In Pocahontas County, one woman never turns
Sandy Mallow operates Last Chance Animal Rescue in Pocahontas County, WV.
Photo gallery of a Last Chance Animal Rescue.
Durbin, WV- At 8:30 a.m. on a recent Friday, Sandy Mallow gets in her truck and leaves Back Mountain Road for another day’s work.
Mallow, who is Pocahontas County’s only animal control officer, heads toward Droop Mountain after getting a call about two unwanted puppies.
If it weren’t for Mallow, the animals’ futures would look grim.
With a humane society that houses cats, and no more than a dozen or so at a time, most Pocahontas County animals and residents rely on Last Chance Animal Rescue, a shelter that got its start right in Mallow’s front yard. Mallow typically cares for several dozen animals at a time. Mallow opened the shelter in 1996 after she saw a job ad that requested an animal control officer, something the county had been without for 10 years.
Mallow decided to apply, and uncontested, she got the job.
However, the county did not have the money or a facility to house the animals.
“When I started and would pick the animals up, I had nowhere to put them. So, it was either me do something about having a decent place to put them, or tie them up to dog boxes and chains—and I don’t like to do that,” Mallow said.
LCAR now accommodates horses, goats, dogs, cats, birds, ferrets and guinea pigs. Mallow now moves 90 percent of the animals either to other rescues or adopts them out to new owners.
“I have a very low euthanasia rate, and I want to keep it that way. I’ve worked hard to get there, and I’m going to continue to push and to work,” Mallow said.
Mallow will only euthanize if the animal becomes unable to handle. If it is just a case of an unwanted animal, she will house the pet until it dies.
This setup is far from ideal though.
With a 10 by 10-foot unfinished shelter and four kennels, the animals are often crammed together and lack much needed one-on-one time.
“I don’t like my setup at all, but it’s all I’ve got. We’re making progress every day, but right now I just have to deal with it the best way I can,” Mallow said.
The recent economic downturn has not made the situation any better. Many people with multiple pets are turning to Mallow because they are no longer able to afford and take care of their animals.
Also, many residents are moving out of the area in search of work and at times are forced to leave their pets behind.
Mallow’s first pick-up of the day has become subject to such fate. Mallow pulled up to a gas station in Marlinton. A black Labrador retriever mix named Lucy had freed herself from her leash and was milling around the parking lot. Mallow scooped up the dog and ushered her into a pet carrier in the bed of her pickup truck. Next, Mallow headed up the mountain to acquire two puppies. Then she drove to the Humane Society of Pocahontas County in Marlinton.
With 12 cats already, the humane society has asked to Mallow for help with a new pregnant cat.
LCAR is more overloaded this year than ever before, Mallow said.
Though the county does try to compensate for the expenses of running the shelter, Mallow said she often must dig into her own pockets or rely on local donations.
“Every little bit helps, even if it’s a penny. What it amounts up to later on will help me in some way,” she said.
Mallow also accepts any helping hands, but for the most part, it’s a one-woman operation.
At times, keeping up with her duties as an animal control officer while running the shelter leaves Mallow time for nothing else, she said.
The time spent with the animals takes a toll on Mallow’s family life.
TV dinners are at times a staple for Mallow’s husband and six-year-old son.
“I thought about stepping down, because people don’t realize, I don’t have a day off, I cannot go somewhere for vacation… (We) have not been on a vacation together since (our son) was born,” she said.
Mallow’s learning to draw the line though. Operating hours are 9 to 5 p.m., and Sundays are now “family only” days.
“I’ve had people call me at 3 a.m., screaming at me just because someone’s dog is pooping in their yard,” Mallow said.
However, as Mallow pulls in her driveway around 3 p.m. after the day’s calls, she must still gear up for daily cleanings, feedings and waterings, a routine that can easily consume four hours, she said.
Scrubbing out kennels on her hands and knees, Mallow talks with the animals and tries to give each one a minute of love.
She has dreams for the shelter, including running water and electricity and concrete pads with runoff spouts for the kennels.
Perhaps even a nice area for the animals to run free while she cleans their cages.
Regardless of her current setup and all of the struggles, seeing a happy animal makes it all worth it, she said.
“The animals are comfortable. No, it’s not what I want it to be for them, but it’s better than where they came from,” she said.