Photo: Kelle Mann Davis holds a pup rescued from a park in Montgomery, Texas. The Pup Squad took her in to their rescue program and she is safe and being treated for her horrendous skin problems.
NOTE: This is a guest post by Laura Simpson, Founder of The Great Animal Rescue Chase and the Harmony Fund.
In the Texas area between Interstate 59 and the York area of Houston, there are whispers of an angel. She appears as a slender woman with auburn hair who skillfully descends dark crevices, enters abandoned buildings and braces against extreme weather in pursuit of homeless and injured dogs and cats. She’s trapped aggressive dogs with collars and rope deeply embedded in their necks and she opens her arms to dogs who have lost every bit of their fur to mange. It’s rumored that she has a near magical way of sustaining orphaned newborn pups and a golden touch in trapping frightened survivors in an area dubbed the Corridor of Cruelty. Her real name is Kelle Mann Davis and her story is one you won’t soon forget.
For 25 years Kelle devoted her nursing career to high risk patients at an obstetrics clinic in the Houston, Texas area. She spent her days tending to the complex and unpredictable medical needs of expectant mothers and their developing babies in what could only be described as the ultimate recipe for a high stress job. But for Kelle, after-hours was when things really started to heat up as she went about the business of raising five kids of her own through the years of science projects, skinned knees, puppy love and all the rest. And while most of us might collapse on the bed and pull the blankets over our heads after an 18 hour day in Kelle’s world, she did something different. Kelle was stirred by a passion that pushed right past the veil of fatigue, a delicately balanced check book and even the fortress of motherhood. We’re talking about the sort of thing that makes a person slide out of bed at 4am or run out into the street in the middle of a thunderstorm. And it’s a calling she simply had to answer.
“It started small,” Kelle explains of her work occasionally volunteering to walk shelter dogs and fostering through Pals for Pooches. But five years ago when a sea monster named Katrina hit the Gulf Coast of the United States, something shifted inside of Kelle.
“My grandmother had Alzheimer’s disease. She loved dogs and that was one of the things that would make her respond. She died about two weeks before Katrina hit and left me money. So I used that to head out to head out 10 days after the storm. I just knew that was in the divine plan.”
“I have a very understanding husband,” explains Kelle who quit her job and began the first of many roundtrip drives to New Orleans in her champagne colored van with over 110,000 miles on it. For some 17 months, Kelle would deploy to Louisiana for days or weeks at a time, often with one of her older children riding shotgun.
“I just felt like it was very important to include the kids because that was going to be a part of American history and they might not have realized it then, but I knew that when they got to be adults and had kids of their own they could tell them they did something during the United States’ biggest disaster,” Kelle recalls. “All of them are very proud of it.”
But the pride door swings both ways and it’s not just Kelle’s family standing front and center in her fan club. As a member of the Special Capture Team for Corridor Rescue and a volunteer for PupSquad, Kelle is often dispatched to help in places where others dare not tread. And if you take one look at Kelle’s Facebook page you’ll find hundreds of friends and fellow rescuers cheering her on. They say “I love you Kelle,” “God bless you!” “You’re an angel!” and “You continue to be my HERO!”
But Kelle is quick to share any praise that comes her way.
“So many work to help animals,” Kelle says. “I love it when someone gets at least as dirty, sweaty and disgusting as me on a rescue.”
Speaking of which, just two days before Christmas, Kelle teamed up with another volunteer Estelle Mack in the precarious rescue of a family of dogs living on a construction site. A mother dog had given birth to 9 pups deep inside a narrow tunnel formed beneath a stack of steel risers piled on the ground.
“Someone noticed the mother dog lactating and followed her to her den,” Kelle explains. “Plans to rescue her had been going on for a couple of weeks and the dogs were fed everyday until we were able to get them.”
After trapping the mamma dog and a friendly father dog who came right up to them wagging his tail, Kelle and Estelle got to work on the pups. Although they could belly crawl a few feet in, there was simply no way to reach the youngsters so they began gently lifting the risers and pipe off the pile, one at a time. Their greatest fear was that the entire structure would collapse on the pups, but there was simply no other way to get to them.
“We’re lucky no one got hurt,” Kelle said reflecting back on the successful mission in which every last pup was rescued. “That area is poor and it is an endless problem with dumped and abandoned dogs. Some have probably been born out there and never have known a human touch. It is very sad. There are so many, but thankful that these babies will know love and care.”
Kelle is just one of many animal lovers who has thrown her hat into the ring in a brand new event called The Great Animal Rescue Chase, the first worldwide rescue mission open to all animal lovers regardless of age or experience. Hosted online and free for all, this mission has set out a challenge to ordinary animal lovers to go out and rescue a single animal in need and then report back with the story and photos of the animals they saved. On the site, dozens of uplifting photos submitted by participants tell the story of not only dogs and cats, but deer, turtles, geese, hawks and even chimpanzees rescued from harm. The idea is for rescuers to share their stories to help others like them gain the courage, the confidence and the know-how to save lives.
And as for Kelle, well today her kids are grown but she still has a full house. She has four of dogs sleeping in an array of colorful soft beds lined up around the fireplace and beside her sits a cardboard box of orphaned pups, just 10 days old.
“I think it is a personal challenge, maybe so that the shy, timid, abandoned and scared animals also have a chance,” Kelle says of her work with animals. “I often tell people that getting the hard ones is my drug of choice. It is challenging and takes thought and patience. With each one, I must find the right way, as it is different with each dog, and that keeps me coming back.”
Photo courtesy of The Harmony Fund