HJHS Volleyball contributes to needy animals
About 30 girls 7th and 8th grade girls on Hartselle Junior High School’s volleyball teams literally ran from a school bus Wed., Aug. 31 at 3:30 p.m. to get to inside Pet Masters to play with puppies.
Head Coach Dena Mayfield surprised the girls with a trip to the pet grooming/boarding business on Highway 31. Owner Kim Woodruff welcomed the teams to her shop, and went over some ground rules before she literally released the hounds.
“They’ve been through a lot,” Woodruff warned the girls who were buzzing with joyful energy. “Don’t go to the bigger dogs, let them come to you. You’ll be fine with the puppies, though.” The girls piled outside to find 12 Redbone Coonhound mixed puppies in the fenced yard behind the building.
Woodruff volunteered to take 29 dogs from Delta Humane Society, one of many rescue organizations working to relieve parts of Louisiana affected by recent, historic flooding. The society was already stretched thin as they cared for animals in one of the poorest communities in the nation. Delta Humane Society agreed to take in pets from flooded parts of Louisiana until they can be reunited with their families. The task meant extra stress because they needed to make room for the incoming animals. The society reached out and asked other people and organizations to house the homeless animals they couldn’t hold anymore.
That’s when Woodruff, her sister Rhonda Steele who owns Pet Pawlor in Madison and Kimberly Carpenter of Changing 42 Animal Rescue enter the picture to help. Carpenter hooked Woodruff up with the people at the Delta Humane Society so she could take the dogs 20 currently residing at Pet Masters and Steele could take the other nine with her. The dogs came by truck Friday, but Woodruff admits it was a big undertaking.
“I haven’t been able to work for a little while because of chemo treatment,” she said. Getting food for 12 puppies and eight other dogs isn’t cheap in normal circumstances, but Woodruff said she knew the community would provide the help she needed.
“If it weren’t for the people of Hartselle, these dogs wouldn’t be fed,” she said.
Woodruff reached out to the Hartselle City School system and asked for their help in providing for what she calls the “homeless homeless dogs.”
Hartselle Intermediate School has put out their own sort of Bat Signal to help them. They’re asking parents and kids to bring donated items to the school for the Louisiana dogs.
A Facebook post on the school’s page says, “The HIS science department will be collecting items for these dogs and taking them to Pet Masters. They are asking for any items that a dog might need: collars chew toys, treats, dog food, etc.” Hartselle Junior High School’s volleyball team veered from the list of recommended items to give their love and attention, which the puppies needed and adored.
The 8th grade girls’ team went to practice Wednesday after a loss to Danville in their first set of the season.
“It’s kind of funny because we thought we’d be running today,” one of the 8th grade girls said. Mayfield had other plans, though.
“We have a greater responsibility to develop the whole child, not just the athlete,” Mayfield said as she looked at her girls playing with the dogs in the yard. “We want them to have an awareness of thing around them, not just focus on wins and losses. We want to give them perspective.”
Mayfield achieved her goal.
“What’s funny is we were all down on ourselves and mad at ourselves,” an 8th grader said, “but then we come here and it’s all about the dogs and what they’ve been through. They went through something real.”
The girl’s teammate held a treat box and said, “Even though me and Emily have allergies to the dogs and can’t do anything with them, it’s still a good way to do something for our community.” Mayfield grinned proudly at that statement.
So, the trip wasn’t just playtime with puppies; the outing helped the girls focus on the community and the world around them.
“Teenage girls need perspective,” Mayfield said. “We all need perspective. There needs to be some light shed on what’s going on over here. I mean she needs help.” Mayfield nodded at Woodruff as she wove her way through the yard looking after the dogs and the girls. The coach explained how important it is to her and the other coaches that the girls get out into the community to support it.
“We appreciate our community because they support us,” Mayfield said.
The girls chimed in (all at once) after she made her statement.
“We had a lot of people at our game last night. It makes us feel like we’ve accomplished something.”
“We know we have people that care about us.”
“It means a lot to have so many people there to cheer us on and support us. Even when we were losing, they were still like, ‘Come on! You can do it! You’ve got this, you’ve got this!’”
“We did better with them cheering because even when we were down, we weren’t that down when they were cheering.”
…So on and so forth. Mayfield said her teams needed to be asked questions because they weren’t really going to talk otherwise. That was not the case at all. The volleyball teams’ faces lit up and they stumbled over words as they tried to express how happy they were and what the experience meant to them.
“To have twelve girls holding twelve puppies all at the same time and giving them equal amounts of love did a lot for them,” Woodruff said. She said it’s hard to juggle all twelve of them between about two people is just impossible. The g-room and board business owner said a puppy is just like a child in that a puppy doesn’t want to fight for attention with its siblings.
Mayfield had hesitation in her voice as she said, “Girls, make your way to the bus. They’re about to close in two minutes,” which was warranted since the response was a resounding “NOOOO!” followed by puppies getting the air squeezed out of them.
Half an hour spent at Pet Masters changed the dogs’ lives, the girls’ lives, the coaches’ lives and Woodruff’s life. She went into the air-conditioned building after the girls left and leaned back against the counter with a grin on her face.
In what’s become a dog-eat-dog world, Hartselle’s future learned to see outside of their own circumstances as they bonded with fellow volleyball teammates, and a grooming/boarding business owner’s belief in the care and support from the community is justified.
Woodruff still has some needs to keep up with the dogs’ needs. She said she needs laundry detergent since the puppies go through towels perpetually, baby shampoo to bathe the puppies, bleach and Fabuloso, Pedigree puppy food and garbage bags. Monetary donations would also be a huge and well-used contribution.
Pet Master’s phone number is 256-751-2904 if you would like more information. The address is 1005 Highway 31, Hartselle for drop-off donations or to see the dogs.