A version of the Underground Railroad that became a lifeline for slaves escaping to freedom during the 19th century runs through Bryan County as part of a network to save animals from certain death.
Anna Marcy, an advocate at the Crisis Control Center in Durant, works with victims of domestic abuse, offering them counseling and a safe haven during a transition time. She has also taken on the task of saving animals through a network called Underground Dog Rescue that involves volunteer transporters and others who find suitable foster and permanent homes throughout the country.
Recently she met with Debra Hardy of Davis at the Wal Mart parking lot where two dogs, one scheduled to be put to death within a week, and the other abandoned by its owner, were given a another chance at life. Through the network and using the power of Facebook, the volunteer transporters and advocates were able to find a foster home for one of the dogs and a permanent home for the other.
Marcy goes to the Durant Animal Shelter every other day when she gets off work to check on all the dogs’ welfare. She takes pictures of each animal and studies their behavior and personality so she can post them on the social media with an explanation about each one. She spends countless hours trying to find a suitable home for each dog and when one is found, she calls on volunteer transporters to get the animal to its new home.
Much like the underground railroad of a darker time in our history, the railroad is more a concept than an actual rail line. The slaves were assisted by abolitionists who had set up safe houses and most of the escapes were on foot, boat or horseback. “Unlike the slave’s bid for freedom we don’t smuggle, we rescue,” said Marcy.
The animal rescue effort provides automobile transit and Marcy coordinates the movement of dogs to a designated owner.
There is a much larger effort nationally that comes through Durant with a large container truck that has individual pens. The group from Illinois goes to Houston and other areas picking up selected dogs that have been spayed, neutered and vaccinated. Those animals are taken to various cities where homes will be found for each one.
According to Marcy, those states with an aggressive spay and neutering program have a low population of animals in shelters and are able to find homes for the abundance of abandoned animals from areas that don’t have such a program. She is a strong supporter of owner education concerning ownership of pets.
“Before getting a cute little puppy, they need to understand the costs and responsibilities of being a pet owner,” she said. “A cute puppy needs a set of three shots to prevent disease and when they are older, need to be spayed or neutered or the little puppy becomes a houseful of more puppies.”
Bryan County does have a program to help low income families with spay, neutering and rabies shots. Appointments may be made by calling the Oklahoma Spay Network at 924-5873. The service is available twice a month at a location in Durant.
Marcy’s husband Daniel supports his wife’s efforts to save these animals even when she brings one or two at a time home when they need special attention.
“It does get a little stressful when I have to get up every two hours to bottle feed a baby kitten or give fluids to a sick dog,” she added.
Many of the animals end up in the shelter that has been dropped off at grooming businesses, pet stores and many times at a veterinarian office. Dr. Friede Wells will treat injured animals that have been dumped before calling animal control. Baby kittens can be found dumped in boxes by irresponsible owners who wanted a cat, but couldn’t handle a litter so they simply put them in a box and dump them somewhere.
Marcy stressed the importance of people getting their puppies vaccinated with the recommended shots to prevent deadly diseases. She said there is an outbreak of parvo and distemper which is usually deadly and easily preventable with the inoculations.
One of the worst cases of abuse and one that will always stick in her mind was an abandoned Shih Tzu that had been dumped and full of thorns that had matted her hair and dug deep into her skin. “Kaiser,” the name given her by Marcy, was running a high temperature. She took Kaiser home and tried to treat her, but she needed a veterinarian she was so bad. The little dog has since been picked up by a rescue group out of Dallas and will soon be in a new home.
Until there is a more aggressive program of spay and neutering, Marcy’s efforts to save animals from a death penalty will only grow and put more pressure on the volunteers to save these animals. She urges pet owners to take advantage of the low cost program offered in Bryan County. They can also send donations to the Bryan County Animal Hospital or call 924-5630 for more information.