A Guiding Light

In late January 2011, sisters Ginna Moore and Erin Fulk connected with a rural, downtrodden animal control shelter located at the landfill in Bolivar, TN (Hardeman County), about an hour east of Memphis. The shelter was euthanizing at least 25 dogs a week due to a lack of resources, volunteers, and homes for the many stray dogs.

This initial connection in 2011 developed into a partnership between volunteers in Tennessee and Mahomet, IL. Initially, Ginna and Erin assisted with food, supplies, and transporting dogs from Tennessee to rescue organizations in Minnesota and Wisconsin, where there was a stronger culture of shelter dog adoption and better networks of foster families.

Around 2012, Ginna decided that rather than driving for other transport groups, which often didn’t have space for the Hardeman dogs, she would establish her own transport group, and thus, “Bark & Ride” began. She worked tirelessly, cultivating rescue groups and foster homes in northern Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan, showcasing the Hardeman dogs to these rescue groups. Once these groups decided to “pull” dogs from Hardeman County, TN, Ginna created a pipeline of drivers to transport the dogs from TN to their final destinations, sometimes as far as Minneapolis, MN.  Ginna received no monetary compensation for all her time and effort with Bark and Ride.  Any money donated to her went directly to the transports and the dogs.

Once a month, 25-30 dogs would be loaded into vehicles in Tennessee early Saturday morning, and through a tag team effort, would arrive at the Hen House parking lot in Mahomet by early evening. Ginna had overnight volunteers ready to meet the dogs and take them home for the evening, providing them with a warm bath, a good meal, a comfortable couch to sleep on, and a good night’s rest. Early Sunday morning, the overnight volunteers would return to the Hen House, and the dogs would be loaded into a new set of vehicles to begin their final trek north. Ginna monitored the transport all weekend, ensuring smooth hand-offs, and would finally rest on Sunday evening when all dogs had been safely delivered to their new foster homes.

In pure “Ginna” form, she made this process fun! In March, it was the “St. Pawty’s Day Transport” with everyone dressed in bright green. Around Christmas, it was the “Polar Express Transport” with Santa hats and Christmas sweaters. In early February, it was the “Puppy Bowl Transport” with everyone wearing football jerseys. Several Tennessee shelter volunteers even came to Mahomet one summer to march with us (and several dogs) in the Sangamon River Music Festival parade. Friendships were formed, and good dogs were saved and given second chances.

Over a five-year period, Ginna’s “Bark & Ride” group rescued and transported over 1,500 dogs from Tennessee and a few other southern states to new homes in the north. With the increased interest in their shelter and their situation, the Tennessee volunteers were able to grow their numbers, raise more funds, and eventually became the nonprofit Hardeman Adoptable Animals Inc (HAA). They moved out of the old shelter on the landfill, which was falling apart, and built a brand new facility in town with proper kennels, drainage, air conditioning, heating, and much more space. The volunteers even acquired a rescue van, capable of transporting 30+ dogs in one trip.  Thanks to Ginna’s help and dedication, HAA sent 2300 dogs to rescue between 2011 and 2017.  In that same timeframe, HAA adopted out 745 dogs and puppies

Today, about once every five weeks, the Hardeman volunteers drive a van full of dogs from the shelter in Tennessee to rescues in the Chicago area—connections cultivated by Ginna a decade ago. Without that partnership, the shelter would be overwhelmed, forced to refuse new strays or owner surrenders, and euthanizations would resume.

A Hardeman County shelter volunteer once commented on Facebook, “Without Ginna, there would be no HAA.”

None of this would have been possible without the hard work and dedication of the volunteers in Tennessee. They clean the kennels, feed the dogs, get them vetted, and handle all the daily tasks, as the county does not provide any employees for this work. As many people say about Ginna, she showed them it could be done. She energized the volunteers, creating enthusiasm around the prospect of saving these dogs. Her excellent organizational skills shone a light on the shelter’s dire circumstances, starting the ball rolling until everyone was “all in.”

Even though Bark & Ride slowed down after about five years (Ginna took on a couple of part-time jobs in addition to her job at the University of Illinois), her work provided the shelter with the contacts they needed and rescues they could rely on, allowing them to continue on their own.

Thank you Ginna for what you did for the dogs and the volunteers of Hardeman County TN.  Because of you, so many families and animals found someone to love furever.  And you showed the volunteers that even in the darkest times, where there is a will, there is a way.