Rescue Me --- The Power of Passion!
by Karen Hartmann, CET
As my children grew up and gained their independence, it was apparent the demands of motherhood were dwindling. So many thoughts crossed my mind. Did I want to re-enter the workforce and become an employee outside of my home? Dive into a hobby? Find a passion? My children were not the only ones with this new-found sense of independence. I was feeling it too. Reflecting on the type of person I am, it did not take me long to realize being an employee may be short-lived. After being self-employed for 27-plus years, it may be hard to condition myself to become a 9-to-5 employee. So I did what came naturally. I followed my heart. Over the years, I have found there are two things I am particularly passionate about: the town I live in and retired greyhounds.
Volunteering for greyhound rescue is something I hold very near and dear. We adopted our first greyhound, Rockfish, in the fall of 1995. Falling completely in love with the breed, we fostered our first dog within three months of adopting Rockfish. While I thoroughly enjoyed fostering, I also felt it was important for our children to understand the importance of volunteering. The children were very enthusiastic about the next foster dog we would get, curious to observe its personality, the color, to know how long we would have him or her, and meet their new families. Due to the hectic schedule of raising four children, we would only foster once or twice a year.
As my children have grown up and moved out, I have been able to devote more of my time to helping greyhounds on their way to a new life. This year alone we have had six fosters. While you may think you are just giving a dog a temporary place to stay until he or she is adopted, it is much more. The dogs need to be vetted, neutered, and most importantly, conditioned to become a family member. Their ages range from two to six years old, some older, rarely younger. Since they have never been in a house before, there is much for them to learn.
They have no idea how to go up or down a flight of stairs. They see a sliding glass door; they don’t realize you need to open the door to go outside. It is the function of the foster family to help these dogs become acclimated to a home environment. If you did not realize, greyhounds come fully equipped with a lot of love and are completely willing to be the best friend you ever had!
Fostering isn't limited to newly-retired greyhounds that come off the track. We occasionally get a dog that is returned to the rescue, what we refer to as a “bounce.” January of 2014, my first two fosters of the year were two 11-year-old litter mates who had lived with a family for eight years. The couple was divorcing, and neither one of them wanted the dogs. Upon receiving the phone call, another volunteer and I went to pick up the dogs. It was obvious this family had neglected these dogs for many years. Each dog was twenty pounds lighter than their weight when they were adopted. They were still wearing the same collars they wore the date they were adopted eight years ago. Neither one was donning a name tag. They smelled of urine, and did not look as though they had ever been bathed.
While the rescue does everything possible to assure these dogs are going to a perfect, forever home, something had seriously gone awry here. As soon as I got home with them, we bathed them, fed them, put the dog pillow in front of the fireplace, and spoiled them endlessly. Fortunately, working from home, I was able to devote as much time as it took to get these dogs on the right path. There were many visits to the vet for blood work, x-rays, medicine, and even acupuncture for the female. Within eight weeks, these dogs were back to health and adopted into a home in Upstate New York.
A few months later, I fostered a greyhound by the name of Grady who had nearly died in transit. For whatever reason, he had developed hyperthermia. If not for the quick actions of one of the volunteers taking him to the nearest emergency care center, he would have died. His body temperature had gone as high as the thermometer would go topping out at 107.9 degrees. He spent the night in the hospital hooked up to an IV. Thankfully, he woke up with no consequences from the prior day=s events. He lived with us for approximately six weeks and developed into the most loveable fellow I could imagine. And, by the way, they all develop into an amazingly affectionate family member. The rescue holds an annual vegetarian greyhound picnic to honor the dogs. This year, Grady’s adoptive parents drove over 100 miles to join us at the picnic and take him home.
Our last foster of the year was a nine-month-old puppy who had been playing with his litter mates at the farm and shattered his shoulder. The rescue received a call from the breeder asking if she would take him explaining he needed a very expensive surgery, and if rescue didn’t take him, the dog would have to be put down. The rescue did not give the request a second thought. That was Labor Day weekend. Fast forward to December of 2014, after surgery and extensive rehabilitation, the greyhound is off to his new home.
When I am not spending time spoiling foster dogs, I am dedicating myself to the town I live in, New Hope, Pennsylvania. Being a small town, we depend heavily on the volunteers within the community. A few years ago, I joined the Parks & Recreation Committee and now serve as recording secretary, recording their meetings and producing the minutes. One exciting project I have been involved in is a tile mural wall in our Town Hall consisting of 600 hand-painted tiles of scenes from the past and present activities, restaurants, bed and breakfast inns, and events which draw people to this beautiful little river town year after year.
Our committee also organizes an egg hunt where we have approximately 400 children from our community and neighboring communities join us to find hidden eggs and enjoy a visit from an overgrown bunny. Our high school students volunteer to complete the task of egg-stuffing. Specifically, the Parks & Recreation Committee is responsible for maintaining our pocket parks within our one-mile square town, hanging flower baskets from the light posts which line our streets, and coordinating all of this with the Public Works Department. While we only meet once a month, there’s plenty to do between meetings.
With the exception of our tile wall which is based on purchases of the tiles from individuals and businesses in the community, all of these expenses are paid from our committee=s fund-raising efforts, our most profitable being the Winter Festival which is a one-week long event we put on with our sister town across the river, Lambertville, New Jersey. Some attractions are a chili cook-off, multiple ice sculptures placed throughout the towns, a concert, a beef ‘n brew, the Fire and Ice Ball, a pancake breakfast, and a tribute dinner where we honor a member of our community who exemplifies outstanding service to our community. From November to mid-January, my focus shifts to the Winter Festival as that is when the planning, developing, and final preparations are occurring.
To give you the flavor of our small town, one of the restaurant owners has created a breakfast club for the locals. It is a spot which is for members only to be frequented by people residing within our town and perhaps a few others who do not live here but Aknow someone.@ The door is locked, but every member has a key which functions during operating hours.
I have toyed with the idea of joining the workforce outside of my home, but at this point, I can=t imagine how that would fit in with my passions. Being self-employed as a certified transcriber has afforded me the flexibility to create a schedule that is conducive to work and Aplay.@ Volunteering has given me an opportunity to meet many wonderful people who support like causes. If you are in a similar position, finding you have more time on your hands than you know what to do with, perhaps there=s a cause you may find to empower your passion.
“Saving one dog will not change the world, but surely for that one dog, the world will change forever.” Karen Davison
Karen Hartmann is an AAERT Certified Electronic Transcriber residing in New Hope, Pennsylvania. She has been in the transcription industry since 1988. Karen enjoys biking, walking, rollerblading, kayaking, and vacationing in warm climates. She has been married for 32 years and is the mother of four children and two Italian Greyhound puppy mill rescues. CourtTranscripts@aol.com