Heart of Niagara rescues Sadie and Sally, beagle sisters, have brought a whole new meaning to the phrase "pay it forward." They recently returned home to Western New York from a 2,400-mile four-day journey, where they visited the very place from where they were rescued last year, to help bring more of their furry friends home to the safety of this area.
Heart of Niagara Animal Rescue founders Kathy Nowakowski and Margie Kwiatkowski made the trip with the sisters to the Monroe County Animal Shelter, an overcrowded facility located in Monroeville, Alabama. The purpose of the trek was to return the numerous crates that had accumulated as a result of transporting these dogs north, to meet the shelter staff, and to select more dogs to be brought to safety in the near future.
"Sadie and Sally's Rescue Run ... Paying it Forward" was made possible through a donation from U-Haul on Military Road in Niagara Falls, which donated use of cargo van for a reduced fee; by the generosity of Milk Bone Buffalo, which provided cases of treats; Dr. Kristen Ruest of The Village Vet of Lewiston, who provided medicine; and the Western New York community, which came forth with items including shampoo, pet-friendly lawn and pesticide products, and other needed supplies.
The Monroe County shelter welcomed the contingent with open arms and gave Nowakowski and Kwiatkowski a first-hand view of what it has all really meant to have Heart of Niagara rescue its animals from overcrowded conditions.
"Everyone has been asking us what the shelter was like," Nowakowski said. "Well, it is a small, rural shelter that is struggling with space issues, pest control, and more and more dogs than they know what to do with, unfortunately. They truly appreciate all of the help we are providing by finding loving homes for the dogs that we are able to bring (back home to Western New York)."
Kwiatkowski said, "It's hard to describe the feeling. ... It's like you want to grab them all, fill up the car and go - no time to waste. Their eyes are saying, 'Help me.' When we think we can't go another day, we'll remember this day and keep going."
Because Heart of Niagara is foster-based, fosters must be arranged ahead of time before the next group can make the journey to safety.
Nowakowski walked the kennels with many adoption requests swimming in her head.
"We wish we could bring them all," she said. "But the shortest point from point 'A' to point 'B' is to select animals that we know people are looking for ... that they've asked us to find for them. It's not a perfect science. ... We do the best we can and go as fast as we can."
Kwiatkowski added, "Their eyes speak to you ... and we want to do more, and once we have a building, we'll be able to. (Heart of Niagara) really does make a difference here. But it's not enough. We'll be able to save more dogs, hold clinics, do behavior training, so (much more) once we can raise enough money (and be housed in our own location) where people can come."
When they saw Buffy, a 1-1/2-year-old Pekinese and victim of a backyard breeder, their hearts sank. Abandoned at the Monroe County shelter and found to have a broken leg, Buffy's teeth are worn down from gnawing on the bars of her cage.
And there she sits.
"They can't afford to fix her leg," Nowakowski said. "We're looking for a foster family that would be able to help her through her recovery period and nurse her back to health once (Heart of Niagara) arranges her surgery. If we don't do something, Buffy is the type of dog that probably won't get adopted because of her condition, and would probably get euthanized. It's heartbreaking and we want to try to help."
Linda van Harssel, Heart of Niagara founder and fundraising director, said, "Little Buffy, and many like her, is why we do what we do and why we fundraise continuously. We are out somewhere practically every weekend getting our animals seen, telling their stories, and planning bigger and better events to raise money. It's because we incur all expenses, including necessary medical treatments - some very extensive - for all the animals who come into our care. Adoption fees are kept affordable and never cover all expenses. We keep going and hope to have a building someday so we can do more."
Heart of Niagara Animal Rescue will walk in the Lewiston Peach Festival Parade Saturday, Sept. 6, and have a booth on Saturday in Academy Park near the Peach Festival tent. Heart of Niagara adopters, fosters and volunteers are welcome to walk in the parade with their dog-friendly dogs on a leash. The public can stop by and meet adoptable dogs, HON directors, and volunteers to learn more about the adoption process, animal care and upcoming meetings and events.
The rescue uses its Facebook page to post dogs in need of fosters, to make announcements of dogs arriving soon and up for adoption, and to promote locations and events where HON will be present so the public can meet the dogs and learn more about the adoption process. To date, volunteers have adopted more than 200 animals. They hold monthly volunteer meetings the second Wednesday of the month from 6:30-8 p.m., at the First Presbyterian Church in Lewiston. New volunteers are always welcome.
Heart of Niagara is a not-for-profit companion animal rescue organization based in Niagara County. Its mission is to protect the health and welfare of abandoned, unwanted and homeless animals. Volunteers operate solely on donations and the generosity and support of the public. For more information, visit www.heartofniagara.org, and "Like" "HON" on Facebook at Heart of Niagara Animal Rescue Inc.
For more information, call HON's main number at 716-345-7129.