Meghann Timmins lived with her mother, grandmother, three dogs and two cats in a modest three bedroom home just outside of Covington. But now, Meghann, 16, faces the adult world, alone.
On June 4, Meghann's life changed forever. Nancy Timmins lost her four-year battle with breast cancer, leaving her only daughter without any family but her elderly grandmother.
Meghann has two choices. She could live with extended family in Pennsylvania, and stay with relatives she barely knows, or she can remain in Georgia with the support of friends and one special family. Covington resident Dan Walden has opened his arms and will accept Meghann into his family, making her decision much easier. But, Meghann's move means she must give up her animals.
"I thought about the possibility of living on my own and I could have the animals, but it's not realistic," Meghann said. "I just want to be a teenager."
Buster and Bubba are two golden retriever and German Shepherd mix dogs that came from the same litter. Nancy brought the two dogs home for the family after seeing them in need of a good home when they were just puppies. The dogs have grown, but remain gentle and loyal. Both dogs are neutered and while Bubba is the dominate male, they get along wonderfully with other animals and people.
Zoey and Abbey are both female cats. Abbey is spayed while Zoey is not, and both cats are inside pets. In fact, the dogs and cats get along so well, they all roam throughout the house together. But the two dogs are suited well for a fenced in yard.
Priscilla Waters, a close family friend and the mother of Meghann's good friend Kaylie, has been a surrogate mother since Nancy passed away. She admits the Walden's and Nancy spoke about the arrangement before she passed and tried to do what they could to protect Meghann.
"Her mom had said that would be a good idea (living with the Walden's) and she hid a lot from Meghann, you know, to help her," Waters said.
Meghann is grateful to have the Walden family. At the same time, she is sad to leave her pets and even more worried she may not find good homes for them. For a child who is now forced to grow up far earlier than most, the pain of losing a mother is unfathomable. Losing her pets makes it much harder.
So far Meghann has done a yeoman's job trying to find her pets' homes. She has contacted Nina Henderson at the Georgia Reserve and Rehabilitation Center about the pets and has been advised to do what she can to give them up for adoption. The hope is to get the animals placed before the end of July. Her grandmother is moving back to Pennsylvania and Meghann must be out of her house by August 1, leaving less than three weeks to place the animals. Should that not happen, Waters says there really isn't a contingency plan.
"There are people out there who can take the dogs, it's just a matter of finding the right place," Waters said. "If we can't find a permanent home, hopefully Nina can put them into emergency homes. If not, we don't really know."
If she is unable to place any of her four-legged comrades in homes, Bubba, Buster, Zoey and Abbey may ultimately have to take their chances at a no-kill animal shelter. For two 5-year-old dogs, competing against cute and cuddly puppies may be asking for a miracle.
"I know if she could, she'd take care of the animals," Waters said. "It comes down to room and finances. When you have animals and you take care of them properly, it's not cheap and she just can't do that, even if she had the room."
Nancy was diagnosed in October of 2004 with the cancer and fought it admirably before the disease returned and eventually spread to her brain. Meghann has had to bury her mother and now must forge ahead without her best friend.
In the fall, Meghann, who turns 17 on Tuesday, will attend her senior year at Eastside High School. But, before she can embark on her new life, her thoughts center on placing her animals. She would like nothing more for her birthday than to find new homes for her pets and remains optimistic.
"They are really sweet and I really hope we can get them homes," she said. "I'm not really thinking about it too much if we can't."
In a perfect world, Meghann would keep them all and live life as usual. But in an imperfect reality, she can control only what lies ahead.
"I can't control what happened to mom," she said confidently. "But I can do whatever it takes to ensure my dogs and cats get put into good homes. That's all I want for them."
If you are interested in adopting one of Timmins' pets, contact her at email@example.com or call Josh Briggs at (770) 787-6397 ext. 22.