With a Little Help from Our Friends

Reader Contribution by Allan Douglas
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My wife and I provide foster care to dogs from the Dr. Carol Hood Memorial Animal Shelter in Newport Tennessee. Piney Mountain Foster Care is a fancy name that Marie and I have adopted for these efforts to help save dogs, but it’s just a name: We are not a registered organization, let alone a tax-free entity. All of our funding comes from our own pockets. The Shelter provides kibbles and medication, we buy the pens, dog houses, crates, bedding, dishes, leashes, treats, and toys. We also erected fencing to provide a contained space for training and play.

The Current Play Yard

Our current foster play yard is the space that also serves as the driveway to my woodworking workshop loading dock and lumber yard. It serves the purpose of giving the foster dogs some space to run and play. It’s a place to work at training that cannot be done in their 10-by-10 pens. We installed Critter Fence along what we call The Ridge to keep them in this space and that serves the purpose – as long as they’re not too determined to find a way out: it can be thwarted! I amended the original wooden fence and gate across the driveway to give it enough height to keep the leaper/climbers in.

There is some grass, but it’s mostly gravel and slope. They don’t seem to mind: they’re just happy to get out of their pens and run a bit. A 10-by-10 covered pen with a dog house and pea gravel floor is better than they’re used to, but even that gets confining if you have to stay there full time for the 2 to 3 months it takes to cure heartworms.

It does get mucky out here when it rains, so I built a boardwalk to keep all of us out of the muddiest part.

Currently we have two pens. As I sell off the lumber piles, we’d like to add more pens, but that would eat into the play space. So we have a plan …

The Planned Play Yard

On the other side of the mobile home that is my workshop is a large open space that would make a wonderful play space.

Part of this space is taken up by my garden, but there is still lots and lots of open space for dogs to run and play. Gardening takes up the majority of most mornings – after feeding and a 30-minute structured play/training time.

Well-behaved foster dogs (and our dogs) could be allowed to play longer in this area while I tend to the gardening. It would also be a more pleasant place for them to lounge for the afternoon exercise break and give us more room to work with dogs independently during the evening play time.

Our thought is to run the fence from our house (upper-right corner in the photo above) down just down-hill of the barn to the hedgerow that runs alongside the shop driveway. Then up beside the hedgerow to the top, turn the corner and go over to the front of the workshop/trailer.

From the back side of the pens, a fence would run to the back of our house, fully enclosing this side yard with a sturdy chain-link fence.

This much larger space also offers easy access from both the dog pens and from our home. More space to run, much nicer grass to play in, far less mud. By moving the play yard out here we can install more pens where the old play yard is. All we need to do is fence in this space with a proper, dog-proof fence.

What is Involved?

We’re looking at:

  • 300 feet of 5-foot-high, 11-gauge galvanized chain link fencing.
  • 19 terminal posts set in concrete, with hardware.
  • Support posts set in concrete collars and spaced no more than 10 feet apart (less were terrain demands).
  • 3 custom welded gates 5 feet wide with angles matched to the slope of the ground. 
  • 1 standard rectangular gate.
  • 1 custom welded gate 8 feet wide with angles matched to the slope of the ground.
  • 1 3/8 inch rail along the top of the fence, heavy tension wire along the bottom and wired to the fencing.
  • Filling dips with rock and dirt where fence cannot be made to follow the ground contour.
  • All professionally installed and guaranteed.

We would like to get this project done before the weather turns bad. We have considered buying the materials and doing it ourselves to save cost, but because of several factors (including time) that is not a practical option. Especially since I’ve never installed chain link before and our rolling, sloping lot would prove a challenge to an experienced fence installer, it would be fool-hardy to try it as a rank amateur and all on my own.

The problem is that hiring the job out to professionals will cost more money than we have available. We considered options:

  • Put it on the credit card, pay off as much as we had and suffer the interest until it’s paid.
  • Take out a home improvement loan with our mortgage holder.
  • Sell a kidney
  • Beg

Reaching Out

Over the two years (plus a little) that we’ve been fostering dogs, we’ve made some friends – mainly over social media, but a few local and in person – who are also involved in some way with rescuing animals. Some are rescue teams, some run shelters, a few also foster, and some support these efforts financially. None make an issue of their support; we know of it because a call for help goes out and these people raise their (electronic) hand and say, “I’ll help.” Or someone we know who runs a rescue or shelter makes a private comment to us about how great so-and-so was to help when they needed it.

In the past, some of our dog-fostering friends who appreciate the work we do have asked if we needed help with anything. At the time, we did not. Now we do. So we thought we might first appeal to our fostering friends to see if any were willing to help provide the dogs with a better place to play and open up space for increasing our capacity next year. If we could get part of what we needed to cover the deficit, we could borrow the rest.

Amazing Results

I put up a page on our Piney Mountain Foster Care web site that explained, just as I did above, what the problem is and what we want to do about it – and asked for help. The response was immediate. In five days from the time the page went up we had the $2,000 we needed to pay the remainder of the fencing bill. I was amazed!

I called the contractor we’d chosen, accepted their bid, paid the deposit, and got on the schedule. That was 6 days ago. The crew showed up this morning to set posts and start the top rails.

In another day, maybe two, our little herd of canines will have a great place to frolic. And it’s all because of the kindness of those who share our interest in finding good homes for rescue dogs. As a local friend would say, “They’s good folk, awright.”

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