There is often a perception that dogs from animal control and other types of shelters are there because they have done something wrong. The president of Pups on the Plains said that is often far from the truth, and she has examples to prove it.
“A lot of people have this perception that dogs in shelters — that there’s a reason they’re there,” said Shelby Stephens, president of Pups on the Plains. “Maybe they’re badly behaved or whatnot. That could not be further from the truth.”
Camo had every reason to be a bad dog, but he wasn’t, Stephens said.
“He came from a bad situation in Columbus,” Shelby said. “He was about 50 pounds when he came in to me, and now he’s about 80. He came to be house trained. He loved other dogs. He never ate anything. He was just the coolest dog.”
Stephens fostered Camo through the organization and was unsure what state he would be in when she picked him up from the shelter.
She would take Camo around downtown Auburn, and people would recognize him, sometimes even yelling out of their car window.
Stephens did not foster Camo for long. He was adopted out of the organization. She chalks that up to POP’s social media presence and popularity.
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They created their organization and Facebook page over a year ago. Since then, they have fostered approximately 40 dogs, most of which have been adopted either by their short-term foster or through their Facebook page, which currently has six fosters.
Stephens and a few of her friends created POP on a whim after she learned that several animals were going to be euthanized at Columbus Animal Control unless several were adopted or fostered out.
“There’s six dogs at this animal control that are about to be euthanized,” Stephens said. “[Stephen’s friend] emailed the vet school email list and said ‘if anyone else wants to help, please help.’ We ended up getting two more fosters, so we ended up pulling six that day.”
They were in over their heads, Stephens said, and they needed help. Shelter volunteers and other community members from Columbus and Auburn pooled together resources for the young students and their new foster dogs.
And so Pups on the Plains, POP for short, was born as a Facebook page in September 2017 that was meant to find forever homes for the animals they rescued from animal control in Columbus and Phenix City and were now fostering.
“We take these dogs out of situations where they are close to being euthanized, so either they’re at the top of the list or it’s very overcrowded,” Stephens said. “We pull them out of there and get them into these homes where they can learn to be a dog.”
Their Facebook page grew much larger than they ever could have imagined. People from all over the United States were liking and commenting on the photos of the dogs, and they were all quickly adopted.
Stephens got with her friends, and they decided since it was so successful the first time they fostered the dogs, they would continue to foster. The more dogs they fostered, the more support they gained on social media, which meant even more dogs they could foster.
They decided to remain an off-campus organization for Auburn students and community members and began to organize their group. They created officer positions and named Stephens the president, a role she still serves in a year later.
As their organization continues to expand, they are making connections throughout the Auburn community. Holly Goodwin, the vet liaison for POP, helped the organization form a relationship with veterinarian Kim West at All Creatures Veterinary Clinic.
Goodwin takes all of the foster animals to West, who provides the medical care for POP’s foster animals for a reduced fee.
“We’re dealing with a lot of different issues, because they are coming out of shelters,” Goodwin said. “It helps having one person who is familiar with these different issues.”
POP often pulls from the same few shelters, so the animals often have the same types of issues and illnesses. This makes rescuing the animals easier for POP fosters because they know what issues their animal will have, and they know West will be able to help them, Goodwin said.
“We can help a lot more animals,” Goodwin said. “We were terrified to take in puppies because we knew they would have parvo. Parvo costs anywhere from $500-$1000 to treat.”
West has taught the POP team a lot about animal health. They now all feel more capable of taking care of the sicker animals they rescue and are even able to rescue more animals, Goodwin said.
“Dr. West really set us on the right path,” Goodwin said. “She’s helped guide us about making sure our adoption forms are good. We have spay and neuter agreements since we started doing puppies and kittens.”
Goodwin was able to form this relationship with All Creatures and West because she was a volunteer at All Creatures. West provides medical care for other fostering organizations and decided to get involved with POP.
“We do this for several organizations, organizations that benefit our community,” West said. “So it’s giving back to the community.”
West added that Pups on the Plains has excelled in the work they do.
“They are very easy to support,” West said. “They are a really good group.”
POP is looking to grow even more after their first year. The group hopes to open an indoor dog park geared toward college-student pet owners.
“We plan to open up a facility soon that will be an indoor dog park, doggy daycare, boarding, and, of course, there’s going to be some rescue element,” Holly said. “Once you know that’s there, you just can’t stop. I need to help.”
They are looking at places close to campus and plan to have study areas so students can come play with their dogs and get some studying done too.
POP is always looking for more students and community members to foster dogs so POP can continue to rescue dogs.
“It’s really great to know that I helped save a dog,” said Alyssa Parfrey, junior in exercise science and POP foster. “It’s just really fulfilling.”
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