Animal instinct – Savannah Magazine
Three regional relief organizations lead with steadfast hearts and hope
At home on Thanksgiving almost 22 years ago, Jennifer Smith refused to cook dinner until a family member helped her build a website for a nonprofit she was starting. Hunger has set in. The website has grown. By the time the turkey came out of the oven, Noah’s Arks Rescue’s shingle was digitally hung.
Like most animal rescues, Noah’s arches was built by Smith’s fierce passion for animals. All her life, she has rescued stray animals by roadsides or taken dogs that no one wanted.
Many of these dogs, to Smith’s husband’s affectionate protests, ended up in their home. Their canine brood has grown. And grown up. And grew a little more. When she brought home her eighth dog, a gentle blind lab mix named Sammy, Smith realized she needed a new home or a new plan.
Then came Riley, a Yorkshire terrier who was sentenced by a South Carolina judge to be euthanized after his owner was convicted of the felony of animal neglect. Riley didn’t have a voice, but Smith did, and she used it aloud.
“I’m not the type to get away from it all,” says Smith. She refused to let this canine victim become another sad statistic. She followed the case and made a case for Riley, who became the first dog officially saved by Noah’s Arks.
Noah’s Arks is a real rescue – a sanctuary – for dogs that need to be euthanized, for dogs that have been badly injured or abused or who just don’t have a place to go. Some, like Sammy, are blind. Others have limbs missing or are in critical condition due to serious injury or illness.
A few of these dogs may be rehabilitated enough to be adopted, but most stay to live at Noah’s Arks in a state-of-the-art facility that has been rebuilt and redesigned for the comfort and purpose of these animals.
“You close the doors and you are in a dog paradise. The outside world ceases to exist, ”says Smith. The small staff at Noah’s Arks take care of each dog individually, providing medical care, play time, classical music and lots and lots of love. “We are their family,” says Smith. And Noah’s Arches are their home.
Home. Perhaps this term has never meant more than during the COVID-19 pandemic. Home is where we live, but ideally it is also a space of comfort and safety. Poet Robert Frost once said, “Home is where, when you have to go there, they have to greet you. For Noah’s Arks, the home wasn’t born out of obligation, but out of compassion.
Compassion is at the heart of One Love Animal Rescue, too, which also serves neglected animals in the area.
In December 2012, Karrie Bulski, a marine biologist, was helping her grandparents adopt a dog at a local shelter. The queues at the refuge were long, the waiting times interminable. Bulski sat in the waiting room for hours, watching other families interested in adoption leave, frustrated at the lack of attention.
Wanting to help, Bulski quickly became a volunteer at Local Animal Control, where she met two other women who together recognized the community’s need for better programs to prevent skyrocketing euthanasia rates. “I grew up on a farm,” Bulski explains, “and I have always had a deep love for animals and the relationships established with them. ”
One Love Animal Rescue was licensed in September 2013 and has been running at full speed ever since. They have adopted or transported over 5,000 animals to date.
One Love Animal Rescue welcomes cats and dogs (and sometimes a turtle, ferret, rabbit, or pig) from local shelters or owners who are required to return their pets.
One Love, like Noah’s Arks, focuses on serious medical cases, broken bones, broken hearts. “If I see a place where I can make a difference, I’m inspired to do my best to help create manageable solutions for all of the homeless animals in our community who need us,” says Bulski.
The COVID-19 pandemic, in particular, has been a particularly difficult time for many animal lovers. Families struggle not only with the effects of isolation, but also with layoffs and dwindling resources.
Bulski notes a growing interest in pet adoptions – more than double compared to similar summer months last year. Yet despite these promising numbers, the challenges of our present moment remain.
Recognizing the limits of adoption and transportation, One Love now runs Operation Pet Rescue, a community outreach program that provides free essential services, such as vaccines and sterilization. Soon, they will be providing pet food to families in need through their food bank.
“A house is not a house without pets,” says Bulski. “The joy of having a pet that welcomes you every day is absolutely irreplaceable.”
Like Smith and Bulski’s experience, the Strayers always seemed to find Lisa Scarbrough, who grew up on Tybee Island in the ’90s surrounded by pets. She and her family, who run Captain Mike’s Dolphin Tours, have constantly welcomed feral cats that show up near the marina. They sterilize or sterilize the animals, then, if they cannot find a suitable home for them, allow them to spend their days lounging by the marina.
In college, needy animals magically appeared on Scarbrough’s doorstep. In fact, she has developed a reputation as “the woman who knows what to do with stray animals”.
It was her vet, in fact, who suggested that she start a nonprofit so she could use the donations to help pay the growing bills. Young and upbeat, that’s exactly what she did. On February 5, 2003, Coastal Pet Rescue officially opened.
For Scarbrough, the role of Coastal animal rescue is more important than ever. Although the number of adoptions increased in the first few months of the pandemic, summer gave way to more cases of owner neglect and surrender. Many families, struggling with job loss or moves that could not accommodate pets, were forced to abandon their pets.
“When some people consider adopting a pet, they think, ‘I want it now,’” says Scarbrough, what she calls Amazon Prime syndrome. “Take your time. Find the right match. It’s not an impulse buy,” she says, “but a family member for life.”
Jennifer Smith’s 10-page adoption application is a testament to her own organization’s commitment to finding the right fit, both for the animal and its potential owner. “It’s easier to get a home loan than to adopt from Noah’s Arks,” she laughs, but without apologizing. She wants to find an environment of unconditional love for her rescues where they will thrive. “We want them to have the best possible life,” she said. Isn’t that what family should be? “