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Rescue Rebuild Oklahoma City – An Eye Opening Experience

By Chris Coulter, Rescue Rebuild Program Manager

March 15, 2012, was a great month. Not because I was about to celebrate my 32nd birthday, but because I finally understood why people were so passionate about rescuing pets from their local shelter. You see, I’ve always loved pets and animals of all kinds. My mom used to say that I had a radar for lost or lonely animals. However, even at 31 years of age, I had never been inside of an animal shelter or knew the plight that animals endured once they arrive at a shelter. For all those years I had been completely unaware.

I had just volunteered for my first build in Guthrie, Oklahoma, which was a different situation since a tornado had hit the shelter. I saw their animals in small cages and makeshift arrangements, but I simply assumed it was only temporary until we could rebuild the building that was destroyed, giving them adequate space again. Shortly after the Guthrie build, I was contacted by Bryna (Director of Rescue Rebuild) and asked if I could volunteer at the Oklahoma City Animal Shelter in March. I jumped at the opportunity and was excited to show them around my home state.

March finally rolled around, and I was headed 90 miles to the Oklahoma City Animal Shelter for the next several weeks. It was here that my eyes opened to the reality of shelter life—so many happy dogs and cats confined in small cages. Just walking by their cages would immediately fill them with uncontrollable excitement begging to be pet and shown a little attention, but the minute I walked away I could see sadness or even depression set in with the animals. They would get walked daily by a volunteer or staff member, but with a high volume of animals, it was never long enough for them to truly run and play and lose some of that pent-up energy.

I couldn’t help but wonder how my dogs would feel in a similar situation. It was heartbreaking. My motivation for my first build was my enjoyment of all things construction, building things with my hands and leaving the office for some fresh Oklahoma sunshine. But now that had all changed. My new motivation after seeing what these dogs, cats, and staff had to endure daily was to help them get adopted into a forever home and make their stay at the shelter as peaceful and enjoyable as possible.

Chris and team installing/tightening chain-link fencing for one of the dog runs.

And that’s exactly what we did at the Oklahoma City Animal Shelter! We repaired the current dog runs and built several additional ones. Specifically, one large run and two medium runs that will now allow more dogs to play while requiring fewer volunteers. Several new large kennels were built allowing bigger dogs in an area suitable for their size. Even dog beds were constructed giving the animals an alternative to sleeping on the cold, wet concrete. Cat enrichment shelves were also installed giving the cats some platforms on which to play and exercise.

To say the Oklahoma City build was a success is quite an understatement. Not only were we able to make some great improvements to the shelter improving the stay for the animals and easing some of the burdens on the great shelter staff and volunteers, but it also opened my eyes and heart to a situation that I had no idea existed. No longer is my motivation just an excuse to get out of the office and play with power tools, but now I realize the importance and the impact on both the animals and staff members. That alone makes all the early mornings and late nights on the job site well worth it!

If you would like to donate to keep Rescue Rebuild on the road improving shelters, please click HERE.

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