Story by Courtney Murray
Rescued is the best kind of breed. There is nothing quite as pure as the love of an animal. They are there to greet you with a kiss each day and are grateful for every pet, snuggle and smile you send their way. L & R Rescue, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) non-profit animal rescue located in Navarre, FL, founded by animal enthusiast, Melanie Hawkey. Since their inception in 2010, L & R Rescue has been funded solely by donations from the generous community with the goal of helping abandoned dogs find good, loving homes. “We get asked all the time what the L and R in our name stands for, and it stands for Luke and Rusty who tragically died in a house fire. Luke and Rusty were not just dogs to me, they were like my kids,” described Melanie. Through the heartbreak, Melanie felt led to help other animals and began volunteering for a golden retriever rescue and eventually decided to start her own rescue. Melanie said, “I really wanted to help the ones that were normally euthanized first, and to me, the only way to overcome Luke and Rusty’s heartbreaking death was to save as many lives in their names as possible.”
They do not have a facility dedicated to the rescue, but are staffed completely by volunteers who graciously offer their homes to foster dogs until they are able to place them with a family to call their own. Melanie has to work out all of the logistics of long distance adoptions, including working with the adopters in meeting local vaccination and health requirements and coordinating transportation. Over time they’ve managed to spread out the L & R Rescue family to places they never thought possible, with adoptions to families from southern Florida, Oregon, Michigan, Maine, and even Canada. By working with animal shelters in Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, and Escambia counties, L & R Rescue has helped hundreds of dogs in Northwest Florida receive the care they need and the forever homes they deserve. Your dog might only be here for part of your life, but for your dog, you are their whole life.
VIP Pensacola Magazine: Describe L & R Rescue’s involvement within the community.
Melanie Hawkey: We team up with overcrowded shelters and other animal care facilities across Northwest Florida to assist them in finding permanent, caring families, who will appreciate the unconditional love a rescued dog is able to give. Whether its collecting blankets in the winter so dogs in some shelters don’t have to sleep on the freezing concrete or donating food to owners who have fallen into hard times, we do our best to help as many dogs as we can. It is our mission to help those who are unable to help themselves.
VIP: What is the biggest moment that has stood out in the last year?
MH: Our biggest moment was when we were able to find an incredible family for Dobby, a terrified and extremely neglected puppy. He had developed a severe case of mange and had lost most of his hair. The poor little guy had open sores all over his body and would flinch at even the slightest hand movement. After looking into his eyes, we knew he was special and that we had to help him however we could. We started on his rehabilitation immediately and placed him with a foster family. While in foster care, he lived with another dog that really helped him come out of his shell. After a few months, his sores finally healed and he had grown back all of his hair. It is truly amazing to watch a transformation like this. He was eventually adopted by a great family who spoils him like crazy. Seeing a puppy that had been subject to so much neglect already in his young life come around and have so much love in his heart really is a life changing experience. If he can recover from this and trust people, anybody can.
VIP: What are some ways that community members can contribute, help, and get involved?
MH: We are a completely volunteer run rescue and are always in need of fosters. The more people we have opening their homes, the more dogs we are able to save. This is the biggest way to help dogs that would otherwise most certainly be euthanized or subjected to a life in extremely poor conditions. If you’re unable to foster then donate. We have a soft spot for the harder medical cases and turning around years of neglect can be expensive. Even something as small as placing a donation jar in your office could raise enough to help a dog receive heartworm prevention or a rabies vaccination.
VIP: What is the most rewarding part of your job?
MH: That’s a tough question. It really is a close tie between adoption day and receiving a picture from a family that adopted from us a long time ago. Adoption day is always emotional because you’ve seen where the dog came from and now you get to see them with their new family. Watching a dog’s life turn full circle is an amazing sight. On the other hand, receiving pictures or messages from families that we haven’t heard from in a while is also pretty incredible. Every dog that we rescue holds a special place in our hearts and to hear how they’re doing five or six years after the adoption always serves as a reminder for why we do what we do.
VIP: Describe a situation working with the organization that really stood out and touched you.
MH: When I first started the rescue, I pulled a puppy from a shelter that had completely lost all of her hair and was covered in scabs. She was a little bit of a firecracker, but definitely a sweetheart. I worked with her for months and she recovered her brindle coat as her sassy attitude got stronger. After all of the time I spent caring for her and trying to teach her manners, I just couldn’t give her up. Fiona’s case stood out and touched me because she showed me how loving and grateful the dogs that go through these recoveries are. Now every time I see a dog with a bad case of mange in the shelter, I have to rescue it.
VIP: What plans does L & R Rescue have for the future?
MH: One of our short-term goals is always to beat our adoption totals from the previous year. We’ve been able to do this every year and really hope the streak continues. We hope to expand our social media network and to have enough volunteers to cover more adoption events. A long-term goal is to open a facility where we will be able to drastically increase our intake and provide care on site.