Leaving Paw Prints on the Heart

By Teresa Patterson

Life is so good! I’m so happy! I love my family and have a warm bed to sleep in and a roof over my head. Sure I don’t get along all the time with my sister but hey, she steals my food and snacks. But we are a family and I love them so much. My house is beautiful, but we are moving. I’ve heard mom and dad talking about a new house and there are boxes being packed everywhere. I am really excited to see the new place. How big is my room? I hope it has a big yard. Maybe a swimming pool, I really like to swim! We load up in the car, I hear mom talking on her phone, “With the new house we can’t deal with two. We have no time. He doesn’t listen and my husband wants him gone.” Hmm, I wonder what she means. I am really excited when we arrive.

Oh the house looks so nice! And there is a big yard! Look at all the nice people coming to visit us. They must be neighbors, how nice!  I can tell they have dogs. Mom is talking to the ladies, and one lady comes and gets me out of the car. Oh, this is great, I think she is taking me to see the dogs. But what about mom? I shouldn’t leave her alone, should I? I look back but she isn’t looking at me she is signing a paper. Oh, I suppose for a minute it will be okay. 

The nice lady leads me to a door and as it opens, I see the room is filled with dogs. I’m a little confused, okay where’s my mom? Another nice lady comes over and says, “Hi there! Welcome to Mending Hearts! We will take good care of you. Let’s go outside and play”, as she gently pets me. They are so very nice, but I’m a little confused, what is going on? Where is my family? This is just one story of a dog sadly surrendered to Mending Hearts. “It’s our job, our calling from God to help these dogs through the confusion and heartbreak”, says LuAnne Hilling Wolf.

He healeth the broken in heart and bindeth up their wounds.
– Psalms 147:3

LuAnne Hilling Wolf, owner of Mending Hearts.

LuAnne Hilling Wolf, Owner and President of Mending Hearts Animal Rescue has been rescuing dogs for a long time. But on one very cold February she was dog sitting her aunt’s dog Heidi when she ran off.  After a long frigid night without finding her, LuAnne prayed that God keep Heidi safe. “I promised Him I would increase my rescue if Heidi came back unharmed. When we got her the next day, I kept my promise. That was in 2003”, said LuAnne. In 2012 things fell into line as she purchased the property where Mending Hearts now sits. Another decision she felt God had led her.

Since May of 2012, has rescued over 1,301 dogs and 852 cats.

Mending Hearts is a true no-kill shelter.  The only time we have to euthanize is for health reasons of the animal; meaning if it is so sick there is no getting better, or if it is mandatory requirement due to an animal’s background or record, and we are ordered to do so by the State Dog Officer. Fortunately, this is rare in our shelter”, states LuAnne.

Mending Hearts isn’t your ordinary Animal Rescue. First of all, LuAnne says, “My hands-on attention and our dedication and involvement from the shelter team, allows us more control on the rescue efforts.  Meaning, we can say no to a potential adoption if we don’t feel it is right for the animal.”   

Robin Bender, of Mending Hearts, stated, “These animals, they all have a story on why they are here.  It could be abuse, neglect; maybe the owners moved and can’t take the animal or a new landlord bought the property and they no longer allow pets.  Some owners may pass away or become very ill. Some get a puppy for Christmas and when the dog grows big they don’t want to train it or just don’t want it anymore.  This happens a lot about 4-6 months after Christmas. Whatever the reason, these animals are relying on us to find the absolute best home for them.”  

Pam Eberhart, of Mending Hearts says, “We are their voice.  They cannot speak for themselves and we do not want to fail them. They need us to give them the best possible chance and option for the rest of their lives.  We take that very seriously.” Robin stated, “Someone may come in here for a meet and greet with a particular dog, but we can tell there is no chemistry and it isn’t a good fit, but perhaps another dog that they never originally considered is perfect.” LuAnne added, “If they have kids or other dogs they must bring them to the meet and greet.  It has to work for everyone that will be in that household or we say no. We do that often.  It has to be right for the dog.” Pam said, “We get to know these dogs and we have a responsibility not only to them but to who adopts them to make sure we get it right. It’s not fair to the dogs if we don’t. It shouldn’t be about how many we get out the door.  It’s about saving them and placing them in their forever home. ”    

Robin further added, “That is why we ask every possible question, both when the dog is surrendered and being placed. This leaves no questions on the dog or the new owners. We want the people to know what to be prepared for when taking this animal home.” LuAnne stated, “The people need to understand the responsibilities such as the cost factor with food, vet visits, supplies, flea, and tick, just to mention a few.  Then there is time.  The animal may need house trained or obedience training.  Spontaneous trips and days are planned around the animal in some sense. They need your time and energy.  Some were surrendered because the owners just didn’t have the time. “Robin concluded by saying, “Most of the dogs surrendered we have to say it is more of a people problem than a dog problem! So we make sure they know what they are getting into.  The good, bad and ugly.”

This in itself is another reason Mending Hearts is so different.  The refreshing, brutal honesty that sometimes comes with criticism, but most often is applauded.  Many posts on the Mending Hearts Facebook page that include a picture of a beautiful dog looking at the camera come along with a long explanation of what they know about the animal.  No secrets.  Some may tell you the dog does not get along well with children or is food aggressive with other dogs.  Perhaps the dog has no manners and needs house trained.  You might see a post where it says the dog needs active owners because of the breed’s high energy level or that this dog absolutely hates cats and smaller dogs. One post stated the dog had a strong prey drive and went after chickens.  While other dogs may have no evidence of vices.    

With this honesty, there are no questions on the fit for your family.  It doesn’t waste your time or the rescues and knowing what to expect and the dog’s vices, you know what you are in for and hopefully if adopting, the dog won’t be returned.  Pam says,” We don’t always get it right.  And not everyone is honest with us about why they surrender that dog.  But we ask every possible question so we know exactly what to expect from this dog and know how to make a good placement. We also assess the dog our own way when they come in.  We don’t want to place a dog that doesn’t like kids with a family who has a 3-year-old child.  That isn’t safe for the family and would only be setting the dog up to fail.”  LuAnne added, “Pam is very strict and stresses breed knowledge.  She is right!  Research the breed you are looking to adopt.  You don’t want a high energy breed if you are not active or maybe older.” Pam says, “Yes, this is so important!  Or for example if it is a lab husky mix, research both breeds.  Know what both breeds are like because you are going to have different qualities of both in one dog.”

Mending Hearts takes great pride in this honesty and selective adopting of the dogs.

“It’s not about the numbers it’s truly about doing what is best for the dog. Our calling is to help these animals, cats and dogs, to find the best people who will be committed no matter what to improve and make the best life for these animals,” says LuAnne.   

Most people you talk to love the honesty and find it refreshing. People say that they love that they are selective on who gets the dogs.  It makes them feel this rescue is really championing for the animals. And that is something that every volunteer at this rescue takes such great pride.

There is a whole system this team implements when bringing in a dog. When the owner calls to surrender, they will go through extensive questioning for the intake so the rescue can get an understanding of the dog.  When the owner surrendering the animal comes to the rescue, they never go inside with the dog.  They meet them outside and one of the team takes the dog while the surrender papers are being signed.  The dog goes out immediately with other dogs to take its mind off of the separation from its owners.  Robin stated, “We found that is easier for the animal. They stress too much watching their owner walk out the door,” and with tears filling up in her eyes along with LuAnne and Pam’s, Robin finished saying, “We have had dogs that would just sit and stare nonstop at that door waiting for their owner to come back.  Never taking their eyes off the door. It is so very heartbreaking.”   

Another aspect that makes Mending Hearts so different is the facility which includes an actual house.  When inside the house, it has a normal living room, nice big couch, end tables, and carpet.  This allows the team to assess how a dog acts in a typical house including manners and house training.  It is also the place where a person or family will come and meet the potential dog they are interested in adopting. A more relaxed home-like atmosphere in a more confined space helps.  LuAnne said, “It just makes sense.  It makes the family comfortable and the dog is in a home atmosphere and it is more relaxed than meeting a dog outside in a kennel or with other dogs barking.  It was more personal and without distractions for the most part.”

An additional requirement at Mending Hearts is that it is not open for the public to come in and look at the animals.  You must make an appointment for a meeting with the potential pet you are interested in if a dog.  Or to come in and visit the cats for adoption.  Furthermore, you won’t find a sign on the outside of the house or onsite for Mending Hearts.  Why?  The Rescue Team says because it makes it easier for people to know where they were located and they would have animals dropped off even in the dead of winter in their yard.  Something LuAnne is trying to avoid.  Where they rarely refuse surrenders that is one way they do not want to acquire them.  LuAnne said, “I want to prevent that cruelty to the animal if possible.”

Mending Hearts also has two large separate fenced in yards and one smaller fenced in area that the dogs are turned out twice a day, to go to the bathroom, intermingle and play with each other.  Pam states, “It’s a good way to see how they interact with other dogs.  We watch them carefully and make sure that they are only turned out with other dogs they get along with.  Some may need turned out alone.  We also try to keep the little dogs separate from the big dogs. But it allows them to just be dogs, socialize and burn off some energy.  We also have great volunteers that come and take them for walks and interact with them daily. I really cannot say enough about our dedicated volunteers!”

Running a non-profit, no-kill animal rescue is costly and Mending Hearts is always in need for donations that are tax deductible.  LuAnne said, “Every animal we rescue is seen by a veterinarian to receive the appropriate shots and spayed and neutered.  The felines are kept separated from the other cats until the results come in for Feline Leukemia and FIV. So medical is one of our biggest expenses. “

And let us not forget the cats. This is truly a great rescue for felines. “Deb Lumadue loves the cats and she and the kitty volunteers do an amazing job with them!  We are so thankful for all they do,” said Pam.  “Kitty City” and “Kitty Cabin” it is called, where the cats have scratching posts, toys, soft comfy beds, climbing towers and can look out windows.  For some it may be the best life they have ever had while they are waiting for their forever home.  Then there is the “Catio”, an enclosed fenced in patio safe for the cats to go outside from Kitty City and get fresh air, watch birds or lay in the sun.  Catio was constructed so nothing can get in or out, but allowed the cats some fresh air and freedom.  The cats are socialized with each day by the volunteers. Deb Lumadue of Mending Hearts who spends her time volunteering with the cats said, “Every morning when I go in I go around to each and every cat and check on them, say hello, give them a pet and make sure they are okay.”   LuAnne said, “It was important that we have the cats comfortable and not cooped up in cages all the time, give them more of an atmosphere to adapt to like they may have in a new home.”   Deb added, “They are less stressed and more relaxed when potential adopters come in to visit by having the open rooms.”

In speaking with Pam one evening I asked her, if there was one thing you would want people to know about when they read this story, what would you want to reveal?  There was a short pause and tears welled up in her eyes and her voicing cracking softly said, “Every animal that comes in has a story.  Some of them this is the best life they may have ever known.  Some of them had a great life but unforeseen and unfortunate circumstances lead them to us and the owners are truly saddened.  But my one wish is that each of these animals has that void filled.  I want each and every one in our care to feel loved and safe.  Every one of them, I want them to feel love!   All of us here, our goal is to find them the best forever homes where that love will continue for the rest of their lives.”    

LuAnne said to me with heartfelt sincerity, “Mending Hearts is so many things to so many people.  I am so thankful to the volunteers who come help clean, socialize and help enrich these animals.  They do so much for us. We rely heavily on volunteers to assist with animal care and day to day operations.  There is never a shortage of things to do and opportunities are available for people of every skill set.  You can help take dogs for walks, help clean kennels.  There is always something that needs done in Kitty City.  Lots of cats mean lots of kitty litter.  But for some of the volunteers that come here I think the animals and this rescue have also helped to mend them in some ways.  Helping others is a great step toward healing.  This is true for the animals and humans also.  We are Mending Hearts of all kinds. We are just doing God’s work.”

He has sent me to bind up the broken hearted.
– Isaiah 61:1

In the years I have gotten to know these beautiful ladies and all the dedicated, fun-loving volunteers at Mending Hearts, I can say I am truly blessed to call them my friends.  Each one of them are truly passionate about these animals and what they do.  They love each other and firmly believe that this is their calling from God.  They are a family!  LuAnne knows this was what God intended her to do.  She made the promise to Him and He has made good things happen.  Pam states how she gets these overwhelming feelings about someone or a dog and knows without a doubt it is God speaking to her through the Holy Spirit.  Robin simply stated, “We see God in so much of what we do here at the rescue.  We just see God so much!”

It is funny how God puts people in your life.  How He brings His followers together and they lift each other and help each other in so many different ways.  We all have said this at times while together or talking and it is so clear when you have your eyes open to it.

God is faithful, by whom you were called into fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
– 1 Corinthians 1:19

May He forever shine His blessings on all my dear friends at Mending Hearts and the unselfish, remarkable work you do for the animals. 

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