gmhTODAY 24 gmhTODAY Feb March 2019 - Page 51

South County Tail Waggers: People and Dogs Rescuing Each Other Written By Jordan Rosenfeld W hen Marguerite Murphy encountered a lost puppy on a walk near her Gilroy home in 2015, she called the Gilroy police to come and get the puppy. Unfortunately, the police facility just wasn’t up to the task. Murphy took the puppy home for a couple of nights and began to muse on what could be done about helping other animals in the same situation. She had no idea at the moment she rescued that puppy that it would lead to what she now calls “the most important work I’ve ever done,” and the basis for her non-profit organization, South County Tail Waggers. She joined forces with another concerned woman. In lieu of any better options at the city or county level, “We decided we were going to create South County’s first-ever animal sanctuary,” she said. As they figured out how to fundraise for the sanctuary, they began to take in dogs—most often unfairly maligned pit bulls—and find them foster homes where they could be rescued, rehabili- tated and made ready to be adopted. Numerous volunteers help do everything, from fostering the dogs to bringing them to visit with special populations in the community, such as senior citizens, foster children, at-risk youth, incarcerated minors and others. Together, they fulfill the mission of Tail Waggers, which is “Saving each other. People saving dogs, dogs saving people right back,” Murphy said. Murphy said they receive an average of eight to ten “rehoming” requests per week for three main reasons: people are moving, starting a new family, or their dog isn’t good with their young children. “It’s a huge epidemic,” Murphy said. Additionally, dogs are sometimes brought in that have been abused or dumped and left behind. She works with an average of 40-45 foster homes, with at least one dog in each home. Foster families usually take dogs for about 8 to 12 weeks. Through several annual fund- raisers—such as the Wags and Wine: Rescues on the Runway and the 5K Wagathon walk—they raise money to pay for the medical care, feeding, and behavioral rehabilitation services that prepare these dogs to be rehomed. Additionally, they raise funds for a free spay and neuter clinic, to put a dent GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN february/march 2019 in the creation of new generations of unwanted dogs. “One unspayed female and her litter can produce 100,000 puppies in five years,” Murphy explained. She said people often breed puppies without thinking of the consequences. They regularly get calls about abandoned puppy litters. Murphy, who left a lucrative corporate job behind to pursue this work, said “I’ve devoted my entire life to this.” With the support of two key board members, Ariana Stauble, who is also the organization’s secretary; Kelli Lopez, her volunteer coordinator; and 20 core volunteers in addition to the foster volunteers, they work tirelessly to find these dogs forever homes. “Rescue never sleeps. It’s twenty-four seven. For every one we rescue, there’s 5,000 more behind.” Still, every time she gets an email or call that a dog has changed a family’s life, she says “it really fills my gas tank up.” As for that little puppy that inspired Tail Waggers to begin with, now called Mickie, she never left Murphy’s house. 51