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Life is merrier with a Kerry Blue Terrier

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2006: The Shelbina Express


© 2016 Kerry Blue Terrier Foundation

Posted on Day 1, Sat March 18, 2006

From: Janet Joers
Date: Sat Mar 18, 2006 2:41:46 PM US/Pacific
Subject: [KBL] The Shelbina Express

As I write this, a caravan of 3 vehicles is traveling through the last light of day across the cold Missouri landscape, heading north from the little town of Shelbina toward Iowa. Inside are 5 exhausted, but jubilant volunteers, and their precious cargo--34 Kerries, warm and snug in their crates, quiet and still, having been rescued from the auction block and saved from the puppy mills forever. The Foundation is proud to say, for the second time in 10 days (since we announced the Great Ohio Rescue of 15 Kerries), this is the largest rescue in the history of the breed. We got every single Kerry out of today's auction. No Kerry was left behind. THEY ARE ALL COMING HOME.

On the scene today was Tracey Fulmer, Rescue Coordinator for the Northeast, and Mimi Wight, Rescue Volunteer Extraordinaire from the Great Escape, who are driving one of the vans of the "Shelbina Express," loaded with Kerries--Kerries who earlier gave kisses and tail-wags to their rescuers. Another van is being driven by Connie Steckly and her husband Tony, who are providing a safe harbor for our Kerries tonight and the days that follow. The third vehicle is driven by Connie's friend and groomer, Rachel Heimburger. We send them all high fives for their enormous success today, and wish them a safe journey home to IA, where so much work awaits.

There is another vehicle on the road tonight, traveling in the opposite direction. Our experienced and intrepid bidder, John Kimzey, is going home, after producing yet another awesome victory for Kerry Foundation Rescue. To him, nothing is impossible. Despite a painful back problem and impending surgery on Monday, John was there for the entire Kerry community today. We send him our deepest gratitude tonight, and best wishes for a speedy recovery from surgery.

Today's auction was a breed sell-out by a single puppy mill, and represented his entire breeding stock of Kerries. Most the dogs are 2 years old and up, and many of the bitches are littermates, meaning the mill either held them back for breeding, or couldn't sell them to the retail channels, and thus put them to use producing litter after litter. Puppies from this seller have been found in pet stores in the past, but that market has dried up. Thanks in large part to the Foundation's pro-active newspaper counter-ad program, and the public education provided by our web site, puppy mills can no longer turn a profit on our breed. They are getting out of Kerries. The day has finally come.
Indeed, the mills are having trouble even selling Kerries at the auctions. Today, with almost no competition, we rescued dogs selling for $25 and $50 apiece--a far cry from the days when our breed sold for $1000 and up. The average price of the Kerries today was $161, less than even 10 days ago. The tide has turned,

For 2 months now, our Rescue Team faced the daunting prospect of planning a rescue of historic proportions. 34 Kerries is the highest number of Kerries ever listed in any auction. The only way to plan for a rescue this size was to plan on getting them all. To handle that many Kerries, we needed more Rescue Coordinators, and we got them. Sharon Crockett (FL), Mimi Karsh (CO), Linda Grisley (Canada), Connie Steckly (IA, and Wheatens In Need volunteer), and Rhonda Krupp (TX) joined our team to help with this Rescue. Along with our seasoned Rescue Coordinators Candi Marzano (Northwest), Eileen Andrade (CA), and Tracey Fulmer (Northeast), they did a fabulous job finding homes in advance for our new Rescue Kerries. Without those homes, and the can-do attitude of every single volunteer, we would not have attempted this.

The logistics of pulling off a Rescue this size were daunting. We needed transportation, temporary housing, a vet, gallons of shampoo, pounds of food, dozens and dozens of blankets and towels, 34 crates and 68 food bowls to ship the dogs to their new homes, supplies of all kinds, and enough volunteers to handle the workload. Connie Steckly, who has experience with large Rescues, offered her facilities and equipment, managed to get much of our supplies donated, arranged for her vet to make a "house call," rounded up volunteers, and has trouble-shooted every problem and planned for every contingency. We could not have done this without the help of her and her family.

It will take nearly a week to get every dog bathed and groomed, vetted, and transported to O'Hare, 4 hours away, for their flights to their waiting homes. Meanwhile, they need to be fed, medicated, exercised, and hugged. It is an enormous amount of work! In addition to Tracey and Mimi, and Connie and her team, we also have Sharon Crockett and Bonnie Unsworth on the way to IA from FL. They, too, have taken time off of work, traveled at their own expense, and put their lives on hold to help with this Rescue. Together, they are the Foundation's "Ground Team." Their willingness to do what is necessary, their generosity in giving so freely of their time and expertise, and their dedication to the breed are a credit to all of us in the Kerry community.

What seemed inconceivable only a few months ago has come to pass. We pulled all 34 Kerries out of today's auction, because our team did not run for cover at the magnitude of this rescue. They did not become overwhelmed, make excuses, or look the other way. They met the challenge with courage, confidence, and excellence . . . because not doing so was, itself, unthinkable. Today they made history.

Jan in Santa Ynez, CA
Kerry Blue Terrier Foundation, Rescue Director

The Shelbina Express Rescue in Photos

1 Tracey Fulmer inspects the eyes of one of the Kerries just purchased at the auction held at the county fairgrounds in Shelbina, MO. Holding the dog is Gary Mohr, a local volunteer who was later instrumental in helping to ship dogs out of Des Moines.


2. At the auction site, the dogs have been loaded on our borrowed Rider truck, and a happy moment of accomplishment is shared by Tracey Fulmer (left), local volunteers Rachel Heinburger and Stephanie Mohr, and our bidder John Kimzey.


3. Our auction Kerries are unloaded at Connie and Tony Stecky's "safe harbor" by an army of volunteers, including their son Bryce, after a 4-hour drive from the auction site.


4. Our Rescue Kerries were temporarily housed in a heated workshop (and an off-site kennel) during processing in Iowa. This picture gives you some idea of the number of Kerries we rescued (not all are shown), and the amount of work implicit in caring for them.


5. Dogs were triaged the day after the auction, and those in the worst condition were seen by Dr. Jonelle Hankner, DVM (left) and her vet tech.


6. Bathing and grooming was a huge job in this rescue, and we had an army of local volunteers to help, as well as our own Mimi Wight, who flew from NH and donated 5 days of her life to be there for these Kerries.


7. Foundation volunteers Bonnie Unsworth (left) and Sharon Crockett flew in from FL and spent 5 grueling days bathing and grooming dogs nonstop to ready them for their departure to homes across the country.

8. A local volunteer spends one-on-one time with one of our Rescue Kerries. Dogs were rotated on tie-outs for exercise and socialization.

9. A local volunteer takes a break from grooming and kennel duties to take a run with one of our auction kids. This puppy, like all the 34 rescued, is now free at last.

Medical Problems

These pictures of some of our Rescue Kerries reveal the horror of life in the mills. Some, like this photo of a 5-year-old female, had probably never been groomed in her life. One puppy's eyes were completely mattered shut, several dogs were missing parts of their ears, and most had ears packed solid with hair and dirt. Eye infections were rampant. At least two of the dogs had hindquarters so caked with feces, that when bathed, their colons evacuated fecal matter that had long been blocked. One 4-year-old male's eye was so severely infected, it appeared opaquely red and required a vet's inspection to determine that he still had an eye. But saddest by far was the condition of a 5-year-old female, who endured a blunt force injury to her head that left a gapping hole in her cheek and missing or broken teeth--a violent, painful head trauma for which she received no medical treatment at all. Until now.

Shelby, a 5 year old female, just after her rescue.

Shelby is the mother of many Kerries sold in pet stores.

The left eye of a 4 year old male (#135) is severely infected.

Shelby after her shave.
Note that you can see her teeth through the hole under her left eye.


Keely lost part of both ears.

Open wounds were found on some of the dogs.

Pictures from the SFO arrivals,
Tue March 21, 2006

Expectant families gathered before the dogs arrived.

Left to Right: Dean & Susanna Weinberg
Chris Jones
Christine Callaway
Gabriela Ellis (Rick’s grand-daughter), Rick Ellis
Sharon Ponsford

The kerry in the middle of it all is Darby Ellis who was there to meet his new sister.

Pictures from the Sacramento arrivals,
Tue March 22, 2006

Left to right standing - Jo Frederick, Joan Ele, Bob Yutzy.
Kneeling - Sue Coliton


Bob Yutzy encouraging a reluctant Tucker #127.


Left to right - Maggie Hall, Pam Champoux, and Sue Coliton
encouraging L'il #108 to come out.

Left to right - Maggie Hall and Sue Coliton's hands.


Left to right - Maggie Hall, Pam Champoux, and
Sue Coliton's arm again - encouraging L'il to come out of her crate.


Left to right - Maggie Hall, Pam Champoux and L'il #108.


Left to right - Joan Ele and Maggie Hall (Sue's arm again)
with Katie, formerly Big Mama #119.


Left to right - Joan Ele and Sue Coliton (all of her this time)
with Katie.


Left to right - Jo Frederick and Maggie Hall
with Katie again.

Left to right: Pam Champoux, Sue Coliton,
Jo Frederick and Maggie Hall.

Left to right - Joan Ele with Katie, Bob Yutzy with Tucker, and
Maggie Hall with L'il.

Posted March 27, 2006

From: Janet Joers
Date: Wed Mar 29, 2006 3:03:21 PM US/Pacific
Subject: [KBL] From Heartland to Home

Hi all.

I'm home at last from the Heartland, and like the others on our Ground Team, I bring with me indelible images of the Shelbina Express experience--images that will remain with me for a lifetime. My first look at dog #125, whose traumatic head injury was half hidden by filth and mats, and my look at #135, whose eye was but a red orb in its socket are only two images that will be forever etched in my memory. I will remember the sea of crates housing Kerries so neglected it was clear that many if not most had never been groomed before. And I will remember the sweet gentleness of these Kerries, so frightened and overwhelmed by events, the little kisses our hands received when we handled them, and the trusting look of hope in their eyes, however infected, that something new was happening to them, something better. Hopelessness is a human invention. It does not exist in our breed. Despite the savage conditions from which they'd come, these Kerries had not lost the will to live, the ability to trust and to hope, and the capacity to know happiness. And I will remember the superhuman effort of all our volunteers--Tracey Fulmer, Mimi Wight, Sharon Crockett, Bonnie Unsworth, and our hosts, Connie & Tony Steckly, son Bryce, and an army of their friends, and friends of their friends. Although nearly 8 weeks of planning went into this, nothing could have prepared us for the amount of work required--exhausting physical labor that began at 4 am, and didn't end until well into the night. The dogs' need for medical care was immediate, and their need for food, water, exercise, and cleanup was an ongoing, nearly overwhelming responsibility we all shared. And there was the consuming fatigue of making decisions, revising plans, handling complications, and keeping things organized and on a schedule so that every dog left with medical treatment, clean, and groomed as well as possible. Emotionally, the experience was brutal--one minute you just wanted to stand there and cry, and the next minute you wanted to hug somebody with sheer joy! The Shelbina Express, originally named for the 3 vehicles that traversed the rural landscape from Shelbina, MO into Iowa after the auction, came to mean the emotional roller-coaster we rode out for an entire week. Yet we all survived, and our goal was accomplished. Today, every single Kerry of the 34 rescued is now in a home, receiving the care and attention it deserves.

In all, 34 dogs were shipped to 13 destinations--from Boston to San Francisco, from Seattle to Ft. Lauderdale, from Edmonton to Newark--from 3 different airports--Chicago, Cedar Rapids, and Des Moines. We scrapped the original plan of shipping all dogs out of O'Hare (on nonstop flights), simply because we didn't have the resources to send 2 drivers off each day for 10-12 hours, when so much work remained in Iowa. Instead, we noodled through a maze of airline restrictions at the local airports--some flights would take only one dog, others only two, and some none--and dealt with weather issues, cancellations, and flight delays. The low point for me came on the last day, standing alone at the ticket counter in Cedar Rapids with 5 dogs on 3 luggage carts, being told by American Airlines that they would not ship any of them due to delays in Chicago and weight restrictions in Dallas (our two connecting cities). I managed to get two other airlines to accept 4 of the 5, leaving me and little Shelby to make the drive together to Chicago, through a hail storm, rain, sleet, snow, and darkness of night! We overnighted at a hotel, and the next morning Shelby left on a nonstop flight to Hartford to the waiting arms of her loving family. My just deserts for having to ship 20 of the 34 dogs on connecting flights was having to make 2 connecting flights myself just to get home. ;-) Thus ended the execution of this Rescue.

In addition to our Ground Team, the true heroes of this Rescue are our Rescue Coordinators--especially Eileen Andrade, Candi Marzano, Tracey Fulmer, and Linda Grisley. They alone determined how many Kerries we could rescue by screening and qualifying enough homes to allow us to go into the auction with the goal of getting every single Kerry out. On the day of the auction, our RCs had 29 solid homes waiting, but they continued to review promising applications and interview applicants. I felt we had a shot at finding placements, whether temporary or permanent, for all 34. And thanks to them, no Kerry was left behind. Our RC team has worked tirelessly for over 2 months now to ensure the future well-being of every single dog rescued, and they continue to work night and day to find the forever homes we still need. The ticker tape parade belongs to them, and to all 34 families who opened their homes and hearts to our little refugees. Every hour of every day, they are tending to the needs and wants of these Kerries, and helping them adjust to the real world. No amount of praise we can heap on our Rescue Coordinators for pulling off this miracle will ever do them justice. No organization could ever have a better Rescue team than we have, and I am humbled and honored to work with each and every one of them.

Of the 34 Rescue Kerries, 12 are in their permanent homes, 12 are in foster homes, and 10 are in "foster-to-adopt" homes. This means that today, we have at least 12 dogs in need of forever homes, along with 3 remaining dogs from the Great Ohio Rescue. We will be posting write-ups and photos of these available dogs on our web site, and I will periodically post status reports on KB-L. These Rescues are not over until every Kerry is "home."

It has been pointed out on these pages that with the Shelbina Express, we rescued nearly as many dogs in a single day (34) as we did all of last year (36). We also rescued 15 Kerries in the Great Ohio Rescue earlier this month, 5 Kerries in the Christmas Miracle in December, and 14 in the Great Escape last September. During this time, other Kerries were rescued, too--10-year-old Buster who was found in a shelter, Maxx who received intensive training for dog aggression, Killian who required bladder surgery, and others. Within a half a year's time, we rescued over 70 Kerries. This is unprecedented in the history of Kerry Rescue, and for a small breed such as ours, it is extraordinary. It is an outstanding achievement by any measure, and was made possible by the courage and nerve and heart of our Rescue Team for whom every Rescue is worth attempting, and every Kerry worth saving. It was also made possible by our donors, whose past generosity gave us reason to hope that our current needs would be met.

Today, we are confronting the largest financial burden in the history of Kerry Rescue. We are facing the crushing expenses of on-site veterinary care for 34 Kerries, the overwhelming costs of air-shipping 34 Kerries to their homes, and the looming major medical expenses of surgeries yet to come, including reconstructive surgery for little Shelby whose face was torn apart in the mills. If you had looked into her dark eyes as I have done, and seen the hope there, the nobility of her breed, and the spirit and courage in her steady gaze, you would know beyond any doubt that she and the others are worthy of every penny and ounce of effort we expend. I would like to ask the Kerry Community to show its humanity, its compassion, and its support for these Kerries who had no one left but us.

Jan in Santa Ynez, CA
Kerry Blue Terrier Foundation, Rescue Director

Posted March 18, 2007--One Year Later

From: t_fulmer@YAHOO.COM
Subject: [KBL] Happy Re-Birthday to the Shelbina Survivors
Date: March 18, 2007 6:13:24 PM PDT

I can hardly believe it's been a year since that amazing day when we rescued 34 Kerries in Shelbina, MO, including Olivia who unbeknown to us at the time was carrying a litter of 7 pups. Was it really possible? All those Kerries in one day?

I remember like it was yesterday, watching the Kerries being unloaded into outside pens on that bitterly cold night before the auction, standing there with Mimi listening to 34 Kerries howl -- those few raspy, debarked dogs cutting through the racket -- hoping they'd keep it up all night. I remember the elation we felt when that last Kerry male went to us and we realized we got every single Kerry out of that nightmare, when we excitedly called Jan to tell her we did it and when we carried umpteen Kerries in our arms to their awaiting crates -- the first steps on their journey out of hell. I remember Mimi trying to take pictures with her cell phone, only to be told it was illegal to photograph a dog auction in Missouri. To this day I still get goosebumps remembering that each one of those scared, shaking Kerries turned and licked my face as I carried them to the van, tears of joy and anger welling up in my eyes.

I have a living memory of that day in my Isobel, and often find myself looking at her and wondering how she survived those endless days of nothingness in the mill. She still sleeps sitting up sometimes, head hanging down, no doubt what she did in her cage propped against a corner. A lot of people have asked me how I picked her, but the truth is she picked me. Isobel was one of the more frightened Kerries we rescued -- my notes from the auction were that she was circling and shaking. Since I have a confident male Kerry and I work from home, I figured I could take one of the more emotionally needy females. In the sea of black fur balls, I had no idea which I should take home until the day before leaving, when I opened #109's crate to take her out. This scared Kerry girl reluctantly came of her crate, looked at me and wagged her tail for the very first time. I actually think she was smiling. Well, that was the sign I needed and that connection we had remains a special moment. It's a year later and Isobel is so incredibly happy now, with a tail that wags non-stop and a joy that I never would have guessed was hidden beneath when I first laid eyes on her. And she's wicked smart! She's decided it's her job to carry my glove and performs her duty with her head held high. Her head still snaps around and she comes flying at me, skidding to a sit when I call her. I love it when she settles in my arms with a long sigh and we both fall asleep on the couch after a weekend day hike. (Bailey prefers warming my feet). People who meet her are amazed she's a rescue. She still has a long way to go, but when I think back to those first days, weeks and months, those first attempts to to get her to eat out of a bowl or to go up and down stairs or her endless circling (always to the left), I realize we've come a long, long way on a journey that has only just begun.

It's been 365 days and I've been thankful each and every one of those days to the Foundation for giving these Kerries a chance to live a good life and to use their brains. It would be great to hear how each Shelbina Kerry is doing so please write and fill us in!

Happy Re-Birthday to my darling Isobel and all of the Shelbina survivors!
Tracey Fulmer w/ Bailey and Isobel
Newton, MA

Posted March 18, 2011--Five Years Later

From: Tracey Fulmer <tfulmer111@GMAIL.COM>
Subject: [KBL] Happy 5-Year Anniversary to the Shelbina Rescue Kerries!!
Date: March 24, 2011 2:47:58 PM PDT

Okay, I'm a few days late (official rescue took place on March 18, 2006).
I can't believe it's been 5 years. Seems like just yesterday.

My sweet Isobel is doing great and continues to gain confidence with each
passing year. She is now 7 years old. Her beard turned white two years ago
so I always wonder if the mill's "paperwork" was accurate. But she is
healthy, happy and glad to be alive and barking at the passers by.

And I am still so thankful to have her and to have seen first hand what goes
on in those mills.
I will never forget and I will never stop telling anybody who will listen
about the story of the 34 Shelbina Kerries and the atrocities of the
pet store trade.

Please send a note with an update on your Shelbina Kerries. And to those
who are no longer with us on this earth, may they rest in peace knowing they
were very much loved.

Tracey, Bailey, Isobel and Piper in Newton, MA

From: Linda Grisley <lgrisley@SHAW.CA>
Subject: Re: [KBL] Happy 5-Year Anniversary to the Shelbina Rescue Kerries!!
Date: March 28, 2011 3:26:14 PM PDT

Seven Kerries came to Canada from the Shelbina Rescue. This was my
introduction to the rescue process and I was hooked!

Layla was a sweet Kerry girl who is happily living with a Wheaten male here
in Edmonton, Alberta. Her fearful disposition is gone - she's well settled
and a lovely pet.

Keiron was a raunchy little guy who is happily living with a female Kerry in
the Vancouver area of B.C.. He also settled into a good life but still
shows some of that Kerry spunk around other dogs.

Biddy was another young female, rather shy, but is happily living in
Calgary, Alberta, with no other dogs. She is a princess with pink collars
and leash and keeps her hair short and sassy, though I haven't seen her for
quite awhile.

Sullivan was our favorite! He was a stud dog with the most wonderful
temperament - just a huggable lover, but he was quite fearful of men. He
went to live in Montana, and sadly passed away of a tumour a year ago.

Skyla also came from Shelbina and moved to the Vancouver area of B.C.. I
don't have contact with her owners, but think she is still alive.

Miss Livvy's two pups, Zen and Guiness are also living well in Edmonton,
Alberta. Zen has trained for pet therapy, so is a fine example of Kerry
versatility. Guiness plays with his two kids and is a well loved family

Many many thanks go to Jan Joers, Tracey Fulmer and the rest of the Shelbina
team for their heroic efforts to get these dogs out of the puppy mills. It
was an amazing feat at the time, and thankfully, we don't still have this
many dogs to rescue at once; we may have 34 dogs in one year now instead of
one rescue.

Linda Grisley
Rescue Director, Canada

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Today is July 18, 2019

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Dr. W. Jean Dodds was first elected to the Board of the Kerry Blue Terrrier Foundation.

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