For most of us, Monday morning means coffee (sometimes lots of it), checking emails and prepping for the week.
For Mostly Mutts Executive Director Tammy Turley, though, Monday means donning her invisible superhero cape, visiting neighboring animal shelters and loading up animals in danger of not being adopted or, worst yet, being euthanized. She then brings them back to the Mostly Mutts shelter in Kennesaw to be housed, rehabilitated, treated by a veterinarian, trained and, hopefully, adopted by their new families.
Turley and her team seek out those dogs, pets and sometimes even rabbits who are usually not the cute little puppies and kittens most people want to bring home. No, their mostly mutt friends are usually sick, elderly or injured, making them less likely to be adopted and therefore moments away from being put to sleep.
“Because the shy dogs are sitting in the back of the corner, somebody else is probably not going to walk through and and adopt those dogs,” Turley said. “But we know that they’re shy because they’re at animal control, and they’re scared. Once they’re brought in and shown love and attention, they come out of that more adoptable.”
The Mostly Mutts organizations deals mainly with those types of dogs, as well as those who are seniors, special needs and/or in need of a great deal of veterinary care. Dr. Sarah Grace Hajjar with Kennesaw Mountain Veterinary Services visits the shelter once a week to provide intake services and treat the animals who need veterinary care.
“Normally, these dogs have been somebody’s pet before and that person had to go into a retirement home and can’t take it or just don’t want it anymore, for whatever reason,” said Turley, who has three special needs dogs of her own. “Most of them live an average of 15 years, which really isn’t that long, and then to give up on them in their later years is just so sad. You see these old dogs at the shelters who are scared to death because they’ve never been in that loud of an environment before. Dogs just want love and affection, I’d say even more so when they’re older. They’re no different than humans.”
Turley said the coronavirus pandemic actually increased their adoptions in 2020, as people were home more often and either wanted a companion or felt they had the time to train and adapt to a new pet. The adoption rate was up 20% last year, even with the shelter being closed for nine weeks during quarantine. Mostly Mutts found 827 pets homes, and have found 127 pets homes in January and February of 2021 alone. Turley said they also have many more foster families giving their time and homes for the animals that are ready to be adopted.
“I think one thing that makes us different is that we assign a counselor to you when you’re looking for a pet, and we’ll talk to you to find out what your lifestyle is, what you’re looking for, then try to match you or give you a few choices for pets we think will suit you best,” Turley said. “I don’t want to give you some crazy hyper puppy if you live in an apartment and you’re going to be at work all day. You may not keep that dog because it’s barking in the background and you can’t get it trained. If you get the right pet for your home and your lifestyle, you’re going to be happy, the dog’s going to be happy, and if that was the case to begin with, they wouldn’t be with us.”
Turley said the organization began in 2004 from a resident’s home and property, and she was a volunteer for Mostly Mutts until she took over in 2012. The organization now has over 400 volunteers, which Turley said is absolutely vital to keeping the shelter running.
Those volunteers and her staff help to manage many programs outside of simply rehabilitating the animals and finding them homes. They are involved in the community in many other ways as well, including:
• discounted training classes at the facility
• organized visits from school classes and scout troops to help educate children about animals and their care
• dog visits to a nearby retirement home
• a “Read to Dogs” program for children on Wednesday evenings that helps to socialize shy dogs and helps the children with their reading skills
• seasonal hikes at Kennesaw Mountain National Park to give the dogs a fun outing and promote the dogs and our work to other hikers
• court related community service hours
• a program where prisoners who are in housing and about to be released are given dogs to foster, and are taught how to train them. Turley said this gives the prisoners an opportunity to bond and to learn a new skill that they can then take into the workforce when they are released, and allows the dogs to be trained and feel loved.
Turley added that there is no shortage of crazy stories that comes with running an animal shelter.
“Someone pulled up in the parking lot one morning with rabbits in the back seat and just said, ‘I gotta get rid of all these rabbits.’ So we took them. We’ve had birds. We had a hoarding case where I think we took nine birds from the home. We have had lizards, we’ve done Guinea pigs sometimes. We even had a pony. We were actually at animal control and there was a horse that was pregnant. So we put the word out and somebody knew somebody that would take it, so we were able to get it adopted before we ever actually had to bring it here,” she said, with a laugh.
“Every phone call changes your day,” she added. “I could get a phone call right now and they ask if we can pick it up. And you truly never know what ‘it’ is but, if we can help, we will.”
For more information on Mostly Mutts, visit mostlymutts.org, call 770-272-MUTT(6888) or visit the shelter (by appointment-only, for now) at 3238 Cherokee Street in Kennesaw.