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August 16, 2007

 

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The Topeka Capital Journal

Published Monday, August 16, 2004

Canine country club

50 acres near Auburn is home to abused and neglected dogs


The legs of Ziggy Stardust, a 3-pound Chihuahua, have atrophied to the point that he can walk only with considerable effort.  After seven years confined to the back of a small cage, all but seven of the diminutive dog's teeth recently had to be removed because they were impacted or infected.

Ziggy can't eat or drink without help, so animal rescuer Maureen Cummins has fed him baby food since acquiring the formerly abused animal about two months ago.  "He looks like a little alien," Cummins said Thursday as Ziggy lay curled in her arms.

Ziggy is among 44 dogs that Cummins and her husband, Terry, care for at the Second Chance Animal Refuge Society near Auburn.

Maureen Cummins, at back, and her husband, Terry, operate Second Chance Animal Refuge Society at their home near Auburn, where 44 dogs, including Barley, a 3-year-old female yellow Labrador, have free reign of the living room and their 50 acres. "She's our resident couch potato," Maureen Cummins said of Barley.

 

The Cumminses are licensed by the state to operate the nonprofit organization, which rescues and rehabilitates animals that have been abandoned or abused. The Cumminses say they use kindness and compassion to heal the scars from past experiences in which dogs were starved, beaten or, in some cases, shot.

"Almost all of them have been through a lot of trauma," Maureen Cummins said. "They're living the good life, now, though."

Terry and Maureen Cummins met after an article was published in 1996 in The Topeka Capital-Journal telling how Maureen Woodhouse, an English teacher at Topeka West High School who also served as a Jackson County animal abuse investigator, was trying to find a home for a husky dog that had undergone a leg amputation.

Terry Cummins, a certified public account with Cummins and Coffman, noticed in a published photo of Woodhouse that she wore no wedding ring.  He called and asked about the dog, telling Woodhouse he had 50 acres in the country and owned five dogs.

"He asked me if I came with the dog," Maureen recalled with a smile.

BY THE NUMBERS

44: The number of dogs Terry and Maureen Cummins keep at Second Chance Animal Refuge Society near Auburn.

11: The number of those dogs that are on regular medication.

50: Roughly the number of dogs the couple helped adopt out last year.

$38,000: The society's overall annual expenses.

$16,000: Annual costs for veterinary bills and dog food.

50: The number of acres on which the dogs can roam.

11: The number of heated water bowls the Cumminses put outdoors in the winter.

3: The number of children (all adult) the Cumminses have between the two of them.

The couple began dating, which led to marriage.

The couple owned 22 dogs in 2001 when they applied for nonprofit status and formed SCARS with the goal of providing love, shelter and veterinary care to abused and abandoned dogs, then finding them permanent, loving and healthy homes.

SCARS, which was featured in an August 2002 article in The Capital-Journal, sends out a weekly newsletter and has a Web site at www.scarsusa.com.  The organization arranged last year for the adoption of about 50 dogs, some of which lived at the Cummins home and others that lived elsewhere.

The couple say the 44 dogs currently at the refuge all have names to which they will respond. All are spayed and neutered. Each has a personal feeding bowl.  "Once they've been here two to three years, it becomes very difficult to give them up because the refuge has become their home," Maureen Cummins said.

The couple offers dogs 50 acres of wide-open spaces. An electric fence prevents their escape. The property includes outbuildings and two ponds, including a large one with a dock, plus a small lily pond.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maureen Cummins shovels dog food during mealtime as Cheyenne, a 4-year-old malamute, looks on. She said each dog gets one bowl except for Cheyenne, "who likes to steal."

Dogs can enter and leave the house whenever they want through a swinging doggy door in a room that was formerly a garage. The Cumminses' upstairs area is off-limits.

On a recent afternoon, the couple also left a garage door open to allow the animals easy access. None of the dogs fought with each other during a visit that afternoon to the refuge.  "What amazes people is that you've got dogs ranging from three pounds to 155 pounds, and everyone gets along," Maureen Cummins said.

"Of course, I have to be pretty strict with them," Terry Cummins said.  He said he was amazed how well even badly abused dogs accepted by the refuge have reacted to being treated kindly.

"We've had some dogs here where for the first two weeks, you can't even go close to them," Terry Cummins said. "But eventually they come to realize that not all humans are bad."

As the couple talked, six dogs lounged on a sofa nearby.  "The dogs that are there on the divan, that's where they're normally at," Maureen Cummins said. "Each has their spot."

All dogs spend the night in the house except one, who has behaved badly indoors.  Maureen Cummins said visitors who see the way the dogs are treated often pose the same question.  "Everybody says, 'Can I come live as one of your dogs?' "

Dogged by difficulties

But the Cumminses say running a dog refuge involves a lot of sacrifices.  One is seeing animals in great distress. The couple recalled how a small mixed-breed dog whose left eyeball was hanging from its socket was dropped off on their property. They had the eye removed.  The dog -- named Blinky -- survived and lives at their refuge.

The couple has had to turn away many other canines, however.  "We are down to the point where we can only accept a dog in the direst of emergencies," Maureen Cummins said.

She estimated she gets four phone calls and 30 to 40 e-mails per day from people asking for help placing a dog.  And finding homes for dogs elsewhere remains difficult, Terry Cummins said.  "People want a perfect dog, one that doesn't bark, doesn't shed and doesn't poop," he said.

Terry Cummins said he spends 60 to 90 minutes a day at SCARS picking up poop, cleaning out dog runs and putting out water.  Maureen Cummins -- who said she "can't stand a mess" -- estimates she spends three to four hours a day feeding the dogs and cleaning up the house after them.  "The cleaning of the house is endless," she said. "I do it day and night, nonstop."

The couple uses a heavy-duty washing machine to clean towels, blankets and rugs that often are stained with dog fur, urine or vomit.

Volunteers have helped the Cumminses take care of the dogs at times "but we're down to one of those," Maureen Cummins said.

Running a dog refuge also is costly, as the couple said they spent about $38,000 last year on SCARS-related expenses. A small grant from a private foundation covers some costs, but Terry Cummins still expects to work well past what used to be his planned retirement age.

Still, Maureen Cummins said, the difficulties seem worth it when she thinks about the difference she and her husband have made in the lives of hundreds of hounds.  "I keep telling him," she said, "we have to support our habit."

The Capital-Journal  © Copyright 2005 Morris Digital Works and The Topeka Capital-Journal, used with permission

 

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