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Autumn Jolley: Ceaseless animal compassion and care

by Devin Heilman
| November 30, 2014 8:00 PM

One by one, until there are none, Autumn Jolley will strive to find forever homes for abandoned, abused, hard-to-place and homeless animals in North Idaho.

The Rathdrum resident has spent the last three years dedicating her life to bettering the lives of those who cannot speak for themselves. She's only 23 and has already saved the lives of hundreds of animals, especially dogs that are not usually at the top of the wanted list.

As the founder of Power of the Paw, a soon-to-be 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Jolley has paired countless families, individuals and senior citizens with new best friends ... best friends that may have been euthanized, fatally abused or abandoned to starve had she not delivered them from a dismal destiny.

Jolley works an average of 60 hours a week finding fosters for animals, networking with other rescues, setting up transportation to and from health appointments and spending time with the animals in the program.

"I like to get to know my dogs so I know what foster will be the fit best for them," Jolley said.

She somehow found time in her busy schedule to visit The Press to describe her job, experiences and outlook on life. With her wiggly 1-and-a-half-year-old daughter on her lap, she explained the Seniors for Seniors program, where people 65 and older can adopt a dog that is 7 or older for just $10. The dogs come completely vetted with the promise of companionship and assistance from Power of the Paw if the adopting senior needs help with senior pet care.

"Our senior dogs, most of them are mellow," Jolley said. "They just want to sleep all day, so they're a nice companion for someone who is bedridden or needs a mellow, calm dog, and just needs a living, breathing something there."

When people visit Power of the Paw's Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Power.of.the.Paw.Rescue, they will see heartwarming photos and powerful stories of the changes Jolley and her network of fosters and colleagues have made in some of these canines' lives. One such story is Koa, a sweet-tempered Shar Pei-mix with medicine-resistant mites who has undergone a serious transformation since she entered the Power of the Paw program (and who is still looking for a home). Or Daisy, an elderly Dachsund who was recently adopted by a couple with another senior Dachsund to be her pal.

Jolley tearfully says goodbye to her fosters, and sometimes is the last person they see when they pass on, but she lifts up her chin and continues in her mission to find a happy and safe forever home for every animal she possibly can. That's the Power of the Paw.

Website: www.powerofthepawid.com

When did you start Power of the Paw?

Power of the Paw was technically started in November of 2011. It was started as a Facebook page to share the animals in our area that were in high-kill shelters and needed out. And then we started organizing transport from those kill-shelters, I started making connections and organizing transport to other no-kill rescues, then we started having people want to foster for us and donate to us so we turned it into out own nonprofit no-kill rescue.

Why did you start it?

I started it because I've always been involved with animals, and I wanted a place where the 'hard-to-place' animals had a place to go. And I wanted a rescue in our area that wasn't choosy about who they took in ... mostly seniors, bully breeds, black dogs, you know, not the easy-to-place ones, there's not a lot of people out looking for that specific breed or age.

Where do you operate out of right now?

My paperwork and stuff is all out of my house. I'm at the Post Falls Animal Shelter a lot because that's where our main focus is right now, that's where we're pulling dogs from. I'm trying to change the view on the Post Falls shelter, because there is a lot of rumor that they kill dogs after 72 hours. They have not had to euthanize an adoptable dog in a very long time because they work so well with rescues ... I (personally) don't have that many animals, because I keep it to where I can give them the proper attention and the training that they need. I take in a lot of hospice cases, like animals that are sick and only have a week or two to give them the best life that they've had. But we run out of foster homes. We don't have an actual shelter. We don't have them in pens, we don't have them in runs, they are all in people's homes, learning to be a house dog and learning how to be a pet.

This has gained momentum, so what keeps you motivated?

Probably the community, and the willingness to step up when we really need the help. And of course, my love for the animals.

Do you have an estimate of how many dogs you've helped since you began?

If you include ones that we have arranged transport for to other no-kills, it's probably close to 1,000. If you're talking ones that we have personally adopted out and vetted, it's probably like 450.

How do you fund your endeavors? Through grants or private donations?

We're currently waiting on our 501(c)3, and once we get that we'll be able to apply for grants. Right now, the money that we get to pay vet bills and stuff all comes from donations from the public and then our adoption fees.

You're 23 and you're the founder of a to-be nonprofit that saves lives and helps animals. How does that feel?

It feels actually kind of scary, because I didn't think that this is where I would be at 23. Sometimes I get overwhelmed because I am so young. You know, I see my friends doing things and they're going out and they're having fun, they're working and they're going out traveling the world and I don't have that option. I take little vacations and it feels like everything falls apart while I'm gone ... it's exhausting. But it is very rewarding to look back and think about where (the animals') lives could be if we weren't there.

Did you always know that you loved animals, since you were a child? Did you bring animals home?

Yes. I was always the one who brought home animals, I was the one in kindergarten drawing pictures of being a veterinarian, I did ride-alongs, like for my senior project I did animal control ride-alongs. It has always been animal based. I have never, ever wanted to be anything else other than something to do with animals. So that goal has always changed but it's always been in the animal field.

What have you learned in the three years that you've been doing this?

I've learned that our community needs a lot more education. I think they need a lot more education on responsible pet ownership, if something happens and how to re-home their animals properly, instead of just abandoning them and not caring where they go. I also have learned that we've got to implement something in the community that can help people with medical and financial expenses for their pets, because people fall on hard times, and it's a lot of times where they can no longer keep their animals because they can't afford it. So we've been helping, especially in the wintertime. We donate a lot of food to people who can't afford to feed their dogs during the winter.

What would you say are the joys of your job?

The joys of my job are seeing the transformation, especially of the old or the medically needy that we take in, to see the difference that simple medical things, they can change their personalities and how they feel. Like Daisy. Daisy is probably one of the biggest changes, her and Koa both. (Koa)'s been a tough one because (her mites) are ivermectin resistant, and we're trying to figure out what we can do to help her, but Daisy, just the teeth removal and the lump removal, she's a completely different dog.

Do vets work with you, too, and give you bulk discounts or something because you have so many dogs you're working with?

We get really lucky. Spokane Humane Society does our spays, neuters and vaccinations for a very, very discounted price. We get half of their already low cost. All of the rescues in the area get that, if they're reputable. We do have one vet at Lake City Pet Hospital, she is very, very gracious. Daisy's teeth extractions, that would have been a lot worse at a different vet. She gives us discounts and works with us on the other medical stuff that needs to be done, antibiotics and blood tests and stuff.

What are some of the challenges of your position?

My challenges are probably having to see the pain and suffering that these animals have to go through, and the confusion when they're abandoned.

How many dogs do you handle or interact with at one time?

In my home, not including my three dogs, I only have about two maximum fosters. If you're talking about the organization as a whole, between all of our foster homes, we've had anywhere from zero - obviously there are times when we're empty - but the average is about six and we've had anywhere up to 18 at one time. (We take care of) every single need. If they need grooming, they get groomed. If they need dental, they get dentals. Right now, we have a lady who doesn't want to give up her dog, but she's in a situation where she can't (take care of if) and she has a place the dog can go but it has to be spayed and she can't afford it, so that's added into ours because we're paying to have her spayed so her dog doesn't have to go to a shelter and we don't have to figure that out. That includes just everything, just all the way across the board.

Do you get really attached to every animal that you interact with?

I get attached to every single animal. I cry when every single animal leaves. I have only 'foster failed' on one, so Ryker is our new addition. I know that if I take any more, I can't continue to help the ones that need my help.

At the end of the day, do you feel like you've made a difference?

Yeah, especially in my hospice cases. I can see the change, and see the light before they go, so I know that I made a difference there.

What do people say when they find out what you do? Are people pretty supportive?

I have a lot of support. I have a lot of people behind me. Our Facebook page alone has more than 3,700 followers. They 'like,' they comment, they share. I see posts all day about, 'I need to find a new dog,' and everybody's posting Power of the Paw. I have a lot of support and a lot of backup, and I have a great co-director now, so we get a lot more accomplished.

If you could tell our readers anything about your experiences, such as advice, thoughts or wishes, if you were like, 'Hey world, listen up,' what would you say?

I would probably tell them that no matter what their financial means are, there is always something they can do to help a rescue organization. Whether it be fostering, whether it be setting up fundraiser events, there is always something that can be done.

When you're not working, what do you do for fun?

I like to spend time with my family. We like to go hiking. I spend a lot of time with my dogs - Kovu, Ryker and Sage. We like to take small road trips, because we can take small road trips and we like to take (Ryleigh) to experience new things.

So, you don't have anything against cats? Do you help foster other animals?

No ... we do (foster other animals). We take in cats sometimes, but they're very hard to place, so we take in one or two at a time. We have taken in chinchillas, we've taken in guinea pigs, we've taken in rats. We did help move a goat. That one is currently at Higher Ground Animal Sanctuary in Spokane.

Do you think your future holds more than just Power of the Paw, or do you think Power of the Paw is going to grow into a national effort? What do you foresee?

I want to keep Power of the Paw local because there are enough organizations, even in this area, that help other states, and I want us to have the help for our community and our animals. What I do hope is that Power of the Paw will have the ability to help in every aspect, help with vet bills for the elderly. I hope to have a bigger facility someday, for people to come out and visit animals. I'm hoping to get more connections so we can get training done for a cheaper price for people that need help.

Is there anything else you are hoping to share?

It's hard for me to see myself as anybody other than the 'Power of the Paw' lady. People know me as that, but I am my totally own separate person. I have my own struggles. I just want everybody out there to know that there are resources for you, whether it's help getting vet care, help getting food, training, anything like that. There is help if you feel like you need to re-home your animal.

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