Each year 10,000 abused and neglected dogs are brought to Atlanta’s Fulton County Animal Control. Though half of those animals are adopted out to loving families, nearly 5,000 dogs become casualties in the most populated animal shelter in Georgia. That’s where people like Michael Rowe ’95 come in. Michael works for the Barking Hound Village Foundation Rescue, a non-profit that rehabilitates and find homes for dogs that end up on the shelter’s death row. Their mission is to save the lives of lost, abandoned and unwanted pets in Fulton County. And that mission, according to Michael, falls right in line with his life course.
Back in June of last year, three pit bull puppies found Rowe as he walked his pit-pointer mix, and through his search for a good home for those pups, he stumbled on Barking Hound. This wasn’t the first time Matt had found himself seeking help for a misplaced canine in his community. After spending some time with the organization, Michael seized an opportunity to carry out this work full-time.
“[People] have always said, ‘Do [for a living] what you like to do anyway,” says Michael. “Well, I’ve always taken the dogs in…I’ve done that all my life. This is something I really love doing…and I think I’ve found my niche.”
There are only a handful of full-time associates at BHVFR, so Michael shares a number of different responsibilities—but his main job is preparing 60 dogs each month for a new home. Unlike most other animal shelters, Barking Hound guarantees a home to the 60 dogs they take in each month, relocating them through other rescues in the northeastern U.S.—where strays are fewer and sterilization laws are stringent. Each month, Michael selects the dogs he is confident the foundation can place, and spends the entire month rehabilitiating, socializing, and nursing sick dogs back to health. After placing the dogs on their website for other reputable rescue organizations to see, the dogs are then transported to the partner rescue, where a loving family meets the dog. In less than two years, Barking Hound has saved the lives of over 1,500 animals.
Although Barking Hound typically chooses dogs with decent health and temperament, they often “take chances” on certain less-marketable dogs, like bully breeds.
“We never send a dog without a plan,” said Michael. “So before we send them, we know exactly where they are going. There are some very large rescues in the northeast that [serve] shelters where they can’t fill capacity. That is unheard of down here. So we are dealing with supply and demand….we are taking the dogs where there’s an immediate demand for them.”
After graduating from Oglethorpe, the English major worked in the educational field and owned his own business before finding his true calling. With just under a year of professional canine relocation under his belt, Michael says he would like to someday run his own rescue.
“I want to do it because I think I can be good at it,” says Michael, who admits that the field carries long hours and even 2 a.m. calls from people who want to report a stray dog. “This industry needs more people who can run rescues…and people who love to do this work [are going to] find a way to do this.”
One would think that after seeing so many animals come and go, even a dog-lover like Michael would become somewhat impassive to the inevitable goodbyes. Does he ever become attached to them?
“Yes–every thirty days…but then I clean up after they’re gone, and I go to the shelter to choose another group. That’s when I’m happy all over again.”
Photo: Michael helps with tick removal on a black lab named Bob. Check out Video: Michael and the BHVFR are profiled on WXIA-TV. The shelter is always in short supply of puppy food and volunteers. To help, visit http://www.bhvfrescue.org/