PINEVILLE - The dog shelter in Wyoming County is no more. At least not in its original makeup.
The county's animal control officer, Cody Cochran, has left for another position.
County Commission President Jason Mullins said that the county would use volunteers and would likely hire a new animal control officer at some point.
"The problem is, the state only has the training class once a year (May)," Mullins said. "Right now it looks like we will use volunteers."
But a hero has emerged in the form of the Wyoming County Paw Patrol. This is not a surprise.
The Paw Patrol, five years old in November, has been an advocate for dogs and cats since its inception and that will continue, with or without an Animal Control Officer.
Ronya Akers and Rebecca Stewart and Paw Patrol have stepped up in the past and they will do so again.
"We are a 501c3 non-profit," Akers said. "We are run totally on donations. We are five years old and we are going strong."
"I remember Ronya calling me and asking me if I could foster a dog and I said sure," Stewart said. "Well that was over 2,000 dogs ago."
Rarely anything can keep the Paw Patrol from their appointments with animal rescue or animal fostering.
"I gave birth to my son on a Wednesday and on Friday I made a stop to pick up a couple of dogs," Stewart said.
"I had brain surgery and two weeks later we were on a rescue," Akers said.
"I drove on that one," Stewart said, laughing at the memory. "I had strict orders from her husband not to let her out of the car. That was something right there."
Other members of the Paw Patrol include Rena Phelphrey - who currently has 12 puppies (nine from one litter, three from another) and a mother dog - along with Kenny Tyree, Mitzi Cline, Jessica Tyree and Melissa Hargis.
With the shelter going down, again, as Akers and Stewart pointed out, they will continue their labor of love.
They've done it before.
"One year there were 17 dogs in the kennel and we had very little time before we had to get them to a rescue, but I was able to get them to Pennsylvania - Pittsburgh actually - and that was quite an experience," Stewart said.
There were four animals at the county shelter when it closed its doors, but all have found a home, thanks to the efforts of the Paw Patrol.
"It is time consuming, it is life-changing and it takes over your life," Akers said.
Both ladies agree something needs done, but job No. 1, they said, is the dog shelter itself.
"The pound is in bad shape," Akers said. "The water is disgusting, the floor disgusting and it is hotter in there than you can imagine," Akers said. "There needs to be a new floor put down, an air conditioner put in there and they need to get a new water system. That is the first job that needs to be done."
"Honestly, dogs could die in there," Stewart said. "It's not in good condition at all."
The Paw Patrol would appreciate any support.
"We've been to Commission meetings and we have voiced our opinions," Akers said. "We really don't want to battle with anyone."
The ladies say they will continue to fight on championing dogs.
"We will continue to do as much as we can, the same way we have always tried to get things done," Akers said. "We are one strong group of people and we love animals and we want to do as much as we can."
Stewart said the numbers speak for themselves. They helped rescue and save 1,146 dogs and cats in 2017, nearly 1,000 in 2018 and already this year they have helped 400-500 animals find new homes.
"We may be little in numbers, but you can't beat us for the amount of dogs we can turn out of here (to rescue homes where they get new owners)," Stewart said. "We have our hearts in these dogs."
Akers said a debt is owed.
"We do have some support and we couldn't do what we do without the help of the out-of-state rescuers that support our cause," Akers said. "We couldn't do it without our other supporters. We won't stop doing what we are doing."
Still the bills must be paid.
The Paw Patrol currently has a bill for a transmission in their 1995 van, the company vehicle, that tops $2,000 and a vet bill even more than that one.
To help the Paw Patrol, donations are accepted at P.O Box 1105, Oceana, WV, 24860. or PayPal at: Wycopawpatrol@gmail.com.