Ashland Area Rescue Fund Brings Back Love on a Leash Program



Morgan Hall

The Ashland Beacon

   If you live in the tri-state area, you’re probably no stranger to the Ashland Area Rescue Fund (AARF). AARF is a no-kill private shelter that houses all the cool kittens and cats, and the most playful puppies and dogs. Many people may not know that AARF not only cares for our four legged friends, but they’re out in our community serving people too.

    Sharri Dillon has been handling the Love on a Leash Program with AARF since its third year. Dillon has been with AARF for seven years now and she wears many hats.  The Love on a Leash program, now in its fifth year, brings animals from the shelter to visit with seniors in assisted living facilities in the Tri-state area. 

   “It’s just as rewarding to me as it is to the residents, as sometimes they do not have anyone to come and visit them,” said Dillon. “Our volunteers walk in and place an animal in a person's lap and they come alive talking about their past animals. Even the non-verbal residents show signs of recognition and happiness, to have the animals present,” Dillon shared. Sometimes the volunteers go room to room with an animal and sometimes all the residents are brought to a community room, so they can go around the room and meet several pets. 

   During the pandemic, this program took a hiatus due to new COVID regulations. AARF was able to restart their program last month and the residents were so happy to see the animals again. “Our staff are fully vaccinated and we wear masks when out in the community serving your loved ones,” said Dillon. 

   Dillon mentioned that they are taking donations of blankets for the residents. When visiting the residents, they like to give them a blanket when they visit with the animals. Blanket donations for the shelter can be dropped off at the shelter, please specify that the donation is for the Love on a Leash Program. 

   The animals that they bring to the Love on the Leash program are from their private shelter, fosters and sometimes volunteers bring their own animals. They’re always needing volunteers for this beneficial program in our community. If interested, please contact AARF and tell them you’re interested in volunteering for the Love on a Leash Program. Please understand, if you do want to bring your own personal dog or cat, that you must have up to date shot records for them to keep on file. 

   In addition to the Love on a Leash Program, Dillon has been busy delivering toys in the community. PetSmart has partnered closely with AARF and all toys they gather from public donations, will be distributed by AARF volunteers. Recently, Dillon delivered toys to Hope’s Place and King’s Daughters Medical Center Pediatrics wing. The store manager, Becky Meadows collaborates with Dillon annually to distribute toys to children in need during the holiday season. Dillon hopes that they will be able to disperse more toys for community children, as Christmas draws closer. 

   When her 19 year old dog Rusty passed away in 2018, Dillon decided to foster for AARF. In May 2019, they had an adoption event at our local PetSmart with a litter of puppies. All the puppies were adopted except one puppy. All of his siblings had found their forever homes and he was left all alone. Dillon decided to take him home with her and foster him, opposed to taking him back to the private shelter. “He needed me at a time when I really needed him the most,” said Dillon. She recalls that not having a pet left her feeling lost, “What am I supposed to do now?” The foster puppy is now named Winston, he ended up being a foster fail. “Foster fail” meaning he was intended to only be a foster for a brief time, but he ended up making his stay with Dillon permanent. 

   Fundraising is very important for this local nonprofit; they’re currently selling RADA merchandise, if you would like to make a purchase you can do that by following the link posted via the AARF Facebook page. 

   Also, they have an upcoming Howliday Auction and Dinner on November 13 at 6 p.m. They will be serving a spaghetti box dinner with a dessert. For the entertainment portion, they will be having Larry Pancake performing and Mark Breeding will be the auctioneer. This dinner will be located at the Ashland Transportation Building at 99 15th Street, Ashland. 

   Lots of amazing individuals and groups have donated some great items for auction. This is the perfect time to “jump start” your holiday gift giving. Along with great items for bidding, pet lover items and pet sponsorships will be available during the evening.Tickets are available for pre-sale at Holly B’s Gifts, Double Drizzle, and the AARF kennel facility. They are $15. Limited tickets are available at the door.

   Since AARF has cancelled multiple fundraising opportunities during the pandemic, this auction is vital and they need all of the community's support to help raise funds for the upcoming new year.