Rescue dogs make long journey home


The City of Forest Animal Control shelter sits a couple hundred yards off Bishop Ln in a remote part of the city. Many people questioned about the shelter did not even know it exists and most of those individuals have been living here their entire life. While the small five kennel shelter may be left to itself there is a group of volunteers that make sure the animals that find themselves housed there are not forgotten. This group of dedicated individuals have made sure that no animal at the City of Forest kennel has been euthanized in over 19 months. Due to their efforts a majority of these animals have gotten a second chance at a happy life by being adopted into their new home in Pennsylvania of all places.

That’s right, it seems that there are a whole lot of Central Mississippi dogs making Pennsylvania families happy because of the wonderful work of Red Rock Rescue in Effort, Pennsylvania. Owner and Founder of Red Rock Rescue, Inc, Heather Bendian says, “most dogs adopted up here come from the South.” Over the past two years more than 250 dogs from Forest have made the long trip to Red Rock Rescue in  Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains and have been adopted into new homes. Bendian added, “just because dogs are in the pound does not mean they are bad or broken, we are very successful at finding homes for all of the dogs that make it to Red Rock.”

And how do they get transported almost 2,000 miles to be adopted by these eager new families? Through the tireless effort of volunteers who coordinate a driving relay-of-love that spans the entire trip up the eastern seaboard. They not only give their time and money to help these animals in need, they also give their care and unconditional love to ensure that these animals get the opportunity to find new homes rather than the end of their life. “It is a team effort, everyone has an important role and we could not do it without everyone involved,” explains Bendian.

As with any city, budget constraints and spending prioritization can unintentionally leave the animal control budget somewhere near the bottom of the expenditure list. Some would venture to say it is even an afterthought and it makes one wonder what the fate of these homeless animals would be without the effort of the volunteers, however, numerous attempts to contact the City of Forest Animal Control for comment were unsuccessful.

There have also been documented cases of animals in need of medical attention not receiving help until they found there way into the care of one of the volunteers.

Julie Clark of Jackson, is the volunteer that takes on a large part of veterinarian bills required to care for these animals prior to their trips up North. She says, “when I first became involved with the Forest shelter I was a couple of days too late to save two dogs that were euthanized and I swore I would do everything in my power to stop anymore dogs from being euthanized because their time ran out at the Forest shelter.” She has continued to prove that dedication both in the time she gives coordinating foster homes and the money she happily spends to get the animals the medical care needed.

Her most recent vet bill was $1,679.65 for the care and boarding of one rescue dog named “Red”. He had an in-bedded collar when Clark picked him up from the shelter as his life clock was running out after his three-week stay. And while she loves being there for the animals it is a heavy monetary burden to shoulder alone. Dr. Michael Walker of Forest Animal Hospital plays a significant role in the rescue process. “Dr. Walker has been great working with us on keeping expenses as low as possible, but I want to do everything I possibly can to make sure no more animals from the Forest kennel have to be euthanized,” says Clark. It is this absolute dedication that has saved countless animals and will continue to save animals lives in the future.

Every volunteer interviewed for this article expressed their great appreciation for all the help and medical care given by Dr. Walker and indicate that they could not accomplish what they do without him.

A concern that has been raised about the Forest kennel is the lax security combined with remote area of the city where it is located. There are concerns that dogs, and cats, may be stolen for purposes other than that of a family pet. With dog fighting a rampant problem there are fears that the dogs could be stolen to either be trained to participate in fighting or to be used for dogs to attack and kill while being trained.

Sonya Usry, formerly of Forest, is one of the volunteers that is a driving force in ensuring these animals remain safe until they can be adopted into new homes. “We really want to get the City of Forest and the local community involved to help keep the animals safe until they can be adopted,” she said.

The moment a new homeless animal arrives at the kennel, the animals euthanasia count-down clock begins and the volunteers spring into action to find the homeless animal a safe foster home and schedule vet appointments. After a foster home is located they get the dog or cat all needed medical care and have the animal spayed or neutered which is a requirement in order for the animal to be adopted.

Finding a foster home has become the most challenging task because there are zero volunteers for foster homes here in the Forest area. The closest foster volunteer is in Morton and the secondary foster homes are scattered around from Brandon to Hattiesburg. Finding more volunteers in the local community who are willing to provide foster homes while the animals wait to be adopted is a pressing matter and they are looking for anyone that can step-up and help. 

Once the animal has completed all vet visits and has recovered from all procedures then comes the magic of setting up the 2,000-mile relay to Pennsylvania. Volunteer drivers, who spend their own gas money, will drive their assigned leg and hand the dogs off as many as 14 times until they arrive at Red Rock Rescue and a second chance at a happy life.

To witness the incredible actions of these volunteers you can visit Facebook and look up “Friends of Forest Animal Control-Forest MS”. There you can follow every step of the heroic process. You can also get more information on how you can help, donate or become a foster care-giver and become a vital part of saving these animals in need. If you would like to join the volunteer effort you can request information by sending your contact information to or by visiting Facebook and searching for Friends of Forest Animal Control-Forest MS.

The best thing that could happen for all involved is for the City of Forest and these dedicated volunteers to be able to work together in making sure that these animals get the time and medical attention they need in order to have the opportunity to find a new home. Because when all is said and done what matters is that these homeless animals only need a second chance to find a forever home. With everyone working together our southern dogs and cats can make the journey to where they will end up making a Yankee family happy.