Location: Pepperell, Massachusetts
If you are a Facebook friend of Brigette Polina’s, you know she loves dogs. Almost all of her posts have to do with dogs, but most of them are not the traditional “Look how cute my pooch is doing this!” or “Could you die at how adorable this puppy and kitten are playing with that sock?” Most of Brigette’s posts are about dogs that need to be rescued. She tirelessly uses her social media network to try to find transport, foster families and adoptive homes for the tragically large number of dogs who are otherwise abandoned or euthanized every day in this country.
Brigette did not grow up with dogs. She didn’t have her first one, a Pomeranian named Jazzy, until she was twenty-three years old. “I was that kind of dog owner,” she says. “I dressed Jazzy up in sweaters, took him everywhere with me, and you couldn’t date me if you didn’t love my dog.” Jazzy saw Brigette through marriage, divorce, the birth of her son, Chase, and many other life changes before dying fifteen years later. Several other dogs followed, but Brigette’s menagerie was always manageable and her love of dogs was pretty confined to her own.
That changed in 2015, when Chase went to college. Brigette had been a very hands-on single mom, attending all of his games and often hosting Chase and his friends and teammates at her house. His departure made her feel like tumbleweeds were blowing across her empty house. A friend advised her to get a hobby.
Scrolling through Facebook, Brigette saw a friend’s post about a dog that was going to die unless it was rescued. It was her first time learning about kill shelters. Appalled, she dove in further and found an entire litter of chihuahuas that were slated to be euthanized in Houston, Texas. She forwarded the photos to a colleague who shared her love of dogs and her colleague told Brigette to figure out how to adopt one of them. By the time Brigette reached the right people, the dogs had been rescued, but by then she was all in.
Brigette asked how she could help and she hasn’t looked back since. “It takes immense planning and orchestrating just to get one dog out,” Brigette explains.
You need to have a sponsoring rescue, one that is approved by the shelter, to pull the dog. Each dog must then be fostered for at least two weeks before it is able to be transported. Volunteers need to be found to do the transport and foster and adoptive families must be identified and coordinated with the rescue and the transport. At the one kill shelter in Houston TX , where Brigette first encountered the chihuahuas in need of homes, there are 50 dogs a day that are turned in. Once a dog is brought to a shelter, it has three days to get rescued or they are put to sleep simply from overcrowding.
After meeting other people across the country who are as devoted to saving dogs as she is, Brigette has partnered with some of them to create a Facebook page for getting the word out about dogs in need of rescue. Their social media campaign was able to turn one kill shelter from a 70% euthanasia rate to one that is less than thirty percent. She now works exclusively with Tess K9 Pet Rescue in San Antonio, run by a woman who picks up dogs wherever she sees the need – on the side of the road, from shelters, from abusive homes – and fosters them at her house until they can be adopted. Brigette is proud of the fact that she and a handful of volunteers in Massachusetts are now able to save 25 to 40 dogs each month, finding them loving adoptive homes all over the country. But she agonizes about all those who aren’t rescued each day.
“Some days are really hard,” she says. She sometimes stares at her computer screen, bawling at the plight of the dogs she is trying to help. But she has a message for those of us (and I am definitely guilty of this!) who pass over her posts when they are just too sad. “This is reality,” she says. “Yes, it is sad, but we can change it. We can’t turn our back on them.”
There are myriad ways to help. If you can’t foster or adopt a dog in need of a rescue, you can donate money or supplies or volunteer your time at a shelter. (Brigette says that the shelters are often understaffed and overcrowded, so offering to walk dogs during your lunch hour might be a great way to get started.) You can also make your voice heard on behalf of the dogs who do not have a voice. Advocate for changes to shelters and for enforcement of spay and neuter laws. And always help a dog that you see is in need of help. “Social media is a great resource,” Brigette says. “You are never too far away to get the word out. It can be as simple as hitting the share button on Facebook.”
Brigette is disgusted by people who abuse dogs but she says she is also bothered by folks who ignore the problem because they think there is nothing they can do. There is and they should. End of story. On the plus side, she has been blown away by some of the people she has met along the way who go way above and beyond to save a dog. “People astonish me with their commitment, their generosity, and their ingenuity,” she says. Brigette recalls one incident when a woman was trying to turn in nineteen chihuahuas who were living in her car but the shelter wouldn’t accept them because she resided outside of their jurisdiction. A volunteer Brigette knows told the woman to bring the dogs to her home and she would figure it out, even though she was already fostering multiple dogs, because she knew the outlook was bleak for the dogs otherwise. When the woman dropped off the Chihuahuas, there were forty of them! A team of volunteers sprung into action, finding and building crates, getting supplies and immunizations, and ultimately lining up fosters and transports. All dogs were placed with a rescue organization, a foster home or an adoptive family within 48 hours. And all of those dogs would likely have died had volunteers not stepped in to help.
Brigette has three dogs of her own (a Papillion named Shamu, and two Chihuahuas, Nutella and Gino who were rescued two years ago at age fourteen). She fosters dogs occasionally but her main way of helping is to post about dogs in need multiple times each day. She wants everyone to know that there is a need, that the need is great, and there are many ways we can all do something to help meet that need.
If you want to reach out to Brigette directly or follow her on Facebook, you can message her.
Below are the links Brigette works with. (Rescue and the Shelter)
Or To find shelters in your area that are in need of assistance, simply type Animal Shelters into your search engine.
Tess K9 Pet Rescue (non profit rescue)
Tess K9 Donations always welcome for food and medications
Houston & Harris County Animal Volunteers
Amazon Wish list for Harris County shelter