“Lord, help me to be the person my dog thinks I am.”
That could be any dog lover’s prayer, but I just happened to see it inscribed on a piece of wood recently and hanging over a door at the offices of Dr. Michael Good.
He’s the owner of Town & Country Veterinary Clinic in Marietta, and looking around the place, it’s pretty clear the good doctor, no pun intended, has received the gift of a reply from the Lord a thousand times over.
There’s no doubt in my mind, at least, that Good is a dog’s best friend. Kittens, too.
For nearly four decades now, it has been his mission to save dogs across the South from being euthanized. Sometimes that means working with shelters, schools and other organizations to find them homes; and other times, paying for their transportation to New York City and other Northeastern cities where they’re wanted for adoption.
Good has been caring for animals, dogs especially, since he was a little kid growing up in South Bend, Ind.
“I got my first pony when I was 7,” he says with so much pride you’d think it was just yesterday. “Then she had a pony and I was king of the world.”
By age 15, he knew he'd stepped into his destiny. He was going to be a veterinarian. It was a heady idea for a boy who hadn't grown up with much. A lot of people tried to discourage him, including his mother and the elders in his church. However, Good had a dream, and he loved animals more than anything.
“I don’t think there’s a God in heaven that would deny a kid who loves animals from helping animals,” he told his mother.
And so he followed what he believed was a higher calling, and at the beginning of his junior year in high school, Good went to have a talk with his guidance counselor.
He pooh-poohed the idea, too. After all, Good hadn't taken one college prep course, and there wasn't enough time for him to take the bare minimum required to get into nearby Purdue University. Even if he could pull that off, only one in 3,000 students were accepted into the veterinary school, the counselor told him.
But his English teacher had another idea. She recommended he take college prep English, and he added on another five college prep courses.
Good made it through, and in 1972, he was accepted at Purdue, becoming the first on either side of his family to attend college.
As fate would have it, his family moved to Atlanta and he transferred to the University of Georgia, where he graduated in 1978 from veterinary school. Dr. Good was about to live his dream.
Within two years, he was partner in two clinics.
One little fact haunted him, though. Tens of thousands of animals were being killed at county shelters all over metro Atlanta.
“They were run like a doggie Auschwitz,” he said. “Every day or so, they were systematically euthanized. It was pretty sad.”
Then sometime in 2003, the Southern Hope Humane Society took over the Fulton County Animal Shelter. Would he come on board as the medical director?
He hesitated at first. He was busy running his own clinics — one in Cherokee Country, six in Cobb. Plus he was an avid volunteer with rescue groups, and he felt good about it.
He was already doing all he could, but he agreed to come and take a look. He hated what he saw. Trucks went out and picked up the dogs and cats on Monday. If they were still there four days later, they died. That was the model.
And so for the next two years, Good showed up. He took the injured ones back to this clinic, fixed them up and found families for them.
In between, he started the nonprofit Homeless Pets Foundation. The goal was simple: place the animals in his care in a home and once a month offer a low-cost vaccination clinic.
“If there is a dog or cat in our program that we don’t have a foster home for, I will feed it and shelter it, at no cost,” Good said. “That’s my commitment to my foundation.”
It was enough to make him feel like he was a good guy, doing good things, but it wasn’t enough. There were some days when there were more dogs and cats coming in than were going out the door.
Growing up, when he played musical chairs and the music stopped, everybody laughed and came back to play another day. When the music stopped at the shelter, an animal died.
Some days, it was Good who had to put those dogs and cats to sleep.
Each time that happened, Good made each of them a promise. “I’ll find a solution to this. You’ll be part of the change.”
When he resigned his job as medical director in 2005, Good was all in. Nothing was going to stop him. That same year, he founded Homeless Pet Clubs of America to instill in children the importance of all life and lead to more adoptions from shelters. Today, there are nearly 600 Pet Clubs in 15 states.
“My promise wasn’t just to save animals in Atlanta, it was to save animals everywhere,” Good said.
This year, nearly 2 ½ million dogs will be euthanized in the United States. Over 100,000 in metro Atlanta.
Good estimates that his foundation arranges about 1,000 adoptions a year, so you know what that means. There are many more animals out there to save.
Dr. Good could use your help.