Go to the Cinderella Pet Rescue webpage and one can find about a dozen examples of what can only be described as dramatic transformations of dogs from the time they were acquired by the animal rescue center and after their wounds were healed and maladies treated.
There’s Goldie, a mixed-breed dog that was so weak when she arrived she could barely stand, suffering malnutrition and with ears so tick infested the ear canals were blocked with the blood sucking parasites and the remaining underside of the ear was blanketed with them. The after photos are of a healthy, happy animal with no signs of neglect.
Then there’s Phoenix, nearly starved to death and barely a hair left on his body when he arrived at the shelter in March 2014, today he is a happy, healthy boy ready for adoption. And there’s Ricky, a German Shepherd that arrived at the shelter with paws so swollen he could barely even walk on grass. Today he runs and plays enthusiastically among some of the 74 other dogs housed on about 10 acres of what was once an equestrian training center owned by Eerie, Pa. native Suzanne Herzing. Pulling out her cell phone Herzing showed a recent photo of a dog’s paw missing all of its skin after a chord that was left wrapped around its lower leg cut off circulation to the paw. Once the animal was stabilized its right rear leg was amputated leaving enough, as Herzing explained, to sit on.
“If you leave too much of the leg they try to use it,” she said.
In 2008 Herzing converted 10 of 19 acres of what she refers to as her “ranchette” into the no kill shelter.
Herzing, 66, who has lived in and out of the Valley since she was six, said she made the transition after breaking her back and spending a month in the hospital after being thrown from a horse. It was also in response to the 30 to 40 dogs a year that wandered onto her sprawling property after being dumped in the rural area near Mission’s border with Palmview. She wanted to save as many of the estimated 25,000 dogs euthanized each year in Hidalgo County.
Currently there are 75 dogs on the property including 15 more she is fostering at her adjoining home. There are also 24 cats living in a converted chicken coop about the size of an RV that has undergone what she characterizes as a “catification.” Besides numerous cat enclosures and pens the rear wall is covered with a series of literal catwalks connecting with small wooden box-like enclosures the cats can hang out in. All of the cats in the enclosure are available for adoption.
In addition to the dogs and cats there are five horses, three available for adoption, and two are paid boarders. And there are six miniature donkeys.
Since opening the shelter Herzing, with the help of volunteers and two part time employees, has rescued and orchestrated the adoptions of more than 1,000 dogs finding 88 homes for dogs in 2017, despite regularly declining applicants a pet. The adoption process begins with a four-page application.
On a tour of the property Monday, Herzing introduced this reporter to every dog on the property, all of whom live either in a kennel, converted horse stall or covered shelter with fenced enclosures each with one, two or three dogs grouped by their temperament. And in each case Herzing knew the dog’s name and history.
A thousand dogs, a thousand stories.
There’s Conway, an eight-year-old Basset Hound that was living a relatively feral lifestyle when a shelter volunteer recently rescued the dog after watching it walking down the middle of the Expressway 83 frontage road as traffic drove around him. Conway was suffering from heartworm, benign tumors and his gums were, as of Monday, still suffering because of hair and other matter caught between his teeth that were cleaned Wednesday by a vet.
And there’s another dog named Peek-a-Boo.
“Because when he came that’s all he would do is peek out. And he would growl and snap at everybody. It took me a while to get him friendly.”
Others dogs Herzing described came to the shelter by way of foreclosure, changes in work schedules, living situations or abandonment.
Over the years Herzing has overseen the shelter’s operation with a myriad of volunteers and two part-time employees. Though last winter she had several Winter Texans volunteering to walk dogs, transport them to common play yards, or cleaning their pens, Herzing said many relocated to other locals leaving her severely short handed. Currently she has only one local woman who comes in one full day a week and about an hour or two on random days. There are a few sporadic volunteers who come when they can but the numbers and times are limited, she said, adding there are so many dogs and so few volunteers the need is great.
“If I had six people a day I’d be in Heaven,” Herzing said. “But even four people a day would be awesome.”
Herzing said she cannot afford to pay more employees because the 501c3 non-profit only receives enough in donations to cover about half the approximately $100,000 it takes to run the center each year. The rest comes out of her pocket.
“But I’m hoping that’s changing,” she said. “That’s my goal.”
At one time Herzing operated a bed and breakfast out of her home to generate additional income. But she said between dogs barking and the 60 hours a week it takes to run the shelter she decided she could no longer divide her attention between the two and stopped operating the bed an breakfast. She said typically the fees charged to adopt an animal don’t cover the costs of the dog’s food, vaccinations and other vet bills. Though the center is granted some discounts it is still charged for vets to treat the animals, she said.
She said all dogs receive medications to prevent ticks, fleas and heartworms and they receive whatever else medical attention they need. And all animals are either spayed or neutered.
Because there is no advertising budget the dogs are brought to the public’s attention via the center’s webpage and Face Book page. Twice a month a dozen dogs are loaded into the center’s donated school bus, the total capacity the bus can hold, and taken Saturdays to PetSmart on 10th Street in McAllen and once a month they’re taken to Mission’s Petco on Expressway 83 and Taylor Drive. Occasionally the center holds weekend “adoptathons.”
So as the center enters its tenth year Herzing is hoping to receive more volunteers, more donations and more people willing to adopt a dog that, like Peek-a-Boo, may be a little on the shy side when it comes to humans.
“Most people who come want the easy dogs. You know the ones that say” – she shifts into a high falsetto voice – “pick me, pick me. I’m so cute. I’m house trained I’m really good on a leash. I’m easy to bath, I’m wonderful in the car and it’s just great.” Herzing returns to her normal voice. “They want the perfect dog and we have plenty of them but they don’t give the sweet dogs that are shy and need people more than anybody else, they don’t give them a chance because there’s a little more work involved.”
Anyone wanting to volunteer, donate, or adopt can contact CPR by calling 956-391-4399 or visit its website at http://www.cinderella-pet-rescue.org