Tri-County actually got started back in 1991 with the arrival of a little male beagle at our home. We had no dogs, no fences, and we were not looking for any dogs! We tried for weeks to see who he belonged to. In the meantime he decided he belonged to us and took up residence with us. I fed him cans of tuna because that was the nearest thing to dog food we had. My mother and brother lived next door to us. The beagle and my brother's dog, Sandy, became best buddies. If you saw one of them then you saw both of them. One of the local hunters that I had checked with to see if it was his beagle told me that I should keep him because beagles made great pets. The beagle then became 'Buster' and was soon the best little friend that we had either one ever had. He was 'MY BOY'!!!! He was allowed indoors and even though he'd never been inside before he never once made a 'boo-boo.' He might 'go' for ten minutes when you finally got home and let him out but he just would not go in the house. To say that< we loved him would be a huge understatement. We adored that little messer! I mentioned earlier that back then we had no fences. We live on a busy highway and I thought I'd made him understand the road was off limits. This mistake cost us the ultimate price. You can guess what eventually happened to him. I was just sick to my bones and kicked myself over and over for not putting up a fence. That hurt as much as anything I've ever felt in my life. It was Monday January 24th, 1994 and my mother called me at work at 9:30 AM to tell me what had happened. I can still tell you what clothes I had on that day. We then fenced in the back yard and got two beagle puppies we named Buddy and Missy. This led to getting 'Baby' beagle from my cousin, getting Duke< and Bailey from the humane society and Barney from the Lincoln county animal shelter. (all beagles) We decided we could be a foster home for the humane society. We started keeping ten to fifteen dogs at the house and adopting them out from the backyard. We put a camper top on my pickup to haul dogs from the pound and to the vet. We were primarily doing only beagles and hounds at this point but something was about to happen that would change our lives forever. One day Joann came home from the pound with the truck crammed full of dogs and crying her eyes out. She had been there when the dogs were put to sleep. She had seen the shelter workers walking dogs out and taking them behind this curtain but she did not realize what was going on. They opened the curtain and told her she needed to see reality. She saw how the dogs had been packed into the 'killer'. She heard their screams and saw their eyes looking at her through the glass door as they died. This almost killed her. She started going up there almost every day and getting everything marked to be put down. Our numbers jumped from 10-15 up to nearly 70 in just a few weeks. More fences were installed and the rest is history. It eventually grew in to what we now know as Tri-county. So what does Susie II / Buss-buss have to do with all of this? Okay here is her story. We got this little female beagle mix (probably with Jack Russell) from the shelter in December of 1996. She was very pregnant and had been dumped there by her owner. She was marked more like Buster than any other beagle we had taken in so I said let's name her 'Bussie'. Because she reminded me so much of my original boy Buster, she became very special to me very quickly. She was a little stinker! She talked to us by making all of these little 'aaaahhh' and 'oooh' sounds like Snoopy does on the Charlie Brown cartoons! She had her babies in our spare bathroom on Christmas eve of 1996. She was< the best little mommy you ever saw. She had three babies and we adopted out all of them. Any time we took in puppies we would put them with her and she would 'mother' them. She turned in to my little girl. I would pick her up and tell her 'if you love daddy wag the tail!". She would wag from her ears back. People that came to look at dogs almost always wanted her but I would tell them she was not available. Then I'd get her out of the backyard fence and tell the folks to watch this. I'd then yell 'run Buss-Buss run!'. She would take off around the yard and run these figure 8's as fast as those little legs would run. She'd stop on the far end of the yard and wait for me. I'd yell 'come Buss-buss come!' and here she come as fast as she could. Then I'd pick her up and do the wag the tail game. People would beg for her and I'd say 'no! sorry, she's mine and not for adoption.' I have to admit that I enjoyed doing that! In December of 2000 my wife Joann dropped a bomb on me. She said a lady at Duke had an 80 year old aunt that had just lost her little dog of 10+ years and wanted to get one of our dogs for her. Joann wanted to give her Buss-Buss!!!! I said 'DO WHAT??!!!! ... NO WAY!!!!' Remember I'd had her for four years now. This was longer than I'd had the original Buster. She got me calmed down and made me realize that Buss-buss would be better off and that this lady really loved her dogs. The woman lived in Abbeville SC which I knew as a railroad town from my hobby of liking trains. We were going to make a video and send it to 'this woman' to see what she thought. I hoped the aunt would not like Buss-buss but I knew she'd have to. Of course after seeing the video she did. She wanted her and was going to rename her Susie -too after one of her earlier dogs named Susie. I had to take Buss-Buss to Petsmart in Gastonia to give to another relative to take to 'that woman' in Abbeville. You have never seen a more hang-dog expression on an animal than Buss-buss had when I gave her to the lady and they drove away. She was looking at me like her heart was broken and I knew just how she felt. My only consolation was I knew she was just leaving and that I could see her again. One of the concessions I had demanded was visitation rights. Since I knew how to get to Abbeville from my train days we arranged a trip to see 'this woman' who had 'my dog!'. We finally went down there in the spring of 2001 and met 'Scoot' ( the 'woman'!). Well at first Buss-Buss (who was now Susie-too) was very excited to see me. She talked and was very animated. She ran figure 8's in the yard , came running to me, did the wag the tail game and everything else. But then all of a sudden her faced changed. She wanted to go back in Scoot's house. She ran and got under an end-table. She looked out at me at me like 'I love you but I ain't going back with you!'. She was happy with Scoot! Scoot was now 'momma' and this was her home! My wife had been right! She was better off! This did make me feel better. I then gave up my idea of sneaking her back with me when we left! This started many trips to Abbeville to see Scoot and Susie. (I still can't call her Susie to this day though. To me she's still Buss-Buss.) Scoot (note that she is now 'Scoot' and not 'that woman') has a cousin (Bill) that runs a very nice place to eat in Abbeville. If you are ever down that way go to the Village Grill. You will not be disappointed - very nice place< with very good food! There is an item we love and Scoot always has Bill put it on the menu when we visit. This has gone on several times a year since 2001. It did take several trips to convince Susie-too we were not there to take her back! Bad news though. Last September spots were found on Susie-too's liver. She was diagnosed with liver cancer. Scoot did all that could be done for her. She took her to specialists but the vets told her it was just a matter of time. Scoot and Betsy ( the niece who works for Duke) told us back in< February that we better get back down there quick that Susie was really going down fast. We took Thursday Feb 17th, 2005 off and went to see them. As it's turned out it was our last time to see "Susie-Buss-Buss'. In the end the liver cancer won. When it was time to leave that Thursday I remember I just kept going back and looking at her laying on that couch. I was afraid it was the last time I'd get to see her on 'this side'. I kept going back in Scoot's den and telling that little baby how much I loved her. I just did not want to leave that day. Scoot has not given up though. We have already placed another little dog with her. This one is Hannah and she is even smaller than Susie-too. People sometimes ask why we do this or how it started. This story sums up how it all happened and why we do it. We both love animals and can not stand to see them suffer or be mistreated. I have a special fondness for older hounds that have gotten too old to serve the purpose of their former owners. These old babies just want someone to scratch their old heads and talk to them. They always lean those old heads in to you , wag those old< tails and look up at you with big eyes that just melt me down. Animal rescue is hard and sometimes thankless work. It is emotionally draining and it is heartbreaking when they finally wear out and go on but there is no way we could stop doing what we do.
Joann with her husband Doug are the owners of TCAR. She takes in and loves every unwanted dog she can.