ECHOLS, Ga. (WTXL) — Hanging out at the pool on a hot day or using the water as a low-impact physical therapy workout isn't just for humans.
Michelle Dupree, the owner of Echols Animal Rescue, currently has two dogs undergoing swim therapy, with a third on the way.
For five minutes a day, three times a week, Dupree helps Wesson, a 13-year-old tree walker hound, and Bodette, a 7-year-old beagle, through their water workouts.
Wesson belonged to a hunter until he couldn't hunt anymore and was left to die. After losing both eyes to glaucoma, Wesson began gaining weight and was diagnosed with a thyroid issue.
Dupree said when Elsa came through, Wesson couldn't get up, so they took him to an emergency animal hospital where they discovered he had a pinched nerve in his back.
Bodette has fused vertebrae in her neck and can't run.
According to the vet- tech Dupree saw, swim therapy should start with only five minutes a day, working up minute by minute, three days a week. The vet tech also told Dupree that with diet change and exercise Wesson should have a dramatic change within a month and would see a noticeable difference in three to four weeks.
After Wesson's diagnosis and prescribed swim therapy, an anonymous out-of-state donor gifted the Rescue a pool for the dogs.
Currently, Echols Animal Rescue only has one life vest for the dogs which fits Wesson, so Dupree holds the dogs while they exercise in the pool.
"This area has a lot of poverty," Dupree said. "We don't have the local donations like the bigger rescues have."
Dupree isn't just the owner of Echols Animal Rescue. She runs the nonprofit out of her home and is the sole employee.
The offical organization started about 10 years ago, but Dupree was rescuing dogs long before.
Her husband is a Sergeant Game Warden, overseeing Lowndes, Echols, Lanier, and Adel Counties. For years, he would call her about very poor, underweight stray dogs in Echols and she would nurse them back to health. The other counties have their own animal control.
Now, she operates through grants and the kindness of others.
"We utilize foster homes, but the sick and old dogs stay with me," said Dupree.
Dupree said with poverty being such an issue in Echols when she receives grants and donations, she posts to the Rescue's Facebook page offering to pay for area pets to be neutered or spayed.
For more information or to donate to Echols Animal Rescue, click here.