Dear Ellen,
 
For the past 15 years, Doug and I have resided on a small farm in South Georgia. I had worked for many years as a veterinary assistant and my husband was a farrier (horse shoer). Our love of animals as well as our background in animal care has allowed and encouraged us to provide home and care to many animals through the years.
 
Doug and I recall that currently and in the past 17 years we have housed and cared for approximately 45 dogs , 15 horses, 12-14 cats , goats and cows.
 
 Right now, we have 10 dogs, 3 cats, 2 cows and 3 horses plus the locally famous Miss DePesto, a wild hog that Doug brought home 15 years ago. We have been responsible for placing 10-15 additional dogs, several horses and cats.  Through our persistence we have had 2 herds of cattle, several horses and countless numbers of dogs removed to a safer place.  Unfortunately those who abused and neglected these creatures have not been prosecuted, but at least we saved the animals!
 
 Liza, for instance, was just 6 weeks old when a neighbor found her in the town dump and dropped her off with us. She was so weak she could not stand up, and lived in our bathroom on Doug's heating pad for nearly 3 weeks.  We gave her 2 blood transfusions (blood from our blue heeler, BJ. another stray), as well as countless bags of fluids. We were fortunate in that we could administer the fluids and had only the expense of the materials.  We did have to have our vet administer the blood, but the rest was up to us. The doctor said that she would never survive as a healthy animal, would have trouble walking (this said after she was stricken with infection in all of her joints) and certainly would never run.  He lived to eat his words (happily I might add) when on a visit to our farm he observed her running not only with, but also mostly in front of her friends!
 
That is what love and TLC can do for some of these creatures. Liza lived a long life, free of any health problems, until we had to put her down of complications of old age. She was 13!
 
All the animals we acquire are medicated as needed, de-wormed, vaccinated (we do this ourselves except for dogs who travel with us and need veterinarian administered rabies vaccines).  Older dogs are treated for heartworms and younger ones put on monthly heartworm preventatives. We also provide heartworm preventatives for 10-12 other dogs that belong to folks who cannot afford to do so. We also vaccinate these animals, as well as several horses being cared for by good people who cannot afford vet fees.  We provide winter hay, etc. for these horses, and extra food for dogs and cats belonging to people who love them but cannot afford the increased expense necessary for living through colder parts of year.   We spend an average of $500/month $1000/month over the course of the year, the higher being in the winter months.
 
Unfortunately, not all have such a happy ending. Some are so ill, old, or
malnourished that they can never really flourish, but we do make sure that what time they are with us they are as happy and comfortable as is possible.  All dogs and cats in our care are spayed/neutered. It is expensive but it is the only way to continue with what we are doing. Many folks around here think we are a bit crazy, and, to be honest, sometimes we think we have bitten off more then we can chew. . . consider turning a blind eye to the next needy creature we see.
 
Then we look over at Selena, a gorgeous husky who came to us two years ago so thin and ragged she looked like a coyote, with a chain collar so tight it was embedded in her neck, with skin growing around it; or Barnaby, a grand Bloodhound, found thin and frightened, tied to a dumpster; or we remember Gainamia, a horse so malnourished she was urinating her own cells, who after months of care and good food and medication, ran with the other horses, and lived for three glorious years.
 
Sometimes I look at our house, which is NEVER totally clean, the pile of laundry (mostly dog covers for floor and furniture), that is never completely gone, the dog food bin that needs replenishing, and our less then full larder for ourselves...and I wonder if it is all worth it. Because of the expense of this ongoing "crusade” of 17 years duration now, we still live in the mobile home we originally purchased when we moved here nearly 15 years ago. In fact, this has been a sacrifice over the past 17 years but certainly not one that we regret.  We are in a very poor area and salaries are not high scale for us either. We simply do without.  Believe me, the trade off is worth it!
 
Actually, as we speak I am giving sad thought to possibly having to put my sweet Tess to sleep pretty soon. She is failing, it seems, then some days she is up to snuff. Decisions, decisions. ARGGGGG so hard to make. At least I grieve her before and pile on the love…makes it easier.
 
Yes, my friends, it is most definitely worth it.
Gail