As a child I spent many hours a day around animals. My small rural hometown, like many today, had unwanted "disposable" animals, many of whom I sneaked onto our farm. I was the second born child of older parents. While most children play with their siblings, my sister and I, being apart 11 years, were both like only children. By the time I was seven, my sister was in college and I spent most of my time with my grandmother, great aunt and parents. My play mates were often the furry residents of our farm. My mother was always compassionate and caring for the animals as well. This was the recipe for the end product... me. I jokingly say I should have been "Ms Noah." I am certain the Ark would have felt more like home to me. A vivid memory I have from my childhood is the first dumping ground of unwanted pets I encountered. It was typical for all who lived in my rural town to drive their garbage to the local dump every week. I still can feel the breeze blowing in the window of the old Chevy truck my dad would drive to complete this chore. As we approached the dump the fresh country air transformed into a putrid smell. Mountains of garbage reeked of stench and rats scattered like popcorn on a theatre floor. Amid the trash were deserted kittens and puppies. It was here the uneducated, irresponsible people deposited the unwanted litters of babies. Witnessing this left my little heart burdened and soon after I began a plan.
Each week I took more kittens or puppies. I stuffed them into my baggy clothing and climbed into the back of the truck where I insisted I stayed for the ride home. Once home those stowaways were sneaked into the barn, the granary or the garage. Once milk and other food were sneaked in, phase one of my plan was completed. Only in the morning after I ventured out innocently to play, did I finalize my plan. With a smile on my face and a couple of "foundlings" in my arms, I would bound into the kitchen to show my "compassionate mom" what I had found in the barn, shed or wherever they had been hidden. This worked a few times, but eventually a correlation between garbage "take-off' and puppy and kitten "arrival" was discovered. It was then that I learned of the problem which still today is insurmountable.
As years passed by and many other pets were part of my life, I learned of the unfaltering love of God's furry creatures. I remember countless ventures I made to save animals. One in particular involved a street person. As I drove down a city street, a "bag lady" pushing her cart of earthly possessions tottered along a busy street. Attached to the cart were two dogs, a precious puppy and an older dog who appeared to be an old pro at living on the street. I ·found myself whipping into a nearby McDonalds, purchasing coffee and a bag of cheeseburgers. No, I cant actually say the hunger of the lady concerned me, but that of the loyal companions who like any dog would starve just to be by it's owner's side broke my heart. With coffee in hand, a speech in mind and a determination in my soul, I approached this lady. I gave her the coffee and one burger. At that point I sat in my work clothes on the pavement feeding the flea-ridden wormy dogs who gobbled down the burgers. With a blurt of words I asked if I could have them both. It was the puppy who was allowed to go with me, and for that I was grateful.
"Grunt," a shepherd mix was thusly named due to the sound he made from his belly-full of worms, was on his way to a new life. Treated, fixed, fostered and glossy, "Grunt" was placed with a family in another state. From that point on I was on a crusade. As a teacher in a public school, I always insisted my students not draw names at Christmas, but bring dog food to our classroom. From there I would deliver that food to the local shelter.
Countless times children found animals and brought them to me to place or keep. Time marched on with husband and children, and I still found myself picking up strays at the gas station, on the interstate, down dust covered country roads or in parking lots. To leave one was unthinkable. Litters being given away at the local Wal-Mart were put into my car, the people lectured and the babies taken to a no-kill shelter. My passion was a mission, a ministry and a source of exhaustion, ridicule and joy. People say they marvel at what I do, but I marvel at those who can leave a helpless animal without being concerned for its well-being.
As with any passion, like minds often find each other. Through networking, my numbers grew and grew. My next step was the local shelter, a place that I dreaded and had sworn never to go other than to deliver food. With a lump in my throat, I approached the director and told her of my concerns and begged for a chance to help. It Was my goal to lower the euthanasia rate by fostering as many as I could whose time was up: I left feeling as if I had not been heard, but like rain hitting the roof and bouncing off, the effects are not seen until grass below is greener. This was not the case. The grass was indeed about to become a lush, productive lawn. A week or so passed and my phone rang. It was the shelter director asking if I would foster a very pregnant bird dog. The proverbial door had been opened, a foot was in, and the marathon to save lives had begun. With puppies safely delivered, weaned, vaccinated and fixed, they were placed through a no-kill rescue and I felt there was hope. Momma dog was spayed and placed as well. Many others would follow as would a group of foster individuals who followed in my steps. My army was in place! I signed a contract with the shelter's attorney saying that all animals would be spayed and neutered and placed selectively. What a fantastic feeling! In addition to the shelter animals, strays and litters from Wal-Mart, there are the abuse cases which have forever touched my heart. "Duke," a purebred Golden, was thrown from the back of a pick-up truck onto the pavement. He had no hair and was literally eaten up with mange. The good Samaritan who witnessed him thrown from the truck rushed him to the vet. Minutes away from euthanasia, the vet called me to see if I would be willing to take him.
Determined that "Duke" taste love, life and kind humans, I took him home. To shorten this story, today he is the companion of an older woman. He has a coat the color of a honeycomb and pep in his step that only love can give. Was he worth it? Of course, God created him. He was a gift given to the wrong hands. Now, he is loved, spoiled and is a faithful friend. "Duke" is only one of a hundred stories with happy endings.
The work it takes to do this is incomprehensible to anyone who hasn't done it. It is very similar to having dozens of infants at once. Medical bills, gas for transporting, cost of food, housing, etc. has to be done on a leap of faith, but God has provided.
Today's society is a fast-paced and overwhelming. Seldom do people find or make time to look beyond their own family needs. If you want to make a difference you can. All shelters need financial support, able bodies to walk pets and foster. Find your niche and teach your children. Pick up that stray. Invest yourself!
Making spays and neuters a free service nationally would be a great start.
Today I have lost count of the number of pets rescued, but have arranged over 7,000 placements during the past 10 years. While this may seem like a lot, it is only a drop in the bucket, but for the animals that have been spared; it is a very important drop. I call our rescue "Proverbs 12:10 Animal Rescue."
Proverbs was incorporated as a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization in 2006 with a current estimated $463,000 in animal care and services annually. This is a low estimate as increasing numbers of animals continue to arrive with varying health issues that are addressed before placing them in loving homes.