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July 5 2002

 

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The Topeka Capital Journal, July 5, 2002

 

Couple finds puppy love

Their mutual compassion toward abused dogs brought them together, and now they plan their lives around their 34 canine friends

Last Modified:
1:37 a.m. 8/1/2002

By Kasha Stoll
Special to The Capital-Journal

photo: communityMaureen and Terry Cummins sit with some of the 34 dogs they keep at their home near Auburn. The Cummins are dedicated to giving homes to dogs that have been abandoned or abused.
Chris Ochsner/The Capital-Journal


AUBURN -- It's your basic his, hers and theirs story, with a canine twist.

When Terry and Maureen Cummins married three years ago, she had eight dogs and he had six. Today, they have 34 -- 14 more than their agreed-upon limit.

The Cummins operate SCARS -- Second Chance Animal Refuge Society -- a nonprofit organization that rescues and rehabilitates abandoned and abused animals. They are licensed by the state.

The couple met through an article in The Topeka Capital-Journal.

Maureen Woodhouse was the abuse investigator in Jackson County and rescued a feverish husky. Dr. Michael Waldy treated the dog and amputated its infected leg. When Woodhouse was unable to find a home for the dog, she came to The Capital-Journal.

An article ran on Aug. 5, 1996. Woodhouse was pictured with her arms around the dog.

photo: communityOne of the Cummins' garage stalls serves as a dog care room and is nearly full of dog food.
Chris Ochsner/The Capital-Journal

Terry Cummins, a certified public accountant with Cummins and Coffman, was the first person to call.

"We talked, and he was very nice," Maureen Cummins said.

Terry Cummins had 50 acres in the country and owned five dogs.

"He told me about his place and his animals," Cummins said. "And then he asked, 'Do you come with the dog?'"

Terry Cummins had studied the picture in the article looking for a wedding ring.

He didn't get the dog. But he did get a date.

Dating an abuse investigator wasn't always easy. Woodhouse was dressed up, waiting for Cummins to pick her up for one of their dates, when a neighbor drove up in a truck and told her to get in. An emaciated Chihuahua had been shot and left for dead on the road.

"We wrapped him up in an old horse blanket," Maureen Cummins said. "Terry comes up to get me to go the movies, and we go straight to the vet instead."

Dr. Douglas Jernigan, at the South City Animal Hospital, 2855 S.E. Kansas Place, treated the dog.

"Everyone goes to Dr. Jernigan for all the hopeless cases," Cummins explained. "He said, 'Let's change his medicine, and let's do this and do that.' And he is fine."

photo: communityOne of the Cummins' dogs bears the scars from being beaten.
Chris Ochsner/The Capital-Journal

Today, the dog is healthy and far from emaciated.

"Rudy is looking very portly these day," Cummins said.

Last year, when Terry and Maureen Cummins had 22 dogs, they applied for nonprofit status, and SCARS was born.

"Most of the animals we get have not been spayed or neutered, so that's the first thing we have to do," Terry Cummins said. "When you have this many dogs, you can't have an unneutered male or female. So you can imagine how costly it becomes."

Maureen Cummins said their veterinarian and dog food bill was $14,000 last year.

"We're going to be on the corner with a tin cup one of these days," she said.

SCARS received a modest grant from the Blanche Bryden Foundation.

"And we are applying for other grants," Terry Cummins added.

photo: communityMaureen Cummins sometimes exercises the dogs by leading them around their 50-acre yard on her all-terrain vehicle.
Chris Ochsner/The Capital-Journal


The couple sent out a newsletter last year and got some donations. A second newsletter will be mailed later this month or next.

"We don't take a salary or anything, so all of our contributions go for either food or vet bills," Cummins said.

When Maureen Cummins was director of the McPherson Humane Society, she chose the dogs that had to be put to sleep. A turning point in her life came when she watched a blue heeler die.

"I promised myself that, from then on, no animal that could be saved would be put to sleep," she said.

The couple has received dogs in several different ways.

They receive phone calls from area veterinarians, sheriff's departments and an underground network of friends that Maureen Cummins calls ALF, or Animal Liberation Front.

"It doesn't stop, ever," she said. "We just constantly get phone calls."

With 34 dogs often in the house, the Cummins had to lay down some ground rules. The dogs aren't allowed upstairs. There is a timeout cage for anyone who needs privacy, and Terry Cummins is boss.

"I am the alpha," he said. "Dr. Jernigan says, 'As long as they know someone is in charge.'"

Maureen Cummins is in charge of keeping the house clean.

"I am, believe it or not, a clean freak," she said. "And I can't stand to live in a mess."

An English teacher at Topeka West High School, Cummins comes home from work and immediately feeds the animals.

"That takes an hour," she said. "Then I clean for two hours every day, and I run at least two to four washes."

SCARS finds homes for five or six dogs a year, but Terry Cummins admits that they keep most of the animals.

"They have been through so much trauma, and this is their home," he said. "You feel like once they learn to trust you, you can't (give them away). It wouldn't be fair."

People often ask Maureen Cummins if all the animals have names, she said, adding: "And I think, 'Names? I know their barks.'"

Terry Cummins said their dogs are their family.

"Most of our friends say, 'I want to come back as one of your dogs,'" he said.

Kasha Stoll can be reached at CAS_KLS@yahoo.com.

You can help

If you find an abused or abandoned animal:

• Inside Topeka, call 368-9203. This is a 24-hour number or go by the police department at 320 S. Kansas Ave. Phone calls are preferable.

• Outside of Topeka but in Shawnee County, call 368-2200 and ask for animal control.

• Outside of Shawnee County, call your sheriff's department.

 

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