Many animal shelters face an overwhelming amount of strays and abandoned animals, but this is especially apparent in low-income communities. Poverty and structural inequality, coupled with limited affordable veterinary and pet wellness services, disadvantage millions of people and their pets. The St. Landry Animal Shelter is one such example of a shelter that perseveres to protect animals, despite these tremendous challenges.
The incredible staff at the small rural shelter in South Louisiana do what they can to advocate and care for the animals in need. Very few of the animals that roam the small town, however, are neutered or spayed, and with residents also not able to afford the proper care for their pet, the shelter is extremely overpopulated. The need is simply too great for the small team on deck.
Last August, I had the opportunity to travel to St. Landry to oversee a shoot for Hallmark Channel, as part of American Humane’s Hero Dog Awards. Following the shoot, I accompanied Larissa Wohl, Hallmark Channel’s “Home & Family” pet correspondent, to the St. Landry Animal Shelter to volunteer and walk some of their shelter dogs. I’m so happy I did because that’s how I met Lola.
It was a shock and truly devastating to see the number of unhealthy dogs at the shelter. But with no volunteers and no funds, there was little that could be done. When I first saw Lola, she was laying in an outdoor kennel on gravel in the hot sun. The shelter is entirely outdoors and, on that day, it was 95 degrees with 90 percent humidity. She had green goop in her eyes and nose and was too exhausted to even come to the gate to greet me even though her little tail was wagging when I called to her.
I learned Lola was dropped off the week before after her owner had sadly passed away, and the remaining family couldn’t afford her care. Lola was in heat distress and sick, as well as heart worm positive. Although she needed medication ASAP, the shelter vet wasn’t coming for another day or two. After seeing how sick (and sweet!) she was, we decided to get her to the vet clinic immediately, and then determine a more long-term plan.
Within a week, Larissa was thankfully able to arrange for Lola’s travel to Los Angeles. American Humane paid Lola’s veterinary bill for the 10 days she spent at the clinic in Louisiana, and a wonderful local rescue in Los Angeles, Deity Animal Rescue, agreed to cover Lola’s heart worm treatment and medical care as long as needed while I fostered her. Since she came to me last September, Lola has endured five hard months of heart worm treatments, with lots of rest and TLC. During her treatments, she has good days and bad, but she is always the happiest, most loving dog no matter how much pain she is feeling.
Just last month, we got the wonderful news that she is now heart worm negative and ready to be adopted! Although she hasn’t found her forever home yet, we know they are out there.
This has been one of my hardest, but most rewarding foster experiences. Lola is a testament to why fostering is so important. If we had not been able to provide her with care and a home, she likely would not be alive today. Now, as we face one of the worst pandemics in modern history, accompanied by the fear and loneliness that come hand in hand with the isolation of mandatory quarantining, we have a chance to make a difference in the lives of millions of animals – and our own – by fostering a shelter animal. If you have room in your home, please contact your local animal shelter and offer to be a foster parent.