A Gift of Love

by | Jun 1, 2012 | Features

We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals.” ~ Immanual Kant ~

There is something about looking into the eyes of a rescued animal at a shelter that pulls at your heart strings. Their eyes could tell a story that most of us can only dream about in nightmares if they cared to share it, yet most look upon us with great hope and unconditional love. They seem to say, I may be penned up here in a small cage, but I’m still glad to be alive. Will you love me?
At Needy Paws Animal Shelter in Clarksville, the stray and abandoned animals there are safe and well cared for, thanks to the hard work and dedication of many. The shelter primarily houses dogs and cats but at times has found homes for possums, bunnies, snakes and other critters.
“Oh, the stories these animals could tell when they come in, It just breaks my heart sometimes,” said Mildred (Henrietta) Russo, a volunteer at Needy Paws since it opened in 1996. “I wish we were a “no kill” shelter but that is an impossible task. Sometimes we get an animal that has been so traumatized no amount of love and care helps them trust humans again. Others come in badly injured and we have to euthanize them to end their suffering,” she added.
But Russo prefers to see the bright side and still volunteers once or twice a week at the shelter working the phones and reception desk with a cheery smile and good humor
“I don’t work in the back with the dogs anymore because I’m too feeble. They knock me over because I’m as short and as I am wide so I roll around like a ball, said Russo with a twinkle in her eye.

The shelter has become a favorite, not only in Arkansas, but is one of the top six shelters in the United States according to the former Arkansas Representative for the U.S. Humane Society, Desiree Bender, who traveled around the U.S. inspecting shelters for the U.S. Humane Society, explained Russo.
The shelter was built in 1996 thanks to dedicated volunteers like Mary Boyer, Becky Hardgrave and Jeanette Gerd. While a large portion of the start-up money for the shelter came from one donor, the Humane Society also contributed funds to help the shelter get started.
Before Needy Paws was built, what Johnson County had under the guise of an animal shelter was “just pathetic,” according to a major donor, but building the shelter was just the beginning.
“You wouldn’t believe all it takes to start up a shelter and keep it running. At first we tried to run the shelter with all volunteers, but you can’t do that when you have animals,” she said.

Today, the shelter is run by Karen Mize, the 12th manager in 16 years, and under her care and the generous donation of time and materials from many animal lovers, the shelter is flourishing despite the obstacles. Needy Paws takes in up to 40 dogs and 20 cats every month and of these, about half are adopted each month, said Mize.
“We never know what is going to happen here from one day to the next, so it’s always an exciting place to be,” said Mize, who previously worked as the shelter’s animal control officer.
Besides the usual influx of animals, Needy Paws took in 18 neglected animals (14 dogs and four cats) last month after an emergency seizure from a residence in Knoxville. On a tip from a concerned citizen, Johnson County Sheriff’s Detective Chad Morrow found multiple dogs living in a trailer, in an adjacent shed and outside in a chain like pen under filthy conditions. Because of the condition of the property, Morrow wrote a search warrant and the animals were subsequently rescued and transported to Needy Paws.

Most of these rescued dogs are probably purebred breeding pairs and one of the cats is a nursing mother. Sadly, the mother cat’s kittens could not be found, Mize said.
Needy Paws evaluated, cleaned and treated the animals and readied them for adoption with the help of many volunteers.
“It’s really sad when something like this happens, but we are doing all we can to help these animals,” said Mize, who said last year a similar seizure brought in 26 animals.
With the shelter already filled to capacity, some of these mainly small breed dogs are being kept three to a cage.
“Since the animals were already subjected to overcrowded conditions, they are used to the close quarters, but a few of these dogs were not used to being picked up and handled so we are working with them,” said Mize.
Thanks to all the loving care, the animals are now clean and pretty and ready for adoption, said Mize.
“Now we just need to find people willing to adopt these animals, said Mize.
To encourage adoptions, Needy Paws is having a half-price sale. This means you can adopt a dog for $35 or a cat for $30 and shots, worming and spay/neutering are included.
All costs for the care of the animals come from Needy Paws so all donations are greatly appreciated, said Mize. In addition to adoptive pet parents and donations, the shelter needs volunteers to walk the dogs and play with the cats and puppies.
“It’s fun and easy work and gives you a good feeling. Animals are good for you because they unconditionally love you back,” said Mize.
Please help Needy Paws any way you can. Call (479) 754-4200 or go to the shelter at 1040 E. Main Street, Clarksville. Hours are Tuesday-Friday Noon to 5 p.m. and Saturday 10-2.
Tips from an Animal Control Officer
Johnson County Animal Control Officer, Becky Brown, has definite ideas about how to best handle animals, especially those that are no longer wanted.
“It’s a lot kinder to bring an animal to a shelter or humanely euthanize it than to dump an unwanted animal by the side of the road to starve or be hit by a car.”
Unfortunately, a large number of puppies are abandoned, especially in the spring, because they are not wanted or are seen as an obligation
“We took in four litters of puppies last month alone, and of those, two batches had been dumped at the side of the road. That’s why spaying and neutering is so important. It not only reduces the population but in many cases helps protect the animal’s health,” said Brown.
Brown also recommends putting on a collar on your pet and licensing it so the animal can more easily be identified and returned home if lost.
“We seldom bring in a dog with an identification collar so we have no way to know where the animal belongs. Some of these animals may be loved family pets, but without identification they can’t be reunited with their owners.”
“Once they come to the shelter, they could be adopted out or in some cases have to be humanely euthanized. It’s really sad when that happens,” said Brown.
If you lose your pet or find a lost one, please call Needy Paws at (479) 754-4200. They might have your pet and if not, they have a bulletin board for posting information on the animal.


Favorite Animal Stories and Tips
Anyone who has owned a pet has a favorite animal story but those about rescued animals are especially heartwarming. As a volunteer at Needy Paws with 16 years experience, Mildred (Henrietta) Russo has seen it all.
“My favorite story is about Graffiti, a large black dog who repeatedly came back to the shelter. We adopted him out three times but he always found his way back to our front door. One time he was taken 16 miles out into the country but he still found his way back. I think Graffiti just wanted to live in a house with a family and thought the shelter was his home.”
“One day a young couple with a six-month-old baby girl came in looking for a large dog to stay in the house because they had been robbed and I said, “Boy, do I have a dog for you!” We brought Graffiti to the lobby and they set the baby on the floor and she crawled all over the dog, pulled his ears and laid down on top of him. Graffitti didn’t mind a bit. I guess he loved the attention and became a loyal member of his new family because he has never been back.”
Another large dog we named Lucky had been shot with a high powered rifle when she was brought in. We took her to the vet and tended her wound for six weeks. Then, one day a man from Atkins came in looking for a dog to train as a drug-dog. It was love at first sight and now Lucky has a good life.” said Russo.
Russo’s favorite cat story is about one of the shelter “mascots” named Trish.
“When Trish first came in we called her ‘the cat from Hell’ because she had been badly abused. Trish’s tail had been cut off,
she was blinded in one eye and had been burned, so we couldn’t get near her for two years. Finally, an elderly lady adopted her. Although Trish was brought back a few months later due to family problems, the story has a happy ending. When Trish came back she was completely changed for the better. Trish loves everybody now and we all love her, too.”
Russo has one pet peeve. “I’d like to know why we have trouble adopting out black dogs. And, we never adopt out black cats in October. Some people have some strange ideas about animals but these are all the good animals here, no matter what the color.”


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