Gone to the Dogs

posted March 18th, 2019 by
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Gone to the Dogs

By Bill Snyder

 

Nancy Gallimore runs with a strange pack. A self-confessed “crazy dog lady,” she and her friends work together to save countless at-risk dogs every year.

 

How crazy? Let’s start with her home near Mounds. Right now, she and her partner Jim Thomason are sharing it with 24 dogs. Then there’s the horses, mules, donkeys, hog and other animals that don’t get house privileges. Nancy’s been an animal lover all her life, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

“We are outnumbered,” she says. “I’m a professional dog trainer and have been working at Pooches for over 13 years now. Dogs have always been my thing. Jim, it’s always been his thing too. It’s our passion.

 

“You do learn how to live with them and make sure they’re all happy together. I can’t tell you that I can take any dog into my home, and they’ll be OK—that’s not the truth—but we’re pretty good at introducing dogs and making sure they can coexist.”

 

With a long history of taking care of many animals at once, Nancy and business partner Lawanna Smith gained the know-how to successfully run Pooches at 5331 E. 41st St. in Tulsa, where they offer daycare, training, boarding and grooming services for dogs.

 

“I always say she’s the brains, and I’m the one with arms long enough to reach things on high shelves,” Nancy says.

 

Jim has a background in training as well. They have that many dogs at home because they take in and shelter pups in need, particularly their favorite breed, the Dalmatian. Their charity, the Dalmatian Assistance League, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Tulsa.

 

“Dogs get dumped out by our house fairly regularly. We’ve taken in a lot of dogs that were dropped off on our road, and we find them new homes,” Nancy says. “We’re just not the type to drive by a stray dog.”

 

The Dalmatian rescue group started in the early 1990s, taking in homeless Dalmatians and placing them in forever homes.

 

“It’s somewhere they can recover and then hopefully find happy homes, or just stay, that’s fine too,” Nancy says. “Not to look like a hoarder—you worry because you hear of 25 dogs in a house—well that’s not always a bad thing. We are set up for it. We do keep special needs dogs that won’t find a home, or if they’re too old, they can stay. They have a home for life if they need it.”

 

While they love all dogs, Jim says their fondness for Dalmatians stems from the breed’s desire for connection and to be a part of the family. That trait, however, sometimes causes problems in unprepared households. He says that Dalmatians that don’t get enough attention can act out and misbehave.

 

“They bond to you and want to be with you more than some other breeds,” he says. “One reason we often get rescue Dalmatians is because people don’t spend enough time with them and treat them like a member of the family. They crave being a part of the family.”

 

Jim says that in addition to that breed, they also have a soft spot for older dogs, what he said they call “silver muzzle rescue,” those in the last few years of their lives and unlikely to be adopted. A number of their dogs are special needs. He said that they’re passionate about giving them a place to spend their last days and eventually want a facility for older dogs.

 

“It’s not the fault of any of the dogs we have that they’re in a rescue,” Jim says. “We treat each like our own; it’s not their fault.”

 

Nancy says she wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

“We don’t have a house that’s necessarily ever perfectly clean or hair free, but it’s happy, and we’re never cold sleeping at night,” she says. “It’s always at least a 10-dog night.

 

That’s not the record, but there are a lot of dogs that like to curl up. Our theory is that our foster dogs should live just like our dogs do until they can find their own home, so they can be prepared to live that life.”

 

Nancy volunteered with a number of animal welfare groups for years and owned mixed-breed dogs, but in the late 80s when she wanted to start participating in obedience competitions, the AKC only allowed purebred dogs, so she got her first Dalmatian puppy. She and some fellow Dalmatian lovers then started a club and a rescue organization for the breed.

 

“Who knew we’d keep doing it for this many years,” she says. “I’m not sure I even know how to stop. Your name and number gets out there, and it’s really hard to say no if somebody calls and tells you there’s a Dalmatian at a shelter or a stray. It’s hard to not go get it. We meet a lot of dogs. I’m like a grandma; I get to love the kids and then send them to homes.”

 

Nancy also targets dogs from puppy mills for saving.

 

“You don’t want to see your own breed, or any dog, suffer like that,” she says. “It’s a horrible existence, so when we can get them out, we do. Sometimes we buy them out of auction, and a lot of people argue we’re just giving money to the puppy mill operation. My answer is ‘that dog is going to sell today; it could sell to another puppy mill, or it can sell to me. If it will sell to me, fantastic.’ We won’t spend copious amounts of money, but if we can, we buy the dog.”

Nancy says she was bringing one of those puppies to work recently, and her business partner Lawanna Smith started falling for it. The dog grew on her, and you can guess what happened next.

 

“She’s just as crazy as I am,” Nancy says. “Lawanna has her own herd of dogs.”

 

Nancy says that their intense love of dogs does bring difficulties from time to time.

 

“If you think about it, in a lifetime most people will have… what’s rational? Five dogs? Unless they have a couple at a time. I’ve had years when I’ve lost five dogs. It’s just a whole different world. As much fun as it is to be able to save dogs and live with them and love them, we also suffer on the other side because we experience a lot more loss. That’s tricky.”

 

A person with so many animals has to have a veterinarian on speed dial. One of Nancy’s good friends is Lauren Hanson Johnson, a DVM at Hammond Animal Hospital in Tulsa.

 

“She’s awesome,” Nancy says. “They are so good to us. We could not run a rescue if they were not so good at working with us and giving us breaks when they can. Or not thinking we’re crazy when we call them up at 9 p.m. on a Sunday night to ask if it’s normal when my dog does this, or would you be willing to board a dog for us for a few days. We try not to abuse them, but we kind of do.

 

“If you’re a crazy dog person, you need a veterinarian as a friend. That should be in the rulebook.”

 

A crazy time in their crazy dog life was August 6, 2017, when a tornado struck the area near I-44 and 41st Street. They had a full house in the Pooches kennel that night.

 

“I got a call at 2:30 in the morning from an employee, she was so sweet, who said, ‘I’m so sorry to wake you up. I just thought you’d want to know there was a tornado at Pooches.’ That will wake you up.”

 

Just getting back onto the property in the immediate aftermath was challenging. Nancy said they had to get around police barricades.

 

“We snuck in, and I just locked myself in there and hid to take care of the dogs while Jim ran out for flashlights and supplies,” she says. “There was no electric, no water, and authorities weren’t letting our employees come into the building. So Lawanna went and found a police officer and made her come to see that the building was full of dogs, and we weren’t leaving. They were great about working with us.”

 

The tornado hit early Sunday morning, and by that afternoon, thanks to the resourcefulness of Pooches Manager Lindsay Henry, a huge generator was set up to supply power to their facility. By Wednesday, the water was turned back, on and they were back in business.

 

While it might seem to an outsider that her world is dominated by dogs, Nancy says that the animals have created incredibly strong bonds with the people in her life.

 

“I would say that the majority of my closest friendships are because of my involvement with my animals,” Nancy says. “This is not the Nancy show. There’s no way I could or would do any of this—the business, the rescue, my home life—without my partners.

 

Then she adds with a laugh, “Those people are just as into it as I am, they’re maybe just not as vocal.”

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