I was shocked, sickened, disgusted and horrified. Every negative emotion one can feel, I felt when I saw these pictures.
I’m one of those people who are safe, warm and comfortable in my own life. I didn’t realize how shielded I had become from reality until these pictures were right in front of my face via a friends’ post on Facebook.
As I read the articles, one after another in my quest for truth, I learned Olympic Animal Sanctuary was supposed to be a dog haven, a ‘sanctuary’ for dogs, but was really a hell on earth for those poor souls who were forced to live in such conditions. I learned these dogs—over 100 of them—had been imprisoned for years in those crates; crates too small to stand up or even turn around. The crates were stacked on top of each other, with urine and feces sliding down from the top crate onto the one below. The dogs were not allowed outside those crates, for a breath of fresh air or potty breaks. The warehouse was unheated. They’d had to survive the cold day after day, night after night, year after year with no sunlight to at least warm their bones. To add insult to injury, they were fed only once or twice a week, raw food—unrefrigerated neck bones–that were covered in maggots. They had no access to water. It was reported that many died.
How can this be? I wondered. Who’s responsible for this? Why aren’t these animals being properly taken care of?
Oh, I see. Protesters are standing outside the sanctuary. They’re bringing attention to these poor dogs. Calling attention to a problem usually solves it. They’ll change things.
I just couldn’t get those awful pictures out of my mind. Every morning before I went to work, I’d check Facebook—primarily the OAS and Seattle Dogspot websites—for the latest update. The moment I came home from work, I ran to the computer to check the websites, hoping things had changed.
Day after day, I checked FB and nothing had changed. Despite the protest, the dogs were still in that awful pink warehouse, still being neglected and still stuck 24/7 in those small crates.
What surprised me the most is, I’m familiar with Forks, Washington. My then husband grew up there and we spent a lot of time in that small town. I found the people to be warm and friendly. Forks is about an hour drive away from practically everywhere and I imagined the seclusion helped make the town close knit. These were for most part down to earth, caring people. I just couldn’t imagine that the locals would turn a blind eye to what was going on in their town. They’d had positive publicity from the ‘Twilight’ movies which boosted badly needed sales/tourism. Surely, this negative publicity is something they didn’t want or need. And knowing Forks as I do, I thought they’d put a stop to this sanctuary, pronto.
It didn’t happen. Nothing happened. No one rescued those poor dogs..
I’m a bit of an activist. In the past, I’ve fought long and hard for some causes that I strongly believed in. Some battles I won, some I lost. All took up a great deal of my time and energy. I didn’t really want to get involved in this one. I made every excuse in the book. I’m too old now. I’m too tired. I’m too busy. I just want to pretend this isn’t happening. I just want this to go away. I want to go back to my nice, warm, safe, comfortable life and pretend I don’t know anything about this. Because honestly, I DON’T want to get involved.
I was a Bail Bondsman for over twenty-five years. I’m familiar with the law and how it works.
I knew the first step to putting an end to all this is for someone to file a police report. The police will have to investigate. The dogs will be found in that hell hole and ASPCA will step in to rescue the dogs. Problem solved.
As I researched further, I learned a police report HAD been filed. The police came out to the sanctuary, noted the abuse with a 420 page report including pictures. But nothing happened. No charges were filed. No one was arrested. The dogs weren’t rescued. WTF?
Then I read the owner of the sanctuary, Steve Markwell, kicked a protester’s car, causing significant damage. The Forks police came out and arrested Markwell and then released him on his own recognizance. But the police did not go into the warehouse and did not investigate the allegations of abuse/neglect.
Ever have that moment when a light bulb goes off in your head and you know something is terribly wrong in Denmark? I had that moment.
Ok. Time for me to get involved and see what’s what.
I started making phone calls. First, I called the Prosecuting Attorney in Forks to see why charges hadn’t been filed against Markwell for the abuse/neglect. Then I contacted the Forks Police Chief to ask the same question. My calls weren’t returned though I left detailed messages and my emails weren’t answered.
Ok. Time to bring in outsiders and see if they’ll intervene.
I contacted the Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney, the Police Department and everybody else I could think of. All said it was a Forks problem and they did not have jurisdiction to get involved. If any action were to be taken, it was up to the Forks Police Department—who for some god knows reason, was not doing their job.
I turned to the internet again. I quickly learned that I was not the only one to be concerned with the welfare of these dogs. Over 11,000 people were up in arms over the conditions at the sanctuary and all vowed to get involved to do something about it.
We started working together. All of us strangers from across the world. Both OAS and Seattle Dogspot allowed comments from readers. Our posts flew back and forth. One would think of something we could do, another would have another idea and we tossed ideas for days and weeks. We were united in our cause to rescue these dogs. We were not going to allow the abuse to continue any longer.
I emailed Patty Murray, Maria Cantwell, my local legislators, GET JESSE, signed a petition to Governor Inslee and President Obama. I contacted all the Humane Societies I could think of. I called all the television stations, Channel 4, 5, 7 and 13 to publicize the plight of these dogs.
Then, the Washington Federation of Animal Care and Control Agencies released a statement, stating they were aware of the situation in Forks and had contacted the appropriate authorities.
Immediately after, Jeff Burnside, a reporter with KOMO news, channel 4, entered the picture. He did an awesome story on Markwell and OAS that was publicized on air. The newscast went national.
Finally, after weeks of work, we were getting the attention of some bigwigs who had the authority to change things. This craziness in Forks was going to come to an end!
Probably due to increasing pressure coming at him from all sides, Markwell agreed to close the sanctuary. He would voluntarily give up all the dogs.
We waited. For days we waited. That didn’t happen. Markwell did nothing at all to end the dogs’ plight.
We got busy again. We contacted even more officials by telephone and email.
Just when I believed the warehouse was going to be raided by ASPCA and Markwell arrested, we were informed the warehouse was empty. Markwell had disappeared to godknowswhere with all 124 dogs.
After I did a lot of screaming and a bit of crying (truthfully, it was the other way around), now we had to get busy and find Markwell and those dogs, before, and we didn’t want to think about that, it was too late for any of them to be saved.
At this point, the internet blew up with posts both pro and con on OAS, Markass (as I called him and sometimes Mark not-so-well), and the dogs disappearance.
Supporters of the Olympic Animal Sanctuary said the owner disappeared because his life was threatened as was those of the dogs. It was OUR fault he had to leave.
Others said Markwell was a good man, he was doing his best and he should be left alone.
One of my best friends told me OAS was no worse than any other animal shelter. There were only allegations against Markwell, not proof. I had become fixated on this OAS thing. He implied I was mentally losing it and it was time for me to stop.
I couldn’t stop. I didn’t want to stop. I was certain I could help find those dogs.
Then Guardians of Rescue released a statement. Their Founder/President Robert Misseri had contacted Markwell while he was on the road and spoke to him at length. Markwell agreed to surrender the dogs to GOR within the next few days.
We prayed and waited some more.
Markwell didn’t show up as agreed.
He had called and promised to show up the following day, Christmas Eve.
We waited some more.
I had to work. I went to work and then rushed home to see if Markwell did what he said he was going to do.
He still hadn’t shown up.
I believe that Christmas Eve was the worst Christmas Eve I’ve ever had. The waiting was unbearable. By now, Markwell had them crated for four days, probably without food and water that entire time in an enclosed semi-trailer. After all the hell they’d gone through, could any of them still be alive?
I was so fixated on the OAS situation; I couldn’t enjoy Christmas carols, programs on TV. Or even spend quality time with my family. Now, it was all about the dogs.
I did a lot of crying that night. I was secretly afraid mentally unstable Markwell had offed the dogs and then himself, in order to save face.
It was late Christmas Eve when the news hit the internet. Markwell had shown up at the appointed ‘secret’ site, met up with GOR and all the dogs were still alive!
WE DID IT!
The dogs are going to be okay now.
They’re in the safe hands of a legitimate, highly respected rescue group who had a vet standing by, along with 10×10 kennels with plenty of food and water.
The freesonny.wordpress.com website headlined:
“While Forks Authorities Played Pass the Buck, Dog Activists Passed the Baton”.
We high fived each other on the internet. Over 11,000 of us laughed together for the first time in weeks, and cried together and shared the moment when we learned the dogs were rescued.
That was the best moment of my life.
I wish I could say this was over now. We can all pack our bags and go home. But it’s not over. Not yet.
Now that the dogs are safe, we are concentrating on the officials in Forks, Washington. Those elected officials who are paid to do their job and didn’t.
A lot of eyeballs are looking at Forks right now.
We’re not done until we expose what’s rotten in Denmark.
Kinda surprising what 11,000 people can do when we work together toward the same goal.
Stay tuned. . .