Chicago rescue continues to have a dramatic impact on downstate shelter (Photos)

Chicago rescue continues to have a dramatic impact on downstate shelter (Photos)
Addison is a Boxer mix looking for a home.

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In just over 15 months, a group of animal advocates have had a major impact at a downstate open admission animal shelter. Rescue ME Clifford (RMC) has combined the efforts of rescuers in the Chicago area, the Midwest and in and around Clark County to cut the euthanasia rate at the animal shelter there from ninety to less than one percent, helping hundreds of animals find homes.

Chicago rescue continues to have a dramatic impact on downstate shelter (Photos)
Rescue ME Clifford raised funds for a dog run for the Clark County Animal Shelter.

Since organizing and stepping up to help the animals in October of 2011, Rescue ME Clifford has adopted out 213 dogs and four cats with 15 dogs currently in foster homes. The organization has also worked with another rescue to save the cats from the shelter and other dog rescue organizations to take in additional dogs as well.

Great partnerships

“I really feel the reason we’ve succeeded is that we have a team of people throughout the country who help us,” says organization founder Marilyn Frey. “There is no competition or ego and no passive aggressive behavior or sabotage. It’s all for the animals.”

Frey is from Chicago and has medical practices in both Chicago and downstate Paris, Illinois. When she opened her practice in the rural area and found out how many animals don’t make it out of shelters and animal control, she knew she needed to do something. So, she mobilized her friends in Chicago animal rescue to help out.

She calls what her organization is doing a successful Urban/Rural partnership. Her local connections work with veterinarians, volunteers and local officials to set a local game plan including vetting and transporting animals. The Chicago continent taps into their network of rescues and transporters to facilitate the rescue and rehoming of the animals.

“We look at this as a rescue business and track everything on a spreadsheet – our costs per dog and where each dog goes from rescue to adoption,” adds Frey. “I love that we are able to demonstrate with numbers all we’ve been able to do.”

Second chances

The organization has pitched in and gotten medical treatment for five dogs with heartworm, two with parvo, two with cherry eye and a senior dog with a tumor. The worked with the University of Illinois Veterinary School to have the tumor – that was benign – removed. The dog named Maggie has been adopted by a local family.

“Perhaps one of our biggest accomplishments is the building of the dog run,” says Frey. Prior to construction this past spring, dogs in the shelter had no place to run and play. “Now dogs, while waiting for their foster or permanent homes, get to run and play each day. We even have an honor and memorial garden close by.”

One of the dogs that broke everyone’s heart initially was Raven. The Shar Pei/boxer mix was a black dog with a wrinkled face that was so stressed when they found her she had no fur. They treated her and put her in foster care.

A family in Chicago wanted to adopt her and asked for RMC to hold her until after the holidays, something they normally don’t do. It turns out they lived on the floor of a condo building that didn’t allow dogs and they wanted Raven so badly, they were moving to another unit on a dog-friendly floor and needed time for the unit to be ready.

“I was still a bit nervous because they’d never had a dog but they asked for pet service provider recommendations,” says Frey. “The next thing I know I have a picture of Raven at Urban Pooch having a doggy spa day. This poor dog that was abandoned in the field was now having a doggy facial.”

Community involvment

To increase awareness of the plight of many animals, RMC has expanded some of what they do. This past year, they sponsored 4-H events in two counties, encouraging youth to participate in healthy activities with animals. Two young teenagers, along with three RMC Board Members, signed and addressed over 800 Holiday cards and distributed them to various military facilities, nursing homes and homeless shelters.

“I think organizations get in trouble when they bite off more than they can chew. Our mission is really to help the dogs and that is our number one priority,” says Frey. “We work with a great cat rescue group that works to find homes for all the cats and kitten taken in at the shelter. We also use our resources to help out in the community. Walmart has been good to us and we get lots of food and pet supply donations to help out in Clark County as well.”

Because education is so important, they are hoping to go into the schools and various places to facilitate discussions on the relationship between bullying of people and bullying of pets. They are continuing to look into other options to help rescue more animals and educate in their community.

Special rescues

Frey says one of the memorable rescues happened recently when they took in this young puppy from a woman who had lost it all and was now homeless, living in her car. The puppy was at the shelter waiting for foster care when it got very sick. Frey was in Portland, but saw a video of the puppy and was very concerned.

“I called my veterinarian in Terre Haute and checked with our volunteers. The shelter wasn’t open. In the end, they had to spring him out in the dark of night with one of our youngest rescuers, a 10-year-old boy, carrying the puppy out. Had we waited until morning, the puppy would have been dead.”

The puppy has since recovered. Learn more about the work of Rescue ME Clifford online and follow their rescues on Facebook. You can also check out donation and sponsorship opportunities online.

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