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Day in the Life: Tennessee State Director Leighann McCollum

McCollum is off the chain. Red the dog is, too.

  • HSUS Tennessee state director Leighann McCollum helped permanently unchain a dog in February. Leighann McCollum

Most days HSUS state directors are juggling efforts to pass local and state laws to protect animals, promoting emergency and disaster preparedness, and representing The HSUS in local media. But our state directors are notorious for their big hearts, and when they see an opportunity to help an animal or animals in a tight spot—even when that's outside their job description—they usually can't pass it up. Here's one of their stories.

by Julie Hauserman

Meet Red, an 11-year-old chow. Until recently, Red spent his days on a chain in an east Nashville back yard. On Feburary 3, The HSUS's Tennessee state director Leighann McCollum was among a small army of people who embarked on a special mission to rescue Red and change his life for the better.

“It was great to take the time out of our busy schedules and help a dog like Red,” said McCollum, who gathered up five volunteer HSUS workers and contractors to join other volunteers with the Middle Tennessee Pet Resource Center. Their assignment: Build a sturdy fence so that Red could roam in his backyard home and get off that chain for good.

Red had come to the attention of Middle Tennessee Pet Resource Center founder Tam Singer, when she and other volunteers held their “Hay Day” event. During the winter, they travel through neighborhoods, delivering hay, food, and toys to dogs who live outside.

“We try to do it in an upbeat way,” says McCollum, who volunteers with the group. “We tell people ‘Hey we’re just going through the neighborhood delivering hay and wondered if you could use some hay for your dog.’” On one of these trips through East Nashville, Tam met Red.

When Tam approached Red’s owner about bringing in volunteers to build a fence for the chained dog, the owner said: “I love my dog. I have two kids, my mom lives with me, I work two jobs. I love my dog, and I try to do what I can for him.”

Red’s owner was thrilled to have the help.

On a freezing cold Saturday, about 20 volunteers showed up with supplies and put up a chain-link fence with a wood barrier along the ground because, McCollum explains, “Red’s an escape artist.” “It was great to see so many people come out on a weekend,” McCollum says. “There were people there from five or six different organizations.”

Not only does Red now have free range in his back yard, he’s getting some bonus love: Volunteers are showing up to take him out for walks once a week.

“At HSUS, we do so much work with cruelty cases, and the dogs we help get shipped off to shelters and new homes,” McCollum said. “We rarely get to see the warm and fuzzy part. It is encouraging for us to get out on our day off and go help a local organization, and a local dog, and see something good happen for him.”

The most rewarding part? “Seeing the owner’s son come out and take Red’s chain off,”  McCollum said.