DeKALB – Loren Jones said she had never seen anything like it before in her life.
Floors caved in when you walked on them, live wires hung loosely above her head, broken and torn furniture with exposed springs and filth, including animal urine and feces, on the ground ankle deep.
About 80 dogs were living in those conditions, covered with fleas and ticks, many suffering from matting, skin infections such as mange, and seven dogs tested positive for heartworm disease. The dogs were fed cheap white bread and drank water infested with fly eggs and algae, making their teeth rotten from malnutrition. Their paws started to become crooked from their long nails never being cut. Many of the female dogs were pregnant because none of the animals were spayed or neutered. Most of the puppies did not survive long after birth because of their poor living conditions.
That was the sight that Jones said she saw at a rural house in Mississippi. An elderly couple had become overwhelmed with the number of dogs they were caring for and asked for help.
“There’s no animal control in that parish, and the collection of dogs started off with the man trying to help them,” said Jones, foster and transport coordinator at Tails Humane Society. “He picked up strays, people dropped off dogs. People referred to them as ‘throwaway dogs’ because the dogs were just dropped off on his property. The man’s partner of more than 20 years became bedridden and he realized that he couldn’t continue to keep all of the dogs.”
Tails, 2250 Barber Greene Road in DeKalb, received a call from a humane society in Mississippi, notifying them of the case and asking for assistance.
Within 24 hours, four volunteers from Tails – Tracey Freier, Loren Jones, Julyn Leadingham and Jenni Lesorgen – left DeKalb for Mississippi on June 30. The next morning, July 1, they rescued 44 dogs and returned to Tails late that night. About 15 staff and volunteers welcomed the dogs back and stayed late into the night and into the early morning hours of July 2.
Most of the dogs went into foster homes after being brought to DeKalb. Tails is planning to return to Mississippi to rescue the remaining 40 dogs.
Tails Executive Director Michelle Groeper said that every dog received immediate vaccinations. They were covered with fleas and ticks so they also needed baths.
“A week later, we are learning more about their personalities,” Groeper said. “Most of them are so very sweet despite everything they’ve been through. Some are still getting used to sleeping on soft beds and blankets for the first time in their lives, most don’t know how to walk up stairs or even eat out of a bowl.”
Groper said that Tails is committed to do everything they can to help the dogs, even though medical costs are going to be very high.
Jones said the total cost of heartworm treatment will be between $5,000 and $7,000, the removal of growths will be between $5,000 and $7,000, x-rays cost $200 to $300 each, bloodwork is about $70 each, the dogs will need dental work and to be spayed and neutered. About $2,000 will be spent on parvovirus medication that treats mange and prevents fleas and ticks.
So far, about $8,400 total has been raised to help care for the dogs. On Facebook, around 140 donors have raised more than $5,150.
Two of the dogs have already been adopted out. Five are in the process of getting spayed or neutered and will be available for adoption later this week.
Jonah, one of the dogs rescued from Mississippi, is a 17-year-old Australian cattle dog. When he was found, his fur was matted, his skin was red and sore. He had fleas and ticks and smelled like rotten eggs. His teeth are gray and rotting out of his mouth. He is deaf, mostly blind and is heartworm positive.
Since being rescued by Tails, Jonah has had multiple baths, is being treated for heartworm and will have surgeries to remove rotten teeth and be neutered. Jonah was kept outdoors in a small, dilapidated run.
Jonah is a friendly dog, and whenever he meets a new person, he runs over, licks their hand and wags his tail.
Jonah is being fostered by Dawn Plock of Leaf River. Plock and her family have helped foster 500 dogs and cats in the five years they’ve been fostering for Tails.
“He is the sweetest thing, even though he’s been through so much,” Plock said.
Another dog, 15-year-old Snow, has a skin condition, a growth on her abdomen, rotting teeth and is mostly deaf.
Jones is fostering Faith, a 1-year-old pregnant dog that is heartworm positive and had fleas and ticks. She has a partially missing front leg that veterinarians believe was twisted or chewed off when the limb became stuck on something. The half limb is still oozing pus and needs to be fully amputated after Faith delivers her puppies.
“I have no doubt that if we went today instead of two weeks ago, she’d most definitely be dead,” Jones said.
“These dogs don’t have a voice, they cannot take care of themselves,” Plock said. “It’s our job to help with that. You can volunteer. You can foster. You can donate. You can help.”
For more information about how to help at Tails Humane Society, visit www.tailshumanesociety.org/help.