A wing and a prayer 

Shelter dogs flying high to new homes

click to enlarge GIVES DOGS A CHANCE: Kessler with rescued pooches.
  • GIVES DOGS A CHANCE: Kessler with rescued pooches.

The realities of life for a shelter dog can be grim. Often abandoned by their owners or collected from the streets, most aren't the healthiest animals in the world, riddled with ailments ranging from worms to mange. For most dogs that wind up in a shelter in Arkansas, their end consists of a some basic medical care, a few weeks of food while waiting for a new owner who never comes, then the long walk to the euthanasia room.

While many would like to see that changed, one group — Last Chance Arkansas — has been able to find a way to throw a handful of dogs a lifeline. For the past four years, the group has been rescuing dogs from Little Rock Animal Services, giving them three weeks of training and medical care, then driving them to a cargo dock at Memphis to catch a plane. From there, they fly out to new homes in places as far flung as Boston, New York State, and British Columbia.

Carrie Kessler is the executive director for Last Chance Arkansas. She said that while animal shelters in the South are routinely overflowing with dogs, shelters in the North actually don't have enough dogs to meet demand. The reason? For one thing, winters can be brutal in the North, and most stray animals and new litters just don't survive. Too, said Kessler, animal control laws are much more evolved in the north.

“They have a different mentality regarding spaying and neutering, and they have spay and neuter laws,” she said. “These are places that don't have an overpopulation problem.”

Kessler said that about twice a month, volunteers drive five dogs to the airport in Memphis. Prior to their trip, the dogs have been sterilized, vaccinated, and subjected to tests to make sure they're temperament is right for placement with families, children and other pets. After being taken from the shelter, the dogs are boarded with a foster family for three weeks. During that time, they are crate-trained and socialized.

Because there is a limit on the number of dogs that can fly on a single aircraft, Kessler said Last Chance Arkansas sometimes foregoes the flight, and drives dogs to a partner shelter in Rondout, N.Y. in a van or horse trailer. Kessler said the group has transported up to 27 dogs at once.

“Over the last four years, over four hundred dogs” have been transported, Kessler said. “These are dogs that a good percentage of them were facing euthanasia. We don't just pick the cute little fluffy dogs. We focus on just common dogs with good temperaments.”

Kessler said the group runs completely on donations. Designated a non-profit by the IRS, they have a button to make online donations at their website: www.lastchancearkansas.org. The group is currently looking for board members, foster families and volunteers.

One of those volunteers is Susan Shaddox. Shaddox and her husband, Conway veterinarian Ken Shaddox, often provide a foster home for Last Chance Arkansas dogs that are the most medically in need, nursing them back to health before they catch their flight. She said that since the economy went south, she and her husband have seen a spike in the number of sick animals dropped off anonymously on the doorstep of the veterinary clinic.

“Over the years, you have some of those every once in awhile, but not anything like it started to happen when the economy really started slumping,” Shaddox said. “Almost every one that we would find on our doorstep was sick.” Since Shaddox contacted Last Chance Arkansas, many of these unwanted animals have been able to find new owners in other states.

Just a few weeks ago, Shaddox said goodbye to Cinderella, a Labrador mix puppy who'd come to Little Rock Animal Services covered with mange. “I went in there to buy tickets to a charity event, and I heard this little puppy in there just screaming her head off,” Shaddox said. “Somebody had brought her in, and she barely had any hair at all. They didn't have any choice but to put her down, because the type [of mange] she had could possibly have been contagious to every pet in the shelter.”

As sick and unattractive as the puppy was, Shaddox said she named her Cinderella because she knew she would be beautiful someday. After several weeks of treatment and care, the mange cleared up, and Cinderella's black coat came back thick and full. Shaddox caught a ride with the van taking the dogs to Memphis and a new life. Though Shaddox said she knows Cinderella will be loved in her new home, it was still tough to let her go.

“I cried all the way to Memphis and all the way back,” she said. “It was one of the hardest things I've ever done. … It's really, really hard to let them go once you've given so much time to them, but I have to just grit my teeth and do it. The things in life that matter are hard.”



Comments (2)

Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

More by David Koon

Readers also liked…

  • Kanis development decried

    Fletcher Hollow wrong place for density, neighbors tell LR planners.
    • Oct 8, 2015
  • Eligible voters removed from rolls

    Arkansas Times reporters contacted election officials around the state to see how they had handled flawed felon data from the secretary of state. Responses varied dramatically.
    • Aug 11, 2016
  • Real Republicans don't do pre-K

    Also, drifting away from trump, Hudson's downfall at ASU and more.
    • Aug 11, 2016

Most Shared

  • Issue 3: blank check

    Who could object to a constitutional amendment "concerning job creation, job expansion and economic development," which is the condensed title for Issue 3 for Arkansas voters on Nov. 8?
  • Little Rock police kill man downtown

    Little Rock police responding to a disturbance call near Eighth and Sherman Streets about 12:40 a.m. killed a man with a long gun, Police Chief Kenton Buckner said in an early morning meeting with reporters.
  • From the mind of Sol LeWitt: Crystal Bridges 'Loopy Doopy': A correction

    Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is installing Sol Lewitt's 70-foot eye-crosser "Wall Drawing 880: Loopy Doopy," waves of complementary orange and green, on the outside of the Twentieth Century Gallery bridge. You can glimpse painters working on it from Eleven, the museum's restaurant, museum spokeswoman Beth Bobbitt said
  • Ted Suhl loses another bid for new trial; faces stiff sentencing recommendation

    Ted Suhl, the former operator of residential and out-patient mental health services, has lost a second bid to get a new trial on his conviction for paying bribes to influence state Human Services Department policies. Set for sentencing Thursday, Suhl faces a government request for a sentence up to almost 20 years. He argues for no more than 33 months.
  • Football and foster kids

    It took a football stadium to lay bare Republican budget hypocrisy in Arkansas.

Latest in Arkansas Reporter

  • Trump country

    Even in deep red Arkansas, Trump could damage some down-ballot Republicans — but will boost others.
    • Oct 27, 2016
  • Youth movement

    Irvin Camacho, 24, hopes to be the first Latino elected to the Arkansas legislature.
    • Oct 20, 2016
  • Democrats' last stand in NE Arkansas

    Nate Looney vs. Rep. Brandt Smith for District 58.
    • Sep 29, 2016
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Jodi Morris's lifelong ties to the National Park Service

Jodi Morris's lifelong ties to the National Park Service

"History is always happening" at Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site

Event Calendar

« »


2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31  

Most Viewed

  • Leslie Rutledge, the absent attorney general

    Arkansas loses out to Trump love, Obama hate.
  • 'Living legend'

    Union Pacific's No. 844 steam locomotive made its way through the North Little Rock train yard on Oct. 24. The 907,980 pound train was the last steam locomotive made for Union Pacific and is amid a 1,200 mile journey that will end in Cheyenne, Wyo. on Oct. 31. This is the first multi-state excursion for the locomotive since completion of a three yearlong restoration.
  • Left and right against Issue 3

    Also, Huck spinning on Trump, not in our backyard and more.
  • Thanks!

    In less than two weeks, We the People are about to roll the dice and elect our next president. Just enough time left to dash off a few well-deserved thank you notes ... .
  • Trump country

    Even in deep red Arkansas, Trump could damage some down-ballot Republicans — but will boost others.

Most Recent Comments


© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation