Woodstock nonprofit began from a personal love story.
There are many people who rescue a dog or a cat, and later discover that it really was the other way around. Furry friends love you no matter what, are unconditional listeners, and great support in times of need. It was no different for Michele Lopez, the founder of Refuge Rescue in Woodstock.
“I saved a dog who saved me,” Lopez said. “A friend in law enforcement had busted a drug house where the residents owned American bulldogs. Normal protocol is to euthanize these animals, but instead he called me to find them homes. I met Angel that day. Soon after, I received a cancer diagnosis. Although I have a great husband, it was Angel, who helped me the most through all the ups and downs, sickness, all of the times I felt like giving up, and even when I didn’t think I was going to live. She is the love and light of my life, my Angel.
“After completing cancer treatments, I made a decision,” she continued. “Instead of focusing on myself, I wanted to put that energy into something good. I wanted to make a difference in the lives of homeless dogs.”
During a church small group meeting, Lopez shared that she wanted to help dogs like Angel. Her pastor’s wife responded, “You are going to do it. You are going to be a refuge for homeless dogs, like our Lord is a refuge.”
Within 33 days of that proclamation, with full support from her husband, Refuge Rescue (RR), became a registered nonprofit, and a shelter license and kennel space to board dogs was obtained.
“I had no idea what I was getting into, but I wouldn’t have stopped,” Lopez said.
Now, four years later, RR is going strong, and has saved more than a thousand dogs.
The nonprofit recently accepted 15 neglected, emaciated, matted, precious dogs from the South Georgia puppy mill bust in March. The dogs are doing much better today, but this situation has taxed the nonprofit’s resources greatly. The positive side is because of Lopez’s medical background as a registered trauma nurse, she is able to assist the vet for free, which cuts down on the veterinarian costs. Many of her rescues have medical issues, not just the dogs from the puppy mill case.
“When I read about the puppy mill dogs, I knew I had to do something,” supporter Cheryl Duron said. “I contacted Refuge Rescue, and I guess you can say, the rest is history. Since volunteering, I have witnessed some of the most rewarding changes in these dogs. The time spent at RR is a privilege and it’s wonderful to be a part of something that really makes a difference. The love and caring for the dogs is a reward in itself, and you can’t beat the people, either. Every living thing deserves to be loved. The dogs that pass through RR find that love.”
Yes, true love is only a wag away. There are many ways to get involved at RR. You can work at the kennel, adopt, foster, donate food, supplies, or financially, and even borrow a furry friend to take a walk. The possibilities are endless. To find out more, and to see which dogs are available for adoption or fostering, visit www.refugerescue.org or call 678-250-DOGS (3647). The mailing address is: P.O. Box 1923, Woodstock, GA 30188.
– By Susan Browning Schulz, a Bible teacher, author, wife, and mom of three grown children.