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Emmylou Harris Saves Lives with Bonaparte's Retreat

Polished Steel spoke with Emmylou Harris last week about Bonaparte's Retreat, her independent Nashville dog rescue. Here the legendary singer tells the story behind how her organization took shape:

“I had a dog named Bonaparte, who was a rescue from a local shelter. I had never taken a dog on the road with me, but when I first got him I had to take a trip down to Birmingham. I thought, Well, I'll just take him with me. He was a great road dog. He loved to travel and was great with people and wasn't a barker. He traveled with me for ten years then he became ill and died very suddenly in 2002. I had other pets in the house, other rescue cats and rescue dogs, but he was kind of my guy who was with me all the time and slept in my room.

“I didn't really think about getting another companion dog, but I've always had an affinity for animals. I come by it naturally, I guess. My father studied veterinary medicine before he joined the marine corps. All my family are dog people. I have this big back yard and I started thinking that maybe I could have a satellite to the local (Nashville) rescue. I could take a few animals. So, Bonaparte's Retreat is in my back yard and we have about four dogs. We partner with Metro Animal Control and usually take the bigger, older dogs who have been there. We started taking the dogs next in line for euthanasia and we gradually got a few people in the community to start fostering. Bonaparte's Retreat is very small, but depending on how many fosters we have we can have a larger number of dogs.

“It's been an incredible thing for me to feel like I'm helping these animals who deserve a life. We created dogs as our companions and we depend on them for everything. We have a long way to go to take care of them. In other words, people don't spay and neuter their dogs and there are unwanted puppies and they end up on the street or they get euthanized. We're just one dog at a time.

“It's such a cause for celebration when we find a dog a home. Some dogs we might have for several years before we find the right place for them. The main thing is to get them out of danger so they won't be killed. There's no one at that moment. There are a lot of smaller rescues in Nashville and around the country. I think there's a movement on to stop basically this genocide that's happening.”



bonapartesretreat.org

Bio

Brian T. Atkinson is the author of I'll Be Here in the Morning: The Songwriting Legacy of Townes Van Zandt(Texas A&M University Press, 2012) and co-author of the forthcoming Kent Finlay, Dreamer (Texas A&M University Press, 2015) with Jenni Finlay. He co-produced Cold and Bitter Tears: The Songs of Ted Hawkins with Finlay and Shinyribs leader Kevin Russell, a tribute album due out on Atkinson and Finlay's Eight 30 Records in fall 2015 (eight30records.com).

Atkinson has written regularly for CMTEdge.com and the Austin American-Statesman as well as the London Daily Telegraph, American Songwriter, Lone Star Music, Relix, No Depression and several other music magazines. His liner notes appear in the Grammy-nominated This One's for Him: A Tribute to Guy Clark. Atkinson's photo exhibit "For the Sake of the Song: The Outlaws of Americana" has shown in Austin, Denver and Seattle. The Austin resident's work is archived at Texas State University's Wittliff Collections.