A Florence Nightin­gale to an­i­mals

This pas­sion­ate an­i­mal lover would leave the com­fort of her warm bed in the mid­dle of the night, in win­ter, to help look for a stray or abused an­i­mal.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Pets - By JIM NEW­TON

DRIVEN since a child to shel­ter and care for an­i­mals, Cari Clark’s spare time and money is largely de­voted to them, whether get­ting up in the mid­dle of the night to help rescue a dis­placed dog or open­ing her Beach Park, Illi­nois, home to fos­ter pets.

Clark, 51, has res­cued an es­ti­mated 50 or more dogs and cats, and fos­tered 19 un­til per­ma­nent homes could be found for them. She re­sponds to rescue help re­quests from many sources, rang­ing from other an­i­mal lovers and so­cial me­dia users to oc­ca­sional calls from an­i­mal con­trol fa­cil­i­ties.

For the past six years, Clark has added rescue work to a sched­ule that al­ready in­cludes her full-time job with Ar­coa Re­cy­cling in Waukegan and her po­si­tion as a hu­mane in­ves­ti­ga­tor in Lake County with the Illi­nois Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture.

She said the rescue work “takes all of my spare time”.

“I’ve al­ways been this way. When I was a lit­tle kid, I wanted to house strays,” she said.

Clark said many peo­ple would be sur­prised by the num­ber of peo­ple who sim­ply aban­don an­i­mals. Some­times fam­i­lies or peo­ple will just leave dogs and cats be­hind when they move out of a home.

Lyons Woods and the Waukegan Dog Park are among lo­cal lo­ca­tions where do­mes­tic dogs and cats are found aban­doned fairly reg­u­larly, she said.

Aban­don­ment, over­breed­ing, strays and dog fight­ing

As an an­i­mal lover, Clark said, the con­cept of just leav­ing a dog or cat that has been a mem­ber of a fam­ily for months or years is hard to un­der­stand. She said it is equally hard for the an­i­mals to un­der­stand.

“It’s heart­break­ing for the dogs,” she said, not­ing the look of long­ing for own­ers she sees on the faces of aban­doned pets.

While aban­don­ment, ir­re­spon­si­ble over­breed­ing and strays make up much of the res­cued an­i­mal pop­u­la­tion, Clark said, an even darker source – dog fight­ing – leads to some of the saddest and hard­est-to-help ex­am­ples of an­i­mals that have been dis­carded in Lake County.

“It’s the worst. I see it as an in­ves­ti­ga­tor. It’s heart­break­ing to see what th­ese an­i­mals go through at the hands of evil peo­ple,” Clark said.

“Gang-bangers train them to kill. They are be­ing made to fight. Then, if they are in­jured in a dog fight or they lose, they are dumped.”

Clark said two of the an­i­mals she was called to help were pit bulls that had been in­jured in a dog fight and were lit­er­ally dumped on York House Road. She said she be­lieves the breed gets an un­fair rep­u­ta­tion based on the il­le­gal fight­ing trade, and that the dogs are not nat­u­rally more ag­gres­sive than other dogs, but are at­trac­tive to dog fight­ers due to their strength.

“The cru­elty I’ve seen is un­be­liev­able,” she said.

Through so­cial me­dia and net­work­ing, Clark tries, usu­ally suc­cess­fully, to match res­cued dogs and cats with own­ers. For­tu­nately, she said, there is a de­mand, and she has a list of peo­ple wait­ing to adopt res­cued an­i­mals of vary­ing breeds.

Go­ing the ex­tra mile

Waukegan An­i­mal Con­trol di­rec­tor Su­san El­liot said Clark is one of the most de­voted vol­un­teer an­i­mal res­cuers she has seen.

El­liot said Clark has a skill for find­ing and coax­ing aban­doned an­i­mals who need help, but are scared and on the run from peo­ple try­ing to lend as­sis­tance.

“She’ll be out there late at night look­ing for them,” El­liot said. “She’s amaz­ing.”

El­liot said Clark’s com­pas­sion for an­i­mals drives her to go the ex­tra mile.

“It’s not just Waukegan. She goes all over. She’s awe­some,” El­liot said.

In ad­di­tion to help­ing an­i­mals dumped or aban­doned, Clark helps find homes for an­i­mals at an­i­mal con­trol cen­tres and shel­ters, and she says she tries to give first pri­or­ity to those at risk while be­ing held in fa­cil­i­ties that do not have no-kill poli­cies.

Clark cur­rently has a mix­ture of fos­ter dogs and her own pets in her Beach Park home. Lola, a Stafford­shire, is a long-time rescue pet and a large, slob­ber­ing bun­dle of friend­li­ness to a stranger vis­it­ing the home last week. Other per­sonal pets in­clude Ri­ley, a poo­dle mix, and three cats. She is cur­rently pro­vid­ing fos­ter care for Lexi, a Yorkie mix, and Shadow, a schnau­zer and poo­dle mix.

“They all get along,” she said, even as new an­i­mals come and fos­ter pets go.

Clark said that while fos­ter­ing dogs and cats un­til a per­ma­nent home is found is re­ward­ing, it also comes at a price.

“I love an­i­mals so much that it gets to me when they go,” she said. “It’s bit­ter­sweet, but mostly sweet, be­cause with­out fos­ter, you can’t save lives.

“The re­ward is see­ing how thank­ful the dogs are to be saved,” she said.

It comes at a lit­eral price as well, when groom­ing, food and health care costs are to­talled up.

“It’s ex­pen­sive,” she said. “My par­ents think I’m nuts. I don’t get paid for it.”

Help­ing the young to un­der­stand

She also speaks to kids at lo­cal schools about treat­ment of an­i­mals. Clark said she is con­cerned about what seems to be a ris­ing trend of kids and teens hurt­ing and abus­ing an­i­mals, some­times to post such ac­tions on so­cial me­dia.

“The new thing I’ve been do­ing is go­ing to schools and talk­ing about an­i­mal cru­elty. I think reach­ing out to kids while they are young and make them un­der­stand all an­i­mals feel pain and how they suf­fer in ex­treme temps when left out is key,” Clark said.

“Sadly, an­i­mal abuse is on the rise,” she said. Clark said that in her talks, she also makes sure teens know the le­gal con­se­quences of be­ing caught abus­ing an an­i­mal, in­clud­ing po­ten­tial felony crim­i­nal charges.

As a hu­mane in­ves­ti­ga­tor, much of her work in­volves re­spond­ing to calls about an­i­mals, pri­mar­ily those left out­side in ex­treme cold or heat. She said for the most part, own­ers re­spond pos­i­tively to her visits and cor­rect the sit­u­a­tion with­out fur­ther en­force­ment be­ing nec­es­sary. Clark said many seem to gen­uinely not un­der­stand that most dogs are not built to sur­vive out­side in ex­treme win­ter tem­per­a­tures.

Fu­ture plans

Even­tu­ally, Clark said, she hopes to buy a small farm where she can con­cen­trate on shel­ter­ing aban­doned older pets who tend to have a harder time in shel­ters than other an­i­mals.

Clark also holds a fundrais­ing event, “Cause for Paws,” in Septem­ber each year, fea­tur­ing band per­for­mances, food and raf­fles. This year will be the 10th an­niver­sary of the event, which draws hun­dreds of at­ten­dees each year.

She also heads up blan­ket col­lec­tions for an an­i­mal shel­ter in Chicago.

Todd Sch­mitz, a re­tired Waukegan po­lice of­fi­cer who has done some rescue work of his own, said he has known Clark for decades and that her en­ergy when it comes to help­ing an­i­mals never seems to flag.

“She’s got a pas­sion and love for an­i­mals,” Sch­mitz said. “She’ll get up in the mid­dle of the night when it’s be­low zero and leave that warm bed to go out and help find an an­i­mal.” – Chicago Tri­bune/Tri­bune News Ser­vice

Clark in her back­yard with Shadow, a schnauzer­poo­dle mix she is fos­ter­ing un­til a per­ma­nent home is found for the dog. — TNS

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