It is said that a dog is man’s best friend, but if dogs could talk there are many who have passed through the doors of the Josephine County Animal Shelter into the arms of Angela Sabin-Veek who would concur that she is, paws down, their best friend.
Looking back on her life history, Angela was destined to be involved in animal rescue. From as far back as she can remember she had to tuck in each and every stuffed animal, baby doll, pet rock, and inanimate object that meant something to her - every single night. Angela would tuck them all in with Kleenex blankets, and only then could she rest knowing they were all safe and sound. She was obsessed with the feral cats in the neighborhood that she perceived didn't have a warm, comfy bed to go to sleep in. She even asked for a greenhouse for Christmas because she thought that could be a "shelter" where she could keep these homeless cats.
“I didn't understand the concept of a greenhouse at that age...I only knew that my mom would look at them at the nursery when we would shop for flowers, and being an imaginative and creative kid, I imagined a beautiful cat sanctuary. My mom had to teach me that the cats would be "too hot" in the greenhouse and that it was an inappropriate environment for their needs. Thus, I moved on to asking for a ‘playhouse’ where they could all live and be safe.”
Not surprisingly Angela’s teacher told her mom in first grade that while she may not have been the best reader in class, but she was by far the most compassionate.
Angela volunteered in shelters and humane societies and had always been saddened that more couldn't be done for these animals; she knew that if people would quit making certain mistakes, more could be addressed concerning some of the social problems that plague homeless animals.
Angela was hired to work for the Oregon Youth Authority in 1998. She learned about Project POOCH at MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility in Oregon. It was the first program in history to combine incarcerated "youth" with homeless shelter dogs. They started with one youth and one dog and grew to be the prototype for programs in the nation, and even globally; the program has assisted crews from Japan and the UK in establishing similar programs. Angela immediately knew she wanted to bring this program to the correction facility in Southern Oregon.
"I felt proud to be on the ground floor of such an amazing project and knew that I could do something similar here in Grants Pass. I started work on our PAWS Program in 2004, and in June 2006, the first dog entered our correctional facility. To date, we have worked with numerous youth and saved 67 dogs. The program is hugely popular with the youth; approximately 77% of the youth sign up to be a part of the program each semester.”
Before PAWS started at the correction facility, Angela was concerned that the youth incarcerated there lacked opportunities to show compassion and develop empathy for others. Bringing the rescue dogs into the corrections facility gave the boys something to look forward to, something to care for and about. Something that could turn around and show affection back. The project places an emphasis on compassion, care, and empathy as the basic tenements and introduces youth to social responsibility and volunteerism. During the course of the program, incarcerated youth are paired with shelter dogs in order to care for, train, socialize, and prepare the dogs for adoption into forever homes.
Currently, Angela is working on creative fundraising and ways to bring attention to animal rescue. Angela is an admitted girly girl, and has always been in love with the pin-up girl era of the 1920s-1950s. She discovered the concept online of vintage calendars that feature rescue dogs. Angela gathered 12 girlfriends and together they produced their own pin-up girl calendar to profit animal rescue.
“It was the most work I have ever put into a fundraiser, and one of the most rewarding, and fun! We spent three days, little sleep, and countless hours producing an adorable calendar featuring dogs and pin-up girl, vintage style.”
The calendar will be available after October 31 of this year.
Today, Angela’s compassionate heart has spread beyond her childhood dreams of creating a perfect shelter for stray animals. She has channeled this dream to a bigger picture…that of not only rescuing stray dogs but also inviting incarcerated youth to perhaps their first exposure to unconditional love, affection and caring. Angela is taking great steps to make pawsitive change happen in our world.
Learn more about the programs below:
Thank you Angela, for sharing your Story with us.
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© 2009 by Julianne Barclay and Story of My Life