Animal Rescue Corps – 25

Good morning Hermitage, Tennessee!

Thank you for joining us on this 25th episode of Two Vegans on a Mission podcast. Today we’re going to talk about the J. Perry Priest Lake Campground, a Corps of Engineers campground that we found.

Then we’ll tell you all about the Southern V Restaurant in Nashville, Tn…a wonderful place! And finally, the Animal Rescue Corps where we visited Michael Cunningham and crew in Lebanon, Tennessee. So, thank you for joining us and stay tuned.

Welcome to the Two Vegans on a Mission podcast. I’m Louisa and together with my husband Michael and our dog Sugar, we’re traveling and living full time in a Winnebago Class C motorhome; visiting animal sanctuaries and animal rescues all across the country. Each week we’ll share what new camping spots we’ve found, what great vegan meals we’ve eaten and our latest vegan outreach activities. So please join us as we strive to inspire, educate and support you in your efforts to be vegan.

We’re trying something new this week. We decided that we would be the reporters in the field! We’re recording our episode segments into the phone directly so that we’re not later going back to the computer and trying to remember what the place was like, what the restaurant was like, what the review should say.

We’re trying to do it on the spot so the sound might not be exactly perfect, but the information is going to be more timely. So bear with us and let us know maybe in the comment section on our website if you would and tell us how it sounds.

But I want to give you a heads up that we went to the Anytime Fitness this time around because we can. It’s $29 a month for each of us to be able to go into any Anytime Fitness in the country!

And we like the Anytime Fitness more so than the Planet Fitness because you get to have your own shower… meaning there’s a toilet and a sink and a shower and space enough for you to get dressed without getting all wet. Sometimes showers have too much … not enough space actually and then you get all wet, but in the Anytime Fitness we found it to be wonderful!

And so, we did take advantage of this and you’ll hear why in the upcoming report from the Corps of Engineers site in Hermitage, Tennessee.

Corps of Engineers Campground

So, here we go!

Okay, so we’re going to give you a review of the J. Percy Priest Lake Campground, Seven Points Campground to be exact. This is a Corps of Engineers park and we got it out of our gray book that Denise and Judd recommended to us. Thank you for that!

This camp ground cost $22 for the night, but it probably should have been $11 using our Senior Pass, only when I made the reservations online, I did not find any place to click on… that would say that we had a Senior Pass nor did they say when I came through the gate that they would honor that since we had already paid. So, it looks like you could get the night for $11 but we paid 22 and it was a pretty good deal. It was in Hermitage, Tennessee, which is about 10 miles to town, to Nashville. So if you’re in the area, I like this place. Michael, what’s your take on it?

So I like the Corps of Engineers places over all, especially this one. There always seems to be a sense of security, always have gate guards. They always have been clean, well taken care of and they always put you in magnificent spots that have some kind of water around them. So yeah, I really do like the Corps of Engineers and in particular the Hermitage place here, Seven Points. It was nestled by a lake, a reservoir, beautiful reservoir, very green, very rural looking. The spots were a little bit tight to pull in but-

In fact we had a good time watching the neighbor. They always say that when you’re having a tough time pulling into a spot, the other neighbors come out and bring their lawn chairs and their beverage of choice and sit back and just watch.

Well we watched from inside our RV because we have no clue how to back in a fifth wheel. And plus it was pouring down rain and these were really tight spots anyway and we weren’t going to be of any help. So we just watched from inside our RV, but somebody who did know how to back in a fifth wheel finally came over and actually jumped in their truck and parked it for them.

So that was a good ending to that story, but this place has blacktop all the way around so it was easy going to each site. But, each site was a little bit lumpy, bumpy and big potholes sometimes, right?

Yeah, but overall the place was just absolutely beautiful. Unfortunately for us, this is the rainy season in the Southeast. I mean real rain, constant rain and it rained the entire time we were there off and on. No warning type things where we had to evacuate, but just enough where everything was absolutely soggy, muddy.

We walked around a couple times around this big old loop in the rain, but it was absolutely beautiful. It did take away from our ability to take showers in their restroom facilities because they would clean it, but nothing dried. So the floors were slippery and wet.

We opted to use our Anytime Fitness membership and go down the road and take a shower there,. But I like the Corps of Engineersplace in particular. Maybe one day we’ll get back here and we can use that particular spot when it’s dry.

Well and also we get water and electric and there’s a dump on site and for the $22 or the $11, it is a really good deal! And you see lots of people on vacation, not a lot of long-term people there, but boats, people were out on the reservoir in their boats. Were they bass fishing out there?

They were fishing, they were paddle boarding, day use also. People were backing their speedboats into this… I guess it was a dam that made the reservoir out there. It looks like a place that was well used by the community.

Yeah. And like I said, it was only about 10 miles to Nashville. So it’s a great spot if you have a toad where you can unhook and drive into town/. We tried to drive into town in our Class C 25-foot and it was a little tight. We could not find any place to park. We could not … They had supposedly free parking at the stadium. What is that, the Titan Stadium, but they don’t have any availability right now because they were getting ready for the NFL draft, so no free parking at the stadium!

So we were unable to walk across the pedestrian bridge which was a bummer because that looked very pretty. One of the days I would have liked to have done that, but maybe next time.

I did get some vegan boots, but I had to order them online because every store I walked in they looked at me like I had a green head or three horns coming out of my head! So they thought I was a really strange person asking for faux leather boots in Nashville. But I did get some and we’ll talk about that on the next podcast. In the meantime, are we done talking about our Seven Points Campground day, Michael?

I think so, again, it’s beautiful. Oh, one extra point for those history buffs. It’s about three or four miles from the Hermitage, which was a plantation owned by Andrew Jackson, President of the United States. And I read a leaflet that talked about the plantation, his roots in that area and so for you folks who want to go visit that, the Seven Points would be an excellent place to camp out and go visit the presidential home of Andrew Jackson.

And for $22 a night, it was a friendly place. It was a lovely place and we would highly recommend the Corps of Engineers, J. Perry Priest Lake Campground for the future.

Next up, stay tuned for our review of The Southern V restaurant in the urban area of Nashville. Right after the break we give you our take!

The Southern V Restaurant Review

And we’re back! Now we’re going to review The Southern V restaurant in the heart of Nashville and this is one of Michael’s favorite restaurants because it’s got food southern style that he grew up on and it’s vegan! So wait until you hear what he’s got to say.

So another place we ate in Nashville was called The Southern V. Found out about it at the Nashville VegFest and one of the interesting things was when we went into the VegFest, this restaurant that was serving vegan meals had the longest line. Matter of fact, we didn’t even get a chance to try any of their menu items there because the lines were so long.

So, we decided to go. The Southern V is located in a urban section of Nashville that’s being rebuilt and we drove up. Here’s this modern restaurant in the middle of a real urban area. The menu is southern cooking, vegan style! Seems a contradiction, but on their menu they have things like chicken, they have kale, collard greens and they prepare all those meals southern style. So they either bake or fry their food in a plant-based oil or just bake them.

It was wonderful when I went in there! Place was clean, the staff was really, really friendly, seemed like they really wanted you to be there. Matter of fact, we wanted to tip and they just said, no, we just want you to enjoy the food and come back and see us!

I had baked chicken and I had a side of greens. The baked chicken was good. What really was delicious for me were their greens! It brought back memories of my childhood where I had greens, but my parents, grandparents would always add things like bacon lard to the greens and obviously I now know that that’s not healthy and not needed for the wonderful greens that were put on the planet to eat.

These greens were just absolutely delicious! No meat, they’re well seasoned, slightly spicy and I would definitely tell you if you’re here in Nashville, please go visit The Southern V so you can have some hometown cooking, southern cooking and it’ll be fully plant-based!

Okay, well what did you have?

I had the fried chicken and collard greens.

And the fried chicken actually looked like fried chicken but what was it made of?

It looked like fried chicken, but it was made out of, I always have a hard time pronouncing this, seitan, seitan protein, which is a soy-based protein I believe. And it had lots of spices and then the collard greens had spices and obviously greens and just tasted wonderful.

And I think … I can’t remember what I had.

The tuna fish.

Oh that’s right. I had the tuna and it was a really tasty. It was chickpea tuna. It was a tuna melt and so it was half of a sandwich on sourdough…fried on the edges, just like a regular tuna melt. So these again are probably not the healthiest for us because they are fried in something, some kind of oil, but they are all vegan so that’s very exciting!

The fact that they’re in the heart of an area that is being gentrified means that there’s lots of opportunity for growth and hopefully people in the neighborhood will continue to support this restaurant. We really enjoyed going there!

I’ve heard that they’re not always open on a regular basis, you have to call ahead and make sure they’re available, but they were available when we wanted to go, so that was good.

There was a place to park our RV in front of their store as well, so that was good for us. And again, we paid probably $25 for our lunch, but it’s very filling and since that’s what we do is review vegan restaurants on our trip, we don’t mind supporting these “all vegan” restaurants.

So that review made me hungry. I think I’m going to go get some vegan chocolate and then when we return to the podcast in just a minute we get to talk all about our visit to the Animal Rescue Corps in Lebanon, Tennessee so, stay with us!

Animal Rescue Corps Visit

Welcome back to the podcast. I wanted to remind you that one of the things that we really enjoy doing on our travels as Two Vegans on a Mission, is visiting animal rescues and farm sanctuaries so that we can bring you firsthand knowledge of what it’s like to be out there helping animals survive and thrive!

And so we were able to go visit a place called Animal Rescue Corps in Lebanon, Tennessee this past week. We met a gentleman named Michael Cunningham at the VegFest in Nashville. As we were chatting with him, he gave us a nice overview of what his organization does and how they help the animals. So first we’re going to hear from him as I interviewed him right from the Nashville VegFest. There was some background noise, but I think you’ll enjoy the interview and then you’ll get Michael’s and my take on what we thought about our visit to his organization.

Michael Cunningham Interview:

So our animal organization is called Animal Rescue Corps and we focus on large scale animal rescues. We do that by providing law enforcement and communities with the resource when it comes to hoarding and puppy mills and organized dog fighting or sometimes when it’s just a natural disaster that comes into the area. And we’ll provide them with the resources that it takes to handle hundreds of animals all at once, which is … They already have animal control and that can handle a mom and a couple of puppies and a few cats, but when you get into large numbers of animals, there’s not really a resource out there.

And does that really happen here in Tennessee?

It happens everywhere. So when we started the organization, we looked at where we can make the greatest impact on animals. And there are already thousands of rescue groups out there who can find homes for animals, that’s not where it was needed. What was needed was providing law enforcement with the resource to actually enforce the laws that are already on the books.

When you take down a puppy mill, it’s going to be about $25 to $40,000 to care for all of those animals. I mean, they’re very sick animals when they come off of those properties and then to care for them and then to find them homes. So law enforcement doesn’t even have that in their budget for people, let alone for animals. So that’s what our nonprofit is, we’re that resource that law enforcement can reach out to and say, help, we’ve got 150 dogs that was in someone’s backyard. What are we going to do?

So how … Give me what it looks like on a regular mission.

Generally what would happen was, if it’s a hoarding case, it’s generally a family member or something like that will call and ask the police for assistance. If it’s a puppy mill or something like that, someone has gone on the property and purchased an animal, was horrified by what they saw or there was a 911 call or a domestic dispute and law enforcement ends up on the property and old lordy, there’s all these animals.

What are we going to do? So they’ll document the scene. They’ll go to a judge and get a warrant to seize the animals under what’s … a search warrant and seizure. Our organization, we walk right onto the property with law enforcement. That’s why our branding is very law enforcement looking so that we blend right in. And then when we go on the property, law enforcement serves the warrant and they just kind of step off to the side and then our group comes in and does everything else.

We document, we map out the property. We do a triage in the field of every single animal to find out if they’re critical and if not, then we bring them back to our facility and we do pop up shelters in any state we’re working in. Tennessee is the only place that we have a permanent facility and it’s about 20,000 square feet.

Once the animals get into our care in our facility, they get a full veterinary exam and that’s where we’re documenting all of the long-term neglect that these animals have suffered and we trim every mat of fur off. We save every nail we trim, we save every tick we pull because that’s all evidence in these animal cruelty cases to show that these animals … This just didn’t happen overnight, right. This has been a systemic, long-term, neglectful situation. We’ll hand all of that evidence over to law enforcement in our documentation package and meanwhile we’re caring for those animals in our shelters.

We have teams of vets that come in and everybody gets vetted and everybody gets vaccinated and everybody gets groomed and everybody gets a professional portrait done of them. And then we do a series of behavior assessments to find out what is the behavior triggers of these animals. We have to do a series of these things because their behavior changes over time.

The longer they’re with us, the more decompressed they become and they’re not so traumatized. They may have lived their life in a box, but that’s all they knew, was that box. And then we reached in and pulled them out one day and all of this chaos is happening around them and they don’t really understand that. Animals stress when they experience something for the first time. So we do this behavior assessments and that gives us the basic profile of the animal.

We know what they are medically, we know what they look like and we know what they are behaviorally. We create these private webpages that our placement partners who are rescue groups all around the United States can go to and look and pick which animals they can bring into their programs. And we’ll do five with this group and four with that group and we spread them out from Canada to Florida, to California, to Washington.

We spread them out all over because we get two and 300 animals at a time. If we placed them all here locally, we would fill up every vacant spot there was and these shelters would just stay full here. So we spread them out all over the United States and Canada and then our placement partners are the ones who actually find the homes for the animals.

We can’t seize someone’s animals under a law enforcement order and then get a placement fee for them by adopting them out. That’s a … that would be a total conflict of interest. So we stay neutral in the middle. We don’t charge law enforcement or the communities at all for any of the services that we provide. And we don’t take anything from our placement partners when they take the animals off of our hands and then they do all the spay and neutering, they do the home visits, they do all the adoptions.

Okay, so could you tell me what we’re going to tell people who are listening to the podcast, how they can help or how they can prevent this from having to happen in the future.

First of all, the greatest impact anyone can have on animals and saving the lives of animals is to live a vegan lifestyle. That by far would make the greatest impact on the lives of animals!

We are a vegan organization. We serve vegan meals in our shelter to our volunteers. Whether they’re vegan or not, they’re going to have a vegan meal.

We have a number of needs. One is if you are nowhere near where we are, but you want to help the animals that are in our care, we have an Amazon wishlist and you can find that on our Facebook page at facebook.com/animalrescuecorps and corps is spelt C-O-R-P-S, because it’s a volunteer army, just like the Peace Corps and the Marine Corps. It’s a volunteer army.

That’s what we built here of these compassionate people, but if you are local or if you’re in the middle Tennessee region or if you see that we’re working in the state or wherever you … where you see us near you, you can just email us at volunteer@animalrescuecorps.org and we’ll add you to our database.

We have over 4,700 volunteers registered with our organization. Over half of those are in Tennessee or just about half are in Tennessee alone. Tennessee is the Volunteer state and they have fostered this culture of volunteering here. And I get the biggest turnout of any state in the nation right here in Tennessee and people always ask us, is there … You guys do so much work in Tennessee, is that … it must be a really horrible place and this exists everywhere.

So people should not buy puppies from what, the puppy store, the pet store?

Right. So I would always say adopt an animal. Go to your local shelter or work with a rescue group and adopt an animal. Even if you’re looking for a specific breed of animal, there are specific breed rescue organizations out there who can find you exactly what you’re looking for. You just have to be patient.

When you purchase from a pet store and they’ve got a bin full of little puppies, their mother has been sitting in a puppy mill her entire life and has never gotten out of a cage and is just forced to have litter after litter after litter. That is where you can make a grave mistake in supporting that type of animal cruelty by having a very innocent … by thinking that you’re helping that animal by-

At this point in the interview, we had a loud crashing noise coming from the venue so we had to cut it short at that point. But I think the message got across that this is a very different kind of organization that’s out there saving animals from puppy mills and hoarding situations.

Michael and I had not been to one of these kinds of rescue places before, so we’re going to go into our take on our visit out to the Animal Rescue Corps.

So we were able to out to see the Animal Rescue Corps and talk with Michael Cunningham and get a tour of the facilities, which was really amazing to me. So what do you think Michael?

Well, they certainly … it was amazing. They provide rescue services that are really different from the other animals shelters that we have visited so far. They take on cases that are animal abuse. They take on these puppy mills, animal mills. They take on cases where people have been unfortunately hoarding animals and they do it in a legal manner.

What I mean by that is, they work with the police departments. Matter of fact, the police come to them often when they’re going to do a raid because they know that the animals will be sheltered, the veterinarians will examine and treat the animals and then they will legally hold these animals until the court cases have been resolved one way or another. One of the … one of the things we learned is that sometimes these animals will be in their shelter for two to three years because their cases are still pending in the court system.

But overall when you walk in, it’s amazing! They have a couple of hundred, well, maybe not a couple hundred, about a hundred animals. And the first thing you notice, you don’t hear animals barking or whining! They look very comfortable. They have their own space.

It did not really smell! We understand they have hundreds of volunteers. They’re trained well. They have a core staff that trains and they have to have volunteers there 24 hours a day. And when you walk into this place, you recognize that they absolutely love these animals. They care for them and matter of fact, I believe Michael told us that his apartment is actually in the space itself. So just an absolute amazing organization that is looking out for the welfare of animals here in the southeast!

So yeah, when we were talking with Michael and he gave us the tour, the first thing that I noticed was the place did not smell, which we’ve been to several animal shelters and the smell of dog urine or cat urine is usually pretty horrific, but in this case it was inside and there was no smell!

He said he had about 150 animals in there and some of them were dogs, huge dogs. And I’ve never seen such big dogs up close and personal because I don’t really like the big ones, but then … and usually when you go into a shelter, they’re barking at you as you walk by but these were all very calm. And then we went to see the cats and they were in a different part of the building because of course they need different kinds of care.

And then there were rabbits in there and he said they had farm animals in another location, but they also had ferrets in there. But he also said a thing about the hoarding cases, oftentimes the people realize that they are in over their heads and if, for example, a family member has called the police to say the animals are being neglected, then they call the Animal Rescue Corps and they come out and help remove the animals. And then they get a release right away from the owners saying, yes, please place them into adoption. And so this Animal Rescue Corps does not adopt animals from it.

They send them to other animal shelters in their network and from there the animals are adopted into either foster homes or into full-time, forever homes, but it’s quite an organization! It’s again, 501(c)(3), it’s run on donations and we like to support those by telling people about them.

Michael said that we get to let everybody know they’re in Lebanon, Tennessee and if you are needing some volunteer hours, if you are a college student or a high school student that needs some volunteer hours, then I will put in the information in the show notes on how to get ahold of Michael Cunningham so that you can volunteer at this very well run organization in Lebanon, Tennessee. So Michael, any last words?

Yeah. So far as far as organization wise, they are very structured. They follow the rules of the legal roles for handling these animals and getting them turned over. And I was very impressed by the entire organization during our visit there. So definitely if you’re in the area and you want to volunteer, try to make a difference in animal lives, this would be an organization that I would highly recommend!

So we’d like to do a shout out to Michael Cunningham, the Public Information Officer at Animal Rescue Corps in Lebanon, Tennessee. Thanks for letting us come visit. Thanks for the interview and you rock!

So that wraps up another episode of Two Vegans on a Mission podcast. Thank you for joining us today and if you’d like to see any pictures from this episode, go check out our Instagram page, @heaveninaclassc or you can always jump over to our website which is www.vegansonamission.com. We would love to hear from you! If you would like to leave a comment there, please feel free to do so or go to iTunes and leave us a review. That way we can help spread the word to be vegan!

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We are a retired teacher, Louisa, and a retired physician assistant, Michael, married for 39 years, who want to help busy travelers begin and maintain a healthy life-style while on the road.

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