She helped a homeless dog get to Harvard
Through this blog, I have had the privilege of meeting many wonderful people involved in animal rescue. Amanda Denning Holt, who belongs to rescue pups Daisy, Chomps and Rudi, is one of those people. Between the demands of graduate school and a full-time job, she advocates for homeless animals in Kansas City through direct contact and online activism. The following is an interview with Amanda.
CW: How did you get involved in the animal rescue community?
ADH: I have always been an animal lover, but last summer I decided not to take a summer class so I could spend time volunteering at a local shelter when I wasn’t at work. I wanted to volunteer at the shelter that needed me the most, and knew that would probably lead me to the neediest, most depressing shelter in the metro area. At the time, I had heard about the dire situation at the KCMO shelter. I did a little research, and it took me t-minus two seconds to verify that it was clearly one of the most disadvantaged shelters in the entire KC area.
While I tried to prepare myself mentally and emotionally for what I would experience, that preparation was not powerful enough to prevent the tears and extreme heartache that would ensue. I had a fairly long commute each time I went to the shelter. While I live only 5 minutes from a very well-funded shelter, that facility is not where my heart led me to volunteer. So instead, I drove more than 30 minutes each way to the KCMO shelter.
I unfortunately cannot volunteer as regularly in-person now as I did last summer, but I still do as much as I can remotely (online). There are SO many ways people can help! You do not have to be readily available several days a week to make a big difference. It’s amazing to witness, but I’ve seen it happen many times: just 5 minutes of volunteer time (especially online) literally can save a shelter dog and/or cat’s life.
What organizations are you currently involved with, and how do you contribute?
My favorite local rescue is Unleashed Rescue.
Unleashed saves hundreds of dogs off death row each year, and they are often the dogs that I somehow most connect with. They are rarely the cutest dogs on the outside, but their hearts, souls and personalities shine.
To help Unleashed, I promote their adoptable dogs online and through word of mouth. I also donate items regularly.
You can find their wish list here: http://www.unleashedrescue.com/donate.html.
When my schedule isn’t so crazy, I go to their adoption center in Mission, KS, to help walk and socialize dogs, to help clean, etc.
The KCMO shelter is now under new management (thankfully) — KC Pet Project. KCPP has done a fabulous job working to turn this shelter around. I have witnessed a number of much-needed and very positive changes to the old status quo since KCPP took over shelter operations Jan. 1, 2012.
I plan to volunteer there again in person this summer. When I volunteer in person, I get dogs out of their cages to go for a walk and simply get some fresh air, help socialize them, show them to potential adopters who come to the shelter, and most importantly, I give them love. Many of them have never experienced this gift.
When I am not able to volunteer at the shelter in person, I help by promoting the shelter’s adoptable dogs online and through word of mouth. I also help recruit new volunteers and fosters. I donate items regularly too. KCPP, like most shelters, is in constant need of donated items, as well as monetary donations to help pay veterinary expenses for animals with special medical needs.
What happens when you really connect with a particular animal?
I work like crazy to promote them via every possible medium. And with every dog I walk at the shelter, I make mental notes about their personality. Then, I go home and write bios for their Petfinder profiles. Detailed bios and photos go a long way to help them find forever homes!
As I recall, you had a special connection with Magnet Lady Kathleen Henn’s dog Miles. Share something about their story.
I remember seeing Kathy sitting on the bench outside the shelter just loving on Miles. He was so scared, I think his tail was permanently tucked between his legs, and he was shaking. Kathy wanted so badly to comfort him and soothe his nerves. I believe she came back the next day to adopt him. Today he’s as happy as a dog can be, and I get to see him regularly!
Knowing that not every animal can be saved, how do you avoid getting burned out on the cause?
I focus on the success stories I’ve helped make possible.
One of my favorite rescue stories comes from my very first day volunteering at the shelter last summer. That is when I met and fell in love with a gorgeous blue (grey) pit bull named Sterling. I had never really had direct contact with a pittie before then, and she was just perfect!
She was incredibly scared, as the vast majority of shelters are extremely stressful, scary, and loud. Once I took her outside for a walk, she slowly came out of her shell. After a walk down the drive, I sat down and began to pet her and tell her how beautiful she was. It was then that she pressed her body up next to mine, trying to find some security, comfort, and peace amidst her homeless existence and questionable future. She then laid her head on my shoulder and looked up at me with the sweetest, soft eyes pleaded for me to help her. I promised her I would do everything in my power to save her life and find her a wonderful home.
I went home late that afternoon and told my husband about her. We both posted her on Facebook, and within 24 hours, Sterling had someone seriously interested in her.
One of my husband’s childhood friends who is now a Harvard professor wanted to learn more about her. And guess what? He and his lovely wife adopted her. We fostered her for a few days before she went on a rescue transport (which cost only $10) to her new home in Boston. She went from death row to the Ivy League!
Another thing that keeps me going is knowing how badly the dogs need us. They often sit in cages 24/7 with very little-to-no human interaction. Can you imagine how much it lights up their world when a volunteer comes to free them from their cage (even if it’s just for a few short minutes) get some fresh air outside, and most importantly show them LOVE?
What is your advice to anyone considering getting involved in the animal rescue community?
Do it! There are “high highs” and “low lows,” but it’s worth every moment. It’s also important to keep in mind there are a number of ways you can help (in person and/or online). Every little bit of time and effort makes a difference. Simply clicking “share” on a Facebook post advertising a homeless pet can save his/her life. Sometimes all it takes is the click of your computer mouse!
Come back tomorrow to learn about a currently adoptable dog who is very close to Amanda’s heart.