Let me introduce myself. I am an animal rescuer. I breathe it. I sleep it. I live it. It’s not what I do; it’s who I am. Many of us have a passion of some sort … for some it is art, or dance, or music; some people were ‘born to be’ parents or some type of caregiver. For me, it is everything ‘animal’.
I am often asked by people just how I got into animal rescue. My answer is simple: It’s in my blood. My love of animals, and my responsibility towards them, is one of the greatest gifts that my parents gave me. Our family pets were always strays or came from the local shelter. They lived inside as members of the family. They saw the vet each and every year. They were always spayed and neutered. They had toys and treats and dog beds – but of course, usually slept with us. This was 40 ‘something’ <grin> years ago, which was pretty remarkable for those times.
Even as a child I would bring stray animals home. My family would look for their owners, then either keep them or find them new homes. My mom totally enabled me when SHE co-founded a humane society with a friend. That gave me ‘license’ to help every animal I could so our house was always full of a variety of dogs and cats. My dad, bless his heart, was just along for the ride. He was one of those men who grumbled on the outside, but then you’d ‘round the corner and catch him snuggled up on the sofa with a couple of the critters. <Smile> The big sap.
Fast forward 25 years and after saving many lives on my own and volunteering with various organizations, I founded C.A.R.E. For Animals in 2001. Someone warned me it would take over my life … and it did. Regrets? Not. A. One.
“Tails” Of The Heart
My ‘animals of choice’ are dogs and cats, but I have also rescued a few other species on occasion. There was the frozen field mouse, who I literally thawed out, brought back to life and released. Then there was a ‘failure to thrive’ baby chick, near death, but who miraculously survived and grew into a beautiful chicken. That was a feat in and of itself, because I have a bird phobia. (Thank you to cousin Paul, who used to throw giant roosters at me when we were kids.)
People often ask me if I have a favorite rescue story. Nope. They’re ALL my favorite. Any time I save an animal it is a remarkable event in my life. That’s not to say that there aren’t some rescues more memorable than others. I mean, you can’t forget things like crawling under a dilapidated trailer (damp, dark and dirty) and spending an hour and a half trying to get to and rescue a terrified dog with an injured leg … or traipsing through the woods, over fallen trees, through brush, briers and possibly poison ivy, tracking a stray mother cat, all the while hoping she is leading you to her kittens (and not on a wild goose chase).
I’ll be sharing some of these memorable rescue stories here on the Dog International blog. I’ll be introducing you to some of the dogs I’ve been blessed to know and love over the years, and even show you some “where are they now?” photos with their adoptive families. I’ll be writing about ways that you can help animals and animal organizations in your area and I’ll offer information and education about dog-related topics. Lastly, I’ll share more about the KRAZY life that “Rescue Susan” leads. I promise you, there is NEVER a dull moment. My friends live vicariously through me for the entertainment … and now you can too.
I’ll leave you one of my most memorable rescue stories…
Muffin, The Maltese??
I walked into the animal shelter on Sept. 28, 2001 with the intent of selecting several animals to bring into our newly formed rescue program. That selection part is always a tough one. It hurts your heart, but it’s part of ‘the job’. I never really have any particular guidelines for what animals I choose. Some animals just ‘speak’ to you. Others, you just know you can’t walk away from because their needs are so dire. Enter Muffin.
I glanced into the small cage and saw the filthiest, most pitiful-looking little “ragamuffin” I’d ever seen. She was brown-ISH with wild, curly hair matted terribly (presumably a poodle?) and her little tongue just flopped out to the side. It would have been comical … if it weren’t so sad. She was SO excited to see me and so desperately wanted out of that cage. It was a ‘no brainer’. Held tightly in my arms, she walked out of the shelter with me that day, saying “goodbye” to what had probably been a long life of neglect … and “hello” to a much brighter (and cleaner!) future.
The neglect was obvious. She was very thin. Most of her teeth were missing and the few remaining ones were completely rotten and had to be removed. (Her tongue then stuck out even MORE, and we affectionately called her out little “toothless wonder”.) Her ears and skin were infected. It is very probable that she was a breeding dog, dumped when she became too old and no longer able to reproduce. Unfortunately, to some people, animals are but a commodity, a source by which to make a living. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against reputable breeders who treat their dogs as loving companions and care well for them … but reputable breeders don’t breed for the money and their dogs don’t look like this.
Our first stop of course was to our vet. Our second stop was to a wonderful groomer who donated her services to transform this precious little poodle … into a Maltese!
“Muffin” became a beautiful little girl with an absolutely adorable personality. She had a ‘happy dance’ on her hind legs that could brighten your darkest of days … and then, there was that tongue. <Giggle> Our little “toothless wonder”.
Of course, senior dogs, even precious ones like Muffin, are not easy to place. Most people want a younger dog to share their lives with and are reluctant to give the older pets a chance. In 2003, however, a wonderful woman with a heart of gold came along and gave Muffin the loving HOME that she deserved. “Muffy”, as her mom called her affectionately, was spoiled in the grand way that she should have known all along.
These are photos that I took in 2007 when I went to visit Muffin and her mom. Pretty in Pink … right down to her dog bed and toy pig.
Muffin crossed to Rainbow Bridge about a year later, but it warms my heart to know that she led a glorious and pampered life for those last 5 years. Hers was truly a ‘rags to riches’ story … our little Ragamuffin.