As I was growing up, it was not uncommon to see at least one dog running around our yard, much less a variety of other critters. My mom had a huge heart, which is who I like to say I got my passion for animals from, and she just couldn't stomach seeing any animal in need. She had a natural ability and desire to save and protect, so she took in any animal that happened to wander into our yard. And, yes, I do mean ANY animal. At one time we had a guinea fowl, a rooster, a dog, a cat, and a couple hamsters in and around our house. The guinea and rooster became best buddies; the cat became mom's sidekick; the hamsters were my opportunity to show how responsible I could be (or not); and the dogs were my best friends. Perhaps our home was somehow known as a safe haven in the animal world, or perhaps others just knew that it was safe to drop off their unwanted animals near our property. And, why not? After all, no matter what, those animals were going to be cared for, no matter what they needed.
A few times dad surprised us and brought home purebred dogs, which, yes, were stunningly beautiful and sweet, but the majority of time we only had mutts. Let me say that again, most of our dogs were mutts. In my mind it didn't matter what their pedigree was, as I thought the mutts were just as beautiful, talented, and wonderful as any pedigreed dog could ever be. In fact, one of my most favorite and beloved dogs was Floozy. Floozy was a female, beagle-like dog that had a little sway in her backside as she walked, and she was so loving. She melted our heart, so, of course, we fed her, we gave her attention, and we gave her a warm and soft bed....<fast forward>....she wandered into her forever home.
One day mom and I were in the house when we heard the most horrific cry. We grew up on a very busy state highway, so the number of animals killed by cars and trucks was much too high. When we heard the cry, we thought Floozy was another fatality. Our hearts sank. I ran outside, ran down to the road, and there was Floozy, lying in the road. Yes, she had been hit by a car and was injured, but, by the Grace of God, only her leg had been damaged. How did she survive that? Of course, we don't know, but we did know we were given a second chance with her. I was maybe 10 or 11 years old, but I knew enough to get Floozy help. I picked her up in my arms, ran her up to the house, and asked mom to help me. We kept her as calm as possible, we cleaned the wound, and we wrapped it with gauze. Right or wrong, that's what we did. Fortunately, nature took over and maggots (yuck!) ate any infection that had materialized. Floozy eventually made a full recovery and lived to a ripe old age. Several years later she passed away when it was her rightful time to go, and, although it was a tragedy to lose such a wonderful dog, she showed me that a dog's love is unconditional, and even mutts are special.
Although I loved animals and loved being around them, it wasn't until almost 30 years later that I began rescuing dogs. My husband, Drew and I agreed to let our daughters - Kendra and Taylor - get a dog after they had proven to us that they knew what they wanted, knew how to care for it, and promised they would take care of it, not us. The girls convinced us, so we went to the Franklin County Humane Society and rescued our first family pet, Bear. He was not only our first rescue, but he was a loving soul and quickly became a part of our family, much like Floozy had done so many years earlier. Little did we know that this rescued mutt was the catalyst for what would later become Bear & Friends Animal Society, Inc.....and so our journey began!