Chattanoogan: Lacie Stone – Fostering Dogs, “It’s A Dog’s Life”

Wednesday, September 5, 2012 - by Jen Jeffrey

Chattanooga born and raised, Lacie Stone has a heart for standing in for a pooch in need. She doesn’t claim to be obsessed or fanatical about her involvement, but she is very passionate about making a difference in a dog’s life.

By taking small steps, first beginning with awareness, Lacie feels everyone can make a difference in a canine’s quality of life. “I am a regular person, I don’t do this for a living, I just feel compelled to help when I have the time and resources to do it,” she insists.

It took some time for Lacie to take on this responsible approach. “I knew in my twenties, I wasn’t really ready for an animal commitment more than having cats. Toward the end of my 20s I felt ready to bring a dog into the household,” Lacie says.

Ray, a long haired Dachsund was the very first dog she had been fully responsible for.   “Ray was the first connection that I had with an animal who was more than just that superficial relationship. He was mine and I was his – I had never experienced that before,” Lacie reveals.

“I understood how my life would benefit from having Ray in it and how I could make his quality of life better. There was a bonding that I wasn’t expecting. He really opened my heart up to thinking about the relationship between humans and animals in an important way. It really spurred my desire to do what I could toward animal issues to better the quality of life for animals in our community and the world,” Lacie vows.

Education and awareness is the first step to saving a stray’s life. Approximately five million to seven million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year and more than half are euthanized.

According to the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy, less than two percent of cats and only 15 percent of dogs are returned to their owners. It is recommended to place an information chip in your pets and keep records with your vet.

Lacie recalls the pivotal moment in her own life when she could not look the other way. “One day, I was walking Ray on Riverview. A shepherd mix kept following us and I told her to go on but she kept following us.”

Lacie was not aware at first that the dog was injured. “I stopped and looked at her and saw a trail of blood behind her. She was calm and I assessed her injuries – she was cut underneath her stomach all the way to her mid-section and leg. She was bleeding profusely. I didn’t even think about it, I just remember knowing I had to get that dog to my house to help it.

“I probably did everything wrong in handling an injured dog; I just trusted my gut instinct with it. I took her to Riverview Emergency Clinic and that was my first impromptu rescue,” she notes.

“I found her a home and it was a heart-breaking and emotional experience. She lived and was healthy – she just needed a home.  I didn’t want to take her to a shelter, it made me start asking questions like, ‘What do people do?’ and ‘What resources are out there?’” Lacie expresses.

“I needed to get this dog spayed and neutered and I needed to find her a good home so I just learned more and more about it. I am just an average person but I can do something that helps. I never imagined that that dog would find such a great home, and that is what happened. It was very heartwarming to see how much a part of their family she is.”  

After that moment, Lacie began fostering more animals periodically. She pulled a dog from a high-kill shelter in Murray County who was to be euthanized that day.

“She was a stray, wandering around with hair loss, skin infections, conjunctivitis in her eyes, dust mites in her nose and bacterial infections in her ears. She wasn’t a special needs animal, she just needed help. She didn’t have a condition that would be with her the rest of her life, she just needed someone that cared and she needed it quickly,” Lacie says.

“There was an initial cost up front but she just needed someone to take a chance on her. She is actually one of the best dogs I have encountered. She is a great dog, she is older and calm. She just wants to be with you,” Lacie says.

She ended up keeping ‘Ella’, deciding that she and husband Bobby could care for two dogs in their home and just continue to foster one when they could.

Lacie recommends becoming involved but knowing what situation is best for you. “There are dogs out there that do have special needs and you have to be prepared and be able to provide for the ongoing vet cost. If you live in an apartment, maybe you don’t need a big active dog. If you are on a fixed income, maybe you don’t need a special needs dog. I just think understanding your own situation in finding the right companion for you will make you happier and the animal happier.”

“To keep those animals from ending up in the shelter because you know what you are getting into when you take it on, is better to help that way than to frivolously take on a pet without researching what works best for you,” Lacie maintains.

“Our third dog is a rescue from Trenton. She was picked up and was to be euthanized and I pulled her. I knew someone would take her – she just needed a chance. Someone needed to buy her some time and advocate for her. To promote her, put her picture out there – a lot of the smaller shelters don’t have the resources to do that. They don’t have any money coming in, no volunteers and so it is really dismal. If you can take some time to do that for them, it really helps,” Lacie vows.

The scruffy terrier mix named Fredi warmed Lacie and Bobby’s hearts in a special way. “We had fostered dogs in between this and had gotten them homes through a rescue. We really didn’t feel the need to keep them. After Ella, we were only going to be a two-dog family. The funny thing with Fredi is; she got along so well with the other two and just really fit in that my husband called me one day when I had thought I found a home for her and he said ‘We should talk about this’. He felt we needed to keep her, so we did,” she professes.

“I wasn’t this way five years ago because I didn’t know much about it. When I started discovering things, I felt that I needed to be part of the solution. People will say to me, ‘That is so great that you foster. I could never do that because I would want to keep them all,’” Lacie relates.

There are more opportunities to help than adopting or fostering a pet from a shelter or rescue. “I volunteered to help walk the dogs at McKamey or HES. I spent times driving home crying because I couldn’t take them all home, but I think not doing it for that reason can be selfish. What you can do is to tell yourself you are going to spend a few hours playing with a dog in a shelter. I know it is going to hurt when I leave them, but it will improve that dog’s quality of life for now. That is the reward,” Lacie says.

Whatever you can do at whatever level, even donating money to places like ‘Wally’s Friends’ in Red Bank; they are a valuable resource in our community. They are doing an incredible job trying to tackle the ‘spay and neuter’ problem we have in Chattanooga. They perform 60 spay and neuters a day,” Lacie says.

“Donating time or money to an organization or volunteering is a wonderful thing. Then think about fostering. There are certain levels you can get involved, it isn’t going to go away if we just pretend it’s not there,” Lacie attests.

“Before I re-home a dog to anyone, I want to make sure to meet the people and have a gut reaction or call their vet and see if they have regular vet visits. It’s a tricky thing – you want to help in a responsible way; you don’t want to take an animal and put them into a worse situation. If you don’t feel you are a person to foster or rescue and animal, then just volunteering at an organization that is already standing means you don’t have to make those harder decisions,” she says.

“Small-breed Animal Rescue and Tennessee Death-row Dog, are some of the places to begin. There are a lot out there and all those dogs need a temporary foster. Some places will do the advocacy, they will find them a home but they need to buy that animal a little bit of time,” Lacie conveys. “You can do a little or do a lot – but just do something.”

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