PAWSITIVE CONNECTION CO-FOUNDERS Nichole Bachand-Bartlett, left, and Krystal Turnbaugh sit with foster dogs Ash and Domino outside the new animal rescue’s site in Bristol. The pair, along with fellow founder Talena Jestice, created the nonprofit in July to rescue and rehome vulnerable pups from Vermont and other states.
Independent photo/Marin Howell
BRISTOL — County residents Nichole Bachand-Bartlett, Krystal Turnbaugh and Talena Jestice have each spent the past several years helping vulnerable animals in need of care or a loving home. The trio recently decided to formally organize their animal rescue efforts with the creation of Pawsitive Connection, a Bristol-based nonprofit that seeks to rescue, rehabilitate and find forever homes for animals in need.
The organization is intended to be a resource for animals and pet owners in Addison County, though the three also have their sights set on helping animals in other parts of the country. A big part of the nonprofit’s work involves rescuing and rehoming dogs from shelters that euthanize unadopted animals.
“We do really want to be a big part of helping the animals in our community, that’s really important to us, but also seeing if we can in any way make a difference for those dogs that just don’t have a chance,” Turnbaugh said of the nonprofit’s mission. “It’s hard for me to accept that. They just haven’t even had a chance.”
The wheels began turning on Pawsitive Connection earlier this year. The team had been deeply involved in local animal rescue efforts, often transporting animals to wildlife rehabilitators throughout the state or caring for rescued animals in their own homes.
The idea to start their own nonprofit came from a shared desire to increase the trio’s work with vulnerable animals.
“(Talena) had been fostering and finding homes for dogs that needed rehoming,” Bachand-Bartlett said. “(The dogs) weren’t in bad positions, but she had met a few people that needed to rehome dogs and so she took in a couple and found them homes. She helped us get the idea going.”
The group felt passionately about rescuing dogs in particular from shelters that euthanize unadopted animals and has made that a part of their mission from the start.
Vermont has been recognized as a “no-kill” state, meaning that the state’s shelters save at least 90% of the animals they receive. At some shelters in other states otherwise healthy and treatable animals are killed if they aren’t adopted in a timely manner due to space constraints.
Bachand-Bartlett explained that unlicensed or “backyard” breeders can contribute to the overpopulation of shelters throughout the country, as entire litters are brought to the facilities with their mothers.
“That’s a big part of what made us jump on this. We saw a post of a mother dog and a bunch of puppies, and they were going to get euthanized that day if somebody hadn’t picked them up,” she said. “I sent it to (Krystal) and Talena and we said, ‘We’ve got to do something.’”
The organization got up and running in July and has since begun coordinating with various shelters in other states. Turnbaugh said the organization is currently working with an animal shelter in South Carolina.
“This (shelter) in particular, just this month, has euthanized over 300 dogs, healthy dogs, because they don’t have room,” she said. “It’s difficult because we almost feel like we can’t even make a dent in it.”
The group is hopeful its efforts will raise awareness about the high numbers of animals left in shelters that don’t have space for them.
“For me, it’s about being an example. If more people could do this, then it would make a bigger difference,” Turnbaugh said.
The group works with shelters to coordinate transporting the animals to the Pawsitive Connection site at Bachand-Bartlett’s Bristol home. After the animals receive veterinary care and complete any necessary quarantining, the team works to rehabilitate and train the dogs.
Turnbaugh said the team tries to get the dogs outside as often as possible, as well as reintroduce them to things like cars.
“They just haven’t had a positive experience, so we’re trying to make some positive experiences for them,” she said.
In addition to coordinating with shelters in other states, the nonprofit has also been working with Winnie’s Legacy Canine Rescue in Chittenden County and individuals in the Addison County community looking to rehome animals.
The team has found homes for seven foster dogs since Pawsitive Connection opened in July. The nonprofit currently has five dogs in need of homes and is actively seeking potential foster homes in addition to permanent placements.
Turnbaugh said the nonprofit provides all the food, supplies and vet care an animal needs while staying with a foster home.
“That’s the biggest thing we need right now, is people to foster,” she said.
The trio has dug deep into their own pockets to get Pawsitive Connection up and running, though they’re hoping donations and grants will help support the organization moving forward.
Bachand-Bartlett said the nonprofit has already received donated kennels, food and other dog supplies from the community.
“Just putting a post on Front Porch Forum has gone so far. There are so many awesome people just around Bristol and Middlebury,” Bachand-Bartlett said. “That’s helped a lot.”
Turnbaugh noted that community support will be crucial for the organization to stay operational. The team hopes to reciprocate the support it receives, particularly by providing a resource for community members looking to rehome dogs they can no longer care for.
“In our community we want to be a support. We’re not here to judge, we just want to be able to help if we can with whatever situation they might be in,” Turnbaugh said.
The nonprofit also hopes to incorporate education into its mission, preparing prospective pet owners for the responsibilities in store and working with current owners who need help training their animals.
“That way we’re actually supporting people in keeping the dogs that they love in their homes, so they’re not left with no other choice (than to rehome),” Turnbaugh explained.
Ultimately, the trio would like to expand their offerings, providing wildlife rehabilitation and rescue for other animals.
“There are so many things that it can branch off into, and we just want to be able to help as many animals as we can,” Bachand-Bartlett said.
Those interested in getting involved or learning more about Pawsitive Connection can visit the nonprofit’s website at www.pawsitiveconnection.org.