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Rescues: Bringing out the best in us


By Toni L. Eaton, RN, BSN, MS,

President & CEO of Old Colony Hospice & Palliative Care

During my decades working with people at the end of their lives and their families, I’ve seen a wide range of emotions and reactions—good, bad, and every shade in between. What I’ve discovered is that while there is a capacity for humans to hurt or harm, there also seems to be an even stronger pull to connect, comfort, and help. People can amaze you with their courage, dignity, and love.

In the last few years, this has been reinforced as I’ve worked to open Sunny Paws Rescue, a nonprofit rescue organization, based in East Falmouth, whose mission is to save dogs abandoned, neglected, and abused. It is horrific what some people can do to animals in their care. But I’ve also witnessed a deep capacity for love and caring.

Several years back, I noticed a crowd gathering around a car. A little dog had been left inside and was near death from the heat. The animal didn’t look as if it could survive much longer. So, I smashed a window and explained the situation when the police arrived, but I fully expected some fallout from the incident. What I didn’t expect was support from people, including a local attorney who called to let me know they would defend me pro bono if I ran into any trouble.

Sunny Paws Rescue has been up and running since October, and here are some of the animals who have found loving homes through our organization: A litter of eight pups sealed in a cooler and duct-taped shut during a summer heatwave. Another litter dumped roadside to survive on their own. Elderly dogs discarded when families no longer wanted them.

These are just a few of the animals that Sunny Paws has rescued, provided vet care for, transported to New England, and put up for adoption to find their forever homes. Since opening, we’ve saved more than 50 dogs that might otherwise have been euthanized, subjected to abuse, or left to fend on their own.

It’s heartbreaking how many animals need rescuing. It’s also heartwarming how many people, given a chance, want to help. But the need is great, and whenever I can, I encourage people to consider supporting shelters and rescues.

I first became aware of the animal rescue world seven years ago when my daughter adopted a dog from Arkansas. Then I saw a plea online to foster an elderly Great Pyrenees mix, also from Arkansas. The man that was his person had died. The man’s widow decided to move and abandoned the dog, tying it to a porch post with no one to care for it. A network of volunteers worked to save Sunny, and my mother and I decided to foster Sunny. We immediately fell in love with his sweet personality and adopted him into our family.

As you can probably guess, I named the rescue in honor of Sunny, who died a few years ago.

We work primarily with partners in southern states, who alert us when dogs need homes. Each rescue is labor-intensive and an expensive endeavor. We must follow strict regulations from several agencies, including those set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the state of Massachusetts. The rescue pays for the animals’ veterinarian bills, health certificates, and transportation to New England, where they are isolated for a time as required. Our big-hearted volunteers help drive them all over the region to people who foster them for a few weeks while their forever homes are found. During foster, we cover all costs of food and vet bills.

Although many people donate and volunteer, as with most nonprofit rescues, we always need more money and people because we need to respond quickly whenever we hear of animals needing our assistance. We need people to help with fundraising, event planning, awareness campaigns, driving, and especially fostering.

Fostering is key in the road to rescue. Some people feel they do not want to foster because they might become too attached to the animals. And they do steal your heart. But there’s a saying about fostering: Your heart breaks a little, so theirs don’t have to.

If you want to learn more about becoming a volunteer, a foster family, or an adoptive family, please visit the rescue website at Sunny Paws Rescue or the rescue Facebook page at Sunny Paws Rescue Facebook.

About the Author: Toni L. Eaton, RN, BSN, MS, is the President & CEO of Old Colony Hospice & Palliative Care  of West Bridgewater, a dynamic non-profit hospice serving more than 55 communities south of  Boston. OCH also runs the Dr. Ruth McLain Hospice Home in Braintree. A native and resident of the South Shore, Toni brings her compassion and experience as a nurse, veteran, and community leader to her insightful columns for South Shore Senior News. Her leadership has been honored by several groups, including the South Shore Women’s Business Network. She currently sits on the boards of the Hospice & Palliative Care Federation of Massachusetts and the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization Regulatory Committee. For more information, call (781) 341-4145 or visit Old Colony Hospice & Palliative Care at www.oldcolonyhospice.org.