Category: Upper Cumberland Region

A Time 4 Paws celebrates ten years of hope for pets in Cumberland County, Tenn.

A Time 4 Paws found Angel tied with a heavy chain to a concrete block with no food or clean water in December 2014. (Photo by Karen McMeekin / Used by permission)
A Time 4 Paws found Angel tied with a heavy chain to a concrete block with no food or clean water in December 2014. (Photo by Karen McMeekin / Used by permission)

One-year-old Angel once lived in deplorable conditions in Cumberland County, Tenn., on land that was being used to train dogs for fighting.

In December 2014, A Time 4 Paws (AT4P), a non-profit animal welfare organization established in 2005, assisted the Cumberland County sheriff’s department in rescuing Angel and six other dogs that required extensive medical treatment.

Rose and Quinton Troglin adopted Angel from A Time 4 Paws in May. (Photo by Karen McMeekin / Used by permission)
Rose and Quinton adopted Angel from A Time 4 Paws in May. (Photo by Karen McMeekin / Used by permission)

AT4P volunteers took Angel and the other dogs to veterinarians and made sure that these animals continued to heal at the group’s adoption center at 463 Old Jamestown Hwy., during the months that followed their rescue.

In the meantime, AT4P posted photos and information about these dogs on its Facebook page and national websites like PetFinder.com and AdoptAPet.com.

Rose T. said, “[My husband and I] found Angel on [the A Time 4 Paws] adoption site; we were drawn to her lovable face that just said take me home!”

Angel now lives with Rose’s family. She said, “This is the first rescue dog we’ve adopted. … Our son loves Angel. He takes her for walks, and we all play with her. My mother-in-law also interacts with her some. She was scared at first by her great size, but soon realized she’s a big baby.”

Angel found her forever family; however, many homeless animals in Cumberland County do not.

From July 2013 to June 2014, the Cumberland County animal shelter in Crossville, Tenn., processed 2,119 cats and dogs through capture or owner surrender. Shelter manager Andrea Gaskins said that 1,414 were released alive through owner reclaims, adoptions or release to rescue organizations, resulting in a 67-percent save rate.

What about the other 33 percent of animals that were killed?

Members of AT4P believe that – in partnership with local groups like theirs – the shelter could support a 99-percent save rate.

Karen McMeekin, AT4P’s founder and president, said, “Our goal is to turn the entire community and county shelter into a No Kill community – people who embrace the No Kill philosophy because it should be the only way that a community should be in the United States today, and, with that philosophy, animals lives are saved.”

Since it was founded in 2005, AT4P has expanded its physical presence in Crossville from a small boarding facility to an adoption center, a thrift store and a pet hotel.

Now, in its 10th year in Crossville, AT4P will move its adoption center to a 9½-acre mini sanctuary at 594 Cook Rd., this summer.

McMeekin, AT4P’s founder and president, said, “I started A Time 4 Paws … as an organization that was assisting the local county and city shelter.

“The Humane Society of Cumberland County was running a city shelter. … The city shelter took only city animals, and they were killing approximately 90 percent of them. The county shelter would take all of the county animals, and they were killing about 85 percent of them. And when I became a board member, … I found the number of animals being killed.”

In order to save as many shelter animals as possible, McMeekin and Teresa Williams, AT4P’s vice president transported 30 to 50 dogs every month to No Kill animal rescue groups in other states. Williams, who also manages the AT4P pet hotel said, “We learned soon after by attending Best Friends No Kill conferences and traveling to visit the places that were No Kill that transporting them out [of state] wasn’t the answer – but a temporary solution.”

What is the No Kill philosophy?

When Nathan Winograd released his book ‘Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation and the No Kill Revolution in America’ in 2007, he became an outspoken and recognizable voice of the movement.

In an interview with Janet Kinosian for Reader’s Digest magazine, Winograd said, “’When you take killing animals off the table as an option, … you’d be surprised at the creative solutions you come up with.’”

Embrace No Kill

Winograd’s research in ‘We Can Do It!: Adopt Your Way Out of Killing’ debunks the long-standing ideology that municipal shelters must continue killing pets to reduce their overpopulation.

Research from the No Kill Advocacy Center shows that pets killed in shelters every year could be re-homed based on the number of people planning to adopt pets annually. (Graphic by The No Kill Advocacy Center / Used by permission)
Research from the No Kill Advocacy Center shows that pets killed in shelters every year could be re-homed based on the number of people planning to adopt pets annually. (Graphic by The No Kill Advocacy Center / Used by permission)

According to this guide, U.S. shelters kill an average of three million animals per year simply because they have not been re-homed. However, statistics show that 23.5 million people bring new pets into their homes every year and that 17 million have not decided where they will find their new companions.

Based on these projections, the No Kill Advocacy Center believes that “even if 80% of those people got their animal from somewhere other than a shelter, we could still zero out the killing. And many communities are proving it.” Saving90.org verified 145 No Kill shelters in the U.S. in 2014. The group also recognized 46 shelters making progress with proven save rates of 80 to 89 percent.

In Lisa Sandberg’s interview with Winograd published in The Sun magazine (Chapel Hill, N.C.) in 2013, Winograd said, “The No Kill communities across the U.S. today have little in common … , but they all share the model they used to end the killing of healthy and treatable animals. It’s a series of cost-effective programs and services that I call the ‘No Kill Equation.’ These shelters encourage high-volume adoptions. They work with volunteers, foster families, and rescuers. They treat medical and behavior problems. They neuter and release, rather than kill, feral cats. Perhaps the most important characteristic they all share is that they embrace the public rather than blame it. By reaching out to community groups, by treating each life as precious, we can transform any shelter.”

No Kill EquationIs No Kill working in Cumberland County?

Shelter director Gaskins is familiar with Winograd’s work and the No Kill philosophy. She said, “It takes time. We’re working our way there slowly. I think [the numbers are] a huge improvement as far as where we’ve been to where we’ve come to.

“The live release on canines is 90 percent, and that’s huge for us. … Cats are our hardest thing. There are so many feral cats in this county.”

To help with decreasing the homeless animal population, the shelter recently changed policy to make sure that all animals are spayed or neutered before they are adopted. She said, “It’s a flat $80 for dogs, $50 for cats.”

Gaskins manages one full-time and three part-time employees. A handful of volunteers help walk and socialize the animals, and some take animals home that need to be in quarantine and treated. However, the shelter still needs help with animal socialization, daily cleaning and publicizing new arrivals on social media.

Gaskins said that she presented plans for a new facility to the city council this summer. She said, “A new facility opens eyes to the public, is more inviting to the public; it encourages adoptions.”

Although the city commissioners told her that funding would not be available for this year, they encouraged her to present the proposal again next year.

For the short-term, she said, “Feral cats is the biggest [project] we’re working on … . We’ve done things a little bit different on how we separate them this year. … We’ve had less problems with respiratory diseases passing through the cats. We would like to see a feral cat enclosure outdoors. Inside, I think, is really stressful for them. That’s one. Working on that and the barn cat program. We’ve done a lot of focus on the dogs. We need to focus a little bit more on the cats this year and try and get that number down and get the release rate up.”

Gaskins explained that the shelter does not set a time limit on how long an animal can stay at the shelter; however, the facility does euthanize animals when it is full.

She said, “If [the dog or cat] has great potential but just has not found the right home, we’ll hang on to it for as long as we can – as long as we have the space and keep the transports going [to out-of-state rescue groups] and there’s potential for that animal to get a good home.”

McMeekin said that she is pleased that the number of shelter killings has been lowered over the past ten years. “But it’s not a 99-percent save rate,” she said.

A Time 4 Paws also wants to encourage more adoptions locally in order to prevent transported animals from taking the place of other homeless animals in northern states.

Is No Kill working in Tennessee?

Steve Phipps founded the Blount County Humane Society (BCHS) in Maryville, Tenn. in 2003, and continues to serve as the group’s president. He said, “[The book] opened my eyes. … There aren’t too many pets for the homes that we have in America. As a matter of fact, we have a surplus of homes, and the breakdown is we don’t have a pet overpopulation. We have shelter overcrowding due to poor shelter performance.”

Four years ago, the BCHS leadership team, inspired by Winograd’s No Kill Equation, approached Maryville city officials with a plan to drastically lower the kill rate of shelter animals and change the city to a No Kill community. Phipps said, “Of course, [the animal control officers] were very skeptical. … They didn’t know anything about No Kill. They thought it was some crazy, lame-brained idea, and they thought we’d give up after a few months.

“I think the turning point for them was [that] there were five black dogs that came to the shelter. Traditionally, very hard to adopt. … Well, lo and behold, we got the five dogs adopted, and I think they saw at that point, we’re really doing something that works. Since then they’ve been on board. They expanded their hold periods – without us even asking them – expanded from three days to 20 days.”

In cooperation with the Maryville Animal Control department, BCHS achieved a 99-percent save rate in 2014.

Where can A Time 4 Paws be found in Cumberland County?

AT4P’s current adoption center is located at 463 Old Jamestown Hwy.

A Time 4 Paws runs a thrift store at 1201 West Ave., in Crossville, Tenn., to help support the organization's programs. (Photo by Diahan Krahulek)
A Time 4 Paws runs a thrift store at 1201 West Ave., in Crossville, Tenn., to help support the organization’s programs. (Photo by Diahan Krahulek)

The group also manages a thrift store at 1201 West Ave. Volunteers work Mondays through Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Another branch of AT4P’s ventures is the pet hotel at 2149 E. First St. Teresa Williams helped open the hotel in 2009, and said, “Profits go to help AT4P and its programs.”

Williams is especially qualified to manage the hotel with her background in dog training and with a degree in business. She has shown agility dogs and horses throughout the U.S. and Europe for many years and is certified in canine and equine massage therapy. She also maintains a dog training business called Winning Touch.

Teresa Williams manages the pet hotel which provides boarding for dogs and cats. Services and fees can be found www.atime4paws.org/pet-hotel.html. (Photo by Teresa Williams / Used by permission)
Teresa Williams manages the pet hotel which provides boarding for dogs and cats. Services and fees can be found www.atime4paws.org/pet-hotel.html. (Photo by Teresa Williams / Used by permission)

Williams said, “We built three cottages with no more than eight to nine dogs per cottage. Smaller dogs were setup in the house. Lots of playtime makes for the tranquil atmosphere. We don’t get the barking that goes on in most kennels. We also board cats.”

What is in the future for A Time 4 Paws?

McMeekin has been planning to build an animal sanctuary for Cumberland County since she started the organization.

“People don’t realize that, when they say their son or daughter is going to take care of [their pet] when they’re gone, the situation they may be in at that time does not award them the ability to take that animal,” said McMeekin. “And so what do they have? They don’t have a choice. Well, they do have a choice with us, but they don’t have a choice at the county shelter. It could be killed, and, if it’s a cat, it’s probably going to be killed for sure. So what we’d like to be is the alternative.”

The AT4P adoption center would be located on the property; however, the sanctuary would mainly be a special home for animals with special needs. To help alleviate the number of animals killed in the county shelter, the group would have special treatment areas for sick animals and space for elderly dogs and cats and for those who need more socializing before being listed as adoptable.

As a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, A Time 4 Paws depends on community support for financial help and for supplies. Those interested in donating will find more information on the Pinterest board below.

Follow Diahan’s board Saving Animals with the No Kill Philosophy on Pinterest.

AT4P provides an anonymous hotline to report suspected animal abuse. (Photo by Diahan Krahulek)
AT4P provides an anonymous hotline to report suspected animal abuse. (Photo by Diahan Krahulek)

Donating + Shopping = Saving Lives with A Time 4 Paws

A Time 4 Paws supports not only an adoption center, but also a thrift store and a pet hotel in Crossville, Tenn.

Volunteers man the AT4P thrift store, located at 1201 West Ave., Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. One hundred percent of its profit helps the organization maintain the animals and operational expenses of the no kill animal adoption center, located at 463 Old Jamestown Hwy.

Karen Arnold has volunteered with AT4P for four years and at the thrift store since it opened in September 2013. She said, “Everyday we have different specials. Then we’ll throw an extra one in. … We want the customers to feel special. We want them to come back, and we want them to … have an idea of what we do [at A Time 4 Paws].”

Pearl Jaco, who also works at the thrift store, said, “People will give money, supplies. They donate everything we get in the store. People are really good about that. Some days we get big donations. … Other days we might only get two or three, but, in general, we have donations everyday of some type.”

At the entrance to the store, customers will find an information table with a photo album of adoptable pets, a wish list for donated supplies and other information about AT4P’s mission. AT4P volunteers also help rescue homeless and abused animals and create educational programs and literature about the no kill philosophy, which all require funding.

Arnold said, “I’m just really inspired by the things going on, and I want other people to see what we do and what we have done and what we’re going for the future with.”

She said that AT4P president Karen McMeekin is looking for 100 acres to create a sanctuary for animals that are never adopted, based on the model created by the Best Friends Animal Society near Kanab, Utah.

In the meantime, the organization uses the thrift store to help with veterinary bills and to fund the various programs it has in place to help people and their pets in the community and homeless and abused animals.

By shopping at the AT4P thrift store, consumers find inexpensive household, décor, clothing and pet supplies, as well as toys, books and holiday items. At the same time, they will be supporting AT4P’s efforts to save, find homes for and create a sanctuary for homeless pets in Cumberland County.

Feral cat trap-neuter-release programs increase shelter space and decrease killing of healthy animals

Nathan Winograd, founder of the No Kill Advocacy Center based in Oakland, Calif., established an 11-point “No Kill Equation” plan to guide municipal shelters into becoming no-kill facilities.

His first strategy is the organization of Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) programs for feral cats.

Alley Cat Allies of Bethesda, Md., explained that TNR programs involve safely trapping feral cats and taking them to veterinarians who will neuter and vaccinate them. Once the animals have recovered from surgery, “the cats are returned to their home – their colony – outdoors. Kittens and cats who are friendly and socialized to people may be adopted into homes.”

Whether feral cats are born in the wild or run away from domestic environments, no kill advocates support the cats’ right to live – just as they would support the live-and-let-live response most people have to raccoons, squirrels, birds and the like.

As more communities recognize the benefits of the TNR strategy, local governments are legislating these programs to ensure that shelters provide feral cats with an alternative to being killed when captured by animal control.

No Kill 101,” published by the No Kill Advocacy Center, says, “The decision to end an animal’s life is extremely serious, and should always be treated as such. No matter how many animals a shelter kills, each and every animal is an individual, and each deserves individual consideration.”

Feral cats know how to survive in the wild, so animal lovers do not need to worry about their survival. Returning spayed and neutered feral cats to their chosen habitats will reduce the number of animals euthanized in shelters because they are not breeding. Additionally, rescue groups typically foster these cats during their recovery and take care of the medical costs related to surgery and vaccinations.

While cats are under anesthesia, veterinarians clip off a quarter inch of the cats’ left ears to show that they have been neutered and vaccinated. This universal symbol allows treated cats to be left alone.

While Winograd strongly advocates for TNR programs, he also believes that that people should choose to spay and neuter their pets based on actual statics – not exaggerated ones. He contends that the main reasons to neuter dogs and cats are to reduce the number of animals that enter shelters and to stop needlessly killing healthy, adoptable animals.

Best Friend Animal Society in Kanab, Utah established itself as a no-kill facility in 1984. Best Friends is the “largest no-kill sanctuary” in the U.S. and has been a “flagship for the no-kill movement” for 30 years.

Along with PetsMart Charities, Best Friends started Community Cat Projects in two large cites in the west. Statistics in 2014 show a decrease of cats entering the shelters by 21 percent and a decrease of euthanasia by 84 percent from the shelters’ 2011 numbers.

PetsMart Charities also supports the TNR method for free roaming cats and has published steps to start grassroots programs and provided resources to help growing programs.

 

The Blount County Humane Society in Maryville, Tenn., – with the help of the Maryville Animal Shelter – currently has a barn cat program in which spayed and neutered cats are placed on farms where they can roam freely and provide property owners with rodent control.

A Time 4 Paws in Crossville, Tenn. is also working on developing this program for Cumberland County.

For more information about how to help with these programs, contact A Time 4 Paws at 931-456-6906 or the Blount County Humane Society at 865-382-7652.

Successful no kill animal programs show change possible for Cumberland County

A Time 4 Pets (www.at4p.org)
www.at4p.org

A Time 4 Paws is a non-profit organization committed to establishing the no-kill animal philosophy in Cumberland County, Tenn.

Karen McMeekin, president of AT4P, said that in 2004, the county and city shelters were killing 85 to 90 percent of the dogs and cats they brought in. In order to reduce these numbers, she often transported large numbers of animals to out-of-state no-kill rescue organizations.

McMeekin discovered the book “Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation and the No Kill Revolution in America” (2009). Nathan Winograd, the director of the No Kill Advocacy Center, presents a researched-based plan that can change shelters across the U.S. to increase their save rates to 90 percent or better. He has also produced a movie based on “Redemption” that will be shown in theaters this summer.

Winograd’s text gave McMeekin hope for a new plan for Cumberland County, and, at her own expense, she visited successful no-kill programs in Utah, Texas and Florida to learn how to implement the same initiative in Tennessee.

bestfriends.org
bestfriends.org

Best Friends Animal Society (BFAS) in Kanab, Utah, has been a prominent model for no-kill animal programs since 1984. Founders committed themselves to sheltering homeless animals until they were adopted and educating the public about the routine and unnecessary euthanasia protocols in U.S. shelters.

Board member Gregory Castle has served as BFAS’s CEO since 2010. However, as a co-founder of BFAS, he has been advocating for no kill animal programs for 30 years. He believes that communities can eliminate unnecessary euthanasia of homeless animals with organized programs. Through No More Homeless Pets in Utah, another organization he founded, his team developed programs for animal care education, low-cost spaying and neutering and pet adoptions.

http://www.austinpetsalive.org
austinpetsalive.org

Austin Pets Alive! in Austin, Texas, is managed by Executive Director Dr. Ellen Jefferson. She has led Austin to be “the largest No Kill city in the United States.” APA! has a 91 percent save rate, which translates to more than 6,000 animals annually. The center regularly plans broad, creative programs to save at-risk companion animals.

Since 1988, the Animal Refuge Center (ARC) in Ft. Myers, Fla., has provided an alternative to euthanasia of unwanted dogs and cats. They ensure that all animals are treated, rehabilitated and given an opportunity to be adopted. For dogs and cats that are never adopted, ARC is committed to providing them with lifetime sanctuary.

animalrefugecenter.com
animalrefugecenter.com
blountcountyhumanesociety.org
blountcountyhumanesociety.org

Closer to Crossville, the Blount County Humane Society in Maryville, Tenn., has established itself as a no-kill program in Tennessee with a verified save rate of 99 percent in 2014. The group offers a variety of leadership and supporting volunteer opportunities and is very active in promoting its philosophy through social media. Citizens can offer support as on -the-ground members of the Friends of the Animals Advisory Team and financially through the Bark-N-Purr Club.

For board members and other volunteers with AT4P, the goal for a true no-kill animal facility with the Cumberland County government is very realistic. However, they know that they must continue educating the community about the statistics and the proven successes of other programs to counteract the long-standing mindset of pet overpopulation that must be controlled with euthanasia.

Crossville Model Railroad Club shares love of trains with visitors of all ages

The Upper Cumberland Railroad Society (UCRS) and the Crossville Model Railroad Club (CMRC) constructed a railroad museum and an exhibit of various sizes of model railroads in a 4,500 sq. ft. storefront in the Cumberland Outlet Center in Crossville, Tenn.

Steve Rosenstein, who manages public relations for the CMRC said, “This display started about seven or eight years ago. The club started really in people’s basements, as is a typical railway club. They would get together, and the club decided they wanted to something permanent and started looking for a space.”

“And, actually, the building is still going on,” said Rosenstein. “There are some sections of this layout that have been built within this last year because once you run out of space you run out of things to do so you’re always building and building.”

Kendall, 6, and Will, 10, came from Nashville to visit their grandparents in Crossville. This was their first time to see the display. Kendall said, “I like how they have the buttons and stuff, and I like how they have [Thomas the Train] with the candy in it.”

Will said, “I like where you can search for things.” By using a scavenger hunt list located at the front desk, visitors are encouraged to look for items hidden within the railroad scenes created by club members.

“Most of our layouts,” said Rosenstein, “are built with a lot of interactivity for children. … They can press buttons and run trains. They can create sounds.”

DSC02771
Denise (shown with her oldest son Kayden) said, “We’re there every weekend. The boys love it.” (Photo by Diahan Krahulek / Full Sail University)

The CMRC is uncommon as a model railroad club because its membership includes people who work with various model scales. Rosenstein said, “Most clubs you go to you’re going to see maybe an HO-scale, which is the most popular scale. Maybe an N-scale club. This club has all popular scales in it.”

“I’m a G-scaler,” he said. “I was an HO person until I moved down here [from New York]. I bought a house that had a garden railroad in the backyard, and now I’m a G-scaler.”

The CMRC displays the following gauges (from smallest to largest) at this location: Z, N, HO, O and G. OakridgeHobbies.com shows a comparison photo of model engines in these gauges with ratios of the model trains to real trains.

This 12-year-old organization has increased its visibility with different methods of promoting the model railroad exhibit. Rosenstein said, “We now have signs on I-40, … so now people can find us more easily. We’re on Facebook. We have a website. We’re on TripAdvisor. … So we get a lot of people here, and a lot of people review us very favorably online. They take photos, and they post their photos. They take videos and put them on YouTube. People are really blown away when they see this display.”

Based on reviews posted on TripAdvisor at the time of this posting, visitors have ranked the model railroad exhibit as the number one attraction in Crossville.

Rosenstein said, “We very carefully track our visitors. Everyone who comes in the door gets counted. We have a guest book where people can sign in. We get upwards of 30,000 people a year, and they come here from all over the world. We look at our guest book. There are people from Australia, from Europe, from South America – people from all over the United States.”

Visitors from all over the world visit this model train exhibit. (Photo by Diahan Krahulek / Full Sail University)
Visitors from all over the world visit this model train exhibit. (Photo by Diahan Krahulek / Full Sail University)

The UCRS hosts model railroading classes throughout the year and has listed upcoming classes on its website for Feb. 2, March 21 and April 11, at 8 a.m. Interested persons must register via contacts on the UCRS webpage.

Rosenstein said, “So you have all of these various skills involved in model railroading which are very valuable to a child. A child has to learn about electricity if they’re going build a model railroad layout. They have to learn how to paint things. They have to learn how to build things. It’s not sitting at a computer starring at a screen, punching buttons to play a video game. We wish more people would get their children involved in model railroading.”

Volunteers work six days a week at the mall to make sure this display is open for visitors. Because the UCRS and CMRC do not charge admission, members are dependent on membership dues and donations to maintain the exhibits.

CMRC member Wayne Lokey said, “This is our big toy box. We come in and play.” However, he explained that repairing equipment and scenery is expensive. Trains that run constantly while the exhibit is open to the public get very hot. He said that new O-scale engines could cost up to $1,000.

The Crossville Model Railroad Club does not charge admission to its exhibits. Members depend on donations to maintain equipment and displays. (Photo Diahan Krahulek / Full Sail University)
The Crossville Model Railroad Club does not charge admission to its exhibits. Members depend on donations to maintain equipment and displays. (Photo Diahan Krahulek / Full Sail University)

For more information about membership or to make a donation, contact Steve Rosenstein at 931-742-0151 (after 6 p.m. CST) or at hvsteve1@juno.com.

CHS senior builds mascot skills to follow college dreams

Eighteen-year-old senior Tanner Stockton plans to study political science in college. (Photo by Diahan Krahulek / Full Sail University)
Eighteen-year-old senior Tanner Stockton plans to study political science in college. (Photo by Diahan Krahulek / Full Sail University)

Tanner Stockton, an 18-year-old senior at Clarkrange High School in Clarkrange, Tenn. has been the school’s mascot – Brutus the Buffalo – for the past two years.

Stockton said, “It’s definitely been a cool experience. You get to do something a lot of people can’t say they do. I mean it’s really an experience kind of like a big secret. You go into a room and come out as a whole new person.”

He also said that the student body has been very supportive of his role at sporting events. He laughed, “Before games people say, ‘Are you going to hop in the suit yet?’ I’m like, ‘Soon. I’ve got another three hours.’ They want me in in early so I can just go crazy.”

“U.S. News and World Report” identified CHS as a bronze-level high school in its annual Best High Schools list. The administration and faculty work diligently to increase academic rigor and encourage students to apply for universities. However, career options are not always obvious in this rural town.

Brutus the Buffalo (Tanner Stockton) helps the CHS cheerleaders on the sideline of the game against Stone Memorial High School in Crossville, on Feb. 6.
Brutus the Buffalo (Tanner Stockton) helps the CHS cheerleaders on the sideline of the game against Stone Memorial High School in Crossville, on Feb. 7. (Photo by Diahan Krahulek / Full Sail University)

Stockton, however, has been researching his future opportunities for some time as a mascot and as a former member of the JROTC program. He said, “I’m planning to major in political science, and then, from there I plan to go to OCS, which is officer training school, and do military law for the Air Force.”

Stockton participated in JROTC for three years and served as a commanding officer with the rank of Cadet Major during his junior year.

During the summer before his senior year, he made a difficult decision to not continue with JROTC.

Stockton said, “I arrived at that decision because I had my normal classes, and I had dual-enrollment classes, so I was taking college classes. And then on top of that we had the busy ballgame schedule, and then everything with JROTC junior year. It was too much to handle. I was exhausted. This year I just decided to take off. … And there’s some mascot scholarships out there which you can try out and make it. You can pretty much go anywhere from there. That’s what I’m hoping to do in college.”

He has attended several mascot camps through the Universal Cheerleaders Association, including one at Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville. Daniel Drake Fenlon, who is TTU’s Awesome Eagle mascot, was one of his instructors. Fenlon has also won the mascot national championship for the past two years.

Scouts from TTU and from Bryan College have attended CHS games to watch Stockton in action.

Stockton interacts with spectators during half time at the game against Stone Memorial High School in Crossville, on Feb. 6.
Stockton interacts with spectators during half time at the CHS game against Stone Memorial High School in Crossville, on Feb. 7. (Photo by Diahan Krahulek / Full Sail University)

In spite of Stockton’s ambitions to be a college mascot, he said that his job now is to support the cheerleaders and entertain the crowds. He takes pride in making people happy.

Stockton shared one of his favorite memories: “There was one ballgame we had at Jackson County. This little girl was crying all night because she saw me walking by. … And her mom was like, “Don’t be afraid,” so she brought the little girl [where I was standing], and she was hiding behind her mom’s legs. … I just sit down Indian style I just [do a hand gesture to come], and she comes over. And I high five her, and she high fives me back. Well, we start playing paddy cake right there while the ballgame is going on – completely missed the fourth period of the girls game. I’m just playing paddy cake with this girl, and she’s laughing and giggling and she’s starting to warm up. … I was really just focusing on getting that girl to calm her down – get her used to mascots.”

Stockton started a Facebook page for Brutus the Buffalo. He said, “It was originally just meant to inform people. Let them know the next game, the time, when to be there – also for pep club members.

“In two days, we went from having no friends to over 100, and then we had our [Fentress] county executive Mike Cross add us, so that was pretty cool to have him add us. Then I posted on there, ‘I hope to see you at our next game Mr. County Executive Mike Cross,’ and he liked it and commented, so that was pretty cool.”

Stockton’s mascot Facebook page now has 321 likes.

‘The Wizard of Oz’ opens early to benefit Crossville, Tenn. boy with Sanfilippo syndrome

On January 30, the Cumberland County Playhouse (CCP), in Crossville, Tenn., opened its student-volunteer production of “The Wizard of Oz” one day early for a sold-out benefit to support four-year-old Rylan Hyder, who was diagnosed with Sanfilippo syndrome.

The Cumberland County Playhouse opens "The Wizard of Oz" one day early on January 30, as a benefit for Rylan Hyder, 4.
The Cumberland County Playhouse opens “The Wizard of Oz” one day early on January 30, as a benefit for Rylan Hyder. (Photo by Diahan Krahulek / Full Sail University)

Mandy Dearman, assistant to the producing director and the volunteer coordinator at CCP, contacted Nicole Simmons, Hyder’s mother, about organizing this benefit. Simmons said, “We went to high school together, and she called me up one day. Rylan has a Facebook page, … and everybody has seen it on there and wanted to do something for him.”

“Everyone’s been very nice,” Simmons said, “and we’re very accepting of that. We appreciate it!”

Nicole Simmons, Rylan's mother, speaks with well wishers before the play begins. (Photo by Diahan Krahulek / Full Sail University)
Rylan’s mother Nicole Simmons (center) speaks with well wishers before the play begins. (Photo by Diahan Krahulek / Full Sail University)

Bryce McDonald is the associate producing director and public relations coordinator at CCP. While introducing the production, he said, “Being here tonight is such a beautiful show of community love, and it’s all for that little boy, so thank you all so much for that. We at the playhouse would like to thank our very own Mandy Dearman for bringing this to us. … We’d also like to thank Tams-Witmark. That’s a licensing house that owns ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ and they allowed us to do this performance and to have a voucher system, so you could purchase a voucher to see the show. …”

Dorothy (Ellie Burnett) talks with Hickory (Lenny Lively), Hunk (Ransom Velker) and Zeke (Malachi Banegas) on the Gale farm. (Photo by Diahan Krahulek / Full Sail University)
Dorothy (Emery Smith) talks with Hickory (Lenny Lively), Hunk (Ransom Velker) and Zeke (Malachi Banegas) on the Gale farm. (Photo by Diahan Krahulek / Full Sail University)

CCP donated all of its ticket and concession sales from the evening to the Hyder family to help with their travel expenses to Columbus, Ohio, where Hyder will be evaluated for a clinical trial at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

Many in the audience wore “Saving Rylan” shirts to show their support for the family. The back of the shirts read “’I can do all things through Christ.’ –Philippians 4:13” and “Finding a cure for Sanfilippo syndrome.”

On January 31, CCP shared a photo on Facebook of the Hyder family with “The Wizard of Oz” cast. The post stated that the event raised $6,000.

Good witch Glinda (Rachel Masters) and Munchkins greet Dorothy (Emery Smith) and Toto (Taylor Dearman) in Munchkinland. (Photo by Diahan Krahulek / Full Sail University)
Good witch Glinda (Rachel Masters) and Munchkins greet Dorothy (Emery Smith) and Toto (Taylor Dearman) in Munchkinland. (Photo by Diahan Krahulek / Full Sail University)

Doctors diagnosed Hyder with Mucopolysaccharidoses or MPS III-A – also known as Sanfilippo syndrome – on November 21. His body cannot produce the enzymes necessary to reprocess materials in cells and causes the cells to store biological materials that the body should be able to remove naturally. This build-up in the cells may lead to the degeneration of not only the heart, joints and bones, but also the respiratory and central nervous systems. Hyder is specifically missing the heparan N-sulfatase enzyme.

Simmons said, “[Prior to the diagnosis, Rylan] had been having some gastro issues, which is what I thought it was because his belly would get distended. Blood work showed increased liver enzymes, enlarged spleen and liver, so that’s why they continued with more testing because they had thought it might be a genetic disorder. …”

Rylan Hyder sits on his father’s lap (Jonathan Hyder) in the main theater as seats fill up for the sold-out benefit performance. (Photo by Diahan Krahulek / Full Sail University)
The Cumberland County Playhouse presents "The Wizard of Oz" volunteer production. (Photo by Diahan Krahulek / Full Sail University)
The Cumberland County Playhouse presents “The Wizard of Oz” volunteer production, which will be playing through February 21. (Photo by Diahan Krahulek / Full Sail University)

Simmons and her husband Jonathan Hyder will take Hyder to Nationwide Children’s Hospital this month for evaluations to prepare for a clinical trial.

Simmons said, “The clinical trial hasn’t made it through the last FCA approval, so, as of right now, there’s no set date when the clinical trial will start. … They’re hopefully proposing sometime this summer.”

At Nationwide Children’s Hospital, the Hyder family will be working with neurosurgeon Dr. Kevin Flanigan, the clinical research coordinator of the trial; Dr. Kim McBride, a geneticist; and Dr. Haiyan Fu and Dr. Doug McCarty, researchers in gene therapy, at Nationwide.

“They have to get the medicine just so-so for humans,” said Simmons. “So, hopefully, there are no set backs. It’s a virus they will inject into the spinal column. What that virus is supposed to do is to give them the enzyme that they are missing to stop the accumulation of heparan sulfate on the brain. If everything goes OK, it should be like a one-time treatment type deal. That’s the whole plan.”

Since Hyder’s diagnosis, Simmons has researched the Sanfilippo syndrome and made connections with several support groups. She said, “The National MPS Society is a good support group. Our private Facebook page [for MPS] is a very good support group because the people who are on that Facebook page only have children with this disorder. … Nobody else can see what’s written on it. … That helps a lot.”

The Hyders have three sons: Gage, 7; Brayden, 6; and Rylan, 4. Simmons said, “[His brothers] are good with him. They’re still young. They don’t totally get it. We answer questions as questions come about. It’s kind of hard explaining that to a six-year-old and a seven-year-old, so we just take it as it comes.”

Donations can still be given to the Saving Rylan fund on GoFundMe.com. For those who wish to donate in Crossville, Progressive Savings Bank has a “Saving Rylan” account set up at 807 N. Main St.

(Graphic by Diahan Krahulek / Full Sail University)
(Graphic by Diahan Krahulek / Full Sail University)

A Time 4 Paws brings no-kill philosophy to Cumberland Co., Tenn.

Animal shelters across the U.S. put down millions of animals annually because they have not found homes for these dogs and cats within a small window of time. While shelters have improved their save rate to a national average of 65 percent, no-kill adoption centers are forming in both urban and rural areas to improve this statistic to 99 percent. Staff members and volunteers with A Time 4 Paws, located in Crossville, Tenn., believe that through education they can change this community into one that embraces the no-kill philosophy.

In 2004, Karen McMeekin, founder of A Time 4 Paws, joined the local Humane Society as a board member when the county and city shelter’s were euthanizing 85 to 90 percent of their animals. McMeekin said, “What I started doing was making transports out of the county up north to facilities that would accept them. I transported in my truck and my horse trailer 30 to 40 to 50 animals at a time.”

McMeekin said, “When I was running the Humane Society [in Cumberland County] for three months, we were completely no-kill. We killed nothing. We saved 42 upper-respiratory cats and every animal that had Parvo in there. [Elizabeth Chaste] and I took 12-hour shifts laying on the floor with Parvo dogs, giving them medications that they needed to save every one of them.

McMeekin and Chaste met when they were board members for the Humane Society. They read “Redemption” by Nathan Winograd, the founder of the No-Kill Advocacy Center and strategically planned to implement this way of thinking in Cumberland County.

“[A Time 4 Paws] became a non-profit 501(c)(3) in 2005. We then decided that we should learn other ways – rather than transporting animals north. We felt that we would be killing other animals up north by bringing ours there, so we educated ourselves on the no-kill philosophy.”

McMeekin visited Best Friends Animal Society in Utah and other organizations in Texas, Florida and Washington, D.C. to learn how to develop a no-kill community.

According to the No Kill Advocacy Center in Oakland, Calif., more than 23 million people adopt pets annually, and shelters kill approximately three million dogs and cats every year because they are not re-homed. McMeekin said, “The no-kill philosophy does not say there is an overpopulation. There’s a lack of effort.”

McMeekin said, “I could go on for hours about animals we have helped and people we have helped – not just animals – but the people.”

Fran Long agreed that she has benefited from adopting two dogs through A Time 4 Pets.

Long and her husband Jim adopted Zoe after Jim was diagnosed with cancer. She said that Jim and Zoe were inseparable. A year and a half after Jim passed away, Long decided to adopt another dog. She said, “I wasn’t able to take her to the dog park and walk her as much as we did before – and exercise and play. … I thought, She needs someone to play with to help occupy her time between me getting involved.

“[Zoe] took to Rosie right away, and they’ve been the best playmates. They watch out the front door and alert me to anything that goes on outside.”

Jason Kennedy has volunteered at A Time 4 Paws for four years. He said, “I believe in chances for animals. If I help out, the more chances they get.”

McMeekin continues to look for opportunities to promote the no-kill alternative to Cumberland County, Tenn. She said, “The ultimate goal would be is to not be needed. Wouldn’t that be fabulous? They just didn’t need A Time 4 Paws because everything was a no-kill, everyone took care of their animals, everyone fed them, didn’t tie them out to trees, didn’t use them as target practice, didn’t anti-freeze poison them. It would be fabulous, but until then we’ll keep on fighting.”

The A Time 4 Paws adoption center is located at 463 Old Jamestown Hwy. in Crossville. The thrift store is located at 1201 West Ave, and the pet hotel is located at 2149 E. 1st St.

McMeekin’s next goal is to open a pet sanctuary to provide more room for the animals in which to live and to engage with potential adopters. She said, “We need someone to donate 70-100 acres. Now that would be community cooperation!”

To contact A Time 4 Paws, call 931-456-6906 or email savetnpets@gmail.com. The organization also has a Facebook page.

For more information about the 11 steps for a no-kill community, click here.

Ranger anticipates spring completion of aviary for rehabilitated birds of prey

Four rehabilitated Tennessee native birds of prey reside at Cumberland Mountain State Park in Crossville, Tenn., and participate in public programs with Monica Johnson and Mark Houston, the park rangers who care for them.

However, barred owls McKenzie and Pigpen; Trillium, an eastern screech owl; and Henson, a red-tailed hawk, will take up residence in more natural habitats in the spring.

Johnson said that she expects that the park staff will move them to the new aviary located near the visitor center by the end of May.

Last autumn, more than 20 volunteers framed and added dividing walls to the aviary over two weekends.

Retired carpenter Ray Towers and his wife traveled from Red Bank, Tenn., with other family members to help with this project.

He said, “My wife and I came up for the summer. We wanted to ride the paddleboards. Never had. My wife saw [fundraising information for the aviary], and she says, ‘Let’s go up there and help them build that thing.’ I said O.K. and that’s what we did.

“One of my sons is [at the campground] with his sons and the scouts, and some of the scouts are coming up to help me in a little while.”

Johnson said that the park manager Chip Hillis has been pleased with anticipated draw of visitors to the park with the completion of the aviary. She added, “He’s been very excited about how it’s coming along – the look of it. He loves the look and the shape. The picture of the finished product – he’s all about.”

As the weather improves in the coming months, Johnson will schedule more workdays to complete the aviary. Volunteers may find this information posted on the park’s website. Those who wish to make donations towards the construction of this structure or to the up keep of the birds can mail donations to the Birds of Prey Program at Cumberland Mountain State Park, 24 Office Dr., Crossville, TN 38555.

For more information, call Ranger Monica Johnson at (931) 484-6138 or email her at monica.johnson@tn.gov.