Overnight the two women went from antagonists to partners, taking rescue advocacy a step further by co-founding Dog Bless.
Today, Dog Bless has two teams of photographers who take photos three times a week. A student in Morgantown uploads the photos to Facebook and monitors the page. Dog Bless networks with rescue organizations, mostly in the Northeast, that might take specific dogs. Once a dog is selected for rescue, the out-of-state rescue group calls the shelter to complete the adoption; it pays the same fees the public pays to adopt a dog.
Dog Bless works only with out-of-state rescues, and only with those organizations with clear no-kill policies.
Chelsea says West Virginia has a serious problem of too many animals. "Northeastern states have way better spay and neuter legislation; they don't have the problems we have here."
Frequently a dog slated for rescue can't be transported right away, so Dog Bless operates a network of foster homes in the Charleston area.
A dog's picture is moved into a "fosters needed" album on the Facebook page. The rescuing organization pays for everything but food. Now the dog has two or three weeks to meet its rescue's medical requirements. Chelsea says two volunteers organize what each dog needs; some dogs require microchips, some a fecal exam.
For an all-volunteer organization, Dog Bless brings a significant amount of out-of-state money into Charleston. The rescue organizations in Jersey City, N.J., and Brooklyn, N.Y., pay for the $76 adoption fee for each dog; they also pay $120 of each dog's veterinary bills. Chelsea says Dog Bless has helped increase annual shelter revenue from adoption fees by 50 percent, and that 200 dogs rescued by the New York organizations alone have paid $24,000 to Charleston veterinarians.
A volunteer transport coordinator helps get people to drive a rental van full of dogs to New York twice a month. Dog Bless pays mileage and reimburses up to $300 in expenses.
Dog Bless has much to celebrate, but Staley acknowledges that complacency can threaten even devoted rescuers.
"It's called compassion fatigue," she said. "How many dogs can you see on Facebook until you're just sick of it? Compassion fatigue is something we fight every day." When she feels worn down, she goes to the shelter to see the dogs. That real-life reconnect with the animals keeps her going.
Of course, not everyone wants to have 10 dogs stampeding through their house. Staley emphasizes that anyone who supports providing alternatives to euthanasia will find many ways to help Dog Bless.
For instance, if you think your dog would make a great "SpokesDOG," check out the first eBay auction of that title. If your bid wins, your dog will become a local celebrity and have its face featured in Dog Bless ads throughout the year. Your pooch will also receive a grooming session by At Your Bark & Call mobile pet grooming and a photo shoot with Fidos & Felines Photography.
Supporters can "like" the Dog Bless Facebook page at www.facebook.com/dogblessadvocacy/ and download and share an application there to volunteer with the organization. Dog Bless thrives on volunteer photography, marketing and fundraising, but those with more money than time can make a PayPal donation using the email address dogbles...@hotmail.com.
Staley did not get elected to the shelter board of directors; she ran and lost in June. But she has strong words about the most important thing anyone can do to support the Dog Bless mission.
"Vote. You can pay $15 by March 31 to become a member of the KCHA. Elections are in June. You can't vote unless you are a member. Dog Bless is really trying to get some representatives on the board. If people are interested in the changes Dog Bless is trying to make, I highly recommend that they vote."
Chelsea added, "There's some compassion fatigue happening on the board."
Reach Elizabeth Gaucher at Elizabeth.Gauc...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1249.