Piney Mountain Foster Care

Canine Foster and Rescue

Making and Installing Top Netting

Today I’m making up and installing top nets on kennels #1 and #2.  Kennel #3 is already done, but because I was up against a deadline (inbound dog) I rushed that one and it’s not done as neatly as these are coming out.  But it does serve the purpose of keeping (escape artist) Sable in her kennel.  She has been up standing on top of her dog house to get a closer look at that net, but she hasn’t found a weakness yet

To keep things from falling apart should a weld break while I’m installing the net, I secure the end strands of wire. When I cut the fencing, I cut down the middle between vertical strands so I have tails to work with. Most of these I just fold over to hold things together, but the two at the end corners, I wrap around tightly to hold that joint together if that weld fails.

With two 10 foot runs of fencing cut and ends wrapped, I lay them side by side. Each run of fencing is 4 feet high (wide) so together they just cover the 8 foot wide kennels.

I stitch the runs of fencing together with 3/8″ hog rings. I install one every third juncture, and I install them diagonally – alternating directions of the diagonals so as a whole, the sheet of fencing is locked together and the two pieces cannot slide past one another.

I install a rail at the top of the back of the kennel, and another across the kennel at the halfway point. These (along with the front panel) support the netting. I start at the back and fasten the netting to the rails with stainless steel zip ties. Every two feet across the back and center bars, every 1 foot along the outside and front rails. I don’t fasten the inner edge at all yet. I’ll do that when the netting is in place for the center kennel, then use one set of ties to fasten both nets.

Josephine has been fascinated by this process. She’s not inspecting, not being judgemental, just being a spectator (and enjoying the sunshine).

In fact, to avoid being in the way, she is spectatoring from a distance.

These nets will keep our foster dogs inside the kennels, and keep other critters out of the kennels.  Right now, with the dogs living in the outdoor runs, the chances of coons, possum, or a cat wanting to get in there to go after food or water is minuscule. But when I get the indoor runs built the doggos may well be sawing logs on a bed inside at night, and that could make a tempting score for woodland creatures.

These nets will prevent larger creatures from getting in. I’m not so worried about stolen food or water as I am that a dog might awaken and get into a tussle with said forest creature. Aside from the possibility of rabies, I don’t want my charges getting chewed up by a desperate raccoon or opossum.

These top nets will prevent that.

Grave Digger

Today I continued my task of digging a grave.  A grave for a snake.  A big snake: the infamous Drainaconda!  But I wasn’t working alone, oh no, I had plenty of “help”.

We didn’t all show up at one time.  My crew straggled in one or two at a time, beginning with Callie and Lennon, who wandered over to see what I was doing as I was setting things up and positioning the wagon for dirt hauling.

When I started digging, Sable stood and watched me for the longest time!  I’m not sure if she was impressed by my digging prowess or amazed by the mess I was making.

In a while she decided to go off duty and settled in to watch less critically.

I got the ditch lengthened by another 9 feet, which was a good stopping point for me, so I stopped.  This is hard going because the area I’m digging in had been a driveway and is a mixture of red clay and gravel – mudcrete!  Because of the rock I cannot take the soil over and dump it into my garden (where I could use some soil) so I’m finding hollows and pits in the so-called “lawn” to fill and seed.

Next I got up and untied Mr. Drainaconda from his position in the “trees”.  I keep him tied up there to be out of the way so I don’t accidentally step on him and crack him and the dogs don’t tear up the “sock” that surrounds him.

Once loosed from his safe haven, I lay that end down into the trench

And snake him back up the next post to keep the rest of him out of danger.

Inspector Lennon comes to look at my work.

Then I wheelbarrow in a few loads of clean gravel from the pile out in the driveway to cover over the drain line.  The gravel allows water to pass freely through so it enters the perforated drain pipe and is carried around and away from the concrete pad.  This should keep rain run-off coming down the mountain from running over the concrete even in a heavy rain.

“Yeah, okay, that passes inspection. Carry on.”

The final step in this process will be to dig over to where another buried drain line runs across the end of the old mobile home that is my shop and the dog’s bunk house, dig that up (carefully) and splice this line into that one with a Y connection.  Then all this run-off will get carried across the yard and out to the drainage ditch that runs alongside the shop driveway and down to the roadside ditch.

That will complete the final step of exterior construction on the new kennels – other than a little trim painting.  Then I’ll cool my heels and get back to lawn maintenance (badly neglected of late), gardening, and dog training until I have funds available — and lumber removed from inside the lumber shed turned kennel — to proceed with constructing the inside portions of these kennels and renovating the interior to be comfortable and useful.

See ya then!

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Installing Chain Link Panels

Work on the new kennels progresses.  I spent yesterday afternoon figuring out how to cut down a 10’ wide door panel to be exactly 92¼” wide.  I ran the math three times to be sure it was right because I only get one shot at this.  If I mess it up I buy a new panel: or have one built to the correct size.

I started out cutting the tubing with a metal blade in a saber saw.  A reciprocating saw would have been better, but I don’t have one.  Almost immediately, I broke the blade.  I had more, but it was clear that this was not going to be as easy as I hoped.  The only way to do this – in this manner – was to run the saw around the tube, not cutting across the tube from one side to the other.

I did get the first three cuts done that way, but it took a long time and was nerve wracking – and not especially neat.  Then the bulb lit up.

I went in the shop, put my metal cutting blade on the chop saw and dragged that saw outside.  I’ve used this many times to cut the steel tubing I’ve used in trellises.  I used that to make the inboard cuts and it went MUCH faster and did a much neater job: just needed some work with a file to remove the thin scruff that is left on the back of the cut so the splice tube fits over the pipe.

I also found that I was able to re-use the retainer clips that hold the end rod (it fits along the ends of the chain link) to the vertical pipe and the ends of the mesh.  These bent steel bars use a special tool to form them around the pipe and fold a tab over the rod, kind of like a giant staple.  I don’t have that tool.  But I have a big pair of channel locks.  I was able to unbend the part that folds around the rod and pop the clamp loose.  Then after I cut the tubing and reassembled the frame with splice tubes I unstitched a run of the chain link to remove the excess, inserted the rod in the end loops of the mesh and pulled it tight by hand while I popped the clamp strips back in place.  Folding the tabs back over the rod with channel locks and securing the top and bottom of the mesh to the rails with fence ties finished the job.

Kennel #3 almost complete

The front panel fits perfectly.  All that remains is to install the wire mesh over the top (to thwart climbers) and Kennel #3 is ready for habitation.  Which is good because our Intake Coordinator wants to bring me another dog Monday.

Rocky and Blaze are still Kennel #1, which has a full size front panel tacked into place.  Now that I know how to do this I’ll cut down the front panel from the newest kennel and install it on that kennel.  I could not do this earlier because Rocky and Blaze were IN that kennel while I installed the panels at each end of the kennels that make up part of our play yard fence.

I’ll also replace the side panels on K#1 and K#2 with the three side panels from the good kennel (these have the fine wire mesh installed on their lower half to prevent dogs grabbing the chain link with their teeth and deforming it).  The back side panel (far side of K#3 is in good shape, so I can add the mesh to that one and all will be protected.  The door panels for K#2 and K#3 are another matter: they’re pretty chewed up.  I’ll need to have them re-chain-linked before I can install the protective mesh.  Now that I’ve learned to manipulate those bent-in-place clamps, I can probably do that myself – as long as I don’t break any.

It took one whole morning to cut down the first gate panel, the second morning I got both of the other two cut down and installed.  Da Boyz each have their own room now and are doing will with that change.

I need to finish digging in that drain line and this phase of The Big Doins will be done.

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Kennels Coming Together

Now that the exterior new construction of our Big Doins project has been completed, it’s time to start bringing the kennels back together … well, almost.  There is one more step to complete first but it’s not construction so much as destruction.

John Kaprocki brought his concrete saw and is cutting doggie doors.

Cutting concrete makes a LOT of dust!

We set up a big fan to help blow the dust out.


With outside and inside cuts made and the block removed it’s time to pretty things up.

Holes made, rubble removed, wall and pad power washed.

Wall painted and panel mounting hardware installed.

Kennel panels going back in.

Rocky and Blaze move into their new room

An idyllic cabin in the woods for homeless canines.

We are not done.  I still need to build the inside kennels: there will be a 4 foot by 8 foot indoor kennel section for each outside run.  Then I won’t need dog houses outside, they can escape weather by retreating through the doggie doors to their inside section which will be heated in winter and cooled in summer as well as being  secure against wind and storm.

The remainder of the building will be dedicated to storage for unused crates, transport boxes, blankets bowls, collars, harnesses, dog food, and what-have-you.  But that part of the job will have to wait a bit.

Between our savings and contributions, money for the concrete pad was on hand before that part began.  No debt.  My plan was to assemble the kennels on the pad and wait on the roof until the money for that was available, but the offer of having an experienced carpenter guide me through that process was too good to pass up, so I paid for materials with a credit card.  I need to pay that off before I forge ahead with the final step of remodeling building interior including inside kennels.  Said building is also full of lumber.

Selling said lumber will help pay off the credit card bill.

Then I can move on to re-wiring the interior electrical, and lighting, removing the roll-up garage door, moving the pedestrian door, filling in the openings in the front wall and siding them, building the three indoor kennels with cinder block, building and installing chain link panels with doors for inside access, installing insulation and a ceiling inside, priming and painting the bare block walls and the ceiling, and adding heaters and fans above each kennel space.  But that’s going to have to wait a little while.  Hopefully I’ll get all this done before winter: I’d like to offer our guests shelter from the cold without me having to leash-walk them around to the shop door for crating inside there at night and on especially cold days.

Do you want to help?

I’ve been doing my best to keep the costs as low as possible by doing as much of the work as possible myself – and enlisting volunteers, mostly John Kaprocki so far (who has been exceedingly helpful through providing labor and sharing his knowledge and tools).

If you’d like to help us speed this project along, your donation would be greatly appreciated.  You may make a donation on-line with the PayPal button below or you may mail a check to:

Doug Bittinger
1198 Piney Mountain Road
Newport, TN 37821

Your support is greatly appreciated!

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Roof, Roof, Roof!

John Kaprocki and I spent all day yesterday and half a day today framing up the roof for the new kennels in our Big Doins on Piney Mountain project.  John is an expert at this stuff, I just try not to get in his way.

Actually John did comment on how much faster these things go with two people than with one. And it is not as physically straining.  Let’s face it, tossing a bunch of 16 foot long 2x8s (in Southern Yellow pine) up on top of the beam and ledger is rough enough with two of us horsing them around, doing it all day long single handed would be murder.

Building Inspectors

Blaze and Rocky watched us work both days and were not disruptive at all, they seemed genuinely interested in what we were doing.  Maybe Blondie has explained to them that Robert, Terry, John, and I are building them a new house.  I think Blaze LIKES that idea!

I have ordered the metal roofing and it should be ready to pick-up on Monday.  We should be able to get a fair bit of that done Monday.  The big issue will be how fast it warms up up there on our hot tin roof.

I’ve Been Slabbed!

Robert Gann and his assistant, Terry, put in two days of hard work this week.  Okay, okay, I’m sure they put in more days than that this week, but two of them were here on Piney Mountain.

On Wednesday, Robert and Terry set up the forms and partly filled them with gravel.  One corner of the slab will be 14 inches deep!  This is because of the slope of the land where the pad sits.  They pulled back the gravel around the edges so concrete will go all the way to the ground around the outer edges.

On Thursday a front-discharge concrete truck trudged up my steep driveway and wiggled in to disgorge its load through a nose shoot like a great mechanical elephant.

These amazing trucks are popular in this area because they are all-wheel-drive, so they climb slopes like a mountain goat (albeit a fat, heavy mountain goat) and they have wide tires that help them navigate unpaved roads without getting stuck or rutting up the surface.  In fact, my driveway is now smoother than it was because the wash-boarding done by UPS and Fed Ex trucks as they spin tires has been mashed down smooth again.  Bonus!

The chute is powered so the operator can raise and lower it and swing it side to side from inside the cab.  By pulling up close then backing away from the pour, he can deliver concrete to all parts of the slab so Robert and Terry didn’t have to move it around in wheelbarrows.  They used gravel rakes to spread it in the forms.  The pour went pretty quickly.

Then Robert and Terry set about making it smooth and pretty.  That took the rest of the day as they tooled it with floats and formers, waited for the concrete to set up a bit, then finally put a light broom finish on it.

I asked that they not make it too rough because dogs will be pooping on the slab and I need to be able to clean that off the concrete to keep the environment sanitary — but I don’t want it to be slick when wet so that I risk falling and hurting myself.

The slab turned out well.  The only glitch in the process was when the wind picked up and blew Redbud blossoms all over the concrete.  Robert said, “No extra charge for the decorative concrete”, but then set about trying to remove them with a leaf blower.  In the end it was a losing battle because the breeze kept blowing more onto the wet concrete.  That is a minor problem and I’m not bothered at all by it.

I’m pleased with the outcome.  Robert will be back in a day or three to remove the form boards, smooth out some of the  damage to my driveway, (it was muddy up near the slab) and move a little rock around for me.  I appreciate all his hard work and look forward to getting started on Phase 2 of this project.

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Ready For Concrete

As the next step in our Big Doins kennel renovation, I spent the afternoon yesterday pulling out the remaining kennel/fence panels and cleaning things up.

I started by spraying the cinder block wall with green gunk remover (AKA bleach water).  I let that set for about a half hour and power washed the wall.  That took care of the green gunk, mud splatters, and some of the paint.

While I was waiting for the bleach to work its magic I pulled out the remaining kennel panels that had been serving as fencing and gate.  This also cleared the wall for cleaning, since the rear panel hit the wall four feet in from the back.corner of the garage.

I have to be careful now to remember that these panels are gone.  I have been allowing the dogs to follow me into this space when I went in to work there.  But now that it’s wide open all dogs must stay behind the Krazy Fence unless leashed.

While I had the power washer out and gassed up, I decided to clean up the dog houses too.  I used my Concrete Weasel tool, which swirls a single jet of high pressure water to blast dirt and gunk from a surface.  My friend, Willard Overstreet, introduced me to this tool during a church clean-up project and I had to have one.

I’m sorry about the strange picture: I forgot about the vibrations the Weasel makes when I mounted the camera to the wand, and the camera’s shake-canceling software did strange things with that. But you get the idea.  This thing works really well even on a small power washer.  Put one on a commercial grade washer and it will strip paint!

When finished I set the dog houses aside, along with the kennel panels, where they will be out of the way, and hopefully stay clean until needed again.

All impediments have been moved out of the way, the block wall cleaned, and the foundation timbers dug up.  We are ready for concrete.

Since we have had some nice weather, Mr. Gann should be gaining on his back-log of work and our job should be creeping up on his Jobs To Do list.  All I can do now is wait.

John K, Mike R, and I have been discussing roof construction, materials, and costs.  But I can’t do anything about that until the concrete slab is poured and cured.  Once we can walk on the slab I *could* start on the roof, but since I don’t have the money for materials yet, I’ll go ahead and cut down the kennel fronts and assemble the three kennels on the slab.  That way I can open up for fostering again.  We can work above the dogs when the funding is available.

That gets you up to date.  The final step in Phase One will be the pouring of the slab.  See you then!

Moving Kennel #3

As part of the Big Doins at Piney Mountain, I moved Lennon’s kennel today.   This was Phase One Step Three.  Not that that matters.

The thing is that this kennel could not be taken apart and moved one piece at a time.  Noooooo … this one had to be moved fully assembled (except for the 4×4 timber foundation, those I moved separately). Blondie and Lennon supervised.

If it were possible to get three other people with sound shoulders and strong backs who could all show up here at the same time (that’s the hard part) we could have each taken hold of a corner and trundled the thing around to its new spot in a matter of minutes. Sort of like this but on a much smaller scale:

But I don’t have such a labor force, so I did it by myself and it took all afternoon.

It’s moved now, and tied down on its foundation, which I put under it again once the kennel was where I wanted it. I need to get a few bales of wood chips to put in there to keep Lennon out of the mud when it rains, but otherwise it’s good.

And, the work area around the slab is cleared.  Well, almost.  Now that Lennon’s kennel is moved and the Krazy Fence is buttoned up tight I can take out those last three panels and clear the work area completely.  That will take less than an hour … but I’ll do that another day.  Today, I’m tuckered out.

We want to avoid going into debt with a second mortgage to pay for this project so we’re taking it on as we accumulate the cash to pay for it. If you’d like to help us speed that along, your donation would be greatly appreciated. You may make a donation on-line with the PayPal button below or you may mail a check to:

Doug Bittinger
1198 Piney Mountain Road
Newport, TN 37821

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Kennel Deconstruction

It was a chilly but sunny Saturday morning with no rain or high winds predicted for the day.  It seemed like a good day to work on the first step in Phase One of our Kennel Upgrade project.

Oak Beams are HEAVY

Phase One, Step One is to move a lumber pile out of the driveway so the concrete truck can get close enough to the kennel location to discharge it’s load into the forms.  I have been working on that the past couple of days.  This photo was just the start, about half the pile is moved now.  I’ll finish that up in the coming week.

Phase One Step Two is to dismantle Kennels #1 and #2.  Today I want to strip the roofs off of these kennels.

All three kennels are in the way of where the concrete slab will go (See: Big Doins article) so they have to be moved.  Now that Selma and Lucy have gone to New Jersey, #1 and #2 are not in use.  The tricky bit here is that the kennels form part of the perimeter fence that keeps the dogs in the yard.  Were I to simply take them apart, the dogs would have to be walked on leashes any time they came outside, and running and frolicking would be right out of the question.  Since this could take a little while to accomplish, I need an alternative plan.

Obviously I went a bit farther than I planned to go today, but it was going well and I was feeling good and decided to just keep at it until I got this step done.  There is lots more work to do: digging out the landscape timbers that formed the foundation under the kennel panels, scrubbing and storing the dog houses and beds, and of course I still have to move Lennon’s kennel.  That’s Phase One Step Three.

Overlaps the sidewalk area

One corner of this kennel is inside the area that the slab will cover.  But even if it were a couple of feet further back and clear of the slab, when Bob smooths the concrete he will probably use a long handled float.  That long handle will need some room to work with, and this kennel being in the way will be a hassle.

But because of the way this one is built (my most advanced design), it will not be a simple matter to dismantle it, move the parts, and put them back together.  It would be better to move the kennel intact.  I’ll detach it from its foundation of 4×4 timbers, but the chain link panels and roof will remain clamped together — unless it is simply beyond my strength to move it as an assembly.

I left “containment” around the work area because I will be opening the temporary fence to get kennel #3 where it needs to go, and because there are gaps under the temp fence that might encourage dogs to try digging out.  I’ll block those with the timbers I remove from kennels 1 & 2 foundations.  Removing the three remaining panels from the work area will be a simple matter and can be done the day before Bob arrives to set up forms.  Until then, they are insurance.

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Big Doins On Piney Mountain

We at Piney Mountain Foster Care are launching into a new project.  That project begins with the departure of Lucy and Selma this Friday.

Normally when a foster dog or two (or three) leave us, I have the weekend to power wash and sanitize the dog houses and kennels that are now empty.  But this time I will be dismantling these kennels instead.  But not because I’m quitting, not even cutting back.  Instead we are upgrading these kennels.

Kennel #1 was the abode of Cochise, our very first foster dog, back in 2012.  At first, that kennel was erected on the ground in an area that had been a driveway.  The ground was hard-packed mudcrete – a mixture of dried mud and gravel.  This was fine in dry weather, but got sloppy when he pranced around in there when it rained.  To help keep him clean, we laid down a thick layer of straw.  That failed!  Upon the advice of other kennel owners I elevated the kennel on landscape timbers and filled them with a 3″ layer of pea gravel.

Pea gravel worked better, but eventually the gravel got driven down into the mud and mud squooshed up into the gravel and we were back to mudcrete.  So I dug all that out, laid down a layer of Rok-Cloth — a heavy fibrous mat that keeps the pebbles above the mud.  That worked well until the dogs started digging.  Once the mat was torn up, the mud and gravel mixed and were are right back where I started.  I need a more stable, dig-proof surface.

Why Concrete?

I need a way of getting the dogs above the water that flows through the area in a heavy rain.  I need a surface that is stable (hard) enough to prevent digging.  I need a surface that can be easily cleaned every day.  Concrete seems the natural solution.

Kennel owners cautioned us against concrete as a floor because it is hard on the dog’s joints as they lay on it, causing thick pads to form at the elbows especially.  And I can see how that would be true if we didn’t provide the dogs with elevated beds, blankets, and a dog house.  Laying on these will take the wear and tear off their limbs.

Phase 1

The first step of this upgrade will be to pour a 13 foot by 24 foot concrete slab next to our garage.  Robert Gann has given us a good price on this.  But before he can do that I have to get the three kennels we now have out of the way.  Two are sitting right where the slab has to go.  I’ll dismantle them completely.  The third is in the way, but will be needed by Lennon, who will be staying with us for a while: two to three months probably.  I’ll move that down into the yard.

Since the kennels form part of our perimeter fence, and because the work area has to be clear to allow a concrete truck to wiggle in there, I will use the panels of the dismantled kennels to build a temporary fence across the yard from the back fence to the mobile home that serves as doggie bunkhouse and my workshop.

Once the slab is poured and cured, I will erect three kennels, each 8 feet wide and 10 feet deep, atop it.  That will close in the fencing again and the kennel complex will be in a neat, compact unit sitting next to our garage – which is currently a lumber shed.

You will note there are details INSIDE the cinder-block garage … Those are part of Phase 3


  1. Kennel Deconstruction
  2. Moving Kennel #3
  3. Ready for Concrete
  4. I’ve Been Slabbed!

Phase 1 is complete. The cost for Phase 1 was $1,500.00

Phase 2

The second phase will be to build a solid roof over the new kennels.  A roof with enough overhang to keep rain well away from the kennels in calm weather.  This roof will be a lean-to attached to the current garage roof and supported by posts and a beam outside of the kennels and a sidewalk.  Sort of like this:

You can see that right now, the garage roof and the kennel roof actually funnel rain into a slot between the two.  This is not a problem in a light rain: the slope and the deep gravel allow rain to flow through.  But in a heavy rain (like we’ve been getting) the dogs are standing in water unless they are on their bed or in their dog house.  This new roof will channel all the runoff out beyond the kennels, and a gutter and down spout could pipe it into the drainage system and eliminate splatter in all but the heaviest rain.

Roof framing completed with the help of experienced carpenter John Kaprocki. Thanks John!   The metal roofing has been ordered.  We will pick it up on Monday.  Click for details and more photos.

With the roofing and trim installed.  Still need to paint the wall and install kennels.

Doggie doors to interior cut and panels going back in. Click photo for details and photos.

Cost for materials: $1822.00
Labor was all volunteer.

Phase 3

The final phase will be to empty the lumber from the shed/garage and clean it out so I can construct three 4 foot by 8 foot kennel spaces inside the garage (see Phase 1 drawing above).  The walls between kennel units will be 4×16 inch cinder block to prevent “arguments” between dogs while inside.  A chain link front panel with a door will be built for each.

Holes will be cut through the block wall between inside and outside kennels and rubber-flap doors installed to  help block the wind.  This will allow the dogs to move from inside to outside at will.  By installing a sliding wooden door too, I can block a dog inside or outside when I need to.  This set-up worked well at the shelter where I used to work.

Our bath tub currently is home of a shelving unit for foster dog equipment and food.

I’ll insulate the garage roof and install an infrared heater and small ceiling fan above each kennel to provide heat and cooling as needed.  The building already has a big squirrel-cage blower mounted in the loft to pull out heat in the summer.  A window air conditioner could be installed if needed.

The big roll-up door will come out and the kennel end of the opening will be blocked in.  The entry door will be moved to a more central position.  The rest of the front wall will be framed and covered with siding.  When complete, the front of the building will be painted to pretty it up.

Shelving inside will allow me to move dog stuff out of our home and into the kennel.  That will be convenient in many ways, including having use of our bath tub once again.

Do you want to help?

And that’s the plan.  I am doing my best to keep the costs as low as possible by doing as much of the work myself as possible and enlisting volunteers.

We want to avoid going into debt to pay for this so we’re taking it on as we accumulate the cash to pay for it.  If you’d like to help us speed that along, your donation would be greatly appreciated.  You may make a donation on-line with the PayPal button below or you may mail a check to:

Doug Bittinger
1198 Piney Mountain Road
Newport, TN 37821

Marie has suggested that we have a plaque with the names of donors made up to go in the completed kennel building.  I think that’s appropriate.  If you want to donate but DON”T want your name on the plaque, say so in the notes area or enclose a note with your check and we will respect your privacy.

And thank you!