In August 2016, floods devastated portions of Louisiana, leaving thousands of people homeless and displacing hundreds of animals. Shelters that were already overcrowded soon found themselves struggling to deal with a massive influx of “flood dogs,” leaving many with no other option but to euthanize animals who were currently in the shelter to make space for the incoming animals. It’s a heartbreaking choice that many shelters face on a daily basis, even when they aren’t in the midst of a natural disaster.
When Lisa Booth, founder and director of Good Karma Animal Rescue of MN, heard about the flood and what shelters were facing, she reached out to a few contacts to ask how she could help. Two weeks later, Booth and a team of four volunteers loaded up their vehicles and started the 23-hour trek down south. “I didn’t know what to expect,” said Booth, reflecting on what would become the first of many trips to Louisiana. When they arrived, it was far worse than she had imagined.
“Dogs were roaming everywhere,” said Booth. “It looked like a different country.” She also explained how some dogs had been left chained up in their yards, only to be discovered weeks later when the flood waters receded. It’s horrifying to think about, and even worse to experience in person. Several days later, the Good Karma team made their way back to Minnesota with 26 dogs, but she knew their work was far from over. It would take months, if not longer, for Louisiana to recover from the aftermath of the flood. The shelters needed all of the help they could get, and what had started as a one-time trip soon became a monthly rescue effort.
On a Mission to Help Save Lives
Walking into the shelter can be overwhelming, especially when you know that you aren’t able to take all of the dogs in need. “For every dog you take, there’s 12 you can’t take,” said Booth, who, as a foster-based organization, has to base the number of dogs she takes on the availability of foster homes.
Louisiana’s warm, swampy climate also means almost all of the dogs they take in are suffering from heartworm disease (which is transmitted by mosquitoes) or skin conditions like ringworm and mange. They also see a lot of dogs that have sustained significant injuries such as broken legs. Taking on medical cases can be financially draining, especially for a small organization, but she also knows these are the dogs that need to get out of the shelter first.
The trips are long and the work is exhausting, both physically and emotionally, but even with the added responsibilities of running an organization on her plate, Booth makes sure she goes on every trip. She says being able to meet each dog and be part of their journey is what gives her the energy she needs to keep going.
Good Karma tries to help the dogs that have been at the shelter the longest, and she has a soft spot for those that others might be hesitant to take. Dogs like Grace, for instance, a sweet Pit Bull with soulful eyes and a face that will melt your heart.
Grace was found in a dumpster with chemical burns along her entire back. She had been sitting at the shelter for seven months, bearing scars that tell a story of the unimaginable cruelty she had suffered. Pit Bulls already have already have a few strikes against them due to stereotypes, so Booth felt compelled to bring Grace back to Minnesota to find an adoptive home. She’s been through a lot, including surgery to repair her scar tissue, but despite everything, Grace remains a loving, playful dog. “She’s amazing,” said Booth.
We Can All Can Make a Difference
Booth says she hopes to see her organization continue to grow, allowing them to save even more dogs — both locally and in Louisiana. She also wants to help people understand the crisis many shelters face, and the importance of coming together as a community to help save lives. It’s something that led her to leave her corporate job four years ago to start Good Karma. The small, but mighty rescue has helped 765 dogs (plus seven cats and a rabbit) get a second chance.
“We’re not the biggest rescue,” said Booth. “So we can’t go down and take 100 dogs, but we can save 20.” And for those 20 dogs, it’s a new lease — or, leash — on life. A life filled with trips to the park, belly rubs and snuggles with their human. It’s a life that all dogs deserve, and one that was made possible because someone saw a need, and decided to help.
Over 6.5 million animals enter U.S. shelters every year; of that number, 1.5 million are euthanized — just because they don’t have a home. But you can help change that by choosing to adopt. If you’re unable to adopt, you can still help save animals in your community by volunteering at a shelter, donating or signing up to be a foster home.
All images source: Good Karma Rescue of MN/Facebook