Randi Berger, founder of nonprofit pet rescue organization, Recycled Pets, writes about her lifelong passion of saving unwanted pets.
Question: Was there a certain incident or revelation in your life that led you to committing yourself to dog rescue?
Answer: After I lost my childhood dog that was with me 17 years, I had a difficult time coping and left to travel the country. When I returned and attempted to start a new life without “K-9 energy,” I knew I would not survive and began looking in the shelters. It was then, in 1987, that I slowly began my “addiction” after discovering that over 75 percent of the dogs in public shelters were destroyed.
Q: What gives you the most spiritual satisfaction about what you do?
A: My 20-year journey through helping thousands of dogs and people taught me that I had to stay focused on my goal and purpose. It is easy to get depressed and feel hopeless when you are faced with decisions about which pets to save, nurturing abused and sick dogs that you know you will ultimately release and place in new homes for their highest good, and vets giving you death sentences on dogs who are a part of your heart and soul.
This is when I realized how critical it was to start doing affirmations of what I wanted to create, not necessarily what others would tell me is possible. At the beginning of my book I thank God for giving me the sense to stay out of his way and the courage to follow his lead, supplying enough and more for me to live beyond my wildest dreams. Earth can be a heavy place and I believe that we can create any life we want by focusing on removing all limiting beliefs through whatever channel with which we are most comfortable. I utilize many.
Q: What was your writing process? How did you made your journal into a book?
A: I have always written in stream-of-consciousness mode, not editing my thoughts. This was a cathartic form of release for me that I felt I needed for survival. I never did it thinking it would turn into a book but some of my rescue stories I submitted to local pet magazines and after one of my most tragic dog events, I took a break from life. That time was one of many that proved to me that everything is in “divine right order.” From that tragic event that stopped me from running constantly, this book was born.
Q: How do you match dogs with humans? Why do you choose dogs in the pound or shelters that seem to be depressed or “pitiful,” as you say?
A: Open house adoptions were unique when I started them in the late 1980s, when we would show pets needing homes at popular local venues. After that became mainstream, my rescue shifted our focus to helping the owners that were giving up their pets to avoid the pets ending up in high-kill shelters. As our success grew, we then began sharing our methods and strategies with other rescuers and organizations.
Today we focus on solving the discarded pet problem in its initial stage, through educating pet owners, shelters and private rescues on long-term commitment and helping to resolve all issues that may arise throughout the entire life span of a beloved pet. It is imperative for both pet and pet guardian that a proper match is made to ensure that it will be a permanent placement. We often have had to screen through over 50 potential homes to find a perfect match for a particular dog.
I have always been drawn to the more hopeless cases that were written off by other rescues, shelters or veterinarians. I love the challenge of transforming these “unadoptables” and proving everyone wrong.
Q: What you think of the recent Ellen DeGeneres story about the dog she adopted and placed with another family instead of returning it to the adoption agency?
A: After placing thousands of dogs, there is a reason why we, as well as any reputable rescue, have a contract. In it, the adoptive parent agrees to contact the rescue if they cannot keep the dog. A lay person does not have the skills to screen potential pet parents to ensure long term commitment to the pet. Without proper screening and a written contract, the likelihood of a dog getting bounced from home to home is much higher.An even more alarming reality is the fact that there are people who act as caring, potential adoptive pet parents who take unwanted pets and sell them to medical research labs for several hundreds of dollars. These people know what to say and how to act to convince an untrained person that they are the perfect pet parent. Ellen’s dog very well could have ended up in that situation somewhere down the road.
Q: Will you be bringing dogs that can be adopted to Bellingham for the Village Books event?