In 2015, once a month or so, I want to try out a new feature and do a Q and A with an unsung hero in the animal activism business. I’ll call it Friends of the Farnival. When I say unsung hero I mean people that most of us have no idea exist but who make incredible contributions to rescue efforts in their communities.
I’d like to start by introducing my favorite activist in all of Robertson County: Danita Fowler. Danita’s young for having accomplished so much; she’s only 23-years-old and has been independently rescuing puppies since she was twenty. She deals with puppies because she says she simply doesn’t have the room for big dogs.
Danita lives with her mother and father in rural Tennessee, where over the past two years they’ve fostered and rehomed 200 puppies that they meticulously catalog by name, date, and picture in photo albums. Last weekend, when I visited her home, she was caring for 24 puppies at one time; all were under six-weeks-old.
Over the past couple of years, all of the dogs she ended up inviting into her own permanent pack have a glitch or two; she has a weakness for the unwanted. While we were there, we met a dog without an eyeball, another without teeth, and another that had seizures.
Danita never stops working, not even for an interview, and when we talked she was mixing formula for the newest litter, while her mother and father each sat in their respective armchairs, bottle-feeding three-week-old pups. At the Fowler household animal rescue is a family affair.
How do you keep up with all the puppies? Your house is so clean.
Oh, thank you. Whew. I clean a lot. I change the paper in the puppies’ crates all day long. Every week we raid the Browser newspaper boxes at Kroger’s. We try to be nice and wait until Sunday afternoon.
How do you fund your rescue efforts?
Through babysitting [children.] I babysit three to four, maybe five days a week. Plus, I charge an adoption fee for fosters. I charge what I put into the dog, a little extra to cover the next litter.
When you interview potential adopters, what’s an instant red flag?
If they refer to a dog as an” it.” I’ll get these email that will say ‘Is it still available?’ I won’t even respond.
You don’t advertise, so how do people find out that you take in abandoned litters? Danita’s mom, still bottle-feeding pups, answers from her recliner:
Take the lady with the litter of pit [bull] mixes. We were picking up formula in the puppy aisle. And we knew her from church and she says, do you have puppies? Do we have puppies?! Danita says. And then the lady asks, do you want some more? That’s how it happens. I told Danita next time someone’s standing in the puppy aisle, we’re not going in there.
Do you remember every one of the 200 dogs you’ve fostered?
I remember what litter they were from and their names, even without checking my photo album.
How long does it normally take you to find homes for the pups?
Once I get them dewormed and vaccinated, it takes about two weeks. I try to do most of the vetting myself. I order their shots from the [Dorris Milling Company] in bulk. And we spend a lot of early mornings driving to Gallatin to get them fixed at the [Sumner County Spay and Neuter Alliance].
Would you ever give up rescuing dogs?
It gets overwhelming. Right before this winter, I said I’m not going to take any pups. Then I got hit with Betsy, Bianca, and Bernard, and it turned into my busiest winter. It’s hard to say no when it’s so cold.
What would you do if you weren’t rescuing puppies?
I never thought about it. It might be kind of nice to know.
Does the overpopulation problem in Robertson County ever make you mad?
When it’s the same person that calls over and over and says I got another litter. Yeah that makes me mad. It really does. It really does bother me. I mean I understand one slip-up. I get it. But once it got to the point I had to change my number because this one lady wouldn’t leave me alone.
One day do you have dreams of opening up your own animal rescue facility?
I always have. I’ve had the name picked out for years. Belle’s Buddies…I had one girl try to talk me into opening one of those gofundme.com accounts, but I hate asking people for money.
Who is Belle?
Belle was simply the greatest little dog I’ve ever had. I’ve never had a bond like that with any other dog.
What’s up with the dog without an eye?
That’s Niles. The vet says he doesn’t have an eyeball in one socket and the other didn’t develop. He eats like a horse and runs into the swing set all the time. He was one of the cutest little puppies.