Animal rescue is full of heartache and joy. Unfortunately, many people only think of the bad parts of rescue.
Becky Burgess has been involved in animal rescue since 2011, crediting her love of animals as the reason.
Burgess has set out to show people there are good parts of rescue, and that volunteers can be involved only in those uplifting parts.
“In 2011, I saw a post somewhere asking for volunteers to transport animals for medical treatment to Bell County and Corbin,” said Burgess. “When I signed up as a volunteer I never expected to be called. In February 2011, I received my first call from Safe Hands Rescue, of Minneapolis, Minn., telling me they had a dog at the Harlan Animal Shelter, which desperately needed medical attention. I said ‘I’m on my way’ and it has been non-stop since that day.”
Burgess said once an injured animal or one with a medical issue is picked up by a shelter, they contact rescue organizations who commit for financial responsibility. Then, the shelter calls volunteers to pick the animals up and transport them to an approved medical facility.
When the animals are well enough to travel, they are sent to foster homes to recover from their medical issues and then are adopted out to forever homes.
The two animal rescue organizations working with Harlan County animals are Safe Hands Rescue and Star Fish Animal Rescue, of Chicago, Ill.
Burgess said the Harlan County Animal Shelter does a tremendous job, with everyone working as a family to help animals.
She encourages everyone to spay and neuter their pets.
“I was warned some of the animals would be pretty graphic, and I remember the first rescue I took was a collie,” said Burgess. “He had gotten his leg hung someway in something and they couldn’t determine if another animal had attacked him or he had to chew off part of his leg to get out of his situation. I took him to Corbin and he did have to have his leg amputated. He did recover, and I’m happy to say he’s doing well. I’m still in contact with him and his adopted mom keeping track of his progress.”
Burgess said she loves keeping track of her rescues and posts photos to Facebook when they are adopted.
“I have no idea how many animals the rescue organizations have taken out of Harlan County,” said Burgess. “They’re such wonderful people. I’ve also been part of relays when an animal needs to go to Chicago. I’ve driven to Louisville to meet the rescue personnel, helping them get the animals where they need to go. I recently signed up with some more animal rescues out of Georgia and Alabama and their animals are sent to foster care in Canada. I never had a clue there was so much involved in getting animals out of places and getting them to rescues, foster and forever homes.”
With tears in her eyes, Burgess said this work is an accomplished feeling for her.
She said sacrifices made through her volunteer work are “so rewarding” when she sees an abused or injured animal running and playing, instead of cowering in a corner scared to death.
“I get attached to all of them and love getting photos from their owners,” said Burgess. “They are still my babies and I love them all. It’s a wonderful thing and I encourage anyone who has a love for animals, the spare time and a dependable vehicle to become involved. It just warms your heart to see animals get the help they need and find a home where they are loved.
“There are sad times when you see them injured, abused or have to be put down. These are the times when you just hold them, comfort them and remember God must have a special place, perhaps a Rainbow Bridge where they wait for their owners who offered and received so much love from them during their lives. People ask me how I do it and my response is ‘I don’t know how you can’t do it.’”
Burgess, 67, of Loyall, is a volunteer at the Harlan County Animal Shelter and a member of the Harlan County Humane Society. She and her late husband, Ralph, have two children and four grandchildren. She is retired after 20 years of service to Advance Marine Enterprises in Arlington, Va.
Reach Nola Sizemore at 606-573-4510, ext. 115, firstname.lastname@example.org