At 18, Madison Joselyn has rescued more than 120 dogs.
“Dogs are kind of my thing,” she admits.
Three years ago, she was upset to learn a shelter in Anderson County, S.C., was relocating and had to euthanize many unclaimed dogs. Madison, now a senior at Marvin Ridge High, didn’t know her trip down there to save a few would become part of her routine: She now finds homes for an average of five to six dogs a month.
The process is involved, and Cathy Killen, director of the HEART Program at Pawmetto Lifeline in Columbia, said she’s never worked with such a young and dedicated volunteer.
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“The first time I met her, I was shocked at how young she is,” Killen said. “She is incredibly professional, and she is amazingly organized.”
Madison regularly scrolls through websites that post pictures of animals about to be euthanized. She picks ones to save, then drives to the shelters (as far as Columbia and Gaston County).
Saving a dog from a gas chamber makes her efforts worth it, Madison said. As soon as a dog is safely in her car, she said its tense demeanor immediately changes. “They just relax. Every time, they’ll fall asleep in the car.”
After checking the dogs at a vet, she brings them home or delivers them to temporary fosters. Then she’ll arrange to send them to rescues up north. (She often works with agencies in Virginia and Philadelphia.) Arranging transportation usually involves taking dogs to catch a flight in Salisbury or a bus in Belmont. Then they’re taken to rescues and sent to fosters until they’re adopted.
The work often comes with unforeseen obstacles. One shelter wouldn’t let Madison take a dog without driving almost an hour home and back to fetch a crate for the trip. This January, Madison spent her New Year’s giving a rescue dog intravenous fluids at home because vet offices were closed. Killen recalled a recent incident when Madison picked up a newly spayed dog from a shelter and took it to a vet for a bad ear infection. On the way home, the woozy, sick dog’s stitches came out.
“To be able to handle and deal with all those ... things is just incredible, it really is,” Killen said. She sees a lot of young volunteers, she said, “but none who could even come close to dealing with the stress of coordinating the business end of it and the people skills you have to have.”
Madison said a tradeoff of her hobby is not getting to sleep in. She also works weekends in the kennel at Rea Road Animal Hospital, where she has worked part-time for 2 1/2 years.
Madison is president of her school’s Humane Society Club, and the group can often be found at PetSmart stores on Saturdays trying to get dogs adopted.
She’ll attend UNC Wilmington next fall and expects to major in biology, and hopes to attend N.C. State University’s veterinarian school.
In college, she said she wants to continue helping dogs, or at least wildlife, in some capacity. Until then, she’ll continue hunting for dog fosters, and she wants people to know most dogs up for euthanasia are ones who simply haven’t been found by their owners. “What people don’t realize is they’re not mangy,” she said. “Most of them are healthy.”