Saturday, April 27, 2013

St. Francisville, May 2013

Every Southern Porch Needs a Dog, and St. Francisville’s Bo Bryant Shelter Has Just The Right One For You

By Anne Butler

Hershey's reunionPrior to 2012, the dog pound in St. Francisville consisted of a few makeshift pens attached to the parish jail, where the two-legged inmates had sentences considerably shorter than the four-legged ones who were pretty much on death row. A mere 5%-10% of the impounded animals were adopted out, most of those thanks to the efforts of a retired state trooper turned sheriff’s deputy, the late Bo Bryant; the rest met a sadder fate.

Help for homeless animals has come a long way since then. Just ask Hershey.
Hershey is a lab, a chocolate one, naturally, given the name. When he arrived not long ago at the new animal shelter in St. Francisville, the one named for Bryant and opened in 2012 as a collaboration between the parish police jury and sheriff’s department, Hershey was in terrible shape, heartworms, malnourished, even an old gunshot wound. Fortunately, a microchip scanner had been donated by local veterinarian Dr. Glenn Dupree; through Hershey’s chip, his owners could be identified. Baker residents who were on vacation in Oklahoma when contacted, they immediately returned to pick up the dog, who had been missing for three years! A joyous reunion ensued, Hershey leaping for joy to recognize his family and not a dry eye in the shelter, especially among the dedicated volunteers.

The Wolf DogThe story was repeated with a husky running loose in St. Francisville and getting in the way of a movie crew. Taken to the shelter, he too was found to have a microchip, permitting the staff to locate his family hours away in Waveland, Mississippi, from which he had been missing for several months. Miraculous reunions like these are complemented by a remarkable number of adoptions to new families. The James L. “Bo” Bryant Shelter now adopts out at reasonable fees some 90% of rescue cats and dogs, once they have been vetted, vaccinated and spayed at cut-rate cost by local veterinarians. This is a wonderful testament to the hard work of volunteers who foster, groom, tame, exercise, socialize and then transport animals wearing irresistible bright-colored vests pleading “Adopt Me” to public gatherings like St. Francisville’s monthly Community Market or the Angola Rodeo. Since the new shelter opened in August 2012, more than 143 adoptions have been arranged—dogs, cats, and even a horse. Not all of the shelter occupants are strays; some have arrived due to owner illness, death or relocation.
Volunteer and donor efforts are coordinated by the non-profit West Feliciana Animal Humane Society, whose 15 or so active civilian volunteers are supported by several volunteer inmates from the nearby parish work-release facility. Of course there is always a need for more—more volunteers to keep the facility open three days a week, care for the animals and oversee the adoptions; more foster homes for animals, especially those too young to stay in the shelter; more money and supplies like collars and leashes, pet carriers, cat litter, old towels, pet food; and more families willing to adopt. Kennels and cages are located in a large metal shed off the West Feliciana Parkway going toward the sports park, with exercise yards, holding pens and corrals that were built by Angola inmates. Adoption days are Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday 9 to 2.

dogs and othersThe humane society has a wonderful website and a Facebook page full of heartwarming images, and prospective volunteers can contact the sheriff’s office for information. The animal control officer for St. Francisville and West Feliciana Parish, on the job for more than a decade dealing with loose livestock and animal cruelty cases as well as strays and nuisance complaints, says the volunteers of the WFAHS have made his job so much easier with their professionalism and compassion.

The next West Feliciana Animal Humane Society Pet Adoption Day will be at the public library on Ferdinand Street in St. Francisville on Saturday, May 18, from 9:30 to 1:30, with lovable adoptable dogs looking for a home and the humane society benefitting from a portion of the proceeds from the sale of Porch Dogs, new book by author-photographer Nell Dickerson who will be on hand to sign copies from 11 to 1 at this event co-sponsored by the Friends of the West Book Porch DogsFeliciana Parish Library and the West Feliciana Animal Humane Society. Mississippi native Dickerson, passionate about historic preservation, celebrates the southern tradition of the porch as every home’s most important living-gathering-socializing space, back in the days before air conditioning shut everyone inside and incommunicado. And just as every welcoming gallery had its rockers and porch swings and hammocks full of chatters and storytellers and pea-shellers, so every porch had its family dog. If your porch is missing one, this is your opportunity to complete the picture.

Located on US Highway 61 on the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge, LA, and Natchez, MS, the St. Francisville area is a year-round tourist destination. A number of splendidly restored plantation homes are open for tours daily: the Cottage Plantation, Butler Greenwood Plantation, the Myrtles Plantation, Greenwood Plantation, plus Catalpa Plantation by reservation; Afton Villa Gardens and Imahara’s Botanical Garden are spectacular. Particularly important to tourism in the area are its two significant state historic sites, Rosedown Plantation and Oakley Plantation in the Audubon state site, which offer fascinating living-history demonstrations most weekends to allow visitors to experience 19th-century plantation life and customs.

Happy dogsThe nearby Tunica Hills region offers unmatched recreational activities in its unspoiled wilderness areas—hiking, biking, birding, photography, hunting. There are unique art galleries plus specialty and antiques shops, many in restored historic structures, and some fine little restaurants throughout the St. Francisville area serving everything from ethnic cuisine to seafood and classic Louisiana favorites. For overnight stays, the area offers some of the state’s most popular Bed & Breakfasts, including historic plantations, lakeside clubhouses and beautiful townhouses right in the middle of St. Francisville’s extensive National Register-listed historic district, and there are also modern motel accommodations for large bus groups.

For visitor information, call St. Francisville Main Street at 225-635-3873 or West Feliciana Tourist Commission at 225-635-4224, online at or (the events calendar gives dates and information on special activities, including the lively monthly third Saturday morning Community Market Day in Parker Park and the twice-weekly Farmers Markets).