Until Next Time...

I've decided to take a break from writing for a little while. 

In the last year, this blog has completely changed my life. I've poured my heart into each and every post... and as a result, I've been able to connect with so many amazing people. I've shared tears with you. I've shared laughs with you. I've shared my life with you.

It's been nothing short of incredible.

While I'm not quite sure how long my "writing hiatus" will last, I'm positive that it won't last forever. I could "break" for just a few days... or maybe weeks or months. Tonight, I really don't know.

But here's what I do know: the next time I feel compelled to write something... I'll know it... and then, you'll know it. Because I promise to share it with you.

Until then... I'm sure I'll miss this dinky-ole blog like crazy. And of course, I'll miss all of you.

Until next time...

*In the meantime, I'll still be running Lucky Dog Rescue, which relies on donations. Please don't forget about my Lucky Dogs while I'm "gone."


My Grandparents

My grandparents
I wouldn't be the person I am today... if not for my incredible family. I was blessed with 2 amazing parents, who each had 2 amazing parents of their own... also known as my grandparents.

These are the people who built the foundation. These are the people who helped me grow into the "me" you all know today. These are the people who've loved and supported me every single day of my life.

But yesterday... my world was shaken.

On their way to Christmas dinner, my dad's parents --my Gran and Granddad-- were in a terrible car accident. When another car pulled out in front of them, my grandparents' car was sent rolling through the woods. Later, they had to be cut-out of the car... which was wrapped around a tree.

The rest of my family spent Christmas day at the hospital... just waiting to hear something. Today, my grandparents are still in ICU.

But as you already know, I was here at Lucky Dog, working on Christmas day. And since my grandparents live more than 4 hours away from me... I wasn't able to be there with my family.

For most of the day, I was paralyzed by fear and helplessness. I worked; I cried; I paced; I cried; then I worked, paced, and cried some more. My heart was truly broken... because I couldn't be there for the people who have always been there for me.

My granddad and I
So, today, I thought I'd write a special post about my grandparents... who are two of the most inspiring, wonderful people I've ever known.

In their hometown, my grandparents are nothing-short of local celebrities. My grandfather, Coach Owen, is admired by every single person he's ever taught, coached, or even met. In the high school gym, there's a large mural on the wall... of my grandfather. A few years ago, his former players compiled a book of letters and sentiments for him called The Tom Owen Story, which included some special words written about my granddad by his friend, Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant. And the town even dedicated a day to him: Tom Owen Day.

My Gran and I
My grandmother has been named "Woman of the Year" in their town. In the many years she worked as an elementary school teacher, she managed to inspire every student she ever taught. My Gran also volunteers for several different charitable causes, like Meals on Wheels. This woman never meets a stranger, and honestly, she seems to know every person in town.

My grandparents have always been special to me, but I guess I never realized just how many others felt the same about them... until I went to college at the University of Alabama. When I'd meet someone from my grandparents' hometown, they'd excitedly say, "Hold on... you mean to tell me that you're Coach Owen's granddaughter?! Mrs. Owen is your grandmother?! No way!!! Are you serious?!!"

Apparently, that info alone made me insanely cool to these people.

A dress Gran bought me
But in the eyes of my grandparents... I'm the one who hung the moon. I was their first grandchild, and I was the first little girl in the family. To them, I'm pretty much the best thing ever.

My grandmother couldn't wait to buy dresses for her first granddaughter... but as a kid, I was quite the tomboy... who wanted nothing to do with her frilly gifts. I'm also pretty sure that I was a total pain-in-the-ass... at least 70% of the time.

But honestly, to my grandparents, none of that really mattered. I was their Ashley-Cakes, and to them, I've always been perfect.

I've been so blessed to have such wonderful grandparents in my life. Since the day I was born, I've had amazing role models; I've had advisors; I've had coaches; I've had cheerleaders.

I have a family who would do anything for me. I have a family who's done everything possible to grant my wishes... to encourage my dreams... to support my decisions. I have a family who loves me no matter what I do... or don't do. I have a family who has been there for me... every single day of my life.

Yesterday, I nearly lost two of them. On Christmas day, two of the most important people in my life were almost taken from me.

And suddenly, I had just one Christmas wish... for God: Please don't take my family.

I guess He heard me. They're still here.

I love you, Gran and Granddad. I'm so sorry that you're hurting... I'm so sorry that I can't be there with you. I'm thinking of you every second and praying you'll both be okay.

Thank you for everything you've done --and continue to do-- for me. Please stick around for many more years. I need you.

If anyone would like to donate in honor of my grandparents, please click the link below:


A Letter to my Family

A letter to my family

Dear Mom & Dad,

I'm so sorry I couldn't be with you today. It's not because I didn't want to spend Christmas with my family. I did... more than anything... and I miss you very much.

I hope you understand why I'm not there today. I hope you understand why you didn't see me much this year. I hope you understand why I couldn't be with you... on Christmas day, or Thanksgiving day, or my birthday, or either of your birthdays.

It's not because I don't love you. It's not because I don't need you. It's not because I don't care.

I did it... for them

I hope you understand why I'm always working. I hope you can appreciate the importance of my job. I hope you can at least feel comforted... by my love for what I do.

Honestly, I don't do it for me. I do it for them.

Mom- I know that your heart is broken today, as you spend Christmas without your daughter. I know how much you want me there... I know how much it means to you. I know that you'll have to go through this day... just trying not to cry. I know that you'll pretend to be okay, even though you're not. I know that your only wish today... is to have me there to share it with you. And I know that... in any joyful family moment today, you'll stop and think, "I wish Ashley were here." I know that I won't be there. 

I'm so sorry, Mom. 

Dad- I know that you understand my responsibilities, but obviously... you still miss me. I know it's been so hard for you... to watch your daughter struggle, despite how hard I work. I know that you'd do everything in your power... just to lighten my load... just to see me more. I know that you're just waiting... for the day when I get to take a break and come visit. I know how much it hurts you... when that day never comes. And I know that our family isn't complete today --and most days-- because I'm not there. 

I'm so sorry, Dad. 

I realize that I'm not the only one who's had to sacrifice here. With each of my personal sacrifices... you've both been forced to sacrifice as well. You've had to sacrifice your time with me. You've had to sacrifice your weekends with me, trips with me, and holiday dinners with me. You've had to sacrifice... your daughter.  

But I also know... that you'd sacrifice everything --a million times over... just to see me smile. 

I know how incredibly lucky I am... to have 2 parents who would do anything for me. I know how much you want to help me... and I know just how helpless it makes you feel when I ask you not to.

It's not because I don't appreciate your offers. It's not because I don't want your help. It's not because I don't need you.

It's only because... quite honestly... you've done more than enough for me... all my life.

And even as I say things like, "I hope you understand" ... I already know in my heart... that you do understand. You do get it. You do support me. You're beyond proud of me.

Even still... I know that it's hard... to constantly miss your daughter. To always worry about me. To always make wishes for me... and have them not come true.

But no matter what, I want you to know... that I'm okay. I promise you I am. You don't have to worry so much.

And more than anything... today, I want to say thank you. Thank you for understanding me. Thank you for encouraging me. Thank you for supporting me. Thank you for loving me through it all.

Thank you for teaching me responsibility. Thank you for showing me compassion. Thank you for helping me each and every time I need you. Thank you for guiding me through my journey.

And thank you... for the unconditional love I've known... every single day of my life. 

Because of my sacrifices --and your sacrifices-- I'm able to make a difference in this world. And because I do without --and you do without-- my dogs don't have to. From the bottom of my heart and their's... thank you, Mom and Dad. 

While I can't physically be with you today... or most days... my heart is always there. I'm always thinking of you, missing you, and loving you. I'm always with you... always, always, and forever.

And no matter where life takes me... there will never come a day when I don't need you. Because no matter how old I get... I will always be your little girl.

Merry Christmas, Mom & Dad. I love you.


Their Only Christmas Wish

Christmas is just 3 days away. As many of you prepare to spend the holiday with your loved ones, I'd like to give a voice to my loved ones... to the millions of homeless animals in this country... who may not have anyone to love them this Christmas... if not for you. 

For shelter pets, Christmas is just another day. Obviously, dogs and cats can't understand why this particular day is significant to so many people... because the day itself isn't what's important to them.

Yet... these shelter dogs (and cats) still have needs on Christmas day... and New Year's day... and every other day of the year. To them, there's no such thing as a "holiday." 

While the rest of the world takes a break for the holidays, these animals don't get a "break." Regardless of the time of year... every single pet, in every single animal shelter, still needs food, water, walks, and love... every single day of the year. 

But... if everyone else is busy with family, who takes care of these animals on the holidays?

Well, for the luckiest shelter pets, a special someone offers to sacrifice their own holiday... for them. Someone offers to sacrifice time with their own family... for them. Someone offers to sacrifice their own needs and desires... for them.

Someone... like me.

This someone... is usually the someone... who needs a holiday break more than anyone. This someone is usually the someone... who rarely gets to see their family. This someone is usually the someone... who denies their own needs, over-and-over-and-over again... for others.  

And this someone... the someone who sacrifices so much... is also the someone who never even complains about it...

And because of that someone... the luckiest shelter pets are fed, walked, and loved every single day of the year --including holidays... without question

But honestly... those are the lucky dogs...

In many shelters, one person is left to work on holidays-- alone. That someone is expected to do the jobs of many other people... without help. And because that person has no additional help, many of those shelter animals... just have to do without...  

Maybe the shelter is hoping that volunteers will show that day, to lend a helping hand... but in reality, that's rarely the case. Volunteers are usually non-existent on those days...

And so... on holidays, many shelter dogs don't get that much-needed walk. Many shelter dogs don't receive that desperately-desired special attention. On those days... many shelter dogs... don't even get noticed. 

On holidays, many shelter pets wait in a cage. They wait for their favorite volunteer to arrive... to take them for their special walk. But these dogs just can't understand... why no one will come for them today. And so... they wait.

They wait for someone to notice them... an employee, a volunteer, or an adopter. But that day, no one is there for them. They won't get to be special today. And so... they wait.

They wait for the touch of a caring hand. They wait for a comforting smile. They wait... for their chance to smile, too. But those pets must keep waiting... because today is not their day.

As each of you spends time with your families this holiday season... please remember that millions of homeless animals are not so lucky. Please remember that not everyone gets to go home for the holidays. Please remember that not everyone has someone to love them that day.

And please... if you can, use the time with your family this holiday... to volunteer at your local animal shelter. Please approach that over-worked shelter employee... as they work alone on Christmas day... and thank them for sacrificing their holiday for these animals. Please say, "We're here to help you."

And please... take the time to approach each shelter cage... to give love to a dog who didn't expect anyone to care about them that day, and say, "You are not alone. Merry Christmas." 

*If you can't volunteer this holiday season, you can still help! PLEASE DONATE! Any donation at all would make a huge difference for so many deserving animals!


My Only Christmas Wish

Please help Chance
*I'm begging everyone to PLEASE READ & SHARE!

Before Thanksgiving, I wrote a post titled "I Need Your Help." In that post, I described the stressful, heartbreaking dilemma I face every holiday... when I'm forced to choose between my rescue dogs' needs and my ability to pay the Lucky Dog bills.

Then... at the end of that post, I asked for your help.

I'm so incredibly thankful to each and every person who stepped up to help. If only you could know what it meant to me... and most of all, to my dogs. I'll never find the words to fully describe my gratitude. "Thank you" is all I have. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

However... while I wish the problem was entirely solved... that's just not the case. Let me explain...

You see... the boarding income from Thanksgiving week only covered the Lucky Dog bills for November. December is a whole new month... with a new set of struggles.

The Christmas holidays (including New Year's) represent the busiest time of year for travel... and obviously, dog boarding. Therefore, I depend on that holiday income to help cover the bills for December... and also for January, which is the slowest month of the year for boarding... and the toughest month for me to pay the bills here.

Now... let me just say this: my dog boarding business, Lucky Dog Retreat, is an extremely successful business. With the number of boarding clients I have, I could easily fill every kennel space --and then some-- with paying clients' dogs... and never have to worry about my bills.

Please help Pinky
However, I donate more than half of my business facility to Lucky Dog Rescue... allowing the rescue dogs to live here for free. And that's why... most of the year... I struggle.

Because... when my rescue babies have nowhere else to go, I'm forced to turn-away the many paying clients who request my services... for the sake of my rescue dogs.

In doing so... I reject the much-needed income that allows me to pay the bills here. And again, if I can't cover the Lucky Dog bills... then my Lucky Dogs will have nowhere to go...

I've sacrificed everything, in order to care for my rescue babies. I own and operate a very successful business... but from a financial standpoint, I'm dirt-poor. Because nearly all of my income goes to those rescue dogs. And despite the fact that I work every single day... there are many months of the year, when I pay myself nothing.

Of course, these are things I choose to do... things I want to do... for them. So... that's why... I'm asking for your help again. And yes, I'm begging. But I'm not begging for me. I'm begging for them

This is my only Christmas wish...

Here's what I need:
My boarding rate is $20 per day.
Cost to board one dog for 5 days: $100
Cost to board one dog for 7 days: $140
Cost to board one dog for 14 days: $280

Somehow, someway... I need to cover the cost of 25 rescue dogs for the next 14 days. That's $7,000 total. 

Please help Wonder
 And without help, that's the amount of income I'll be forced to turn away.That's $7,000 worth of bills that I cannot pay here.

Honestly, any donation at all would do so much. If you can spare anything... $5, $10, $20... it will make a huge difference. Even if it seems like nothing to you... it would mean everything to me. To them.

Please... I'm begging you... please help me help my rescue babies. It's my only Christmas wish.


Make checks payable to:
Lucky Dog Rescue
P.O. Box 3224
Meridian, MS 39303


A Pit Bull's Reality

Lucky Dog Rescue is not necessarily a "Pit Bull Rescue."

I'm more of a broken heart rescue. A desperate soul rescue. A no-other-hope rescue.

It just so happens... that many of the dogs with no other hope... are "Pit Bulls." (It also turns out... that I freaking love Pit Bulls.)

But you may wonder why the "bully breeds" need so much help. Why do these particular dogs have no other hope?

Let's start at the beginning... with the "ownership" aspect. Pit Bulls are arguably the most tortured "breed" in the world. (Remember: the term "Pit Bull" actually refers to at least 3 different breeds: the American Pit Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier, and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier.)

These dogs have been used and abused by humans for insanely cruel purposes... resulting in their bad reputation and perceived tough-guy image. This is not their fault.

Pit Bulls are often subjected to inhumane, painful, sadistic practices, such as dogfighting. They are exploited. They are tortured. They are hated.

Other Pit Bulls are chained and used for "protection." Many are used as "breeding machines." Some are used for "bait." In most cases, these guard dogs, breeder dogs, and bait dogs are severely mistreated, starved, and neglected all their lives.

But more than that... these tortured Pit Bulls live each and every day... without love.

Let's talk dogs for a second. Not breeds. Just dogs...

A dog --any dog-- exists for one reason: companionship. That's their entire purpose on this Earth. Dogs live for us. They'd die for us. Dogs love us more than they love themselves.

So... when you deny a dog --any dog-- of that companionship, you deny them of their very purpose in life. And when you strip a dog --any dog-- of their most basic needs: food, water, shelter, and exercise... you slowly kill their spirit.

But sadly... Pit Bulls are rarely desired for companionship. Yet...it's their only wish. Pit Bulls are rarely given food, walks, or warmth. These are their only needs.

Pit Bulls need and desire these things... just as much as every other dog. But far too often, their most basic needs and desires... are denied.

Despite all of this, these dogs live each day... with the hope that maybe today will be better. "Maybe I'll please them today." "Maybe they'll feed me today." "Maybe they'll walk me today." "Maybe they'll love me today."

Because every day --no matter what you do to a Pit Bull-- a Pit Bull will still love you.

However, in the eyes of their abusers, these dogs are completely disposable. They have no value, no worth, and no feelings. The owner determines the dog's "purpose," and the dog must fulfill that purpose... just to survive another day.

When these tortured Pit Bulls have fulfilled their "purpose" --or when they fail to fulfill that purpose-- they're often dumped to die... or killed.

And when a Pit Bull is dumped, where do they go?

That's the next heartbreaking reality for these dogs. Many rescued Pit Bulls end up in animal shelters. And many of those shelters have strict policies regarding bully breeds (Often, these policies are enforced in an attempt to protect these dogs from further abuse. I DO NOT wish to bash any shelter policies here, only to explain the reality for many Pit Bulls).

Some shelters require that all Pit Bulls and Pit Bull mixes be euthanized. Others may deem Pit Bulls as "rescue-only," meaning that only an animal rescue group can pull the dogs from the shelter.

So... that means they have hope, right? From rescue groups?

That's the third devastating reality for Pit Bulls. Many animal rescue organizations cannot or do not take Pit Bulls.

For starters, many rescue groups are located in areas with Breed Specific Legislation (BSL). So, it's actually illegal for those rescues to take any Pit Bulls.

Other rescue groups may choose not to take bully breeds for various reasons. This decision is often made because it's much more difficult to find good, quality homes for these dogs... and the process takes time.

With Pit Bulls, the pet adoption process takes much longer than with other breeds. Due to societal bias --and BSL-- the adopter pool for Pit Bulls is much smaller than for other dogs. So... when a rescue group has limited space and resources, they may not be able to accommodate a Pit Bull until adoption.

...Which ties into the next no-other-hope reality for Pit Bulls: adoption. As I said, the pool of adopters for Pit Bulls is vastly smaller than for any other breed of dog. This is true for many reasons: the misinformation, the societal misconception, the judgment without merit... these things threaten every Pit Bull's future.

Then... for some potential Pit Bull adopters, BSL prevents any chance of adoption. For others, their landlords, their insurance companies, and the opinions of family and friends deter desires to adopt a Pit Bull.

And so... after a lifetime of abuse, many Pit Bulls are simply waiting... with shattered hopes, dreams, and love... to die.

Today... right now, at this very second... thousands upon thousands of Pit Bulls are suffering. Thousands and thousands more are waiting in shelters... for their chance at forever. For their first shot at love.

For many, the suffering will never end. For most, love will never arrive. For the majority, death will get here first.

Except... for a lucky few. The Lucky Dogs.

And that's why I save them.

I don't do it because it's easy. I do it because they're worth it.


Grow Up?

Yep. I'm just a big, dorky kid
When I started this blog nearly one year ago, I knew that I'd be putting myself out there.

With every post I've written since, I'm always aware that I'll be subjecting myself to unnecessary criticism, judgment, and hatred. Sadly, it comes with the territory.

But luckily, that negativity only represents a very small, insignificant portion of the response.

The vast majority of the feedback... is amazing. I'm beyond touched by the incredible amount of love, encouragement, and support I've received from all of you. And I'm truly inspired by the stories you've each shared with me... regarding the impact of my words on your lives. It's just more than I ever dreamed possible...

As I've said many times... I'm still shocked that anyone at all is reading this thing. So... each time I receive any feedback whatsoever --positive, negative, or indifferent-- I'm reminded that someone, somewhere is reading what I write. That's pretty darn crazy. 

Grow up? Me??
In simple terms, I write a blog about animal rescue. But much of the time... I write about life. And over the months, I've shared many of my personal life experiences with all of you.

By doing so, many people feel like they know me, even though we've never met. I think that's awesome... and really freaking cool. 

But of course, there are those always-present critics, who not only feel like they know me, but also feel like they have the right to judge and disrespect me, even though we've never met. 

As with anything in life, there's such a stark contrast between the opinions of the supporters and those of the haters. And while the critics' opinions don't really make a crap to me, I'd still like to use their words --along with the comments of some supporters--  to provide a little more insight into why I am the way that I am...

"She should really grow up..."
In some of those rude, negative comments and messages, I've been told to "Grow up." While I find that pretty darn cute, I have to be honest: I'm kinda hoping that I never really "grow up."

Because... at the core of me, there's a little girl with a dream. And my dream has only come true... because that little girl never "grew up."

She never gave up.

Yet... I also think many people forget that I'm only 27 years old. Just a few short months ago, I was 26. I guess that's how this whole "aging" thing works. Who knew?

The 20's represent a critical time for each of us... to learn, to grow, and to evolve as individuals. This is the decade of our lives where we begin to figure out who we are, what we need, and who & what we love.

"She's really immature"
My 20's are just as important to me... as your 20's are (or were) to your own journey. I learn something new each and every day... and each experience allows me to further become the person I'm meant to be.

However... on the other side of that "grow up" coin... many have often said: "Ashley, you're so wise beyond your years."

While that's a huge compliment to me, it's important to note that any "insight" or "wisdom" I may have... didn't happen by accident.

I was forced to "grow up" long before I ever became an "adult." I've been through a lot in my short life... I've fought battles that most people never have to face... at ages that no one should ever have to face them. That'll make you "grow up" in an instant ... whether you're ready or not.

"She laughs too much."

My parents have watched their daughter go through things that no parent should ever have to witness. My friends and family have seen me through it all... acting as supporters, therapists, and cheerleaders... despite their feelings of helplessness and sadness for me... as I went through things they'd never experienced in their own lives.

Of course, I've never written about many of those experiences... and maybe I never will...

But the point is... I was forced to "grow up" a long time ago. Today, if I really wanted to, I could give a million excuses for being too broken and wounded to go on... and everyone in my life would understand.

But I don't make excuses, and I don't accept pity. I live my life; I follow my heart; I do what I love... each and every day.

I feel so fortunate that I experienced the hardships I had, at the times that I did. Those things helped shape the person I am today. I'm a good person. I do my best. I have no regrets.

"She gets on my nerves."

At the same time... I'm still a 27 year old girl, just trying to make it in this world. I'm a grown up... who's not a grown up. In my opinion, that's the best kind.

Many of my biggest critics... are more than twice my age. I could be their daughter, or granddaughter. So, surely... they're more "grown up" than me, right? Or at least, they should be?

Honestly, at 27 years old, I'm as "grown up" as I need to be. In many ways, I'm too grown up. But I'm still a big kid at heart... and I'll never grow out of that. It makes me... me.

My life hasn't been easy... and I'm thankful for that. My world hasn't been perfect... and neither am I. But as far as I'm concerned, I'm proud of the life I lead... and who I am.

And honestly, that's all that matters.

"Above all else, be proud of who you are." ~Tom Owen, Dad
"There's no Mom on Earth... who's more proud than me." ~Debbie Owen, Mom

"When you're a kid, anything is possible. You think big, you dream bigger, and you know --without a doubt-- that you can do anything. Over time, the world beats us down. The big thoughts are exchanged for conformity. The bigger dreams are traded for stability. The 'can-dos' are replaced with 'can't-dos.' We call that 'growing up.' But really... we didn't grow up at all. We gave up." ~Me, Daughter, Person, Rescuer


The Last Tornado Survivor

My new baby, Benny

Over the last few months, I've written several blog posts about the F5 tornado that devastated the city of Tuscaloosa, Alabama on April 27, 2010. 

On that tragic day back in April, I watched the news footage in horror... as a massive, violent tornado swept through the city of Tuscaloosa --a city I've loved all of my life-- wiping away nearly everything in its path.

Why do I love this particular town so much?

I was lucky enough to spend 4 incredible years of my life at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa (Roll Tide!). It was my home. During that time, I studied; I learned; I drank; and I lived. As far as life lessons go, I learned most of them there. And so much of who I am today... I became in Tuscaloosa.

For those reasons, and many more, Tuscaloosa holds a very special place in my heart.

But on April 27, so much of my special town was wiped away. Many residents lost everything. Many people and animals lost their lives. Suddenly, nothing was the same.

My new baby, Millie
Following the storm, I contacted my dear friends at the Tuscaloosa Metro Animal Shelter. It was obvious that they were completely overwhelmed by the massive number of storm animals suddenly in their care... but they never once complained. They handled this heartreaking, crisis situation like absolute pros, and I was so proud of my amazing friends.

At that time, I immediately offered to take the storm dogs in the worst condition... those that no other rescues would take. Tuscaloosa Metro was so gracious and appreciative for my help, and soon, I'd take 5 of their special needs tornado surivors into my care: Heidi, Wink, Catie, Tucker, and Marco. I'd also take Melody, a tornado survivor from the Huntsville, AL shelter.

Of course, these were the dogs with the biggest medical needs... and the largest vet costs. In addition... each dog's heart had been broken more than once in their life. So, obviously, this was an expensive, emotional undertaking for me. But honestly... it's one of the best decisions I've ever made.

So... you may be wondering why I'm writing about this again today...

Just before Thanksgiving, Kelley with the Tuscaloosa Metro shelter gave me a call. She said, "Ash, I know it's your craziest time of year, but I really need your help with 2 dogs. Is there any chance at all that you can make room for 2 more?"

I responded, "If you can give me until after the holiday, I'll try my best to figure something out..."

One of those dogs was the last tornado survivor still living in the shelter. The other was a male, who was no longer wanted by his family.

Well, if you know me... you already know that I "figured something out." Lucky Dog Rescue... would be taking 2 more...

And so... nearly 8 months after the storm, I made the decision to rescue the final tornado survivor, and another desperate male dog, from Tuscaloosa Metro.

Here are their stories...

Millie was the last tornado survivor at the Tuscaloosa Metro Animal Shelter. After the horrific storm nearly took her life, Millie ended up at the shelter. For the last 7 months, she's been waiting there... hoping for a family... with no luck.

Despite the horrors of her past, Millie is full of life, love, and hope. She's a spunky girl with tons of personality. She loves to run and play, but she's also content just to cuddle right by your side. Millie loves other dogs, children, and all people. Her only wish in life... is for a family of her own.

Millie is a young, female, mixed breed. She's small/medium in size, and absolutely adorable! However, Millie is heartworm positive, so she'll be starting treatment this week. Once her treatment is complete, she'll be spayed, fully vaccinated, heartworm negative... and ready for the family of her dreams...
*If you're interested in adopting my Millie, please fill out Adoption Application: http://www.petpardons.com/adoption

Benny was brought into the Tuscaloosa Metro Animal Shelter as a stray. Soon thereafter, the shelter was able to locate his owners... who said they no longer wanted him.

Even though Benny's only wish was to go home, his family denied his request. And ever since... he's been waiting... for someone to take him home again...

Benny is a 2 year old, male, American Bulldog mix. He's absolutely gorgeous and super-smart! Benny has tons of energy, and he loves to run and play with other dogs. He's also a big cuddle bug, who loves to snuggle on the couch. However, Benny can be quite the escape artist, so I'll be working with him to correct that behavior. He's neutered, fully vaccinated, and heartworm negative.

Now... he just wants to go home...

*If you're interested in adopting my Benny, please fill out Adoption Application: http://www.petpardons.com/adoption
I could really use help with Benny & Millie's vet costs. Please click the donate link below if you can help. Thank you!


Home for the Holidays

In animal rescue, there are many tough days. Often... the tough days turn into tough weeks... which soon become tough months.

But days like today... make it all worth it.

Today, my Marco was adopted. Yes, that Marco... my little storm survivor.

On Monday, I wrote a heartfelt blog about Marco. My greatest hope was that the post would lead my special boy home for the holidays...

But in writing that post, I knew the reality of the situation. I've written blog posts about each of my Lucky Dogs. Many of those posts were written months ago... and many of those pups are still waiting to go home.

Why so? At Lucky Dog Rescue, I take the dogs with no other hope. My dogs are rescued from the most horrific situations... abuse, neglect, chaining, baiting, and torture. I also save many with special needs, illness, and health issues.

I choose to save the worst of the worst... because they deserve it. These are the babies who've experienced the purest evil that exists in this world... never receiving an ounce of compassion to ease their pain.

And if not for Lucky Dog, nearly every dog here would've been killed in a shelter... without ever knowing love.

However, in saving the worst cases... I'm also saving the least adoptable dogs. Therefore, my dogs are often here with me for much longer than many pets with other animal rescue groups. And I'm okay with that. 

When I save these dogs, I know that they'll likely stay with me for a while.

So... when they finally do go home... there's this mixture of pain and joy in my heart... that just can't be described in words.

For me, that moment is incredible. It's heartbreaking. It's everything to me.

Today, my Marco was adopted. For months now... I've been waiting for this day. Because today is the day... that I finally got to send my special, homeless boy... home, forever.

But the best part? Marco wasn't adopted by strangers... but by a family he already knows and loves.

My friend, Kim, was one of the amazing fosters that stepped-up to help me over the Thanksgiving holiday. When she offered to foster one of my babies for the week, I said, "What about Marco?" She excitedly said, "Yes!!!"

I knew that Marco would steal Kim's heart --he's freaking awesome-- but I never in a million years expected Kim's family to adopt him. That was just too good to be true. 

But when they brought Marco back to Lucky Dog, Kim couldn't stop crying. She didn't even want to go home that night... because Marco wasn't there. And every day after that, Kim would check-in with me, to ask how he was doing.

Yesterday, I was going through a couple of adoption applications for Marco. As I was about to contact one of the families for an interview, I received a text from Kim:

"Ashley, we'd really love to adopt our baby Marco."

Suddenly, tears filled my eyes. I said, "Really?!?! Kim!!! Best news ever! He's yours."

Kim's family has been so good to me, and especially to Marco. When I received that message from her, my heart was filled with so much joy... knowing that my Marco... was finally going home.

Today, Kim came to adopt her new baby. When she walked through the door, Marco's smile and excitement lit up the room. That moment... was one of the greatest moments of my life.

For Marco... it's the only moment that's ever really mattered.

As Kim was filling out the adoption paperwork, I said: "Just so you know... I'm going to sob when you leave with him. But I promise I'm so happy for Marco. I'm just sad for me. I'm going to miss him so much."

Kim said, "Aww, Ashley! Every time we go out of town, we'll be boarding Marco here at Lucky Dog Retreat. So, you'll see him again soon. I promise."

I looked down at Marco, and said, "Did you hear that, buddy?! We still get to play together!" I watched his tail wag like crazy.

I kneeled down, to give Marco one more massive hug. I held his face, looked him in the eyes, and through my tears, I said: "I know you have a new mom now... but can I still be your best friend?"

Marco smiled and kissed my cheek. Then, with tears streaming down my face... I watched, as Marco pranced out the door with his new mom, Kim.

And just like that... my Marco went home for the holidays... and forever.



Yesterday, I wrote a post about the holiday season. The post was never intended to be negative, or controversial, or offensive.

Instead, it was written with the sincerest hope and optimism... that maybe someone, somewhere would feel inspired to make a difference. Maybe someone would decide to donate this Christmas.  Maybe someone would choose to volunteer their time. Maybe someone would offer help to another someone... a person or animal... who has nothing and no one.

I received many positive, encouraging comments and messages about that post. In fact, it did inspire many to change some of their lifelong holiday habits. It inspired many to volunteer with their family this season. It inspired many to donate to those in need. It inspired many to ask others to join them.

Most of all, it made people think. It planted a seed. Maybe a tiny seed... but a seed nonetheless. A seed of change... with the potential to grow into the world we should all hope to see one day.

And honestly, that's enough for me...

However, as always, I received some negative feedback, both publicly and privately. Of course, I expected as much, and I'm honestly okay with it.

But I won't lie... it baffles me a little... and here's why...

I wrote a post about giving to others. I mentioned the children around the world without toys or clothes. I mentioned the people without food or shelter. I mentioned the animals without love or hope.

I noted the fact that many of our loved ones don't really "need" anything... but we still buy them gifts every Christmas... because that's what we're "supposed to do." That was never to say that our loved ones don't deserve gifts... or that all gift giving is bad or completely unnecessary. It just means that most of us don't really need much. Which is true.

Further, I referred to the many people and animals on this earth... who do have needs --simple, basic needs-- that cannot be met... without our help.

I also talked about the impact of these holiday traditions on our children... who represent the future of this world. I suggested that we should use the holidays to teach them about the joy of giving to those in need... so they may go out into the world with an appreciation for what they have... and the desire to make a difference for those who aren't as fortunate. I also mentioned how it's a massive disservice to deny our children of that joy. And it is.

Basically, I wrote about the season for giving... and noted that much of the giving is gifted to those who don't really need it. I shared my thoughts on how things should be. And then, I conveyed my hope for change...

Even now... in restating my message from yesterday's post, I'm truly blown away that anyone could be offended by those words. I'm baffled that anyone would disagree with an honest perception of the true reason for the season. I'm saddened that so many people feel the need to defend their current actions... instead of feeling compelled to do something truly amazing for this world.

If you were offended by my post... it's not because I tried to offend you. If you were upset, angry, or annoyed, it's not because of my negative intent. And if you felt the need to defend your actions, then it seems you missed the entire point.

If you took issue with my words, then maybe you should ask yourself why you felt that way. Really... ask yourself. Because I can almost guarantee.... that it has very little to do with me or what I said. And honestly, I shouldn't be blamed for any guilt you may have felt... just because I presented the truth.

No one should ever be condemned for honest attempts to make the world a better place. That's all I ever try to do... and I will not apologize for it. :)

*To everyone who was inspired to make a difference this holiday season... thank you... for also inspiring me. YOU can & will change the world with your amazing, selfless actions.  


'Tis the Season?

The holiday season is upon us... the special time of year that's meant for kindness, love, and most of all... goodwill.

But honestly... kindness, love, and goodwill suffer more during the holidays... than any other time of year.

First of all, I don't think we should have just one time of year for goodwill. In my opinion... that should be a year-round gig.

But regardless, why does the "season for giving" always seem to result in fewer acts of giving to those who truly need it? That's my biggest issue with this time of year, and it breaks my heart to pieces.

From a charitable standpoint, donations suffer immensely during the holidays. In addition, volunteers are few-and-far-between. Giving-back and helping-out? Well... that can wait until January.

Because... instead, finances and time are exhausted on buying tons of gifts for family and friends... who obviously deserve gifts... but who don't actually need gifts. And more than half the time, an un-needed gift is purchased for a loved one... just to say, "Here... I got you something."

Am I lying? I wish I was.

Further, children who have every toy they could ever want --and then some-- are gifted with even more toys. Family members who --quite honestly-- don't need or ask for anything... must receive gifts... to somehow prove "love."

All the while, there are children around the globe without toys. There are people in this country without food and shelter. There are dogs in your town... without hope.

Here's my opinion: the season for giving should be dedicated to those who so-desperately need the gift of giving. To those who can only dream of gifts... simple things, like food, warmth, and shelter. To those who won't receive one single gift this holiday season... if not for you.

By teaching our children that the holidays are only about what they receive... instead of what they give to others... we deny them of one of the greatest experiences on this earth: the joy of making a difference.

And by setting familial expectations at nothing more than giving and receiving pointless gifts... instead of giving needed items to those who need them... we deny ourselves of that same joy.

This holiday season... my greatest hope is that families will begin to change their focus... from giving to one another... to giving to others. Maybe a family will decide to volunteer together this Christmas, instead of opening unnecessary presents. Maybe friends will decide to donate to charities, instead of exchanging useless gift cards.

Maybe the season of giving... can become the season of giving. It all starts... with you.



Meet Marco. He's awesome.

Earlier this year, Marco survived the F5 tornado that devastated the city of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The storm was horrific, terrifying... and deadly. Honestly, he shouldn't even be alive today.

After the storm, Marco ended up in the Tuscaloosa Metro Animal Shelter.

However, the Marco that arrived at the shelter... looked very different from the Marco you see today...

Marco has severe allergies. But apparently, his former family never cared enough to accommodate his needs, because he arrived at the shelter... in immense physical pain, with almost no hair on his body.

Following an allergy test, the shelter began to feed and care for Marco based on his specific needs. Then, they called me.

After the storm, I'd made the offer to take the survivors in the worst condition. Obviously, Marco fell into that category.

So... we arranged transport from the shelter in Tuscaloosa, Alabama to Lucky Dog Rescue in Meridian, Mississippi. When he arrived here, Marco joined 5 of his fellow storm survivors: Heidi, Catie, Wink, Tucker, and Melody.

Since then, I've watched Marco heal, and grow, and flourish. I've watched Marco come to life.

Today, Marco is so happy. He's so healthy. He's so loved... and he knows it.

Today, Marco loves life. He loves cuddling. He loves running. And he loves playing with other dogs. Each day, I'm so honored to watch my special little boy... prancing through the grass without a care in the world. It's such a stark contrast from the life he's always known... a life of stress and pain and heartbreak. A life... that really... just wasn't a life at all.

Today, Marco lives a life worth living... a life that he never knew was possible. With every precious glance, I can see the gratitude shining through his eyes.... the happiness radiating from his smile... and the love pouring from his heart. With every kiss, I can almost hear the words... "Thank you. This is all I ever wanted..."

Now that Marco is healed... he needs a special family. Marco is a 1-2 year old, Husky mix. He's fully-vetted, including neuter, vaccinations, and monthly heartworm preventative. He loves other dogs -- both large and small-- and he likes cats and children as well. He's extremely well-behaved, with excellent manners and a calm, gentle spirit. He enjoys playtime and walks on the leash, but he's also happy just to cuddle by your side. Marco is available for adoption with Lucky Dog Rescue in Meridian, Mississippi, but transport can be arranged to the perfect family in another area.

Marco has lived his entire life... with only 2 small wishes: to know a life without pain, and to know a life of love. And honestly, the pain would've been worth it to him... if he'd just had the love.

But I want to show Marco... that he doesn't have to choose. I want him to finally understand... that he can have both. Please... help me make Marco's dreams come true. Help me send my baby home.

*Even if you can't adopt Marco, PLEASE SHARE this post... so his family can find him!
If you are interested in adopting my Marco, please fill-out the online Adoption Application: http://www.petpardons.com/adoption