Reality of Rescue: A Year of Growth


Since June of this year, TAILS has followed the journey of animal advocate Heather Owen and the rescue group she founded, One Tail at a Time. We watched as their capital campaign was launched, and cheered when the funds were successfully raised for their new facility. We celebrated once more this past August at the grand opening of the new shelter, as dogs who had no home or family were moved in to find their happy endings. Last month, we smiled at adoption stories and photos of dogs going home with amazing humans, cuddling on the now-famous blue couch.

One thing we have witnessed without doubt: OTAT has a solid, compassionate, and caring community surrounding them. Without the love and support of their volunteers, the OTAT team would not be able to make such a big difference for the dogs who come through their doors.

“The Adoption Center has been open for three months. We are analyzing data to see what has improved and where there is still room to learn and grow. But the most telling information we have received is the glowing reviews from our volunteers.

Every day we have three shifts for volunteers. From feeding meals to conducting play groups to one-on- one time with the dogs—we rely on volunteers to keep the animals happy, healthy, and socialized. We see the work they do each day, always with smiles on their faces!

They stay late, take dogs home to foster, and bring extra toys and special treats that they know certain dogs enjoy. These dedicated humans help us run an organization that everyone is happy to be a part of. ” 

Heather Owen One Tail at a Time

Heather Owen and a furry friend on the famous blue couch.

And while the happiness and positive attitude is enough to consider the new facility a resounding success, the numbers are impressive too: Last year, from August to October, OTAT did 49 adoptions. During the same three-month period this year, they did 114.

Looking ahead

Now that the brick and mortar building is up and running, Owen has no plans to slow down. In the past few months, reports have been conducted that outline issues at both the Department of Cook County Animal & Rabies Control and the City of Chicago’s Animal Care & Control (CACC). Specifically, the failures highlight a need to be more proactive and intentional with tax dollars in order to minimize the suffering of thousands of animals every year.

Here’s what Owen says needs to change:

“1) Cook county should use the surplus funds from rabies tags to create an accessible database to make owner/guardian returns and rescues more streamlined.

2) Given the vacancy at CACC, I urge Chicago’s powers that be to appoint a competent and compassionate individual to the position of Director.

3) I’d like to see Chicago make animals a priority and develop progressive programming to address pet euthanasia.

OTAT works hard every day to make sure that we are not letting the animals down. They rely on us, and we do everything we can to always have their best interest at heart, and be the voice that they do not have. ”

When we published the first installment of this feature, we quoted Margaret Mead’s keen observation: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” With everything happening at the moment, this has never been more true.

No one understands the power of compassionate community more than those working tirelessly on behalf of the city’s animals. The volunteers, shelter employees, and everyone else who is hands-on with animals who end up with rescue organizations see flaws in the system, and keep doing what they can to help each animal in their plight to freedom, love, and a warm home.

“One Tail at a Time urges concerned citizens to speak up on behalf of the animals. There are two petitions on Change.org (here and here) that you can sign to make a difference at CACC and Cook County. It’s important that you make your voice heard and let them know that we are watching, and that we will not settle for anything less than the best possible treatment of the animals we, as a community, are responsible for.”

Stay connected

Adopt: Check out the amazing dogs available at the Adoption Center and via foster care, and share with friends who are looking! OneTail.org/foster

Shop: OTAT’s wishlist on Amazon

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