*I write for Roger. Click HERE to read more.
In case you never clicked, here’s the story I wrote that was published in a rescue magazine called PawPrints. Click HERE to read more about it.
A Voice for Feathers and Fur February 19, 2022 By Teresa Forester Adams
A Barred Rock hen and a fluffy white cat show visitors the way to the front door at Hamilton’s Healing Hearts in Willard, NC, an animal rescue. Danielle and Jennifer Miller’s lifelong love for animals fuels the rescue in their quest to save lives.
According to the Fayetteville Observer, Robeson County Animal Shelter euthanizes more animals in North Carolina than any other, and it ranks 14th in the nation. In 2020, they euthanized 2,526 dogs and cats. Surrounding counties such as Duplin also have a high-euthanasia rate. This is mostly due to overcrowding rather than sick animals. The Millers knew they had to do something.
Danielle began rescuing animals in 2010 in New Hampshire, but a catastrophic house fire took away her home and rescue, and some of the animals sadly perished. More animals would have succumbed to the smoke and fire, but Danielle went into the engulfed building herself and pulled out as many as she could. For most, it would have stopped them from rescuing animals, but for Danielle, it wasn’t about her.
When asked if she had doubts about continuing after the fire, Danielle said, “No.”
Years later, Danielle moved to North Carolina and began working at the local animal shelter. Jennifer started working there as well, and the two became friends. Their shared passion for animal rescue kindled their relationship. Soon after, they began dating and were married in October of 2020.
The couple began fostering for other rescues in January of 2021, but to rescue animals from the kill-shelters in NC, a person must have what’s called a 501(c) as a non-profit rescue. Also, a 501(c) allows contributions to be deducted from a donor’s taxes. They filled out mounds of paperwork, were approved, and they officially opened their own rescue in June and began saving animals from kill shelters.
Since then, they have had eighty-two intakes from January until December 31st., fifty-six rescued animals have been adopted, and seventeen have been placed in foster homes.
The length of stay for an animal in their rescue is twenty-eight days where they will have food, love, and shelter from the elements. During the interview, a rooster crows to remind everyone that the couple doesn’t only save dogs and cats, but they also rescue livestock.
Behind their home and attached rescue are enclosed areas with goats, a donkey, a pot-bellied pig, chickens, and rabbits. Under the line of Carolina pines, chickens and barn cats rest happily together. The area is tidy and spacious, and the animals, each of them clean and well taken care of, approach the fence to greet their rescuers. A small black chicken dances around Jennifer’s feet and she picks her up and pets her while the tour continues.
In an open crate in a fenced-in area is an unusual, bonded pair: a one-legged hen and a rabbit. The two huddle together for warmth and comfort. “Our passion is special needs and seniors,” Danielle said. “We’ll take a three-legged dog, a dog that doesn’t like other dogs, a one-eyed cat, or anything.” Many of their personal animals are seniors and special needs.
Taking care of special needs animals poses a challenge due to their need for constant attention and care. Jennifer, who works at the Pender County Shelter is a vet-tech who handles the medical demands of the rescue. If necessary, she will come home during the day or take the animal to work with her. Danielle also works full-time at a boarding facility in Southport.
They would both love to work full-time at the rescue, but they still need to maintain a regular income, so they use their free time to run it.
“When we get home from work, we’re in here cleaning until about 8 p.m. Every other weekend, we do adoption events in Surf City.” Most of their time, and sometimes money, is dedicated to animals currently in their care, and to be ready for future rescues.
When asked if they judge people who surrender their animals, they both said, “No!”
“We only ask for basic vet information and whether or not the animal gets along with others.”
Jorge Bravo, the treasurer, IT manager, and friend to the rescue, said, “Animal rescuers like Jennifer and Danielle are a rare kind of people because they go above and beyond their physical, economical, and mental capabilities to provide care and shelter to animals.”
Bravo, a retired Marine and board member of the organization, takes care of the graphics for the rescue’s fliers, business cards, signs, the web site, and brochures. He also helps with the maintenance, upgrades, and expansion of the rescue.
“Animals have been part of my life since I was born,” said Bravo. “After retiring from the Marine Corps., they helped me adapt to my new life and routine. Without people like Jennifer and Danielle, animals would be at a higher disadvantage to survive.”
Danielle, Jennifer, and Jorge are not the only ones who are committed to the rescue. A pup named Hamilton contributes to the new rescued animals’ therapy. But who is Hamilton?
“In 2017 he came to the shelter as a stray from Jacksonville,” Jennifer said. “He was very scared there. I worked with him because he didn’t get along with our manager, so he was on the euthanasia list. I bonded with him then brought him home as a foster because he was supposed to go to a rescue up North.”
She continued, “And, then I worried because I didn’t know how he would do with somebody else. I was scared he wouldn’t do well and so I thought, why don’t we just keep him. So, he was our foster-fail.”
Danielle added, “He literally loves anything and everything. We came up with the name for the rescue because he loves so many animals, he helps heal certain dogs that come in scared.”
When asked why they commit their lives to the rescue, Danielle said, “We do it to give the animals a voice.”
Helping Hamilton and his human friends support animals in need is easy. Along with their adoption events every other weekend at Pets Supplies Plus in Surf City, they take donations, monetary and items, and have tumblers, T-shirts, and sweatshirts for sale. They are in need of cat supplies like food and litter. You can learn more about Hamilton’s Healing Hearts at https://www.hamiltonshealinghearts.com/, or on their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/HamiltonsHealingHearts/.