A Halfway House for Dogs
Through the glass window of the Barking Hound Village Foundation (BHVF), at least six dogs are visible, all in various states of action or repose. Some are barking with excitement, the rest lying about like royalty.
Many dog owners are familiar with the BHVF. It services Fulton County’s animal control department, and a branch of the business provides doggy daycare and grooming. But BHVF offers another service that has an impact on many of the city’s four-legged citizens. Dog care attendant Mike Rowe is part of a small team that rehabilitates dogs on death row, offering them medical and behavioral care. After they become healthy, the dogs are placed with shelters in New England where there is a shortage of potential adoptees.
Rowe’s path to working at BHVF wasn’t at all predictable, and still it makes perfect sense. He ran a landscaping company out of East Atlanta and taught high school English. Placing bids on landscaping jobs seems a far cry from socializing dogs and testing them for parvo, a common canine disease.
One day, Rowe was out walking his rescued pit bull, Buddy, and discovered several strays. He took Buddy home, brought the strays some food and took them to a BHVF shelter. He ended up getting a job at one of their daycare facilities, and eventually moved over to the shelter.
Thinking back on his different jobs over the years, he’s truly happy where he is. “The education system always left me wondering if I made a difference. You’d look at a kid at the end of the year and just hope he got it, or will get it. Here, it’s immediately clear if we’ve been successful.”
Through the door the noise is deafening. “They’ll quiet down in a minute, it’s just because you’re new.” Every 21 days a new batch of dogs comes in. Spread throughout the building, there are about 40. There are pit bulls, poodles and Pomeranians. And also a Chihuahua mix named Chico. They are often scared, aggressive, and underweight with spotty coats.
Chico seems to have adjusted pretty well – he looks healthy and adorable, his dark brown eyes roaming around the room. Rowe picks Chico up and continues talking. The nearby dogs quiet down and wag their tails – maybe they’ll be next.
“We don’t always get to save every one,” Rowe says. “But we have a responsibility to the shelters and their customers. If we can’t get the dog healthy down here, we’re not going to send him to some family to take their chances.”
Twenty-one days is the minimum amount of time it takes to fully vet a dog for all potential illnesses, get him or her well, and prepare them for a future family. All day, Rowe crawls in and out of cages, carries dogs, walks dogs and gets on the phone to talk dogs. He loves it. Seconds later, it’s easy to see why.
In the far corner, there is a mound of sleeping pit bull puppies, all nestled together and on top of one another. One wakes up, grows curious and tumbles out toward the edge of the pen. He struggles to stand up on his hind legs and pushes his front paws into the fence.
For Rowe, the best part comes at the end. When the van rolls up every three weeks and the team places each rehabilitated dog in their travel compartment, Rowe knows they are moving on to a happier life, and that he had something to do with it.
“Here, showing up to work means something – it matters to an animal’s health, to its well-being. I’m really proud to be a part of that.”
For more information, visit bhvfrescue.org.