In May 2009, Kelly Gaus was just your typical New Orleanian until she came across something that would change her life and the life of others, both human and canine. Kelly explained, “I was walking my dog in my neighborhood in the upper 9th ward and I came across a tiny, hairless, bleeding puppy. She was actually so dehydrated and wrinkled that I thought it was a gargoyle statue at first. When I realized it was a puppy, I didn’t know what I was going to do with her, but I felt like if I left her there, I was going to see her dead the next day and that would be terrible."
"So, I took my dog home and went back to get her and brought her to the vet. While her condition was treatable, it was going to be really expensive. Fortunately, many people were following her story online and in the newspaper and I received so many donations that we were able to pay for her treatments and have money left over. From there, I kept finding stray dogs and since I had excess donations, I felt I had no excuse not to pick them up and I started Dogs of the 9th Ward.”
That tiny, hairless, bleeding puppy that Kelly saved would eventually be named Pauline. “I fell in love with her and she fit perfectly at my house,” Kelly said. However, almost a year after Kelly found her, Pauline fell suddenly ill. “I brought her to my vet and they referred me to specialists all over the country, but we never found out exactly what she had. It was some sort of neuromuscular disease and she died about a week after that. It was incredibly sad, but she had a wonderful year!”
Undeterred by Pauline’s death, Kelly found herself expanding the Dogs of the 9th Ward rescue program. She explained, “Dogs of the 9th Ward picks up stray and abandoned dogs on the street. We don’t pull from shelters or take owner-surrendered dogs partially because we view stray and abandoned dogs as being in more need. Of course, it’s sad to think of dogs being euthanized by a shelter, but it’s worse to be hit by a car and have the dog suffering in the street.”
She added, “We also want to improve the neighborhood that we live in and have a positive impact on the community. A lot of my neighbors, especially those who have smaller dogs, are afraid to walk their dogs in the evening. They carry sticks with them to ward off stray dogs and honestly, that is not the condition people of a major American city should be living under.”
As seen in the name, Dogs of the 9th Ward rescues dogs primarily from the 9th ward neighborhood. Kelly said, “With a lot of the dogs, either I or one of our volunteers pick them up when we see them, and we also get phone calls and e-mails from folks who have found dogs. But we try to focus on those dogs in the 9th ward and low-income areas because the people there have fewer resources to deal with the problem. We also network with other rescue shelters as much as we can because nobody has enough space for all the dogs. So if I can find somebody else to take a dog, I love that! We like to find people who either have no dogs of there own or just one or two other dogs so that the rescued dog can get more one on one attention and socialization. And we really work on getting them out of the Gulf South because there is a huge animal overpopulation problem here than there is in other places.”
Over the last three years, Kelly and Dogs of the 9th Ward have rescued over 200 hundred dogs who have been adopted out to people all over the country! But of course, she could always use help! “Obviously, the first thing I tell everyone is that we need money. Our vet at Prytania Veterinary Hospital is awesome; they allow us to maintain an account, which means that we always owe them money! Right now, we only owe them about $1,000, which is a lot better than it has been in the past. Our vet takes donations directly for us because almost all of our money goes to vetting anyway."
"We also need fosters and volunteers. A couple of our fosters will be graduating and we will definitely need fosters to take their place. We also try to keep up with doing fairly regular fundraisers and adoption days, so we really need people to help with handling dogs and setting up fundraisers. Even if it’s just one day a month, it would be a welcome addition to the team.”
We can only imagine the things Kelly and the Dogs of the 9th Ward team have seen. But it gives us such hope and encouragement that things can and will get better for New Orleans’ animals. We want to thank Kelly for stepping up to the challenge when we know how daunting of a task it can seem everyday. So thanks, Kelly for helping the dogs of New Orleans.
For more information about Dogs of the 9th Ward, please visit their website and Facebook page.
“Dogs of the 9th Ward (D9) tries to encourage healthy human-canine relationships in order to enrich the lives of the residents of the 9th Ward, both canine and human. D9 wants to contribute positively to rebuilding of the 9th Ward in the form of positively impacting public health and safety, education, and general quality of life.”