The Villalobos Rescue Center is the largest pit bull rescue center in the USA. It is now located in New Orleans, LA, just on the outskirts of our new neighborhood, the Bywater.
The rescue center is better known for their TV show on Animal Planet, “Pit Bulls and Parolees,” which follows the work of a renowned trainer of pit bull terriers and a founder of the Villalobos Rescue Center. The rehabilitation and placement center houses hundreds of abused and abandoned dogs of all breeds, and the center has a crew of paroled felons who help run and maintain the rescue center. It is a chance at redemption for both man and man’s best friend.
We were directed to the center by previous pitt owner and our younger brother Michael, who watched the show with his best friend, Levon. Michael rescued Levon a few months after the death of Levon Helm in 2012.
We showed up on a beautiful, sunny afternoon about a mile from our apartment to volunteer and walk dogs. The center is huge and when asked how many dogs were housed there today our given response was “over booked.” I met Etta and I immediately referred to her as Etta James and refused to think otherwise as this was fate, being here in New Orleans, walking yet another four legged friend after a soulful, blues and jazz singer. Did I immediately want to bring Etta James on the road with me? Yes, but for now I am thankful for our long walk together and I’ll be sure to visit again soon.
Just days after volunteering, Linds’ puppy, Yogi and co-parent and best friend Ali came to visit NOLA for their first time. Yogi had not been here a full 24 hours before escaping our new apartment and taking in our neighborhood on a 7 hour solo adventure.
Just minutes after we noticed Yogi was gone panic immediately set in. Mona, our other bestie visiting from NYC kept us all grounded and assigned us all different jobs. With tears streaming down our faces we all went in separate directions as what ended up being a 7 hour search began. Local pet supply and doggie hotel, Bark Art was the first to be alerted. Surrounding animal shelters and hospitals were next on the list. While fliers were made and scattered on telephone poles in the area, an official lost animal report was filed at the ASPCA. Neighbors, coffee shops, and local stores were on the look out. Strangers who were outside doing yard work planting or painting their houses stopped what they were doing to voluntarily join the hunt. It seemed that everyone dropped what they were doing and without hesitation started their cars or jumped on their bikes to cover more ground in our search. The search wasn’t just the four of us, it was now a community. The positivity from our new neighbors kept us hopeful and strong. Around 7 pm Linds got a call from a Bark Art employee and adjacent neighbor, Blake. Yogi was spotted scared and dodging traffic in the Bywater’s busiest intersection. A local dog walker nicknamed Yogi 007 for his moves and loured him with treats as she used a leash to secure his safety. Yogi was returned home with bright eyes and a wagging tale as if he knew the tail of his adventures would never be known.
It was the community of the Bywater we have to thank today. To be a part of a coming together like this has restored our faith in humanity, along with many other encounters on our road trip. Today only inspired us to do more good.
This post is dedicated to Bywater, New Orleans.