Olivia, Jenna and DAWGS

Much of our run through California was a bone dry desert. So was Arizona. The same for New Mexico.


And then, almost magically, within a span of 40 miles or so inside the Texas/New Mexico border, we found ourselves running through the irrigated agricultural lands of Texas, complete with foul smelling finishing lots designed to fatten up cattle before “finishing” them. Seeing the cows further reinforced my commitment to abstain from store-bought meat, a commitment I made in 2002.


But today’s blog is less about cows destined for slaughter and more about dogs destined for adoption.


First the backstory. Running across the USA was David’s idea. And now that we’re actually running, Kris, Olivia, and I are spending every waking moment to help David fulfill his dream. Helping kids fulfill their dreams is what parents do, but it’s not usually what 13-year old sisters do for their 15-year old brothers. Suffice it to say, Olivia does not find it fulfilling to work day and night to fulfill David’s dream. Olivia was miserable. She spent her days texting her Alaskan friends about her California, Arizona, and New Mexico misery.


When David and I were running way back in Leupp, Arizona, on the Navajo reservation, Olivia befriended and named a wild pack of rez puppies. In a matter of minutes she had given her heart to them. Long after we had left Leupp, Olivia pined for her puppies. “Let’s go back to Leupp,” she’d say, day after day.


David recognized and saw a solution to Olivia’s misery. “Dad. Mom,” he said, “Olivia needs a puppy.” We initially resisted. While we’re running across the country, the four of us live in a tiny trailer with Angel, our 15-year old deaf and arthritic wonder dog. The timing couldn’t be worse.


“Okay,” we said. We shared David’s idea with Olivia while we were still in New Mexico. We watched Olivia’s eyes light up with the news. We watched her energy level skyrocket. Olivia now had her own mission—a mission of love. Puppy love, if you will.


From that moment forward, Olivia had her eye on every dog she saw on the street. She searched and researched on-line. Finally, while attending church in Dalhart, Texas, we were informed of a dog sanctuary outside of Dalhart. DAWGS (Dalhart Animal Wellness Group and Sanctuary, Inc) was the name of the place. When I heard about DAWGS, I envisioned acres and acres of dogs romping free in the grass. Just before dusk that evening, Kris, Olivia, Angel, and I jumped in the truck and drove the 10 or so miles to the sanctuary. Yikes! No grass! No romping dogs!


The dogs were lined up in long rows of cages. And when they saw us drive up, they went crazy with barking—barking, jumping, wagging. I’ve never seen so many dogs that were absolutely dying for attention and affection, dying to join our pack. I was sick at the sight. So much love locked up in such tiny cages. I felt almost as hopeless for the dogs as I did for the cows in the finishing lots. Kris and Olivia got out of the truck and walked in front of the cages, looking for the puppy Olivia would take home.


The caretakers weren’t there so we left and made arrangements to return the next morning. And so we did. On Monday, we returned and met Becca. She told us that DAWGS was started back in 2003 by an inspirational teacher and her school kids. She told us that 100 dogs had been adopted in February, and they were almost there for March as well. Wow! Hundreds of other families like ours (maybe not as crazy as ours) had driven out to DAWGS and returned home with a new member of the family. Not only that, DAWGS had rescued over 7,000 dogs since its start. Amazing! The hopelessness I felt the previous night was replaced with hope and happiness.


Becca took us to a building filled with smaller dogs. As we entered, the dogs went wild with barking. Olivia looked at each dog, searching for her puppy soul mate. She selected first one puppy named Suki. Suki met Angel out where our truck was parked. Suki shook with fear. Not a good fit.


Olivia said she had her eye on one other puppy. She went in with a caretaker and they emerged with a young female black lab/border collie mix named Jonah. Jonah’s energy, love, and cute levels blasted through the roof. Olivia said, “I want Jonah.”


It would take a bit of time to make the arrangements so we left without Jonah with the plan to pick her up Tuesday morning. That night, Olivia announced that Jonah was to be known as Jenna.


And the rest is history.


We took Jenna to the vet in Dalhart on Thursday to have her spayed. I have long understood the need to spay and neuter pets, but after seeing so many dogs locked up, thrown away, and longing for homes, my understanding has increased a thousand fold. But they’re the lucky ones. According to the Humane Society, “About 2.7 million healthy, adoptable cats and dogs—about one every 11 seconds—are put down in U.S. shelters each year.” http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/pet_overpopulation/


DAWGS rescued Jenna and made it possible for Olivia to rescue Jenna from DAWGS. But Jenna rescued Olivia from her misery. And she’s providing all of us, including grumpy old Angel, a ton of laughs, love, and companionship.



It takes a lot of love to keep DAWGS open, but it takes more than love. Donate to DAWGS at the DAWGS website.


Brett and his 15-year old son, David, are currently running from coast to America coast promoting a GMO-Free USA. Brett and David blog at RunningTheCountry.com. Brett wrote this blog in the green town of Greensburg, Kansas, nearly halfway into their 3,000 mile run. Support their run and mission at RunningTheCountry.com/donate.

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12 Responses to Olivia, Jenna and DAWGS

  1. Jayne Erickson says:

    Thanks for the heart warming story … It brought me to tears.
    You guys rock! 😉

    • Brett Wilcox says:

      Thank you, Jayne! Speaking of “rocking,” we’re all literally rocking in our trailer at this moment due to a strong, gusting north wind. Was 90 degrees yesterday on our run yesterday and one to three inches of snow is predicted by tomorrow morning.

  2. Allison Renck says:

    Sounds like you guys are experiencing the best doing this with your children. I think about you often and send positive thoughts and prayers your way daily.
    Amboy pickup
    Allison and Dustin

    • Brett Wilcox says:

      Thank you, Allison! We need all the prayers we can get! Would have been nice to see you on the road a few days ago. Folks from Liberal, Kansas, aren’t too liberal with hitchhikers.

  3. Erika says:

    Yay! Happy story! 🙂 Can’t wait to meet Jenna. Wish we could have one of our own. Love you!!!

  4. Karen says:

    I’m so happy for you guys! What a marvelous story! It inspires those of us who volunteer with DAWGS on weekends at Petsmart and Petco (here in Amarillo) to keep on doing what we’re doing. You are so right that there are so many that need homes. God bless you for adopting from DAWGS!

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