By Yvonne T. Betowt, The Huntsville Times
A month ago today, "Daddy," a blue pit bull, lost his owner in a house fire.
"He's an incredible dog," said volunteer Adrian Sanders, who has been fostering the sweet-tempered dog for the last week. "I wish I could keep him, but I just can't take on any more dogs right now than the two I have. It will be tough letting him go, but I know he's going to a good home."
Since no money is available to transport animals from Huntsville to other areas, Sanders hooked up with Rai McDermott of Bully Mission Rescue in Whitesville, Ky., where "Daddy" will be evaluated for about a week before heading to the Windy City.
McDermott has a network of volunteers who transport animals in a type of relay from one place to another, usually a trip of about 45 to 50 miles. Then the animals are handed off to the next volunteer and so on until they arrive at their destination. Truck drivers are often used to haul the animals who are going long distances.
Sanders will be driving "Daddy" and two other dogs from the Birmingham area today. After a hand-off in Cullman, a volunteer will drive to Athens where Sanders will take "Daddy" and the other two dogs to Columbia, Tenn., before handing them off to the next volunteer.
"This is a great avenue for us to find homes for the animals here," said Animal Services Humane Educator Jeremy Eslick. "Most of them are going to homes in the northeast because they have done a better job of spaying and neutering than we have and do not have the overpopulation problem like we do."
"Daddy" and a pregnant pit bull were outside the home on Holmes Avenue when the fire broke out, claiming the life of a 3-year-old girl, a 31-year-old man who tried to save her, and two inside dogs. Three other people made it out safely.
Shortly after arriving at Huntsville Animal Services, the female dog gave birth to four puppies. She and the pups are being fostered by an animal rescue group until they are old enough to be adopted.
Sanders works for the City of Huntsville, but volunteers several hours a week taking photos of animals and putting them on Facebook, which he updates every few days.
"I've got about 750 friends on Facebook and have met so many great people willing to drop what they are doing to help out," said Sanders.
Eslick appreciates Sanders and other volunteers such as Celia Rainey who help with the Facebook project.
"The city will not allow us to have our own Facebook page because people will take advantage of it, so Adrian is doing this on his own time," said Eslick.
Sanders and Eslick are big advocates for spay/neuter programs and hope getting the word out through Facebook will help prevent many animals from being euthanized.
"We're about 20 years behind where we should be," said Sanders. "Unfortunately, euthanizing animals is a fact of life here. People don't realize how good Huntsville's shelter is compared to others in this area."
Last year, out of 8,277 animals taken in by the city shelter, 1,211 were adopted and another 521 were pulled by local rescue groups, said Animal Services Director Dr. Karen Hill Sheppard. The rest were euthanized.
Anyone outside the Huntsville area wishing to adopt an animal from Huntsville Animal Services may do so by going to www.facebook.com and search for Friends of Huntsville Animal Services.