Sarcasm, laughs and mission are three words that accurately describe the staff at Echota Pet Advocacy and Rescue Group.
These animal aficionados have a deep-rooted desire to save animals, and find homes for homeless man’s best friend.
In the front of the rescue, clients are greeted by kennel staff members Brianna Peardon and Katherine Frojen, and office manager Debbie Aldridge.
The sounds from the back make their way to the front as barking and meowing friends voice their opinions of the day.
The idea for this non-profit organization began when Dr. Keri Hogan, of Calhoun Pet Care, and Aldridge saw a need for a no-kill refuge for abandoned animals in Gordon County.
That mission began in 2005. Seven years later, many dogs and cats have been saved, and the two hope to continue to save more lives for years to come.
“We take in strays; we rescue dogs from the shelter,” said Frojen. “We have a couple of dogs that have been here almost five years. It’s unfortunate that this is the only life they know.”
Whether the animals are adopted in a few days or remain at the rescue for years, it doesn’t matter to the staff.
“We are a no-kill facility,” explained Frojen. “Our space is limited; it all depends on if we can accept the pet or not. Health issues and aggression and some breeds, like pit bulls, we are not allowed to have.”
However, in some cases, the rescue will assist sick animals, anyway.
“Even with some health issues, sometimes we can expect them,” said Peardon. “We obviously can’t spend thousands of dollars, but in some cases, we can help them.”
The rescue has received many donations to help with the animals; some have even donated food for the dogs and cats.
“We have received a bunch of donations for food that we could not use,” said Frojen. “We have our animals on a specific diet; we prefer it to be fairly high quality food because we believe input equals output.”
Frojen actually takes the unused food to the Gordon County Animal Shelter, where Echota Pet Rescue sometimes adopts animals to bring back to the rescue.
“We help each other out a lot,” said Frojen.
Life of a volunteer
While the thought of playing with dogs and cats all day may seem like the ideal lifestyle for any pet lover, reality is not that perfect.
The staff at the rescue has to deal with hyperactive puppies, cats who scratch and dogs that bite out of fear, and that’s just the beginning.
Peardon, standing tall, hair pulled back and in comfortable clothing, holds up a leash that she calls her own idea of an accessory.
“We wear these (leashes) all the time,” said Peardon.
Frojen laughed, “We consider everything a runway.”
Part of being on the “runway” consists of tending to each and every need that a dog or cat may have.
“It’s doing what they need; we walk and feed them,” said Frojen. “It’s not just playing with puppies.”
“It’s more labor than people think; it’s more than picking up poop in the yard,” she said. “We clean up a lot of pee.”
Paws for a cause
The abundance of homeless animals in the area is outstanding. Whether the animal is a stray, abandoned or sick, the only way to help alleviate the homeless number is to get animals fixed.
“Spay and neuter, spay and neuter and spay and neuter,” begged Frojen. “Don’t go to a pet store and buy an animal; any shelter animal is 1000 times better than any animal you get from a store.”
Shelter animals have needs that pet store animals usually have met on a daily basis.
“Animals at the pet store they don’t know love, they are not treated that way,” said Frojen. “I treat all these animals like they’re my own.”
Aldridge said that while they started the rescue for the obvious reasons, she wants to stress the importance of spaying and neutering, too.
“We are very pro spay and neuter,” she said. “Please, please spay and neuter.”
She went on to explain that not only are people who adopt an animal helping them, but they are getting a quality pet and life companion.
“All dogs and cats are spayed and neutered before they go home,” she explained. “The animals are heartworm negative for dogs and negative for feline leukemia and FIV for cats.”
All animals have also had their vaccinations. However, depending on when the pet is adopted, some of its vaccines may not have been administered, but Echota Pet Rescue will take care of any needs.
Adoption fees and programs
In order to adopt an animal from Echota, there is a flat fee of $125 for a cat or a dog.
“They are up-to-date on their flea meds, heartworm treatments, and they’ve gotten all their shots,” explained Frojen. “Adopt a pet.”
According to Aldridge, the rescue was the beneficiary of the Calhoun Women’s Club Sequoyah Ball. They are still using proceeds raised from the event to help the animals and the community.
“We have used some of that money to start up a low cost spay and neuter program for limited income folks,” Aldridge said.
The Secretary of Echota Pet Rescue Jeri Couch said that they started this program to help the community out and to save lives.
“We hear a lot of complaining about the price of spaying and neutering,” said Couch. “We have put out about probably 250 applications, I’ve done 43. I would love to do hundreds.”
Couch said that the cost for a cat, spay or neuter is $15, and for dogs it is $20 for spay or neuter. If the person cannot prove that the animal has had rabies or not, then there is an additional $5 charge.
“We also accept the Gordon County Animal Shelter certificate,” said Couch.
This program is need-based meaning that less income individuals can save a life and take care of the basic necessitates of an animal.
“If any government is coming your way, you qualify, or if your gross annual income is less than $22,000,” explained Couch. “All we ask you to prove is your need, and it doesn’t even have to be need based if you have the shelter certificate.”
She added, “People need to take advantage of this program that is being offered to them.”
The Echota Pet Advocacy and Rescue Group is in need of more animal loving volunteers, and people who are looking to add another member to the family.
For more information, call 706-624-3993, or visit them on the web at www.echotapetrescue.org.