Have you ever met a woman who is so driven that she is able to do things that are insurmountable to most people? A woman so humble she never asks for money or allows you to sing her praises? A woman who is widowed and 81 years old, with 4 knee replacements and a recent back surgery, who never complains and always says ‘yes’ to any dog whether unwanted, abused or unloved? A woman with a reputation for great strength and endurance, praised by her volunteers, who share stories of trying to keep up with her passion and work pace? A woman who has been called the ‘Mother Theresa of Dogs’ because of her life-long devotion to all those who are in her care?
Let me introduce you to Gail Ross of ‘Gail’s Pets Second Chance’. Gail is beloved in the Ozark Mountains of North Central Arkansas for her remarkable love of dogs. As a no-kill shelter for the last 20 years, dogs that are abandoned, abused or unwanted end up on her doorstep. Just to get a perspective, in the last 7 years, Gail has adopted out 815 dogs to forever homes. Gail has also turned her house into a home for all dogs who are deemed too old, too ill or have been through too much abuse to be adopted. These dogs become her ‘personal dogs’ and are loved by her and cared for all the days of their lives. They roam her beautiful log cabin, enjoying coolness from the tile floors in the summers when temperatures near 100 degrees and warmth in the winter months curled up beside the fireplace. The sign on the front door sums it up well: “Saving one dog will not change the world – but for that one dog the world will be forever changed.”
Sometimes, the dogs in Gail’s
care are delivered to her, and sometimes she goes out and finds them
herself. As one example, a dog was once abandoned at the water’s edge,
starving, abused and somewhat deformed with her tongue permanently hanging out,
and missing many teeth. Once Gail heard about the little dog, she drove
down and picked up the animal herself and welcomed her as her personal pet into
her home, never to be alone or harmed again. Though that dog passed on
some time ago, Gail now has 6 dogs of her own (all of whom are unadoptable) and
41 additional dogs, including 7 puppies, that are in her care awaiting
A small separate room behind the living room houses a tiny puppy, named Wally, that was rescued from a Walmart parking lot by caring people, who took the pup out of the extreme heat and contacted Gail. This precious puppy is awaiting a trip to the veterinarian after the weekend ends. This same room serves as a medical room, as one can see when Gail picks up her dog Missy (who is diabetic) and gives her the first of 2 shots of insulin for the day to keep her alive. Gail hugs her and speaks to her lovingly and gives her a special treat after the injection is done. Then, Gail sets the clock for 8 hours later until the next shot is due. This continues every day, as well as many of the monthly maintenance shots for all the dogs, which are done by Gail and her volunteers. In addition, there is also a dog that is blind, a dog that is deaf, and a dog with Chrohn’s disease, along with many who have been harmed in some way. On the back porch behind the medical room is a screened-in deck where all the older dogs with special needs that cannot be outside in the kennels can enjoy fresh air and live in a cozy nest of their own overlooking the chickens, cats, and gorgeous fauna and flora of greens, reds, oranges and yellows swaying in the breeze providing wonderful smells and a relaxing feel.
There was also a time a few weeks back when 2 large dogs roamed a remote area of town and people contacted Gail. There is no dog catcher in this small town, no mayor, no government services like in a city – so everyone pitches in to help. One of the volunteers delivered a dog crate and food and water to the area and was able to catch one of the dogs and contacted Gail and together they caught the other dog and brought them both to the dog sanctuary for an opportunity of new life and much needed love. Both dogs were starving and abandoned but now feel safe and at ease. “Every dog deserves a second chance” is what you’ll hear Gail say, usually with tears in her eyes.
In Gail’s youth she was an excellent horsewoman evidenced by the hundreds of large trophies that are on the top shelf of the barn that houses the supplies of the dogs. She has always known hard physical work and credits her upbringing with her work ethic. Her first dog was a Malamute-Husky mix named Nomie from Alaska. If money allowed, the Sanctuary would probably house abandoned animals of all kinds as her love is abundant for all animals.
One of the volunteers said it is the “Disneyland for Dogs,” describing the wading pools, shade trees, clean kennels and handmade dog shelters in each area. The small building that houses the 7 new puppies is teeming with excitement as their proud Momma Foxy shows off the adorable, little pups. Foxy herself was dumped in the middle of the woods in late June. A local cattle rancher was riding on a tractor when she noticed a dog hiding in the field. She called to the dog, who looks just like an all-white fox, and the sweet dog jumped up on her lap on the tractor. After 2 baths to clear hundreds of ticks, and food and water to nurse her back to health, Foxy was delivered to Gail and much to everyone’s surprise, delivered 7 pups a few days after arrival. This story often repeats itself as puppies seem to be a recurring theme. With a smile on her face, Gail picks up a puppy with markings that look like he’s wearing a belt, kisses it and says, ‘I love the smell of puppies.’
This is how the kennel has 41 dogs which is over the limit but that doesn’t stop Gail who quickly opens another area in her house or fashions an area in the kennel to take in another. There is a great need for resources and supplies. At one time Walmart was providing some of the food for the dogs but that program stopped. The area is rural and remote without extra resources to help. Many people are just trying to feed their children and have nothing extra for abandoned dogs. Gail contributes in every way she can. Collecting labels from soup cans and scrap metal are both on the list. Gail drives the large truck and trailer filled with metal that she picked up or people donated down the mountains and through the curvy roads 40 miles into town. Getting beyond her driveway alone is a task. It is 2 1/2 miles of backwoods and gravel so narrow UPS will not deliver to her home and certain vehicles cannot even fit. But that doesn’t stop Gail.
The outdoor kennels have dog houses and about half of the kennels have lean-to shade coverings as well as trees to beat the summer heat as well as small swimming pools. Capable and dedicated volunteers turned a 12×16 wood garden shed into a deluxe insulated shampoo shed including propane. In the winter, if it is too cold outside, Gail and her volunteers bring each dog into this shed to individual dog crates for the night and return them in the morning to their outdoor kennels. This is labor intensive, and many of the dogs are large, strong and will pull against Gail and the volunteers all the way to the shed. But that doesn’t deter Gail who works on her own most nights, and many of the days too. Her volunteers are paramount, and an effort to recruit more dog walkers during the week is underway, because 2 of her faithful volunteers recently passed away. Gail and her volunteers have plenty of ideas to make improvements and continue this excellent care to dogs, but funding is needed.
Please help us honor this ‘UNSUNG HERO’ in her 80’s in continuing her life’s work of loving dogs and finding them forever homes. Gail will never ask, but the need is great. With 41 dogs to feed and find homes, as well as building permanent outdoor shelter to cover the dogs in harsh weather, your support is greatly appreciated. As Gail says, “anything extra is more than we had before.”
Please consider a donation of any size and see the amazing dogs and people at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Animal-Shelter/Gails-Pets-Second-Chance-100763513364911/ Gail will spend 100% of the money on the dogs!
If you’d like to send a personal note of encouragement to Gail, please send it to:
Gail’s Pets Second Chance
PO Box 83
Oakland, AR 72661