BOOKS: Saved: Rescued Animals & the Lives They Transformed

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 2009:

Saved: Rescued Animals & the Lives They Transformed by Karin
Winegar. Photos by Judy Olausen.
Da Capo Press (11 Cambridge Center, Cambridge, MA 02142), 2008.
240 pages, hardcover. $25.95.

“I’m only one person working for animals,” says Stray Rescue
of St. Louis founder Randy Grim. “I’m no hero; this is not a job;
it’s what I am.”
Grim, the Maricopa County Sher-iff’s Department in Phoenix,
Arizona, and Randi Golub from Oregon are among the many dedicated,
brave and caring people featured in Saved: Rescued Animals & the
Lives They Transformed.

Other books about animal rescue such as Puppy Miracles,
Angel Cats, and Dogs Who Found Me compete with Saved for readers,
but Saved is unique. There are stories of incredible survival about
dogs left to die, a cat who was only seconds from euthanasia, and
abandoned horses who not only survived but thrived. Rescuers dig
through trash in search of stray cats, shrug off threats from drug
dealers as they feed homeless dogs, and work on budgets so slim that
they squeeze a dollar until George Washington chokes.
Grim drives through the mean streets of East St. Louis, a
community picked apart by poverty, gangs, and crime. More homes
are boarded up or damaged by arson than are inhabited by families.
Garbage litters the streets and sidewalks. Jobs are few. Amid this
urban nightmare, Grim searches for cast aside canines, some too
terrified to leave hiding places beneath abandoned cars or inside
gutted tenements.
“More than half the dogs we rescue have gunshot wounds,” says
Grim, who nearly took a bullet several times himself while picking
up dogs. Pit bull breeders post crude signs on corners announcing
“puppies for sale.” Many pits are trained to fight or guard illicit
narcotics. East St. Louis is a community that urban planners and
government officials would rather forget than transform. Grim,
however, cannot forget the homeless dogs who scratch out a living
there, usually regarded as at best a nuisance, and at worst, as a
menace to the remaining human residents. Grim has now rescued and
rehomed more than 5,000 dogs. He is likely to remain busy for years
to come.
The MASH Unit at the Maricopa County jail offers safe haven
for abused and abandoned animals in the Phoenix area. Started by
Sheriff Joe Arpaio in 2001 after a string of animal cruelty cases,
the MASH unit is now a full service operation that has recently
rescued starving horses from a failed sanctuary, pit bulls abused by
the famous rap artist DMX, who is now serving jail time for neglect,
and cats from several major hoarding cases. Female inmates tend to
the dogs, cats and other small animals. Men care for horses, mules,
donkeys and other large animals at Arpaio’s infamous tent city where
inmates sleep outside, even in triple digit temperatures that
usually last from May to September.
Animals are kept until eligible for adoption. Some are
surrendered in connection with plea bargains; some are seized by the
court after people are convicted of neglecting or mistreating them.
Animals are euthanized only if they are severely injured or sick.
The inmate animal care program is competitive. No one with a
violent background is chosen. Inmates who disobey the rules are
expelled. Grooming and basic veterinary skills are taught by outside
professionals. Many former inmates go on to work in animal care
after completing their sentences.
MASH also provides “courtesy holds” of animals for women
escaping from domestic violence. “Women may retrieve their pets when
they find a safe, stable home,” the book explains.
Sheriff Joe Arpaio may be the toughest cop in America, as he
dubbed himself in a 1996 autobiography, but he has a soft spot for
abused, unwanted and roughed up animals.
Chance and Hope are Great Pyrenees dogs who work as canine
caretakers at a small suburban hospice that also provides adult
foster care in Minnesota. Founders Don and Darlene Ahlstrom first
saw Chance and Hope on television, after the Wright County Humane
Society plucked them from a ditch where they were found starving and
injured. Both dogs’ injuries required amputations. At least $17,000
in donations poured in from the sympathetic public in response to
their story. Hundreds of people wanted to adopt them. Darlene and
Don applied last, but won custody. Despite the dogs’ own
disabilities, they spend their days cheering up patients with
cerebral palsy, Alzheimer’s disease, and other serious and
sometimes life threatening disorders. The dogs also entertain the
“Every day at 12:38 p.m. they howl at the Bold and the
Beautiful theme,” says Darlene. “We don’t know why. It’s the only
time they do that.”
A .22 caliber bullet shattered Cassidy the cream colored
cat’s hind leg. A second bullet lay dangerously close to his spine.
But there was something special about this cat that said “save me.”
And that’s exactly what veterinary technician Randi Golub did.
Golub, who works in Eugene, Oregon, does in-home nursing for
cats in addition to hospice and boarding. Cassidy joined her house
full of tattered and worn cats while he recovered from amputation
surgery. Cassidy had such a pleasing personality that in 2007 he
passed the Delta Society’s rigorous behavior test and became a
therapy cat, one of only a handful who are registered with Delta.
Golub and her feline companion visit assisted living facilities where
he “brings out the best in human beings,” Golub says.
“I can tell he’s grateful for everything I’ve done for him,”
Golub assesses, “but I’m the one who is immensely grateful.”
Saved affirms that rescued animals are not throwaways.
–Debra J. White

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