fosters or forever homes. The last two pups went home with Bognon until a foster could be arranged. If you would like to donate to PetConnect you can go to petconnectrescue.org.
Story and photo by Joanne Maisano
This article first appeared in the October 2018 issue.