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Acts Of Kindness On The Road

Clear the Shelters Event- Dekalb, IL


This summer, after nearly a year of full-timing, my husband and I decided it was time to add a fury companion to our household. We’d both grown up with dogs and missed having one around the house. Since we are work camping for six months this season, we thought it would be the perfect opportunity to train a dog for RV life.
Early on, we decided to adopt a dog from a local shelter. Surprisingly, we I encounter some resistance to our lifestyle. I contacted several shelters in Chicago about dogs that looked interesting, and some of them were unwillingly to allow a pet to be adopted by someone without a traditional sticks and bricks and yard. After these experiences, we switched to more rural and suburban shelters, which were just brimming with animals that needed a new home. These shelters were crowded with dogs and cats being cared for by enthusiastic and devoted, but slightly overwhelmed volunteers.
At first our search proved fruitless. Most dogs carried a hefty adoption fee. Then, through my husband’s near constant web surfing, we learned about the perfect opportunity to adopt: the nationwide Clear the Shelters Event, held in Illinois and fourteen other states across the country on Saturday, August 15.
The goal of this event was to make adopting a shelter pet (dog or cat) easy and affordable. Not only were adoption fees waved at over one hundred shelters in our area, (including costs related to spay or neuter procedures, shots, and micro-chips) but participating shelters also included a free vet visit at ten local veterinarians. Of course, we made a donation to the shelter when we found our new friend, but this was an optional gift of support for the individual shelter’s mission.
We decided to take an organized approach to the process of narrowing down which shelter we would visit. Most shelters post pictures and descriptions of the animals in their care. From this search, we were able to narrow down which shelter we would visit.
Because we knew this would be a big, highly publicized event, we determined that arriving an hour before opening would be the way to go. When we reached the shelter, we found twenty people already queued at the door. By the time the shelter opened, there were over 130 people waiting to find a new family member.
We watched all three of the dogs we’d seen online leave with other folks. The thought occurred to us to leave at that point, but instead we decided to keep an open mind and see what would happen. This is the same instinct that drives us to travel the country and applying it to our search for a companion proved just as successful as our journeys have been.
Our new travel companion’s name is Chloe, and she is a Puggle (a mix of Pug and Beagle). She is five years old and an absolute love. Although we’d originally thought we’d get a younger dog, she wormed her way into our heart almost as soon as we met her. She snuggles like a pro, lets us know when she needs to go out (no accidents yet, knock on wood), and rides in the car like a champ.
Although we had a great experience adopting a shelter dog, there are some things to keep in mind.
First and foremost is that although most shelter dogs are just aching to give and receive the loving care of a forever home, as new dog or cat parents you don’t know what’s happened to them before they reached you. They may react strangely or even with fear or aggression to certain hand movements or commands. Let them settle into their new environment and watch them to learn if your new dog has any strange personality traits. With patience, respect and an open heart, you both will work these things out.
Speaking of an open heart, consider adopting an older pet. These animals have often had training by the volunteers and can be more laid back than puppies. In a small environment like an RV, getting a pet that is already potty trained is a serious plus. Our Chloe sits in front of the door when she needs to go, and since the volunteers walked her daily, she knows how to walk on a leash. The wonderful folks at the shelter also taught her to sit, which comes in handy when you need to put on a leash and gives you a leg up on learning other important commands such as stay, come and even (for the ambitious) a command for doing her business.
Finally, keep in mind your environment, and the campgrounds you’ll be visiting. The saddest part of searching shelters for a new dog is seeing all the Pit Bulls. Although I have met many that are sweethearts, there are many parks that don’t allow them. The same is true of other so-called “aggressive” breeds: German Shepherds, Dobermans, Huskies, and Chow Chows. So, if you are considering one of the breeds, know that it might restrict where you can park your rig. If you have parks that you regularly visit, check them to see if they have a list of prohibited breeds.
The compactness of the RV environment may also impact your choice. Although my husband and I both prefer big dogs, we looked at the reality of our home, and decided a smaller breed would work better. Chloe is 22 pounds, and the three of us fit just fine in our 40-foot motorhome without feeling cramped. This is a personal decision, and one that takes honest self-reflection. If you live with another human in a motorhome, fifth-wheel, or travel trailer and find yourselves bumping into one enough a lot, just think what it would be like with an 80-pound dog in the mix!
To the date of this writing, the Clear the Shelters event found homes for almost 20,000 animals nationwide. For us, it was a great experience, made easier by the friendly, enthusiastic, and caring volunteers at Tails Shelter in Dekalb, Illinois. If you’re looking for a new furry companion, consider becoming a hero: adopt a shelter pet.

The Day The Hurricane Hit

Life In An RV Story Submitted by Dana Butterfield:

Monday, August 29, 2005.  Most people remember this as the day Hurricane Katrina hit.  I remember it as the day of my grandmother’s funeral.   We made a hurried trip from Illinois to Missouri, and then hurried back again…. because our daughter was getting married on Friday night.

So Katrina, and its aftermath, did not become real to us until a week after it came ashore.  We watched the news coverage simply stunned at the devastation.  In January, 2006, we had opportunity to work with World Hope at Little Rock Missionary Baptist Church in Gulfport, MS (arriving on Martin Luther King holiday weekend, which was interesting!)  We worked with other volunteers from all over the country, who rotated in every week.

As we stepped out of the RV we were met by locals who just exclaimed over how grateful they were that we had come to help, and how they would work right along with us, and how “we aren’t like those people you see on TV”!  We were so touched – these were people who had been rebuilding their lives for months already, with no end in sight, many with no more than what had been hastily scrounged together donations, and they were going out of their way to make us feel welcome.

We arrived on Saturday afternoon, were encouraged to drive around the area on Sunday, had our first morning meeting at 7 a.m. Monday and started to work.   As our team got to the house we would be working on, we were greeted by the owner (who actually lived across the street; her uncle lived in the house we were fixing.)  She eagerly grabbed my hand, and gave me a tour of the FEMA trailer (for which they were so thankful) and then took me through the house and asked what I thought about this and that for redecorating!  She was so excited to get started (her house had also been damaged, but repaired already.)

We were to reroof most of the house (one section was to be torn off at a later date.)  As we worked, the owners told us their story.  The whole family had weathered the storm at the niece’s house (a newer, brick construction) and when the windows blew out they took interior doors to block out the rain and wind.  (These homes were a mile inland.)  The uncle’s house had one room that was protected, and anything that could be salvaged was stored in there.  This house had been in the family for four generations, and they were eager to restore it.

Each day as we worked, we experienced southern hospitality at its finest…. Frequent snacks,  lemonade in the afternoons, hot soup one cooler day.  We learned more about our team members.  Two days we were joined by a couple of guys from Michigan.  They would drive down about once a month with a truckload of supplies, spend a couple of days, then go back. (Deliveries like this were invaluable to keep work going… it literally took half a day to go to Lowe’s – still working out of the parking lot – to get anything and get checked out.  And Wal-Mart was still working out of a tent.)  The man running the program in Gulfport had come down to help for two weeks, and hadn’t been home in four months.

One day OHSA stopped by, and we were sure that work was about to come to a halt, but they just gave out some safety information and expressed thanks for everyone’s help.  That was a pleasant surprise!  Sometimes we farmed out to other job sites, mainly helping with outdoor cleanup work.  Our daughter worked one morning with a crew cleaning out a business that had been underwater. That was a stinky experience for her!  At the end of the day we all gathered back at the church for dinner and visiting (after that invigorating outdoor shower!)

And each day we heard stories from many who had lost everything, and how they were coping.  You would expect to hear bitterness and anger, but that was never the case.  The spirit of these people was amazing.  Each day treats were brought in for us.  One evening a lady brought homemade pralines (which were amazing!) as a thank you to the volunteers.  We later learned that both she and her husband had both lost their jobs because of Katrina, but instead of expecting people to take care of them, they wanted to take care of us.  It was humbling to see their generosity in the face of their great losses.  We felt totally unworthy, and completely blessed.

Our time there was far too short.  The work days were long, and tedious at times, but so inspiring that the exhaustion was easy to push aside.   And what little we accomplished was far overshadowed by what we received.  We have had other opportunities to volunteer, and the same has proved true each time – we get much more out of it than we could ever give.  The gain is all ours.

In 2008, we were in Gulfport and got to visit with the family again, and see the renovated house.  And they were just as grateful and generous as before.

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Waiting With A Purpose

Life In An RV Story Submitted by Kent Butterfield:

When trouble strikes sometimes it is an opportunity for us to look around ourselves, and to get outside of ourselves. On our way to Alaska we pulled into Dawson City, Yukon Territory and drove to the top of the Dome for the view and some photo ops.  When we climbed in the truck to head down to the campground, our diesel went into limp mode, meaning it growled and wouldn’t go faster than 25 MPH.  It’s a pretty good indication that something is wrong that needs immediate attention.  The next day I called Chevrolet and was told that the closest repair was in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory some 330 miles away.   My wife and two children stayed with the 5th wheel and I rode with the tow truck back to Whitehorse and found that we had three bad injector harnesses and they would have to be ordered and shipped, a two day wait.

The nice thing about a warrantee repair is the free rental car and free repair; the unfortunate thing is the wait.  So here I am in Whitehorse with transportation and nowhere to go.  Since we had just been in Whitehorse I wasn’t really in the tourist mode, but I didn’t want to just sit for days on end either.  After calling several local charities that didn’t need any temporary volunteers I decided to visit a local church.  I told the pastor my vehicle had broken down and I was waiting for repairs, but I wasn’t looking for a handout.  I just wanted to spend my time wisely and give something to the area.  He was a little surprised as he had heard requests for help before but always as the donor, never as the recipient.

We negotiated a deal whereby he would supply paint, brushes, daycare picnic tables, play equipment and a deck and cold sandwich lunches. I would supply the muscle and time to spread the paint.  I thought it was a great deal for both of us.  I spent two great days painting, watching kids play, eating bologna sandwiches and giving something to Whitehorse instead of wasting my time doing nothing.  The pastor and daycare staff were elated to have the painting done and the kids had a freshly painted play and lunch area.  I would love to revisit the area and stop to see if there is anything else I can do.

Having wait time for repairs or between stops doesn’t mean you have to sit bored.  Connect you abilities with the community you are in and show them what full time RVers are all about.  It can be as simple as painting, or cleaning or it can be as complex as the many and varied skills you carry with you.    What it is mostly about is caring for others like you would like to be cared for.

If you enjoyed this story and would like to vote for Kent – please leave a comment below!

(Enjoy all the other stories submitted by clicking here – you can vote on as many stories as you like, but your vote will only count once per story. Have Fun!)