Oakland woman, volunteers re-home more than 800 dogs in eight years
Nearly 20 years ago, Gail Ross of Oakland was running around AR Highway 5 like the proverbial chicken with its head cut off, trying to locate a stray dog that she spotted along the roadway.
In all the chaos, she had a chance encounter with a local man who would set her on a path working with abandoned dogs — an issue that has plagued the picturesque and rural Oakland and Three Brothers areas for decades.
That man was the late Perry Boore of Perry’s Orphan’s located in Oakland.
Ross said she was on her way to an appointment, so Boore took up the search for the stray. She said the pair worked together three to four years before Ross started her own non-profit dog shelter, Gail’s Pets Second Chance, out of her home in Oakland.
Both facilities worked to create a no-kill facilities that took in stray and abandoned dogs, socialize them, and find them new homes.
“The goal was just saving these dogs that people would dump,” Ross said.
Tragically, in February of 2015 a fire broke out in Boore’s home, killing several of the animals he had in the shelter at the time. Boore himself suffered burns and other injuries attempting to save the animals, and died nearly a month after the accident at age 82.
At 81, Ross has undergone four knee replacements and recently underwent back surgery. She was married to James LeChevalier for 23 years, until he passed away in 2015.
Ross said the couple moved to Oakland in 2000 from Barrington, Ill., a partly rural suburb of Chicago, and despite being raised as “an apartment dweller” in Chicago with few pets in her youth, she always had a love for animals. She was an avid horsewoman and has a collection of more than 100 trophies.
Gail’s Pets Second Chance sits on 40 scenic acres down a long, gravel stretch of Marion County Road 119. “And, I used to have a mule,” Ross joked when describing the size of her land.
With the help of volunteers Steve and Linda Corselli, Ross said the three of them perform the daily grunt work of feeding and caring for the animals. She has a small group of devoted volunteers who help walk the dogs, but Ross said the work has gotten to be so much and the need so great, she has stopped answering her phone after 5 o’clock at night.
“We’re not dog catchers,” Ross stated. “When people call me to tell me about a dog, they don’t offer to help me get them. They call and tell me about a dog, but they don’t stay and watch them.”
Along the last mile and a quarter to her home, there are plastic chairs along the road for dogwalkers to take a load off.
“We always need dog walkers,” she said. “Even people who don’t want to walk a dog can take a chair and sit in a kennel with a couple of dogs. It will help socialize them.”
In her experience, Ross said she’s found it difficult to get men onboard with the idea of spaying or neutering their dogs, believing that intact dogs are better at hunting, herding and other tasks.
“Men just don’t want to do it; they act as though it’s happening to them,” she said. “Females go into heat two times a year, but a male is in season 24/7.”
Ross and many veterinarians are of the belief that neutering a male dog will provide the dog more focus for tasks and jobs, since he will not be driven by the scent of a female in heat.
She adds that only breading pairs should remain intact and that females only be bred once a year to keep the female healthy.
In 2012, Gail’s Pets Second Chance took in 87 dogs and was able to adopt out 73 of them. In subsequent years, those intake numbers increased to a high of 192 in 2016, with 155 of them adopted. With more than 800 dogs adopted in the last eight years, only 14 of them were united with their owners.
Ross said the beauty of the volunteers she’s had over the years is that each individual works to their strengths, such as Linda Corselli who also puts in time sustaining the shelter’s online social media prescience.
“I’ve never opened a computer myself,” Ross jokes. “I’m the brawn, Linda’s the brains.”
She adds that she never directly advertises and that most of the adoptions happen because people have seen the dogs on Gail’s website, Facebook page or other linked pet adoption sites.
Most of the dogs come from around Arkansas and southern Missouri, from as far west as the Fayetteville area, east to Jonesboro, as far north as Springfield, Mo., and as far south as Conway.
Ross said adoptive pup parents have come as far as Maine and upper state New York. She has a converted sunroom that she’s repurposed as a “meet and greet” room for potential parents to see their fur child in a one-on-one setting.
On the Gail’s website, there is a dog surrender form for those who find an abandoned dog or for those who for one reason or another cannot keep their pet. Ross said they require those filling out the surrender form submit three recent pictures of the dog, so there will be fewer surprises when they take it in.
She adds in the past, she’s been told a dog is 15 pounds, but that upon arrival it’s closer to 50. She said that obviously small dogs can go into a large kennel, but large dogs can’t go into a small kennel.
All dogs will be physically healthy at the time of their adoption, meaning they will all be spayed/neutered, have their shots and any other medical issues addressed. Ross said this disappoints some potential adopters who would rather get a puppy when they are around six to eight weeks.
Parvovirus is a highly contagious virus that will effect a puppy’s gastrointestinal system and creates a loss of appetite, vomiting, fever, and often severe, bloody diarrhea. Ross has some “quarantine pens” for any animal that she takes in and suspects of having the disease.
“Parvo is heart breaking,” she said.
Ross has worked with Dr. James Snodgrass at Baxter County Animal Clinic for many years, and now with the clinic’s new veterinarian, Dr. Sarah Shedenhelm.
“She’s a great ER doc,” she said.
Looking back fondly to her time with Perry Boore, Ross said that he was a very good self promoter and fundraiser, skills that she admits she lacks.
“I just don’t know how to do it,” she said. “I’d rather take a whupping than ask people for money.”
Last spring, Walmart stopped donating damaged bags of dog food to shelter’s like Gail’s, which she said has been a mixed blessing. Ross said volunteers would to drive to Fayetteville to load multiple pallets on a truck and then put them in storage facilities at the shelter — making for a long, back-breaking day.
She said she is now fortunate to receive donations of damaged bags of food from Orscheln’s, which is more manageable. Ross said the shelter recently upgraded all of their kennels and fencing materials through purchases from Orscheln’s, which doesn’t charge them tax as they are a 501(c)(3) non-profit.
Now with social media, there are many ways for the public to donate food, toys, treats and beds through Amazon, or make financial donations through PayPal, or the Amazon “Smile” program. When shopping through smile.amazon.com the online giant will donate .05 percent of a shopper’s total purchase toward the charity of their choice.
Ross said she currently has 29 adoptable pets and 10 “yard dogs”, those that she describes as being too old or have too many health or behavioral issues to be adopted.
“We always need donations of food, and cash is always welcome,” said Linda Corselli.
Want to help?
For more information on Gail’s Pets Second Chance and her adoptable dogs, check out the website http://www.gailspets.org. Credit card donations can be made at the “Our Shelter” page of the website.
Or her Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/Gails-Pets-Second-Chance-100763513364911/
Checks can be mailed to: Gail’s Pets Second Chance, PO Box 83, 310 MC119, Oakland, AR 72661
To volunteer to feed, walk, socialize or clean up after the dogs, call Gail’s Pets Second Chance at (870) 431-8229.
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