A heart for animals
By J. Chambless
From left: Katie Beard with Angel, Ruth Jenkins holding Toby, and Ruth's son Jordan holding Francine.
By John Chambless
The happy scramble of clattering
toenails and snuffling snouts is a constant for Ruth Jenkins, who has
devoted decades to rescuing cats and dogs that otherwise would be
facing a bleak future.
On Monday in her Oxford home, Jenkins gently presided over Francine, a bouncy pit bull, and Angel, a huge Mastiff, during an interview with her friend, Katie Beard.
Beard, 26, met Jenkins in April 2015 when they were both involved with animal-related causes, chiefly trapping, neutering and returning feral cats. “I'm from Lancaster County, and in high school, I did a fundraiser related to a puppy mill. That's a big thing there,” Beard said. “Ruth and I met kind of through mutual acquantainces who also did help animals around the area. We started helping with feral cats. There is a big problem with feral cats due to people not spaying or neutering outdoor cats.”
Using humane cage traps that do not harm the cats, Beard and Jenkins and initially five or six other women responded to tips from concerned citizens when a feral cat colony was located in the region. Working with Frostry's Dream in West Grove, they make sure that the cats survive outdoors without reproducing any more unwanted cats. “Ruth works with Elk Creek Vet in Oxford. The doctors there are really awesome” and provide the low-cost surgeries, Beard said.
The two women devote most of their free time to helping animals in distress. Beard is an office manager in West Grove and Jenkins works for the Amazon Warehouse in North East Md., and their rapport has helped them form “Lost and Found Pets of Oxford, Pa., and Vicinity,” a Facebook page that takes tips about lost pets, found pets and animals running loose.
For Jenkins, who struggles with a severe stutter, Beard is an ideal partner in promoting the rescue, and the two share a deep love for animals. “Ruth and I just work well together,” Beard said. “We just have stuck together through it all.” Jenkins has been involved in rescue work for 10 years.
“I was born in the island of Fogo, Cape Verde in Africa,” Jenkins said. “I always had pets as a child -- a chicken and then cats. After my father committed suicide when I was 5, my mother immigrated to Angola. Then Lisbon, Portugal after the civil war in 1975 in Angola, then to the U.S. when I was 16. I lived in New England for most of my adult life, but I moved to Pennsylvania 14 years ago, when we relocated here for my husband's job.”
Jenkins gradually started advocating for animals “when I noticed so many stray cats in the Oxford area,” she said. “I started by feeding feral colonies and working with Jerry Parker from Four Paws Rescue and Shelter when he helped me get the cats from my feral colonies spayed and neutered. I also met people like Katie, Nancy Gwinner, Lisa MacArthur and others who were active in rescue for a long time, and learned about the need to help locate stray or lost dog and cats. I decided to create the Facebook page to have a hub where people could network and post their lost pets.”
Jenkins volunteers at Lamancha Rescue and Greenmoore Farm Rescue. “Dru Campbell from Lamancha Rescue has helped me a lot by donating a large dog trap that I use in my rescue efforts and always offering food for my colonies,” she said. “Whenever the Cat Condo at Lamancha has room for cats, she always lets me know that she can accommodate them. I receive a lot of support from Bailey and Nanci Newsom, who run Frostry's Dream, an organization in West Grove; and also from Angel Wings Rescue, Crystal Romine in Rising Sun, Md., who runs Eden Rehab Rescue, and Cecil County Animal Services. I receive a great deal of support from Elk Creek Vet Services in Oxford. Dr. Justin and Dr. Kristie Olsen and their staff help me provide vet care for the animals I rescue. I have a stray fund at the vet office, and area folks can donate to the fund, which makes it possible for me to continue to help stray or lost area animals. Ginny, from Rescue Dogs Rock in New Jersey, also helps me a lot.”
Because they're both animal lovers, Jenkins and Beard work hard to get animals placed in other homes, although Beard laughed and said she has “four dogs, and a cat and 20 chickens, so I'm not really in a position to adopt amy more.” A year ago, Jenkins adopted Francine, the energetic pit bull, and is temporarily nursing Angel back to health in preparation for getting her adopted elsewhere.
“Someone contacted Ruth about this dog that was running at large for a few weeks,” Beard said. “They said she was aggressive. She was sleeping on someone's outdoor couch. Ruth went over and finally got her. We had her seen by a veterinary specialist in Malvern. Her jaw was broken in multiple places, and the vet told us that it was definitely not caused by a car. It was caused by a beating,” Beard said as Angel laid her huge head in her lap. “It's amazing how animals can be so forgiving, after all she has been through.”
The unexpected cost of Angel's surgery – more than $3,000, with more costs on the way – stretched the budget, but Beard said the community consistently rallies to help when needed.
“Whenever we post that we need help, the whole Oxford community comes together – businesses and people. Oxford Feed and Lumber in Oxford started an account there for food donations. We couldn't do it without the help of the community,” she said. “I really am shocked. I've had people send me checks. They don't know me, but they're so willing to help out. Someone was sending me monthly checks to help with the trap/neuter/return. She's just a wonderful lady who cares about cats. People really want to help out.”
Both women say the goal is to get animals into loving homes, no matter who does it.
“Sometimes I work with rescues to find placements for lost animals after their stray hold has passed,” Jenkins said. “The goal is always to find the owner, and that's easily done by networking on Facebook. A loving owner always frantically searches for their lost pet. The few dogs that I helped find placements for were dogs that were dumped by their owners for various reasons.”
Sometimes, all Jenkins can do is deal with the aftermath.
“The most difficult part of my efforts is helping provide some dignity for a deceased dog,” she said. “The most heartbreaking one was a very large blue pit bull, which was struck and killed last year on Route 7, just over the line in Hockessin. He was there for two days. After I posted on Facebook and went door to door, checking for his owners, a local resident helped me provide him with a final resting place after a week. I called all the local agencies and none could help.
“Another three dogs that will always have my heart are Diesel and Dakota from Lamancha, and Sammy, a dumped dog I helped rescue who found a home, but who passed away last year.”
With puppy mills, inhumane owners and abandoned pets in seemingly never-ending supply, Jenkins said that her satisfaction comes “from knowing that I make a difference, and even providing a meal for a cat I see roaming the street that will help that one cat survive another day. But the support I receive from area folks is just incredible, and I could have never achieved any successes without their support and trust,” Jenkins added.
For Beard, animals have been a lifelong passion. “I was the kid who came home saying, 'Mom, I found this cat at work.' It would end up being pregnant and we'd end up with 12 kittens,” she said. “But that was me – always trying to have animals. The first dog I ever got is 14 now. I remember begging my dad to get this big dog. And I still have him.”
Once someone has looked into the eyes of an animal in distress, it is nearly impossible to not want to help. Jenkins said she welcomes assistance, and “I would love any advice or assistance to obtain a 501c-3 so I can help more animals,” she said. “My goal for this year is to get my nonprofit organization.
“And people can help by always having a collar or tag on their pets, or microchipping them. Local rescues are in desperate need of volunteers. Giving a couple of hours makes a huge difference in the life of a shelter dog or cat.”
For more information, visit “Lost and Found Pets of Oxford, Pa., and Vicinity” on Facebook.
To contact Staff Writer John
Chambless, email firstname.lastname@example.org.