Lori Brown was driving home from a volunteer shift at the local animal control center in the Florida Everglades one night when she decided to take a shortcut down a deserted dirt road. She hadn’t gotten far when she saw motion up ahead. Her heart began to beat faster as the object came into focus. It was a dog piercing her windsheild with a haunting set of eyes.
“There were no houses or businesses anywhere near there,” Lori explains of the Tram Road location in Panama City. “I couldn’t imagine how she got out there. It took me a full 45 minutes to slowly convince her to come close enough to me so that I could touch her. She was so scared.”
Since she didn’t have a place to keep the dog for the night, Lori turned around and went back to animal control with the sweet Labrador mix (who was later adopted). Feeling relieved that she’d brought the lost dog to safety, Lori again began the ride home and turned to make the same shortcut once again. She could hardly believe her eyes when she saw yet another figure at the roadside.
“She was an elderly pit bull who looked like she had been bred many times,” Lori recalls. “You could see where she had, at one time, had an embedded collar and she was very thin. She was sitting there as if waiting for someone to come and get her.”
Now Lori had two dogs who needed her and she couldn’t help but wonder if this was just a strange coincidence or something much more. So she started asking questions, lots of questions, and found herself lifting the veil off a very dirty secret.
A Tradition of Cruelty – Time Someone Stood Up Against It
“Some of the locals told me that this has been going on for over 25 years,” said Lori, who is originally from Fort Wayne, Indiana. “I can’t tell you how many people have contacted me to say that this is where they got their family pets from when they were growing up.”
Electrified by this news of so many animals, these ghosts of the Glades who met their end alone in the woods, Lori instantly became a one-woman search party and began making daily drives down Tram Road to help the animals who were being abandoned on this wooded stretch of undeveloped road. And this is a sideline that she, of all people, is unlikely to have time and energy for. After all, Lori is raising two children.
Six-year-old Nathan taught himself to read at age three and memorized his state capitols in 20 minutes flat. Two-year-old Ava is in love with baby dolls and can already name all her colors and count to ten. They keep mom busy as she starts the day slicing fruit at the kitchen counter and quickly pouring bowls of cereal in between chasing the kids down from anything and everything they try to leap off of.
But there’s also a more sobering side of family life here. Nathan is autistic. He cannot dress himself, use utensils or carry on a conversation. He is blind in one eye and had heart surgery at the tender age of three. Little sister Ava was recently diagnosed with a mild form of autism. During these early years of motherhood, no one could blame Lori for closing the curtains on the outside world and pouring her energy exclusively into the needs of her family, but Lori isn’t ready to loosen her grip on a long held passion for animal welfare.
“It’s scary out there and they hide in the woods,” Lori explains. “I know they’re here, but sometimes it’s like finding a needle in a haystack.”
“When I’m old and gray, I will look back and say that I did everything in my power to give my children the opportunity to live full and productive lives,” Lori says proudly. ”That I saved every animal I could and when these animals could not speak for themselves, I screamed for them.”
Brought to you by The Great Animal Rescue Chase