Many of us expect our retirement years to include leisure time and living life at a slower pace. Lili Schenk’s retirement has been a little different.
At 72, the Naperville resident is president of Find a Home Pet Rescue Inc., and spends her days finding and re-homing dozens of dogs that would likely be euthanized.
Schenk, who came to the U.S. from Sweden in 1964, spent many years volunteering in the name of animal welfare.
“Twenty years ago, I worked with Chicago Animal Care and Control trying to change the way the animals were treated,” Schenk says. “It was a miserable place.”
After moving to Naperville eight years ago, the Schenks acquired property in Sweeden, Kentucky, near Bowling Green. In rural areas like Sweeden, stray dogs are common and shelters are overcrowded. It wasn’t long before Schenk realized there was a tremendous need for her animal welfare efforts.
In 2009, Schenk incorporated as an animal rescue to move dogs from high-kill shelters to forever homes in the northern states. Choosing which dogs to take has been simple for Schenk.
“I concentrate on helping the dogs that have been left by the other rescues,” Schenk says.
Sadly, many are left over. Schenk needs to move quickly knowing that strays are only held for five to seven days before they can be euthanize. Schenk says that puppies, small dogs and fluffy dogs are rescued first, while large breeds, senior dogs and black dogs are often left behind.
Find a Home Pet Rescue is unlike many rescues in the area. They don’t adopt out their dogs directly but serve as a middle man from high kill shelters to rescues that can place the dogs.
“Most rescues have a larger facility and a team of foster parents,” Schenk says.
As a smaller rescue, Schenk’s primary concern is to get the dogs from the shelters, get them vetted and give them a temporary home on her property in Kentucky.
The rescue efforts, including vet and food costs, are primarily self-funded by Schenk and her husband, Walter. While the pull fees from the shelters are inexpensive, the vet bills can be costly. Heartworm, which is common in shelter dogs, can cost $300 to $1,000 to treat.
When Schenk has found a home for a new dog out of state, they travel in a relay-type method of volunteer drivers going from southern Georgia all the way to Minnesota. There are stops every few hours, and dogs are transferred between drivers to go to the next stop.
“Transportation can be very stressful for the dogs, but that is the only way to get them out of the shelters and into a home,” Schenk says.
While Schenk lives in Naperville, she has partnered with Robin Thonen, Kentucky coordinator for Mobile Mutts, a volunteer dog transportation service. Schenk met Thonen, 37, at a transportation meeting location and found they shared the same philosophy about dog rescue.
“Lili and I are on the same page with things,” Thonen says. “We rescue good dogs that are overlooked in a shelter but need a home.”
Thonen lived on Schenk’s Kentucky property and cared for the dogs while coordinating their transportation but recently moved north to Louisville.
Schenk and Thonen share their aversion to the conditions of the shelters they pull from. However, there is an upside.
“To see the dog’s personality change from the one we see in the shelter is very rewarding,” Thonen says.
Schenk knows that rescuing and re-homing is only a temporary solution to overcrowded shelters.
“I would like to find funding and set up spay and neuter clinics,” Schenk says. “I think that is so important because the dogs keep coming in droves.”Tags: Good Cause, pets, seniors
To Donate: Link on Facebook page under “More” tab