It’s not just a legend. 9 Dogs Howling is a real place, located in the countryside of west Tennessee, where Jean and Mr. P. run an unfunded animal rescue ranch. It’s a free, all-love, no-kill, home-based shelter for the many unwanted animals discarded in rural ditches by people who are cruel, careless, or fool themselves into thinking that small puppies and kittens (often unweaned) can survive even one day of hunger, thirst, injury, disease, coyotes and birds of prey.
Here’s the story of how it all began.
Once upon a time we had one small, pure-bred dog: a fawn French bulldog, Georgie. Then a co-worker of Mr. P’s sold us a 9-month-old black pug his family didn’t want any more. They’d been keeping her caged 24 hours a day. We named her Polly. Those two spoiled dogs had a small, fenced-in yard beside our house, which sits on a 4.5 acre plot in the middle of farm country. Our neighbors grow soybeans, corn, milo, winter wheat, and cotton; some of them keep cattle or goats. In our early days here, as transplanted Yankees, we thought we had arrived in heaven. We enjoyed watching deer stealing fruit from our orchard, foxes playing on the hillside, bunnies hopping through our strawberry patch. Mr. P. planted a big vegetable garden, more fruit trees, berry bushes, wildflowers in our meadow, and two asparagus patches.
Then the critters began to arrive, and we began to joke that neighborhood “pee-mail” was promoting our home as an animal refuge. A week after adopting Patch we learned she was pregnant. When her 4 pups arrived, we couldn’t bring ourselves to part with them. Later Blackie arrived and delivered a litter of 11 puppies under our storage shed. Another neighborhood dog brought us one of her puppies. At the same time, kittens appeared, liked what they saw here, and stayed. Possum was pregnant when she arrived; we still have one of her kittens, Licorice. We’ve found homes for some of the critters; others have disappeared or perished from injuries (fights with wild animals, collision with cars and trucks); and some have found a permanent home here. At one time we had 21 dogs and 12 cats. At the moment we have 10 dogs and 3 cats.
Every newcomer gets a veterinary check-up, treatment for any disease or injury they bring with them, and spaying or neutering. The cats and any very large dogs (what we call Outdoor Dogs) have crates and blankets in our garage. Large dogs have crates, food & water bowls in an insulated 8x10 shed with access to the enlarged fenced-in yard, and also spend time with us indoors; medium and small dogs sleep indoors and also spend time in the fenced-in yard. All but the outdoor dogs get heartworm and flea medication, annual checkups and treatment for any illness or injury at a nearby animal hospital. New dogs who behave aggressively with the others indoors get reassigned to the garage, but most of the time, it’s one big happy family (or in canine terms, a pack).
I’m giving it to you straight when I say we didn’t take in all those abandoned critters because we’re high-minded animal philanthropists. We did it because we love animals and just can’t say no to them. The only animal shelter in our area has a troubled history, with reports of animal neglect, so until a better public facility is established, we’ll go on doing our best to take care of the dogs and cats who show up on our property looking for love and care.