This is a long post but I hope you’ll read it. It sure took long enough to write!
One of my favorite movies is Mr. Holland’s Opus. Maybe it’s the fact that I was a music major in college and have a teaching certificate. Maybe it’s because I love underdog stories with character arcs where people grow and become better human beings throughout the movie. Or it could be because I simply adore Richard Dreyfuss.
I relate to Mr. Holland and I think a lot of us can. Most of us don’t have the career we thought we would have when we were six, or sixteen, or, in my case even, sixty. In the movie, Richard Dreyfuss plays Glenn Holland, a musician, and composer who takes a teaching job to pay the rent while, in his ‘spare time’, he can strive to achieve his true goal – compose one memorable piece of music to leave his mark on the world.
My life circumstances forced a move, became the catalyst to adopting a dog, and I somehow woke up one day immersed in this whole new world. I feel like Mr. Holland must have felt when he said, “It’s almost funny. I got dragged into this gig kicking and screaming, and now it’s the only thing I want to do.”
Jim started NEW PAWSibilities because he had a passion for animals dating from growing up on a dairy farm. When his career got derailed because of a being sidelined by a work injury, he realized he would never be able to go back to the profession he loved. And like Mr. Holland, me, and likely you, Jim discovered that ‘life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.’ But now we are at a crossroads.
All of us rejoiced when thirty-one dogs found their forever homes in one week. But now comes the wrinkle. We are a small rescue organization with great plans. Before COVID-19 we had some hopeful funding sources that would have given us breathing room and allowed us to rescue more dogs and even upgrade our facility. Understandably, grantors have begun to redirect money and, in some cases, extend the grant cycle into the fall or even into 2021. While we understand this puts us in a serious place where we may not be able to continue operating. I’ve labored over this post and I hope that my keyboard doesn’t fail because of all the tears I’ve shed.
Our dogs come from the poorest county in Kentucky which means that in the midst of this stay in place order dogs are being dumped at shelters by people who can no longer afford their care. Rescues like ours who previously could be counted on to transport dogs and rehome them are finding their own shelters too full and their coffers depleted. The year our partner shelter in Kentucky opened they had to euthanize ninety-eight-percent of the animals. We are horrified that this could happen again.
But here’s the good news. We got a ruling that we are essential once we bring in more dogs. Our protocols are in place and our phones are busy with people asking multiple times a day when we will have dogs to adopt. Of course, we still have to pay the rent and utilities, bring back at least one staff member currently on unemployment, pay for all spay/neuter surgeries, vet bills, and vaccinations, ​de-worming, microchipping, and transportation. Yes, it’s overwhelming. The alternative scenario of dogs being killed because of the lack of money is unacceptable.
We are working with the Kentucky shelter and vets and we will one-hundred-percent be bringing dogs up here! It’s as simple as that so if you are looking to adopt we’ll have dogs soon. We are not sure how we’ll pay for it all but we have to save lives.
When Mr. Holland learns his fate from Vice Principal Walters he said. “You work for thirty years because you think that what you do makes a difference, you think it matters to people, but then you wake up one morning and find out, well no, you’ve made a little error there, you’re expendable.”
That is how we all are feeling right about now. NEW PAWSibilities has not been open for thirty years like Mr. Holland’s career, but we know that what we have accomplished has mattered to the dogs we have rescued and the people who have had their lives enriched in countless ways because they adopted the perfect dog from us.
So here’s the plan. We are asking people to donate $31.00, one dollar to honor each of the thirty-one dogs who were adopted last week as we cleared the shelter. Or if anyone is so inclined they can donate $10,000 for the first ten-thousand dogs we rescued. If we get one-hundred-sixty-two donations of $31.00 or more we can bring in dogs, pay the bills, and keep the lights on. It’s as simple as that. April 1 through May 1 is thirty-one-days and we believe that things will be better by then. It will still take time for the grant pipeline to open up but we know it will happen and we will be ready.
The last scene of Mr. Holland’s Opus is a tearjerker where Gertrude Lang, his former student and now the governor gives one of the best tributes on the big screen or in real life. Spoiler alert!
“Mr. Holland had a profound influence on my life and on a lot of lives I know. But I have a feeling that he considers a great part of his own life misspent. Rumor had it he was always working on this symphony of his. And this was going to make him famous, rich, probably both. But Mr. Holland isn’t rich and he isn’t famous, at least not outside of our little town. So it might be easy for him to think of himself a failure. But he would be wrong because I think that he’s achieved a success far beyond riches and fame. Look around you. There is not a life in this room that you have not touched, and each of us is a better person because of you. We are your symphony, Mr. Holland. We are the melodies and the notes of your opus. We are the music of your life.”
Jim is a modest man and, like Mr. Holland, he has made a profound difference in countless lives. Reread the speech and replace the title character’s name with Jim’s name and that is why we need to raise as much as we can to rescue as many dogs as possible. To Jim, the cacophony of a shelter full of barking dogs is as beautiful as Mr. Holland’s opus performed by thirty years of students.
This is a long post and one that I hope sums up how critical it is for as many people to donate as possible. Some of you won’t be able to donate and we appreciate that your world has been turned topsy-turvy and $31.00 is not possible. Others can and will give more. But we would be remiss in not telling you the situation because we know that you care. Please forward this to as many people as possible. If you visit our site at you can donate via PayPal or a debit or credit card at or you can send a check to NEW PAWSibilities, 2300 Algoma Blvd., Oshkosh, WI 54901. We truly appreciate all of you and we look forward to posting the new dogs very soon.