Our #46 stop on the Adventure Of A Lifetime was a special one for us. As we arrived in Sequim, Washington, smelled the salt air and gazed upon the refreshing scenery, we felt at home after being on the road for over a year.
Because this unexpected place touched our hearts, we knew that the animal rescue we chose to visit must be more than special too.
It did not take us long to find WAG, Welfare For Animals Guild in Sequim, Washington.
In the latest episode of Stop Hounding Me, we were joined with Onyx, Barb Brabant, Maryann Langan and Mel Marshall of WAG! We think you will agree that they got Boy Person more than just a little drenched! (Thanks by the way…)
If there is one part of animal rescue that often gets overlooked, it is that helping people helps animals too. But often, it is hard to do this. For an animal rescuer that sees the suffering of animals due to people’s mistreatment of them, it is difficult to not get angry and to not let their frustration shine through. But helping people matters. Helping people by means of education and showing love, care and concern for them is important. Often, it takes one person to make a difference for an animal, and it is no different for people.
WAG is the example that all animal rescuers should follow. Why? Because their method of helping animals involves helping people at the same time. And in turn, the animals and people help each other as well in the process. These are people and animals on their last chance, even past their last chance…with no hope.
WAG is a non-profit, no kill dog rescue, staffed entirely by volunteers and funded by donations and grants. They have no paid positions. Their mission is to “advocate for the dogs best interest and welfare, to find loving and safe forever homes. To inspire awareness and compassion for the dogs in our community. To help protect dogs from neglect, abuse and exploitation.”
This may seem like a wonderful mission on its own. But to meet the people behind this mission was nothing less than inspiring. The volunteers, staff and directors here live their mission with passion and dedication for the animals, people and community they feel privileged to help.
When we speak with animal rescues and shelters on this Adventure Of A Lifetime, each community’s needs are different. For this area of Washington that WAG calls home, according to their website, they “receive strays, some of which were living in despicable conditions, as well as many from dog owners who are no longer able to care for their dog. People with health issues, or are moving, or just the worsening economic conditions make up the majority of reasons why dogs are released to WAG.”
Since 2001, they have been Sequim’s only all dog rescue. Until the week we visited, they solely depended upon foster homes to house their rescues. But due to the growing needs of their area, and in order to help more animals, they just completed their new Halfway Home Ranch!
WAG purchased and transformed beautifully the approximately 2-1/2 acres of a former nursery to establish the Half-Way Home Ranch.
As we drove onto the property, we immediately felt the sense of peace at this ranch.
Located at the end of a quiet country road, the ranch is a safe haven where the dogs are cared for in a loving environment until a forever home is found.
Not only that, but some of their buildings will be used for emergency shelter in the community. This is just one of the ways that they truly care for the animals and people here in Sequim.
When we stepped inside the shelter facility, we thought how wonderful it would be to be rescued under their care! With lovable rooms, beds, couches and most importantly, loving volunteers in a home environment, the animals here have a true chance to succeed in their new start.
They have a true chance to change. They have a wonderful opportunity to make a fresh start. How poetic it is that a nursery where new life was grown, new lives for animals are beginning and growing again here.
And some fortunate dogs receive this fresh start in a program that should be followed in communities everywhere.
In 2012, they started the Offender Based Dog Training Program with the Clallam Bay Corrections Center.
This wasn’t a program that was easy to implement. A lengthy, detailed process was developed that would insure the safety of the dogs they worked so hard to rescue in the first place, and the safety of volunteers, trainers and handlers.
They developed a training schedule for the dogs and handlers (prison inmates) to follow, which is the force behind this successful program. These handlers receive training in basic and advanced obedience. While they are teaching these obedience skills, they are learning more about each dog to see what characteristics and needs they have, using positive reinforcement. Volunteers and staff take an hour and a half drive or more each week to the corrections center. They arrive early and leave late. To say that dedication is needed in this program is putting it lightly. But did we hear any negativity on the hard work they put forth for the animals and people? It was just the opposite.
We were told of stories from their program. We heard about inmates receiving a new purpose in their lives by helping a dog. We heard about dogs that were “untrainable” but who now, with the handlers’ new skills and dedication were able to be placed in loving, forever homes…some even were taught to read. Yes…ask them about that. With WAG, nothing is impossible. With WAG, they believe everyone, whether an animal or a person deserves a chance. And WAG needs these inmates to help their dogs. It is a winning relationship for all.
Most of the dogs receiving this training are ones that were considered unadoptable. With the handler’s training, they make incredible progress! The dogs sleep in cells with their handlers and given lots of attention and exercise. Isn’t this what people need too?
Currently, this program has 14 trainers and eight dogs. Over 170 dogs and 97 puppies have graduated their program! They have even developed a Puppy Preschool Program where they are socialized and receive training. This ensures they are ready to go to their forever home.
WAG makes investments in people and animals every day.
The care and concern that they show with hard work and planning and follow-ups cannot come easy to them. But when you speak to them, you understand that is an investment they know will pay off. They give of themselves wholeheartedly to the community they love, and that we fell in love with too.
To do all that they do, they cannot do it alone. They need volunteers, fosters and funds to keep them going.
It takes us all to help animals in different ways to contribute to the big picture and goal of ending the problem of animal homelessness. But in order for us to reach that goal, it starts with people, with education, and quite simply love. Love for people and animals works hand in hand. And WAG shows us that change is possible. Believe in your community and give someone, whether a person OR an animal another chance. It took someone to believe in our boys, Brickle and Digby. And they changed our lives forever. Whose life can YOU change today?