Making a difference

Wed, 12/05/2007 - 11:15am
By: The Citizen

Locals help save homeless pets

By Freddy Burdeshaw

Special to The Citizen

Making a difference

While many families include their pets in the holiday festivities of the season – pet photos with Santa, family portraits to be sent out with Christmas cards and more – there are thousands of unwanted and homeless animals who won’t be blessed with holiday cheer this season. A couple local residents, however, are among those helping to fix that by finding homes for dogs and cats.

Ansley Burdeshaw and Gail Coffee, both members of All Saints Anglican Church in Peachtree City, work with different shelter rescue organizations. They both take seriously the words, “Blessed are you, Lord God maker of all living creatures...Blessed are you our God, in all your creatures,” and are helping to make a difference in the lives of those animals who aren’t so lucky.

“I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve looked at a precious dog at our shelter and prayed that God would allow them to have a good home,” said Coffee. “I feel personally called to advocate for those helpless beings who cannot speak for themselves. If not now, then when? If not me, then who?”

Both Coffee and Burdeshaw perform their ministries in their own ways. Coffee is a volunteer at the Meriwether County animal shelter which just opened last year, while Burdeshaw has been working for eight years with the Newnan-Coweta Humane Society, personally fostering 36 dogs and 10 cats until they were adopted.

Being a foster means rescuing animals from Animal Control where they will be euthanized if not adopted. These are animals that were either strays or were turned in by owners who didn’t want them any more.

Burdeshaw said, “I believe that animals are an extension of God’s love for us, making Him more tangible to us. We will have to face God one day about how we have treated children and animals while we were here”

“The first day is the hardest,” Burdeshaw added. “The dog doesn’t know your routine and is just starting to get used to your own pets. They are afraid and confused and often refuse to eat at first. Sometimes you get a dog that has never been in a home before and they have to adjust to the noises such as a dishwasher or a television. Sometimes the animal has been frightened or abused by people and it has to learn to trust again.”

Burdeshaw tells poignant stories about some of her rescued dogs.

“One year, I fostered a blind beagle named Annabelle that had been taken into Animal Control,” she said. “The first night I cried myself to sleep, wondering how she was going to adjust to all the changes in her life, the home she left, the pound, a foster home and hopefully a forever home.”

Even though Annabelle could not see, her sensory instincts were normal otherwise. If not on a leash, she would take off through the woods after a rabbit or squirrel like other beagles that have a powerful sense of smell. Being blind did not stop Annabelle from functioning well in a family with other dogs. Eventually a woman on the north side of Atlanta adopted her.

Gail Coffee’s focus for several years was mostly toward raising funds to build an animal shelter in Meriwether County.

“Our fund-raiser, The Rescue Ride, is an annual trail ride here at our High Hopes farm,” Coffee said. “My husband Bill and I invite horse owners to bring their horses out for a day of riding trails and interacting with other owners to raise money for the shelter. Now that the shelter is in place, we will work toward funding a spay and neuter program to reduce the unwanted puppy population.”

Both Coffee and Burdeshaw help their organizations place unwanted animals in loving homes, both locally and in the Northeast United States.

“The amazing thing is that in the Northeast, there aren’t enough dogs for people to adopt,” Coffee explained. “If they want a dog, they have to pay a breeder a high price. But, we have had as many as 56 puppies in our shelter at one time — not counting adult dogs. So, we have partnered with the Georgia Humane Society and sent 86 dogs so far to rescue organizations on Long Island.”

Transporting puppies for adoption to the major outlets in Massachusetts and New York calls for volunteer drivers. Additional volunteers for driving or fostering are always welcome at rescue organizations because there is plenty of work to be done.

“The rescue effort is a great blessing, not only to us here,” said Coffee, “but also to those who adopt our Georgia dogs and puppies in other places. Yet, we must continue to find and rescue the starved, chained and abused dogs common throughout our area and help get them good homes.”

Burdeshaw says that volunteer work literally involves blood, sweat and tears but it is very rewarding, especially when successful at placing a rescued animal with a loving family.

“This summer I fostered a fox terrier mix named Champ and he was recently adopted. His original family turned him in to animal control because he wasn’t a good apartment dog. So he went straight to death row,” Burdeshaw said. “He was going to be euthanized the day I rescued him. Now, his new family includes a mom and dad, another dog and playing with their grandchildren. He lives nearby and has a huge yard with a pool.”

While unwanted and homeless animals are still a problem, at least some of them are being blessed through the efforts of Burdeshaw, Coffee and other volunteers at local rescue organizations.

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