Vicktory Ride

Over the weekend the world lost a little brown dog. If you had ever happened to see him out and about, you may not have realized that he was a game changer or a trail blazer. You might have mistaken him for just another little brown dog.

  

To the thousands of people who followed him, Ray the Vicktory Dog was an inspiration and a true hero. A little dog who survived Bad Newz Kennels, was rescued and along with roughly 50 others helped change the way we see former fight dogs and pit bulls in general. He overcame numerous hurdles and became a beloved family dog. As we mourn the physical loss, we will celebrate the life and legacy of Ray the Vicktory Dog.

As it happened, we had been in contact with the shelter from which Bentley was pulled and had planned for another pull on Saturday. Allen County SPCA was gearing up for a large Tent Event and we knew from experience that by the end of the day Saturday many dogs would be resting in the comfort of their very own new homes so I was planning to collect five dogs that we had “earmarked” for the SPCA. When I arrived, we had to do some readjusting due to adoptions (Yay!) but quickly set about filling the crates I had loaded into the Pittie Van.

  

While the transport was previously scheduled, I couldn’t help but feel that this was a good tribute to Ray. What better way to honor the memory of a rescued and adopted dog who loved car rides than with a transport.*

In the back of my mind I was hoping there would be an opportunity to name one of these dogs in Ray’s honor, but it turns out that fate already had that taken care of. The little pittie girl who made the transport had recently been named Mya.**

I thought that was very fitting.

*While the sending shelter is doing really good things, they are less visible than the Allen County SPCA which enjoys a very robust adoption rate.

**The name of one of the Vicktory Dogs still living at Best Friends.

Sleepover Guests

As many readers here are already familiar with Best Friends, it won’t come as a surprise that while staying and volunteering we also brought home a sleepover guest each night.  As you can probably imagine, this was yet another area that we planned for but also were not 100% sure how it worked, so let me share a bit about the experience.

Before we left, the hubby and I poured over pictures of the beautiful dogs that we might want to bring for a sleepover but without knowing which octagon they were at or how this all worked, we just tried to keep a mental list of those we may have wanted to “meet.”  Basically, you do need to volunteer in your animal’s area, so if you are volunteering in dogs you can’t take a bunny home for a sleepover etc.  Caregivers pretty much assume you’ll want to do a sleepover and are very excited to get their fur friends out of the kennels for a night.  There’s usually a list in the octagon regarding who is eligible to go, who has recently gone, what activities are allowed, ect.  For instance, we were considering taking Tig one night but although he can do sleepovers, he can’t stay in the cottages near the horses, so he was not an option.  We later also discovered that Dogtown HQ has a list of which dogs really need to do an overnight for whatever reason.  For instance, just as we were meeting Roxanne, she was snatched right out from under us we learned that she already had a sleepover date scheduled.  Roxanne was at the “top of the list” to go so it was awesome that she not only got to do a sleepover, we found the the next day she got to go on an outing as well.  Too cool.

So anyhow, the first sleepover guest was almost a no-brainer.  Lester and Michael were top contenders but in actuality, the moment Kevin  saw Magnolia, he said “my wife is gonna love her.”

Magnolia loves to walk

Magnolia loves to walk

 

He was right.  Sleepover dogs need to be “checked out” from the Dogtown HQ by 3:30 so don’t sweat that a volunteer shift lasts till 4:00.  It’s part of the process.  Once we decided on a dog, we went to HQ and received a sleepover bag of provisions and a questionnaire to fill out regarding how the sleepover went.  The staff in the octagon also gave us an extra blanket, a coat and in Magnolia’s case, some meds she needed to take along with a can of moist food.

Magnolia

Magnolia is an old soul in a young body.  She loves going for walks and never seems to tire of them but in the cottage she was all about deathing stuffies which I happily handed over and cleaned up one by one.

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Being the pro that she is she also knew that the expectation is that all treats packed by the staff in the sleepover bag must be enjoyed and not returned, so again we were happy to oblige.

Although I invited her onto the bed a few times she quickly jumped back down and at bedtime settled on the sofa for the evening.  Knowing the sleepover is all about the guest, we left her to her preferred sleeping arrangements and wished her a snug goodnight.

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Dogs are returned between 8:00 and 8:15 in the morning so when we pulled up to Old Friends, Magnolia who had been eager to be in the car, seemed disinclined to depart, so we took a quick walk while Kevin waited for the caretakers to meet him and collect her.

A polite passenger

A polite passenger

Sidney

Sleepover night two went very similarly to night one in that one of us fell in love with a dog right away.  Surprisingly it was Kevin who fell and fell hard for Sidney  (Side note: if you too fall in love with Sidney but don’t live near Utah, a generous sponsor has prepaid her airfare to get “home.”) but like a kid in a candy shop who knew that of the hundreds of candies on display, only one could be taken, I couldn’t make up my mind.  In the end, it was the snuggle factor that won me over.  Going for a week without a dog to snuggle at night was way to long and though I respected Magnolia’s need for space, I really needed to bring home a “proven snuggler.”

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Sidney who rocked the agility equipment in Tara’s Run and seemed so happy to take long hikes and explore was just as happy to “turn it off” and snuggle in the calm of the cottage.  The way both Sidney and Magnolia collapsed onto the sofa reminded me of something Corbin’s mama said about when their fosters really settle in for that deep, safe sleep.  These dogs are sleepover pros and although their housing situation is pretty posh for a kennel, it is still a kennel and you can really tell that they know: when we go on a sleepover we can totally decompress and just relax.

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Sidney and I slept cuddled together (the cottages boast two double beds!) all night and on the occasion that I woke momentarily, she was happy to accept a brief pat or an ear scritch.  It was heavenly for both of us.  We all woke early the next morning and Kevin and I suddenly just didn’t want to take her back.  We just agonized over the inevitable and Sidney seemed to recognize our emotions and played to them.

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We anthropomorphized all morning about how miserable she must be to go back but actually upon arriving back at her octagon, Sid jumped out of the car and into her waiting caretaker’s arms with an almost palpable air of “Oooh!  Breakfast!”   (Someone whose name rhymes with Shmevin may have gotten a bit emotional over the course of the morning while I remained a rock.  Or maybe I didn’t.)

Recap

Overall, if you enjoy the companionship of a dog (or cat or bunny) I heartily recommend doing a sleepover when you visit Best Friends.  It gives the animals a break from their routines, gives the caretakers a bit of insight on how the animals react to various situations and it gives you someone to love on while your own furbaby is at home.  Win-win-win.

Best Friends-The Tour

Whenever I thought about this trip and to the (very few) people I discussed the plans with, I couldn’t help but get emotional.  Volunteering is a huge part of who I am.  It’s how I contribute and how I find peace, so whenever I thought about or talked about volunteering at Best Friends, I welled up.  It was a dream come true to be able to go and to lend a bit of time and dare I say, talent to an organization and a cause that I hold dear.  Many of you guessed it, and some of you knew it, but unless you go, it’s difficult to fully explain the experience.  I won’t say it was amazing, because I certainly expected the experience to be just so.  I will  say that it was inspiring, energizing, uplifting and fulfilling.  You could see the emotions on the faces of the volunteers and on the whole, everyone on site was so friendly.

Preparation 

Being the control freak detail oriented person that I am, it was a bit of a challenge to me to wrap my head around the process.  Luckily for me, I happened upon a comment on one of the Vicktory dog pages by a Facebook user who had volunteered and was gracious enough to answer questions, then I also beseiged our own Emily from Adventures of a Dog Mom, who had spent time there, with even more questions.  Everything from what footwear to where to eat to what to see and how is it set up was asked and answered.  I still had fears that I was missing something and that we would show up only to be told I had done everything incorrectly, however that didn’t happen.

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You sign up to be a volunteer, complete a profile and sign up for volunteer shifts in your preferred area after first signing up for a check-in.  Check-in for first thing in the morning is 8:00-8:15 and the first volunteer shift begins at 8:15 and goes till 11:30 so how could we get to Dogtown that quickly? We opted for the first check-in time but the afternoon volunteer shift which would be 1:15-4:00 and should allow us to get our bearings.  For the time in the morning we joined the 2 hour Sanctuary tour.

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The Sanctuary

If you’re ever in the area, even to just drive through, I highly recommend a tour.  The tours range from Sanctuary wide (2 hours), to Dogtown only (2 hours), to mini tours of specific areas.  Knowing we’d be working in Dogtown, we opted for the full Sanctuary tour.

Barn leftover from a movie.

Barn leftover from a movie.

We saw all manner of animals whether they were at the Sanctuary for permanent stays or being prepped for adoption an, of course, the awe inspiring landscape.

"Turtle Rock"

“Turtle Rock”

As well as places for silence and reflection.

Angels Rest

Angels Rest

We saw kitties who had been the victims of unfortunate breeding but still getting around like champs in their posh digs.

Kitty with paw deformity

Kitty with paw deformity

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After the tour we set out for Angel Village for a hearty and inexpensive all you can eat vegetarian lunch buffet where we encountered a special surprise.

The view at lunch.

The view at lunch.

Stay tuned all week as we recap more of our visit to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.