The stray, ultimately dubbed Major Hound, was a Treeing Walker Coonhound found loitering on a regular basis outside the Wal-Mart in Farmerville, Louisiana, where Sandy Lunte lived. As a longtime devoted dog rescuer and re-homer working alone, she saw him as one more dog in urgent need of rescuing. She spent the next three weeks trying to entice him close enough to safely trap him, until finally, with the help of local vet Dr. Damon Odem, she succeeded. And so it was that this abused, abandoned, and beautiful dog snared Sandy’s heart, aroused her curiosity about coonhounds in general and ignited her passion for the breed itself.
Coming to Sandy’s own rescue, when she needed a second loving heart and a second pair of helping hands, was her close friend, Elisabeth Grant-Gibson. Sliding into her new rescue role with eagerness and ease, Elisabeth quickly acquired three foster dogs. Late one Sunday evening, as the pair was driving to Elisabeth’s house with yet another hound for her to foster, Elisabeth casually remarked, “We’ve got all hounds on deck now,” to which Sandy promptly replied, “That’s the name.”
With that, All Hounds on Deck was born and officially launched in June 2013. As to the playful logo with its prominent peace sign? It was the brainchild of graphic artist Amy Sliger. “Peace Love & Hounds is our motto,” says Sandy. “We’re peace-loving hippies. We also LOVE Coonhounds because they’re dear, dear dogs. Silly, funny, and oh-so-loving. They’re also terribly misunderstood and constantly mistreated around here. Since so many people don’t realize what wonderful pets and loyal family members coonhounds make, we’ve made educating the public about them a vital part of our mission.”
Because All Hounds is such a new rescue group, their earliest funding came out of Sandy’s and Elisabeth’s own pockets, and they were the group’s sole foster homes, together with a local boarding facility. But as they quickly began rescuing more dogs, they started to work on establishing a network of temporary foster homes. And although they had begun by using volunteers strictly on an event by event basis, over time that base began to grow.
Their decision to pull a dog – whom they named Shemp Hound -- from a local shelter was a game changer for them. Although they had nowhere to place him and no funds for his medical costs, they posted his story on Facebook and appealed to the public to call in donations directly to their vet. To their relief and delight, their first fundraising effort was an unqualified success.
Building upon that success, All Hounds continued to use not only Facebook, but also some of the burgeoning websites devoted solely to raising money for rescues. Two of their own most effective fundraisers were leaving collection cans at area businesses and selling All Hounds on Deck t-shirts with their whimsical logo. Then, as more people became familiar with them, contributions from other donors, both public and private, began trickling in. And as a non-profit rescue, they continue to rely solely on the generosity of others to sustain them.
A major support to Sandy and Elisabeth in the area of rescues and placements has been Jerry Dunham, founder of Tejas Coonhound Rescue, and an integral part of Coonhound Companions. Case in point: a beautiful, tri-color English coonhound they called Cindy Hound. Found in December on a highway in Iberia Parish, Louisiana, she was taken to the shelter, where she languished for weeks with no interest shown in her whatsoever. Despite being a sweet and obviously loving dog, she was scheduled for euthanasia by the shelter due to overcrowding.
In desperation, Jerry, who had first helped Sandy with Major Hound’s rescue, contacted her and asked for her help. All Hounds promptly posted Cindy on Facebook, and to everyone’s profound relief, a potential adopter was found and ultimately approved. After Jerry had arranged for Cindy to be flown to Monroe by Pilots N Paws, Elisabeth drove Cindy across country to New Jersey, where her adoptive family was eagerly waiting to welcome her to her forever home.
As part of their mission to educate the public about coonhounds, dog health and safety, and responsible pet ownership in general, Sandy and Elisabeth are frequent guests on several local radio and television programs. They also speak with students and work individually with children whenever they appear at public meet and greets. And they are currently laying the groundwork to visit schools with Jack, who is Sandy’s onetime dumpster dog turned certified therapy dog.
Article written by Nomi Berger. Nomi is the best-selling author of seven novels, one work of non-fiction, two volumes of poetry and hundreds of articles. She lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada with her adopted morkie, Shadow, and devotes all of her time volunteering her writing skills to animal rescue organizations throughout Canada and the USA.