Updated: Aug 10
Courtesy of the Thomasville Times-Enterprise
Twice a month, a truck jam-packed with 50-pound bags of dog food rumbles down red, rut-riddled roads.
On one day’s trip the truck, leading a caravan of volunteers, will log 20 miles, making about 65 stops along Thomasville’s less-traveled roads to trailer parks and other homes. Residents hear the truck’s diesel engine and spill out to wait for a delivery. Mary Ellen Payne of Red Road Rescue and volunteers greet their clients, and dogs, by name. “We have become friends,” said Payne.
In 2019 Payne and her husband Johnny Bracey incorporated Red Road Rescue, Inc., a Section 501(c)(3) rescue organization, dedicated to perform rescue, fostering, outreach and transport to underserved dogs in Thomasville and the surrounding area.
Within months of its incorporation the client list has grown with requests for dog food, medical transport and treatment for pets. The applications for help have kept the board of directors busy in determining eligibility.
Payne said the organization has seen a marked spike in the number of pets in need, and there are myriad reasons for it.
“Whether it’s due to COVID confinement, job loss, or just systemic poverty, it has worsened,” she said. "Consequently, many dogs are abandoned, because pet owners can’t feed them. Usually when that happens Animal Control is called, and there’s a good chance the dogs will be euthanized. That’s the reason we started this. If we can help these people feed their dogs, and not abandon them, that’s the first step.”
Along with taking meticulous account of the food distribution and feeding of about 100 dogs, the volunteers check for outward signs of medical needs. “We carry wormer, toenail clippers, extra beds, leashes, even gallons of water, because some of these homes don’t have running water,” Payne said.
Another aspect of the Rescue is transportation. Most of the animals haven’t seen a veterinarian in years due to lack of transportation or ability to pay for medical treatment. The volunteers offer help in transporting dogs to spay and neuter clinics and hospitals to keep the dog population down. “That’s our second step,” Payne said. “Our intention is to provide neutering and spaying for all of these pets.” They also provide medical service for urgent medical needs. Recently Bracey was called about a neglected dog wandering the streets of Thomasville.
“I met with the neighbors and owners, and found out the dog was essentially on its own. The owner finally surrendered the dog to us, and we transported it to the Thomasville Animal Hospital.” The dog tested high in its heartworm results, and through the largesse of the Thomasville Animal Hospital staff, the dog was treated, fostered and then adopted by a loving family.
Fostering the abandoned dogs is a valuable part of a dog’s transition to a loving home. Foster volunteers learn everything about the dog in order to ensure a permanent match for the rescue. No animal shelter can give you such detailed information on a dog housed in a kennel situation.
Payne projects the Rescue will be pulling dogs from shelters in the near future, but none of the Red Road Rescue dogs will be placed in shelters.
The idea for Red Road Rescue was Payne and Bracey’s, but both said nothing could have been achieved without the cooperation and volunteer spirit of Thomasville’s residents, as well as the generosity of local businesses and corporate funding. “We have volunteers in their tweens, teens to seniors helping out however they are able,” Payne said. “It’s overwhelming how many animal lovers we have in this community who have reached out either monetarily, or just showing up after a phone call.
“Our volunteers know what their pets mean to their households, and understand our clients’ attachments to theirs. Frankly, in some cases, these pets are all our clients have,” she said.
“We don’t judge them, we’re here to support them.”