Powering Homes and Saving Dogs

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Jackson County has a serious problem with abandoned dogs. One Jackson EMC team member has taken on the challenge, and now plays a vital role in helping these dogs find a new forever home.

When Greg Mathis, system control coordinator, leaves a shift of helping to keep the lights on for our members, he starts another shift fostering and finding homes for abandoned dogs in his community. Greg is the founder of 2nd Chance Dog Park and Kennels. This local, nonprofit organization rescues, fosters, rehabilitates and secures homes for dogs without a family to call their own.

Since Greg started fostering dogs in 2011, he has provided a second chance to more than 65 dogs. “We work with the Jackson County Humane Society, Jackson County Animal Control and the Saving North Georgia Dogs and Cats Rescue,” said Greg. “We have a common goal of saving dogs tossed on the side of the road, abandoned like trash.”

Caring for these animals is much more than a part-time effort, and fortunately for Greg, he has a strong community of support. One example of the team effort needed for the program’s success came during Tropical Storm Irma.

When the weather knocks out power to our members, all Jackson EMC employees report for duty. And, for any of us who have ever had a dog, we know that bad weather can be a nervous time for them. Before reporting for storm duty, Greg ensured he had a plan in place for the 16 dogs and puppies in his care to ride out the storm safely and comfortably.

“I moved 10 dogs in large kennels into my small, wood-working shop, and my neighbor, who helps me as part of her high school FFA project, took the six puppies,” said Greg, who set up fans, air conditioning, water and music for the dogs, as well as securing his house, cars and family in case he lost electricity during Irma. All the dogs and puppies came through the storm with resilience.

It’s not just during a tropical storm that 2nd Chance Dog Park works as a team effort, it is in daily operations, care and medical resources, too. High school students in the FFA program volunteer to help care for the dogs as part of their service projects. Neighbors, friends and supporters stop by to help feed, walk and play with the dogs each evening. And, through community donations, Greg is able to ensure the dogs are well fed, receive necessary medical treatment, and the kennels provide a safe and comfortable temporary home. “I’ve developed strong relationships with people in our community, who have donated dog houses, bowls, towels, blankets, collars and fencing,“ Greg said.

When it comes to finding forever homes that’s no easy task either. Greg and his wife Traci do much of the work behind the scenes, networking with rescue groups in other states, particularly the northeast. Many of their rescues/fosters are transported to Canada, Maine, upstate New York and Pennsylvania. Greg makes a name plate for each dog and places it on their kennel. When they are adopted, he moves the name plate to his shop ceiling.

It’s a tremendous undertaking to be a foster family for dogs. Many of the dogs come scared and need lots of love to feel comfortable around people again. Others arrive heartworm positive, which is costly to treat but a death sentence otherwise. These challenges can prove daunting and prohibitive for fosters without a support system like Greg’s. When Greg started fostering in 2011, he was just one of 26 foster homes in Jackson County. Now, Greg is the only one of five foster homes for dogs in Jackson County. Greg loves bringing dogs and families together with his philosophy “there is a perfect home for every dog.” As Greg noted, “The most rewarding aspect of fostering dogs is knowing I can help change not just a dog’s life, but a family’s life who will get a great pet.”

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