December 1, 2012 11:12:17 PM
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- This month, some kids have visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads, and others dream of finding a new furry, four-legged family member under the tree.
Mississippi State University students and staff help some of these wishes come true through a program that gets family-friendly dogs to Northeastern states, but these volunteers have a Christmas wish of their own.
The Homeward Bound Project of Mississippi needs a new vehicle to transport animals from Mississippi to Virginia. MSU's College of Veterinary Medicine is a key partner in the project, which was started in 2007 by veterinary students dedicated to reducing the number of animals euthanized in the state. In addition to veterinary care, CVM loans a departmental trailer for transportation.
"The trailer's air conditioner and generator just don't have the capacity to cool 40 or 50 dogs in the summer months, and we have tried every conceivable configuration of additional, rented generators and a stand-alone air-conditioning unit," said Terri Snead, a CVM veterinary technician who volunteers nights and weekends with Homeward Bound.
This problem limits the program's ability to transport animals, and prompted the CVM's Class of 2016 to set a goal of raising money to purchase a new, fully air-conditioned vehicle for Homeward Bound's exclusive use. Students are working through the CVM Office of Development to raise $60,000.
"Many students in our class support the Homeward Bound program by fostering dogs until transport, helping process animals, setting up the trailer, fundraising, grant-writing and completing other administrative functions," said Ryan Gibson, president of the Class of 2016. "We want to support the program's effort and increase its efficiency by buying a new transport vehicle."
Dogs from 10 Mississippi shelters and rescues go north about every six weeks after organizations in Connecticut, New Hampshire and New York choose animals based on photos and descriptions emailed by Homeward Bound. Local adoptions continue, so adoption coordinators on both ends of the process stay in constant contact to ensure selected dogs are still available at transport time.
"The adoption-guaranteed shelters that we transport to aren't empty -- they just don't have the large number of puppies and young dogs our Mississippi shelters have," Snead said. "A look at their Pet-Finder listings shows a lot of older dogs and dogs with special needs.
"It simply takes longer to place those types of dogs, and it's very important for people to understand that our dogs do not displace those dogs. Our dogs meet a different need," she said.
One pup's tale
The Hollamby family of Westchester, New York, found their perfect match in a Homeward Bound dog.
"We adopted our pup in December of 2011, just after our beloved chocolate lab passed away," said Jill Hollamby. "My daughter Emma was very sad without a dog in the house, so I encouraged her to find a dog in need."
Emma discovered an adoption event at the Westchester Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, or SPCA, but told her mom she just wanted to look.
"We arrived around noon, and there was only one cute, but nervous-looking pup left in the adoption tent," Hollamby said. "My daughter immediately fell in love with his sweet face, and I didn't have the heart to leave this little puppy behind."
While finalizing the adoption, they found out their puppy had come all the way from Mississippi.
"He jumped in the car, sat up tall in the back seat and gave Emma a big kiss," Hollamby said. "We named him Chase, and he is a smart, handsome lab-hound mix with a very funny personality; he's a loyal, loving dog and makes us laugh every day."
Hollamby said Chase loves running through leaf piles and adores snow.
"What I have come to realize with Chase is that there is something extra special about adopting a rescue animal," she said. "Not only do we have a healthy, happy dog, but there is a special connection knowing we were part of something bigger, thanks to Homeward Bound of Mississippi.
"Without the intervention of Homeward Bound, Chase and thousands of other dogs would not have gotten a second chance at life," Hollamby said.
To learn more about Homeward Bound of Mississippi, volunteer or make a donation, visit homewardboundofms.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.