Over the years, I’ve heard many say, “What can one person do?” or “It’s the big organizations that can do the most good. Individuals can’t really make a difference by themselves.”
But I discover people doing good deeds quietly behind the scenes all the time. Rarely recognized- rarely even seen.
Last week a casual conversation with a friend led to a talk about stray animals. Which then led to my friend reminding me of the photographs Robin Roberts often posts on line on social media sites, mostly Facebook.
Yes, I thought. Robin does post a lot of animal pictures, remembering a photo of a black dog named Buddy that I’d seen just a few days before.
So I decided to find out just what was up at the Roberts household.
My arrival was announced by two loudly welcoming dogs and one curious- but silent- cat. Another cat stood in a different room, looking around a corner. He was not brave enough to venture out.
After talking to Robin awhile, I realized why the cat had probably behaved that way. Most of the animals Robin takes in have been neglected, abused or both.
Madelyn, a tiny rat terrier (I mistook for a Chihuahua) was so used to digging in the dirt for grubs and worms to feed herself that she had to be taught to eat dog food.
Robin said she thinks Madelyn was about six months old when she found her.
“She was just barely the size of my hand,” she said.
Robin’s story of how she found Madelyn is representative of the many ways dogs and cats seem to find her.
Robin was driving on a two-lane road in Ruskin and there was a woman driving a van filled with children coming the other way. Suddenly Madelyn ran into the road. Both cars stopped and both women got out.
The dog just stood there. She was obviously sickly and underfed, had mange and fleas; undoubtedly an abandoned stray.
“I can’t take another dog,” Robin said.
“I can’t either,” said the other woman.
Robin said she looked at all the children in the van and decided she had to be the one to rescue the animal if any rescue was going to happen.
So she drove Madelyn to C.A.R.E. and called all the other no-kill shelters in the area but there was no room at any of the inns.
“So I took her home and wormed her and bathed her and got rid of the fleas.”
Later that week, Robin took her to the vet and since she believes in spaying and neutering, she had that done too.
After two months of mange medicine, Madelyn’s skin condition was healed, but it was too late to find her a home. The two had bonded. So, unlike the many Robin places in homes, Madelyn was one of the ones that stayed.
Robin got her love of animals while growing up in Jacksonville and later living in many places and traveling to 48 states and 14 countries. She said as an only child, she found all animals company and her Girl Scouting gave her a love of the outdoors, especially the woods.
She’s had cats and dogs and rabbits and raccoons, usually rescuing them from some type of abandonment or peril. She’s even had quail and raised little ducklings.
Her husband, Arthur DeAngelis, not only puts up with all the animals that come through the doors, he helps pay the expenses to help them heal.
“I couldn’t do this without Art,” Robin said.
Robin and Art’s story is almost as unique as the service she provides abused and neglected animals.
The two were high school sweethearts, she said, but they went their separate ways and didn’t see each other for almost 30 years.
Then they met again, married, and moved to Ruskin in July 2009.
Robin had worked as a dog groomer and trainer, and given obedience classes in California. Immediately, she began to meet local veterinarians, pet store owners and others who worked with animals.
She formed an alliance with several, but especially All about Paws, a pet supply store in Riverview that also has services for pets and sometimes assists in rescues.
“The no-kills (shelters) stay full and there are always animals being abandoned or abused,” Robin said. “You see them everywhere. I’ve been intuitive with animals my whole life. Some of them are scared of any noise. Or of certain movements. Sometimes I can feel what they’re feeling- thinking.”
They need loving homes even if they don’t know anything about them and can’t respond at first. But Robin said the right person for each animal seems to come along at just the right time.
“Last week I was at the Kings Point Business Expo helping with All about Paws. The woman in the next booth looked at Buddy and said ‘my daughter needs that dog,’ so they took him home to be sure he got along with their two girls and their older dog. He did, and now he has a loving family.”
Abandoned and abused animals need people to teach them how to live.
When people give puppies away- or abandon them- before they’re 12 weeks old, they haven’t had the chance to learn correct behavior from their mother, Robin said. They don’t know about staying out of the street and away from cars, or how to react to people or other animals.
“Some people think animals are a commodity. But they’re not. When I walk outside in nature, I’m aware of things like the smells in the air and the way the grass feels and what bugs are around me and how the tree trunks look against the grass. You have to think like a dog to become the ‘pack leader’ and you have to be the alpha dog to train them. Dogs are smart. It’s people who make it difficult.”
Since Robin’s calling is not a tax deductible organization, she welcomes anyone who wants to take part by providing dog and cat food, collars, and veterinary supplies.
“I know most of the vets in the area and they’ve all been really good to me,” she said, naming a few. “But it gets expensive and I would love any help someone who loves animals wants to offer.”
To get in touch with Robin, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
* This is a story about a neighbor who has been caught doing good deeds. Readers are always encouraged to let us know about others who do good works.