Hurricane Harvey came in fast, hitting Houston at (literally) 132 MPH. No one really expected the devastation to be as horrible as it turned out to be, but there we were as a nation watching Texas flooding with water, while people scrambled for their lives, grabbing their children and pets, and leaving their lives behind them. Our hearts broke as we heard news reporters speak of tragic stories -- destroyed homes, people tragically injured, families now without shelter, and even people who tied their pets to poles praying they'd be rescued.
poundWISHES could not sit back. We jumped in the best way we know how -- through fundraising to help. We sought out rescues and shelters who were actively on the ground helping and we vowed to do our best to support their efforts. We found 20 animal nonprofit organizations across the country who were driving, flying, or delivering Houston's animals to safety, as well as providing shelter, food, and medical care. From there, we have been making weekly grants to each one of them in real time as we continue to raise funds. Our first grant receiver is K9 Kindness, based in Iowa. When Hurricane Harvey hit, K9 Kindness leaped into action, loading up trucks and U-Hauls and offering their help. K9 Kindness spent a week in Houston helping people, finding pets and helping them get into safe shelters to wait for their humans to come claim them.
We sat down with K9 Kindness' fearless leader Debbie Fraker to learn more about the organization and the good work they do.
How did your organization get started?
I was a band teacher for over 30 years in a farm community; I always loved dogs. One day, a student brought in Rat Terrier puppies and I decided to take one home to my 81-year-old mother. I know, I know! Who gives a puppy to an 81-year-old woman? I did though, and she loved it more than anything. This puppy was beautiful and playful. I truly believed that having a puppy around gave my mother life. And then one day, the puppy ran out into the street, was hit by a car, and she died.
I'm so sorry...
My mother was so distraught, so I started looking for another puppy for her right away - I mean, she was setting out food and water every single day for a little dog that was no longer there. I knew I had to find her a new puppy to take care of. That's when I learned about rescue. It was 2004, and I found a dog named "Katie". Katie was in a different state; I met up with the rescue people and I brought Katie home to my mother. When my mom passed away at age 94, I took on Katie as my own. And shortly thereafter, I became friends with the two ladies from doggy daycare and, together, we started K9 Kindness. Not too long after our rescue started, both of those ladies decided rescue wasn't for them and I became the President of K9 Kindness. Over the past 13 years I have saved over 1,200 dogs. I know that doesn't sound like a lot, but it's a small town and I do what I can, when I can and I follow through from medical all the way to adoption.
How has Hurricane Harvey impacted your rescue efforts?
Everyone wanted to help - we knew we just HAD to do SOMETHING. I was going to Houston to get just TWO dogs. But my son, who is 36, went down there before I did, and when he got down there and saw the animals, he had a change of heart. He posted a video on our Facebook of animals who were so badly emaciated and animals who just needed help right now. He stayed, working with the SPCA and just saving as many as he could. We loaded up a huge truck and a U-Haul full of human supplies - clothes and food - and animal supplies, like leashes, beds, blankets, bowls and food. You name it, we took it. We brought home NINE dogs, three were adult dogs and six were puppies. We weren't expecting to bring home more than the two we had set out for, but we just couldn't say no.
Two of the puppies started to get very weak and sick, one of them tested positive for parvo while the other one did not, but was showing the same symptoms, so we will have to re-test the second one. The one who tested positive for parvo had to spend the night in ICU and we were immediately hit with a bill that was over $800. Did you know that it's near impossible to find a foster home for a puppy with parvo? We weren't quite sure what to do, since we already had outstanding vet bills of $5,000.00 and the vet we use won't help us until we can pay off some of the bills, but we just knew that we were supposed to be helping these dogs.
That's when you guys at poundWISHES reached out to us and offered us some relief and I was just so thankful, so, so very thankful. The grant you gave us was more than enough to help the puppy with parvo so we can work at saving his life, and that's what this is all about. It all happens for a reason.
It was my son, it really was. The look on his face and the desire to continue helping - he was so moving. His excitement and desire to help was so contagious.
Besides the puppy with parvo, what are the other animals' needs?
Well, we did not just bring home random dogs; we took dogs who already lived in shelters, to make room for the dogs who need to stay in Houston. After seeing the horrible conditions that some animals were living in, or the ones who had been abandoned, we knew we had to take as many as we could out of the shelters to make more room for the dogs who were waiting for their owners.
One of the dogs we brought home does have heartworms and will need to be treated for that; all of the other dogs will need to be tested as well and if any of the others are heartworm positive, then they will be treated as well. We always do two different heartworm tests before adopting out an animal just in case. It's always better to be safe than sorry. All of the dogs and puppies will be vaccinated. The puppies were too young for vaccines, so of course we worry about any exposure to the parvo virus, so they will need all of their shots of course and be spayed and neutered. That is something we are very proud of - we will not adopt out a dog that has not been spayed or neutered without a written contract from the adopter agreeing to spay or neuter the pet when they are of age. We are very proud of that. So depending on how long these puppies are fostered or how fast they get adopted, that will depend on when they get spayed or neutered.
Where does your funding typically come from?
We typically do our own fundraising - we hold a Trivia Night, that's always a lot of fun. We do a Rock'n'Roll Bingo - people seem to enjoy that. We have held a dog wash event where we wash the dogs, hire a DJ, have food and take pictures. The dogs compete in a swimsuit contest and we offer micro-chipping for $20, nail clipping for $15, and the dog wash is around $5-$20. We also got Ford to participate in a "Drive for Your Community" event. This event allows people to come, test drive a car, without any salespeople, none. No pressure to buy a car at all. For every car that gets a test drive, we get a donation. It's a great event, the people loved it. We raised over $1000 that day.
That's awesome. What a cool event. A lot of your work is balancing between caring for the animals and fundraising. And you have a lot of animals in your care. How are you currently housing the animals?
The dogs are all with our fosters right now, being checked out and vetted. We have to have a clear idea of what is going on with them before we place them in homes. We are very careful about that.
Do these animals have families waiting for them?
You know, we were really blessed when we came home from Houston. I don't know how they heard about us, but the local news stations covered us and the dogs we saved. NBC, ABC and our local affiliate covered our rescue efforts. And just like that, we had 41 applications for the dogs in 24 hours and 20 applications for foster. We couldn't believe it! That's the same amount we would receive in an ENTIRE YEAR! We know that these dogs will be able to find homes, there is no doubt in that.
How long do you estimate the animals will be in your care?
You never can tell. Some dogs take longer than others. We always, always make sure the dogs we place in homes have had dental work, and skin tests, as well as heart worm testing-twice! We don't like to adopt out dogs and have people come back because the dog they adopted is sick or has an infection. We would rather take care of the animal until it is fully ready to enjoy its new home and owner. We want owners to enjoy their pet as well.
It's so great that you are so thoughtful about the recovery and adoption process for each animal. We at poundWISHES want to thank you for your tremendous work helping animals during Hurricane Harvey and every day of the year. We are happy to be a part of your journey and hope to support you in any way we can.
For our readers, if you want to continue supporting K9 Kindness and other worthy organizations, we are still raising funds for animals affected by Hurricane Harvey. You can donate HERE. 100% of donations go to rescues and shelters who are providing food, shelter, and medical care to animals in need. It is only because of our wonderful community of donors that we're able to support the 800+ rescues and shelters on our platform and continue help saving animals.