|Elinor Williamson, at left,with Masie, one of the permanent Paw's Up Safe Home dogs Renee Stowe, at right, at the kennel at her home where GLB Excavating contributed some of the fencing for the safe home. Renne and Elinor co-founded the Paws Up Safe Home here over two years ago.|
March 8, 2001
Seeley Swan Pathfinder
Seeley Lake, Montana
The Story of Paws Up Safe Home
as told to the Pathfinder by Elinor Williamson
Seventeen years ago the post office was in what is now the Video Vision building, there was no bank and Hugo, a Burmese gentle giant of a dog, was proclaimed and held in esteem as Seeley Lake's honorary mayor by some. Hugo made his rounds every day, stopping for a friendly word and pats of affection. Then there was Sandy, owned by Don Larson and the mascot of The Filling Station. Sandy was a huge yellow mixed breed dog who was known to all and loved by all. Soon to join these two mellow gentle giants was a blonde Cocker Spaniel by the name of Bum, who was a kind and loving dog without a fight bone in his body. Bum had been rescued from a cruel existence and moved with his owners to Seeley Lake. Bum truly lived up to his name and also became a town favorite. It was not unusual to see Hugo laying in the middle of the highway napping with the cars driving around him, and always Sandy lay in the parking lot of The Filling Station next to Don's pickup. It was a happy existence for these three dogs and other dogs who all congregated together during the day. It was rare to see or hear of a fight, as Hugo would not allow such behavior and would actually get in between any dogs who appeared to have a disagreement. There was a great camaraderie among these dogs and most of the people enjoyed and accepted these traveling friends. Few dogs were seen at night, as all had owners who cared.
Time passed, and with the passing of time came change, with more people, and with more people came more dogs. Then there came dogs who did not go home at night, dogs left to fend for themselves, dogs abandoned, and dogs allowed to breed at random, increasing the number of dogs running and looking for food and chasing and killing wildlife. Dogs were creating havoc and the dogs were paying for the mistakes of their owners by dying in terrible ways. Dogs were shot at random, day or night, taken to the woods and shot. With the bullet not doing the job intended, the dog lay for hours or days injured and suffering. Dogs were left for Animal Control, to be hauled away to certain death. If and when Animal Control came, mother dogs and puppies, once they pass the cute stage, were all taken together to be put to death. Much of the mentality was "Everyone else's dog runs, so mine can," or "I don't want a dog unless it can run where it wants." The words "spay" and "neuter" were barely acknowledged by many. The mind set of many was to neuter one's dog would end its manhood. It was easier to shoot a pregnant dog than pay $20 to have it spayed. After all, one could always get another dog, and the cycle continued.
There were however, many whose heart bled for these unfortunate pets. Ella Goodbread and her husband Don sheltered and saved pets for many years. Support for their efforts was not easily found. Reverend Herb and Fran Schiefelbein also were the saviors of many little animals. All of these wonderful saviors of little animals continue to do what they can and are a helpful part of the still running "Pet Hotline," which Ella Goodbread surely must have started. All continue to be instrumental in denouncing cruelty and offering support where and when it is needed. It has taken people like the Goodbreads and the Schiefelbeins to wake people up to the cruelty that was happening, but as many will attest, to rid a community and a society of abuse of any kind takes and demands an organized stand of many, who are committed for the duration to end abuse. The support which is seen today is not what it was 17 years ago, but it has been awakened.
One never knows why one makes the decision to take a certain path, what instills them, where and what in their background helps guide them to commit to a cause one so believes in, knowing one could and will face criticism, skepticism, and open hostility at times. Yet some are willing to take that step for what one believes in and willing to face the obstacles to achieve the goal which has such meaning in one's life. In the course of one act, one's life changes and starts down that path.
In 1988 the first dog was taken in by Elinor Williamson and in time, went to a loving family with children. Many dogs and some cats followed over the next few years. Good homes were found with vet care, and spaying or neutering a priority. Personal finances were used to help with the vet care and sometimes to help the adopting person for various reasons, to ensure the dog had what was necessary to have a safe and loving home. As one watched the little animals come and go, letters to the editor became easy to write in the local paper, the Pathfinder. Somehow word must get out as to the cruelty and ignorance which humans waged against these little animals, the irresponsibility, and the lack of compassion humans had for the little animals God had sent to us to give us comfort, love, companionship and protection. The letters at least seemed to ease the pain one feels, while one tries to ease the pain of the little animals who had so much pain. A catalyst is needed for every good cause, but a catalyst cannot stand alone for the flicker will soon burn itself out. Did God sense the waning spark, for with these words, "I need a good home for a great Golden Retriever," a prayer was answered and help had appeared, with Renee Stowe's words of "I'll take him. I've always wanted a Golden Retriever, and Elinor, if you ever need, I'll keep a dog for you until you can find a home for it." The very next day another dog came, and within days Paws Up Safe Home came to be.
Totally unprepared for the many dogs and cats to come in a short time, dogs and cats were adopted out with less than perfect record keeping. Facing what appeared to be coming, a very good record system was set up of the people who brought the dogs in, the vet records, adoption papers with strict guidelines which people must sign before a dog is adopted out to them, bank accounts, flyers put up around town when a dog was found, acquiring a non-profit status, pursuing an IRS number and a weekly "Please Pause For Pets and Paws" column. The paperwork alone requires hours of time. The commitment and belief in this so needed service was there, but would the so needed support come?
As word spread of the Paws Up Safe Home, so came wonderful support. Because of the wonderful support, there are secure pens and fences, warm dog houses, vet care, a spay and neuter clinic, food for the dogs and cats, and food to help others care for their pets when in need. Because of wonderful support, a lot of hard work, and many hours of care, there have been 115 dogs and 35 cats come through Paws Up Safe Home's door since June of 1998. Many dogs were returned to their owners, many were adopted out to loving families, and all the cats were adopted out. All dogs and cats brought to Paws Up Safe Home receive new collars and an ID number with the phone number. Without the support, this could not have been accomplished. Each time an animal is adopted out to a loving family, each time an animal is returned to a loving owner, the time and work is all worth it and the heart sings. As supporters, surely your hearts sing also.
In a small community there are so many needs. If each person did one thing each day toward a needed goal, one can accomplish much toward that goal. A community is judged by many things, one of them being how they care for the little animals, which has become a goal for Paws Up Safe Home.
Hopefully this story will help other small communities realize that people can make a difference, and lost and abused animals can be saved. Many of the dogs are absorbed right back into the same community, placed this time with loving owners. Once others see what is happening, support will come. One must be committed, dedicated, be willing to work long hours for no pay, and cry many tears of heartbreak, frustration and happiness. There are rewards, for one will know they have saved one of God's little animals and God smiles with you.
Renee Stowe, co-founder of Paws Up Safe Home, has lived in Seeley Lake for three years. Renee opened her home and heart in June of 1998 and has been the living salvation of the many dogs who so needed love and care. It is not unusual to have six dogs, all on nice pads, laying around in her kitchen and living room. There is dog food in containers stacked four deep as different dogs have different needs. When a dog comes to stay at Paws Up Safe Home, it receives vet care, love, food, warm quarters and is socialized with other dogs and cats. The dog is worked with every day and made to feel special. These throw-aways go out of Paws Up as loving pets. Renee receives no money or compensation for the use of her home and land, or for the hours she puts in at Paws Up Safe Home. If one were to ask what Renee wanted to see in the future, it would not be anything for herself, but to have a permanent home established for the lost and abused animals that would be carried on for years to come.
Elinor Williamson, co-founder of Paws Up Safe Home, has lived in Seeley Lake with her husband Charlie for 17 years. Elinor writes the "Please Pause For Pets and Paws" column. Elinor, as with Renee, feels the importance of establishing a permanent animal shelter to care for the little animals of our own community, saving people hundreds of dollars and saving pets' lives. It has been proven this can be done. A permanent shelter is needed, ensuring people and pets that their community does care and accepts the responsibility. A permanent shelter should be established, and the work on such should begin now.