Diana Davidson, wife of John Davidson, doesn't want to be someone who just "talks the talk." She wants to be someone who "walks the walk." And that is why, when she and her friends saw the impact of hurricane Harvey in Houston, she sprang into action to make a difference.
The Davidsons are animal lovers. Between them and their two daughters' families, they own seven dogs, six of which are rescues. As Diana watched the stories roll in from Houston, she knew she had to act.
"One of my friends who works with dogs had made contact with people at Montgomery County Animal Shelter Texas (MCAST)," Davidson said. "I contacted him and said if they need volunteers, would it be possible for us to come down. He said yes. So, we said 'we're doing this.'"
Davidson put up a Facebook post sharing her plans to help the furry residents of Houston. Within 24 hours, her garage was overflowing with donations from all over central Ohio. She and two friends who were also making the trip packed up their truck and headed out on an 18-hour drive to Texas.
What they found when they arrived was both inspiring and heart breaking.
MCAST partnered with Best Friends Animal Society to set up a triage center at the county fairgrounds. It became a haven of care for dogs, cats, horses, donkeys and even a goat. Volunteers helped organize donations, prepare crates for incoming animals, transport incoming pets to medical for treatment, and care for animals staying at the makeshift shelter.
"Our first day we got there at noon and didn't leave till 9 p.m.," Davidson said. "We helped care for dogs that had been brought in, walking them; cuddling them; cleaning crates; and giving them love. We called them 'Columbus love hugs.'"
As the trio left after their first day they knew they could do more. And they did. Over the following two days, the group worked 13 hour days. Davidson was amazed at the efficiency and organization Best Friends and MCAST had put in place. It's allowed them to handle over 750 dogs to date.
"While we were there, they brought in 30 dogs," Davidson said. "They set them up, tagged them with an ID number, wrote down their descriptions and then they'd go right to medical.
"The vets were there and they had all the medicine they would need. They'd examine them, give the dogs vaccines and whatever they needed. Then we would take them from the medical table, take them outside, walk them, and then find them a cage that was available."
MCAST didn't just care for animals on-site. As a no-kill facility, their team also worked with other shelters around the country to get dogs to where they could receive more care as needed, or find a more suitable home.
The days were uplifting but exhausting.
"We felt amazing and we kept saying to each other, 'I can't believe we did this but so glad we did this,'" Davidson said. "To help others and animals is such a great feeling, but there were many times where we'd cry. When you stop and think and look around to see what was there, it was heart-wrenching."
So even as her time on-site wound down, Davidson found a way to keep making a difference.
First, she and her friends found themselves attached to a few special dogs. Four made their way back to Columbus with the group, including the newest member of the Davidson family, a rat terrier re-named "Harvey."
And on a bigger scale, upon learning MCAST was charging $40 to microchip and spay or neuter each animal, Davidson set a goal of providing that service for 100 dogs.
She reached out to her friend Christine Tortorella, and the John and Christine Tortorella Family Foundation donated $5,000. Inspired, Davidson then challenged friend, and current Dallas Stars head coach, Ken Hitchcock, to match the gift. He did immediately.
Now, Davidson is continuing to share the message of supporting MCAST and Best Friends. The shelter says based on current demand, their emergency services will likely be needed until at least December.
And there's so much more happening. Davidson already wonders if she'll be able to make a trip to Florida if there is a need for volunteers in the wake of hurricane Irma.
"If you're thinking of helping, just do it. Walk the walk," Davidson said. "It's emotionally and physically draining but it's so worth it to know that you can help somewhere in life. Even if it's just for six days. You can help people, you can help animals.
"There's so much more people can give."
For more information on MCAST, click here. For more information on Best Friends, click here.