how to help


pet care

In the News

See PIF video montages by going to youtube.com and searching for "pifanimal".

TITLE: Ms. Tailwagger: Despite cancer, other problems rescued canine still ‘a happy dog’
BY: Kathy Dennis Moore
FROM: Henderson Gleaner
DATE: February 26, 2011

She is named Renee Tailwagger for a good reason.

"She wags her tail all the time," Pay It Forward Animal Welfare Network President Robin Dance said. "She's just a happy dog. She's always been a little happy dog."

Renee and numerous siblings were recently given to area rescue groups by an elderly person who could no longer care for them properly.

While most of the nine that PIF got were in good health, Renee and two others were heartworm-positive, plus Renee also had two large external tumors, one of which had broken open.

"Renee had these masses on her and open wounds and she came up wagging her tail," said Opal Zollinger, a Pay It Forward board member who helped retrieve the dogs in early January and is fostering Renee and a buddy named Carlos.

Renee, a beagle-spaniel mix who is about 7 or 8 years old, was diagnosed with estrogen-fed breast cancer. Once X-rays and tests confirmed that the cancer hadn't spread, she underwent surgery in which the largest of the tumors were removed. She was spayed at the same time.

The surgeries went well and Renee is recuperating at Zollinger's home, where she is also undergoing heartworm treatment.

Zollinger said Renee has been an ideal patient and good company for other members of her household.

"She has the best personality," Zollinger said. "She's sweet and likes to cuddle with you."

She's also smart and quiet. "If she barks, there is something there."

Dance agreed that Ms. Tailwagger is an affectionate pup.

"I think she will make somebody a great dog. She's so easy-going and such a happy dog."

Renee, who was quickly house-trained, will be available for adoption in a few weeks. In the meantime, Pay It Forward is taking applications from people who are interested in adopting her. The applications are available on the group's website, www.pifanimalwelfare.com.

The group will evaluate the applicants and "choose the best possible home" for Renee. In other words, being the first to submit an application doesn't ensure that you'll be chosen to adopt her.

While Renee would "probably like a quiet home, we won't rule out any home because she's very adaptable," Zollinger said.

Dance agreed.

"She'd probably do really good with a retired couple or a single person who just needs a companion," Dance said. "She'd probably be OK with kids, but I think she'd be happier with a companion type of home."

Renee would also probably do better in a home that already has at least one dog, Dance said.

The rescue group president said Renee would also need a family "who understood she has had health problems and if by any chance they arise again they would be able to care for her or contact us."

And while Ms. Tailwagger isn't a puppy any more, "she still probably has a lot of good years," Dance said.


The cost of Renee's surgery and heartworm treatment was about $1,000, making her one of the nonprofit group's most expensive cases.

Thus, Pay It Forward is still accepting donations to cover the costs.

"No amount is too small," Dance said of potential donations. "She is soooooooo worth every penny of it! What a super dog she is."


TITLE: ‘Safe haven’ Shop owners get feral cats spayed and neutered, then provide daily food, shelter
BY: Kathy Dennis Moore
FROM: Henderson Gleaner
DATE: December 18, 2010

Feeding a few stray cats is one thing, but finding homes for the litters of kittens that inevitably arrive is a whole different proposition.

That’s why the practice known as trap-neuter-release was the ideal solution for Dwaine and Angie Oatts of Henderson, whose Lower Second Street machinery business property is a popular spot for feral cats.

In the past six weeks, Angie has caught eight very untame cats in humane traps, and with the help of local rescue group Pay It Forward Animal Welfare Network, transported the cats to Vanderburgh Humane Society’s spay-neuter clinic.

For just $25 per cat, the VHS clinic will neuter or spay a feral cat, give it rabies and FVRCP vaccinations, perform a physical exam and treat it for infections or other problems.

Now Angie can continue to put food out for the cats without worrying about them bringing more homeless kitties into this world.

“I love animals,” she said. “I’m not about to let an animal be around me and not be fed.

“But we wanted to control the animal population around us,” Angie added.


The endeavor began when she started looking for a group that might offer assistance with the cats, and somebody told her son about Pay It Forward, which transports dozens of local cats and dogs every month to the VHS clinic.

Pay It Forward provided humane traps, and the first week Angie caught four of the regular feline visitors. A PIF volunteer helped transport the cats to VHS the next morning and brought them back a day later, where they recuperated for several days in cages at the machinery shop before being allowed back outside.

Angie and the volunteer went through the process several more times until the four females and four males who regularly dine at the shop had all been spayed or neutered, vaccinated and cared for during a recovery period.

And now they are all back on the “street” again, but this time none of these eight will be contributing to the pet overpopulation problem.

“We wouldn’t have this problem if everybody spayed and neutered (their pets) to begin with,” Angie said. “I think everybody is responsible to spay-neuter what they can.”


Since the strays first arrived, Angie has been doing her best to win their trust ... and to pamper the kitties.

“We have names for all of them,” said Angie, explaining that when cats first started dining there in the fall of 2009, her son set up a motion-activated camera to record who was coming to dinner in the evening after the shop was closed.

“We wanted to know how many cats we had” eating there on a regular basis, she said.

Most of the cats are tabbies, black and white, or solid gray, so Angie and Dwaine needed a good look at them to tell them apart.

By now, though, thanks to the photos and seeing them at a distance, Angie knows the gang includes two adult black-and-white females named Oreo and Lightning and two black-and-white kittens named Spark Plug and Blaze. Then there are the apparent tabby brothers, Skinny Man and Little Man, and two gray kittens, Smokey and Andy (the only tame one). Hershey is the most distinct with his solid brown fur and white feet.

Just one more regular visitor, another black-and-white adult, is on Angie’s radar, and so far Leroy/Loretta has managed to elude the traps.


Angie — who has three cats and one dog at home — said she has no idea where the cats come from or even where they go when they’re not around the shop, which is located off McKinley Avenue under the Second Street overpass.

“They come from across the railroad tracks,” she said.

Most of them never lived around people before, with the exception of Andy, who wandered up a few months ago and made himself at home.

Andy was tame from the start and actually basks in human contact. He doesn’t shy away from the wild cats, though, and often plays with the other kittens when they come to eat.

“He just wants attention all the time,” Angie said about Andy, who quickly showed his fondness for being a lap cat.


Back when the cats started showing up at the shop, food and water were set up outside the main building for the strays. As time went on, a heated igloo doghouse was added, and then a kitty door was cut into the side of a storage building, where straw was laid and beds were made for the kitties.

Then about six months ago, a kitty door was added into the main building so the cats could get away from the summer heat or this winter’s bitter coldness at any time.

Kitty beds are scattered around the shop, and dry food and water are always available.

“This is their safe haven,” Angie said. “They even use the litter box if they’re in here.”

And the comfy indoor sleeping compartments aren’t ignored, either. “I know they use the beds because the towels get dirty.”

The cats especially like canned food, so they often show up late in the afternoon in anticipation of the treat. “They’ll be out here waiting for me to put wet food out,” Angie said.

And the once-untouchable cats are slowly accepting Angie, realizing she isn’t a threat to their well-being.

Two of the adults cats, Hershey and Skinny Man, even allow an occasional pat on the back. “When they’re really hungry and they’re eating wet food, they’ll let us pet them,” Angie said.

“This is our second winter spending time with them,” she said. “They know we feed them. They know they can trust us. ”


Angie is so thrilled with the VHS spay-neuter program that she hopes that by spreading the word, more people will take advantage of the service.

She wants to “get the word out that this program is available. It’s a great program. I would encourage all businesses to take advantage of it.”

Robin Dance, president of Pay It Forward, is an advocate of the trap-neuter-release approach.

“The bottom line is T-N-R saves the lives of so many cats,” she said.

Dance also noted that many businesses could benefit from the cats’ rodent-control skills.

Oatts agrees.

“People want them around to catch mice, but if they took the step and went ahead and got them spayed and neutered, they wouldn’t keep multiplying,” Angie said.

“I don’t have a mice problem at all.”


The overall experience has left a positive impression on Angie and Dwaine.

“It makes me feel good to know they’re not out there multiplying, plus I enjoy watching them. Dwaine does, too,” Angie said. “It makes you feel good to be doing the right thing for the animals.

“If everybody did this, we wouldn’t have such an abundance of feral cats.”


TITLE: Handicapped dog gets crucial surgery and new home, thanks to rescue group
BY: Kathy Dennis Moore
FROM: Henderson Gleaner
DATE: March 9, 2008

His ship really came in the day that a handicapped dog now named Captain landed on the deck of Henderson rescue group Pay It Forward.

It wasn't smooth sailing to get there. But Captain is now king of the ship after getting the medical attention he needed to fix a crippling birth defect.

And, it appears that Captain just recently discovered the biggest treasure chest of his life when a New York family agreed to adopt him and perhaps even let him participate in a therapy program in which handicapped dogs assist disabled people.

The skinny black Lab mix was found along a Newburgh, Ind., road last September by an Indiana family who wanted to help the dog but was unable to care for him in their home.

" They said they had contacted several groups and no one would take him and they did not want him to go to a shelter," according to Pay It Forward Animal Welfare Network founder Robin Dance

The rescue group knew that corrective action was needed as soon as possible because Captain couldn't walk very far without wearing himself out. He tried to use his under-developed front leg to walk, and each step was a hardship on the rest of his body.

" What was happening was that Captain did not realize he did not have a fully developed leg on that side," Dance said. "He was constantly bending downward trying to place the elbow on the ground. He was exhausting himself just walking from point A to B. It was very sad to see him struggle so much."

One of the group's members, Marissa Shoemaker of Greenville, Ill., was acquainted with Hawthorne Animal Hospital in Glen Carbon, Ill., and she approached its vets about Captain's situation. Hawthorne officials agreed to examine Captain and then offered to do surgery for just the cost of supplies, Dance said.

Jamie Todd, a Hawthorne veterinarian, said that as soon as she examined Captain, it was evident that the malformed front leg was the result of a birth defect. Amputation was the best option, Todd said, and the surgery was performed in early December. Captain was also neutered at that time.

" As soon as it was amputated, he started walking upright, standing more normally and having more confidence, and now he's doing really well," the veterinarian said.

Todd said that most dogs cope just fine with only three legs and don't usually take long to adapt to their new situation. She also noted that while Captain's "chicken wing"-like problem isn't common, leg-related congenital abnormalities in dogs are seen quite often.

The dog has another birth defect, but this one doesn't require surgery. Captain's other front paw is malformed and bigger than normal, which might help now that he's down to three legs.
" It can give him more balance," Todd said.

The veterinarian is optimistic about Captain's future and his overall health outlook. "The amputation shouldn't change his life expectancy at all," Todd said, and should result in a "better quality of life."

She said that Hawthorne officials were pleased they could assist both Captain and Pay It Forward.

" We're very happy with the outcome," Todd said. "We're glad we could help out."
Captain stayed at the veterinary hospital until just before Christmas, when PIF member Shoemaker took him home to foster until an adoptive family could be found.

Shoemaker said Captain fits in well with her canine crew, which includes several pugs and beagles and one other foster dog, an older black Lab named Samantha.

Captain "acts like any of my other dogs," said Shoemaker, a teacher. "He runs around the house and the backyard, jumps up on the bed, plays with toys, walks on a leash, etc."

She even took Captain to the Krewe of Barkus Parade in St. Louis the week before Mardi Gras. "Basically, it is a huge parade where people bring their dogs and walk a parade route," Shoemaker said. "Captain walked the whole way. I was so proud of him."

At home, "Captain is treated like any other member of my dog family. He has really become buddies with one of my pugs and they like to sit in the chair together and wrestle.

" At night, he sleeps in bed with me and the other dogs," she added. "He likes to rest his chin on my ankle ... He is very affectionate."

He is also a considerate dog, she noted.
" Captain is such a super sweet guy. A couple of weeks after he came to my house, I had a bag of clothing sitting out that I was going to donate to a local charity," Shoemaker said. "I woke up one morning and Captain had taken the clothes out of the bag and distributed them to all the dog beds in the house. He was lying in one of the dog beds with my clothing draped over his body! It was so cute."

But Shoemaker said that as much as she loves him, Captain is ready for adoption.
That's where Staten Island, N.Y., resident Susan Ryan enters the picture.

Ryan and her family have been approved to adopt Captain, and he should arrive at his new home via rescue transporters next weekend.

The New Yorker first came across another handicapped dog on the PIF Web site and called to inquire about that dog, a puppy named Clarisse. After hearing about Captain and seeing photos and a video of him, however, she decided to apply to adopt him instead.

" He looks like a big lovable guy with a sweet personality," Ryan said. "The fact that Captain is missing his leg is of no concern to me because I know he can live a perfectly normal life."

And Ryan should know, because Captain won't be her family's first handicapped dog. Ryan had a three-legged shepherd mix named Gypsy who died of cancer this past December.

Before Gypsy, 9, became ill, she and Ryan participated in the Bright and Beautiful Dog Therapy program in which trained dogs and their handlers visit rehab and nursing facilities and other such places "where they can possibly bring some joy."

Ryan hopes that Captain will some day be able to put smiles on the faces of as many sick and disabled people as Gypsy did.
But first he must get accustomed to his new residence.

" First and foremost is to give him a loving home where my family and I can spoil and love him, which he well-deserves," she said.

" Captain will have two brothers, Shadow and Scooby Doo, and a cat sister, Sugar, all rescues, along with three other humans (her husband and two sons) to love in my house," Ryan said. "I really am looking forward to welcoming Captain into our family."

The New York woman said she is thankful that volunteers such as Dance and Shoemaker care so much about needy animals.
" Marissa and Robin do a great job placing, fostering and caring for all of these poor souls; they are the ones who should be commended," Ryan said.

Dance said the Ryan family is an ideal match for Captain.
" I think they're going to be really good for Captain," Dance said. "They've dealt with rescue, they've dealt with special needs ...
" It's a very good fit for Captain," the PIF founder said. The Ryan family "will be committed for life, and that's what we want."

TITLE: Perfect match: Rescued Kentucky dog now leading life of luxury in Michigan
BY: Kathy Dennis Moore
FROM: Evansville Courier Press
DATE: July 15, 2007

Less than a year ago, Sable was a malnourished, flea- and tick-infested stray dog living a doomed life in a Kentucky animal shelter.

But now, thanks to a new Henderson rescue group, the renamed Sammy is thriving in a Michigan home, spending lazy days in her forever family's living room, romping with her newfound siblings.

Sammy was adopted through Pay It Forward Animal Welfare Network, a Henderson rescue group led by Robin Dance and Frances Hatchett.

Last summer, Shari Wilcox of Saline, Mich., came across an online photo of then-Sable about the time that Dance's group was pulling the stray from the Ohio County shelter.

" She looked so sad in her picture and she just tugged at my heart," said Wilcox, who was seeking a playmate for her golden retriever, Molly.

Meanwhile, Dance was planning to foster the dog in her own home, take her to the vet and nourish her back to health, and then start looking for a permanent home after Sable had fully mended.

" When she was found, they said she was so weak she could not move," Dance said she was told by shelter officials. Despite Sable's physical condition, "she was a great little girl. Very sweet," Dance said.

Wilcox, a business manager at the University of Michigan, knew even without meeting Sable that she wanted to adopt her.

After completing an adoption application, having several phone conversations with Dance and passing a reference check, Wilcox was approved to adopt Sable.

A few weeks after that, on Labor Day weekend, Dance drove the dog to Corydon, Ind., where she met Wilcox, who had made the nearly six-hour drive from Michigan.

Now, just 10 months later, the flourishing Sammy is immersed in the Michigan home, fitting in well with canine sibling Molly, feline siblings Blitz and Twister and human siblings Dan and Jeff.

" Dan is away at college much of the year, but Sammy is crazy about both of her boys and they love her, too," Wilcox said. "They are the primary ball-tossers and trick-teachers."

When the human part of the household is at school and/or work, Sammy and Molly hang out together, "people watching and doggy-wrestling with each other," Wilcox said. "When I get home we go outside for a while and play, then dinner and more play time. They keep each other entertained! Two dogs truly are easier than one. On weekends we try to hit the dog park or at least go 'bye-bye car' and visit the local pet store."

Wilcox says she has no regrets whatsoever about adopting Sammy.

" She's brought so much joy into my life I can hardly express it in words," the Michigan woman said.

" Sammy is such a happy dog! She wags her little stub of a tail anytime I talk to her, and she loves nothing more than chasing her green ball," Wilcox added. "We go to the local dog park often and she's very friendly and outgoing."

There are some facts about Sammy that may never be known for sure, like what breed of dog she is (Wilcox calls her "a puzzle dog, but my best guess is Jack Russell terrier and Aussie cattle dog/blue heeler") and exactly how old she is (one vet last fall said about a year, another 2 to 3 years old, and the shelter listed her as 7 or 8).

But Wilcox does know the importance of helping a needy dog.
" I always encourage people to adopt from a rescue or shelter," she said. "There are so many animals in need of homes, and I think that saving a shelter/rescue animal is a very special thing."

TITLE: New rescue group finds homes for needy pets; organization also pushing for local spay-neuter law
BY: Kathy Dennis Moore
FROM: Evansville Courier Press
DATE: July 1, 2007

Whether you have a dog in need of a good home or you need a good dog for your home, a Henderson rescue group is ready to help.

Pay It Forward Animal Welfare Network, which recently earned its nonprofit status, has been placing needy animals in responsible homes for the past year.

Already, the rescue group has transported about 150 local animals and 650 regional animals to no-kill rescue groups located primarily in the North and Northeast.

The group is led by Robin Dance of Henderson, who has been involved in rescue efforts for about four years. She serves as president of the group, which also includes Frances Hatchett of Henderson as vice president, Sue Ellen Payne of Henderson as secretary and Ashley Clark of Calhoun as treasurer. Additional board members are Carla Bender of Henderson and Marissa Shoemaker of Greenville, Ill.

" We have a love and passion for animals," Dance said.
All of the animals that are adopted or taken to other rescue groups have been spayed or neutered and have had all of their shots and vaccinations, she said.

The group accepts pets on a case-by-case basis from individuals and also works with shelters in Calhoun, Hartford, Daviess County, Evansville, Tennessee and Ohio.

Probably 99 percent of the animals the group has rescued are dogs, most of them mixed breeds. "We have gotten some cats," Dance said. "The problem with cats is just there are so many cats and no control policies."

While finding homes for needy animals is uppermost on the group's daily to-do list, educating the public about the need to spay or neuter their pets is a top priority, too.

The group wants to "change the mindset of the community," Dance said. "Spay-neuter is your only solution ... the only way to solve the problem."

Developing a successful spay-neuter ordinance must be a community effort, she said, and it must be combined with low-cost spay-neuter clinics.

Along with educating the community as a whole, Dance is quick to encourage - and help - pet owners to get their animals neutered.

If somebody approaches the group with a mother and litter of pups, for example, Dance says that, depending on the circumstances, she may offer to get the puppies into rescue if the owner will keep the mother after Pay It Forward has her spayed.
And that's where the group's veterinarian, Chandra Werner, plays a major role.

Werner donates some services and also provides low-cost medical treatment, medicine, spaying and neutering to the group's animals.

Rescue groups are important because they "really encourage responsible ownership," Werner said.

The veterinarian said she is "very happy to work" with the Pay It Forward group and "proud to have an organization like that" in Henderson.

Its members are "not just people who love animals but are people who seek ways to help cats and dogs have a high quality of life," said Werner, owner of Southside Animal Hospital.

Minnesota and New England residents, especially, seem to be receptive to adopting dogs from this area. But most of those people never set foot in Kentucky.

Instead, they work with rescue groups in their area that have agreed to take dogs from organizations such as Pay It Forward.

About once a month, Dance and other PIF members will gather between 40 and 60 dogs from foster homes and cooperating shelters and transport them to northern Illinois, where representatives from several Northern rescue groups will meet them and take the dogs to their respective locations.

" We are very careful with what rescues we use," Hatchett said. "We don't ever go to labs."

Dance noted that the groups Pay It Forward works with are ones "that we've had long-term relationships with. We know these people personally."

Once the animals reach Minnesota or their other final destinations, they live in no-kill foster homes until they're adopted, no matter how long that might take.

The group can't handle as many animals as it would like because it doesn't have enough foster homes to house them while they're awaiting adoption or transport.

" We're very small and want to grow," Hatchett said. "For animal lovers who want to help, we need you desperately."

Added Dance: "We can't save the world, but the more foster homes we get, the more we can save."

People who are unable to foster but would like to volunteer can assist with other duties, such as fundraising, picking up animals, cleaning kennels, helping post animals on Petfinder, writing grants or driving one leg of a transport.

" People can help as little or as much (as they want.) There are so many things they can do," Hatchett said.

Dance said that while community support has been great so far, the group is hoping to attract even more supporters including businesses who want to help promote the rescue cause.

" We need people with big ideas and who know how to execute them," she said. "The more people we have to help, the more (animals) we can save."

Dance noted that more than 9,500 animals are euthanized in U.S. shelters on a daily basis.

However, those numbers are not always fully reported or emphasized.

" Can you imagine what gets euthanized on this planet?" Hatchett said. "God didn't create them to be destroyed like this."
Dance hopes to get the group's name and purpose out into the public eye by sponsoring fundraisers and other activities this summer and fall.

" Right now we can't help all the animals because we don't have enough foster homes and money to help them all," she said.
Hatchett noted that because the group is a nonprofit organization made up entirely of volunteers, "100 percent of donations go for the animals."

Dance said that while being part of a rescue group is hard work and time-consuming, it's something with which she feels compelled to help.

" It's not just an hour a day. It's constant. You go to bed with it on your mind," she said. "It's not something you do because you're going to get rewarded."

But in the long run, every animal saved is well worth the effort.
" If people didn't do rescue, what would happen to all these animals?" she asked. "They deserve a chance in life. If they can't find that chance here, they deserve to go somewhere they can."

TITLE: "Henderson dogs bringing cheer to homes in Minnesota, Canada"
BY: Kathy Meadows
FROM: Evansville Courier Press
DATE: July 23, 2006

Hundreds of families in Minnesota and beyond are benefiting from Henderson's irresponsible pet owners and others who can no longer care for their dogs.

Katie Adams of Homeward Bound Dog Rescue of Minnesota, which is a nonprofit no-kill rescue and placement organization that has placed more than 10,000 animals in its 14 years of existence, said the dogs her group gets from Kentucky are usually adopted within the first few weeks of arrival.

Among the more recent "success stories" involving former Henderson dogs is Dottie, a sight-impaired beagle.

"We wondered who would want an eyeless senior beagle, but she had too much spirit left to euthanize her," Adams said.

"Dottie was a heart stealer! She actually won over someone in Canada who had had a vision impairment growing up, and this woman flew to meet Dottie, fell in love and rented a private plane to fly her home," Adams added

Then there was Pirate, a black Lab mix, "with an injured eye, and he sat in the shelter for six months there ... thanks be to the shelter staff who kept him alive until he was brought to our attention! Pirate was adopted out after a month with us and we have heard he is adored."

Another Henderson dog, Maggie, a border terrier, and her pups have all been adopted, Adams said, "and Maggie will be spending winters in Puerto Rico ... what a life!"

Still another Henderson mom and pups, Suzie and her puppies, "were adopted very quickly. Suzie had severe heartworm that was treated. I think her puppies were adopted within two weeks and Suzie three weeks."

Linda Lukkasson of Maple Grove, Minn., whose family adopted a former Henderson beagle named Caly, said she's thankful that groups such as Homeward Bound exist.

"They work tirelessly to find homes for the animals and to give them the best of care. I think no-kill animal groups are doing such a wonderful job," Lukkasson said. "The dogs deserve to live in a home with a family that will love them and care for them."

The Minnesota woman said she has no regrets about adopting Caly.

"Absolutely yes we would adopt a rescue dog again," Lukkasson said. "Rescue dogs are so loving and appreciate all the attention and love you give to them - it comes back to us many times over.

"We feel bad that Caly had a bad start to her life but are thankful that someone at the Henderson shelter ... cared enough to drive her, and other dogs, up to Minnesota so that Homeward Bound could find homes for them."

available dogs

available cats

honor wall

memorial wall

success stories

favorite links



Be the Solution. Spay and Neuter.