Let’s meet Cece, a Cain Corso, who should have been an adored family pet living in a loving home. Her previous owners purchased her for $3,500 from a top breeder when she was eight weeks old. After six months, the family decided to stop caring for her and threw her out in the backyard where she remained for the entirety of her life for the next two years. They threw food to her once a day and let an automatic water system provide minimum care. For two years she never had any shots. She never went to the vet. She never took a walk on a leash. She remained confined outdoors, without any companions or human contact.
When the family finally decided to declare an owner surrender and a rescue team went down to Charlotte, North Carolina to get her, the team approached a beautiful, luxurious home that must have cost $300,000 and picked up a terrified Cain Corso. By this time, Cece had basically become a wild animal, half the size she should be and leaving that backyard for the first time. “They just know when they’re safe. There’s no other way to describe it. They just know,” Mackinzie Klima described the change she saw after a rescue.
Mackinzie Klima–Nurse by day, and animal rescuer, role model, self-starter, super woman for 24/7—shared with me this unexpected rescue story, and I had a speechless moment in our otherwise lively conversation. At that moment, as I observed Mackinzie’s calm and genuine demeanor, I was even more grateful that she had been able share with me her journey, despite her insanely busy schedule.
Joining a dual nursing program in high school, Mackinzie has been a professional caregiver since the age of 17. She’s now a dedicated nurse at a rest home, working 12-14 hours a day, three to four days a week. With an already demanding and considerably stressful profession, she also runs a full-time dog rescue out of her own home and still manages to get at least six hours of sleep at night.
Mackinzie officially began rescuing in 1996 when living in the northeast for eight years and then moved south to North Carolina and worked with the North Carolina Rottweiler Rescue (NCRR) for four years before opening her own own dog rescue, St Francis of Assisi’s Bully Breed Rescue (SFABBR) in April of 2010. SFABBR is a home based dog rescue that specializes in rescuing pure bred Rottweilers, American Staffordshire Terriers, American Pit Bull Terriers, American Bullies, Boxers and Mastiffs. A small, but efficient and dedicated team of five volunteers help run the rescue. They currently have three foster homes that take care of 13 rescued dogs in total. Mackinzie lives with eight of these foster dogs, along with her own six dogs (all of whom were once rescued dogs too).
Living with 14 dogs doesn’t faze her. “I’ve been in the double digits for a long time,” she proudly said. SFABBR guarantees a lifetime of a security for every dog they take in. The dog will live with them until they are adopted, whether that is just a few months, a year or even ten years. Mackinize cares for a Rottweiler named Valentina. “She has cerebral palsy, so she walks weird. She’s completely incognitive. She can’t be potty trained,” Mackinize said with protectiveness, “If she finds a home, great. If she doesn’t, that’s okay. She can live with us forever. If she’s here in my house, she’s with me.”
Within a month after the rescue, SFABBR had trained Cece. Her anxiety levels decreased and she learned to play with other dogs. Two months later, she was adopted by a couple who have two other dogs, joining the home she had always deserved. Mackinzie works everyday to ensure that as many neglected dogs can get a happy ending like Cece.
When a dog is adopted, Mackinzie describes the situation as bittersweet: “We’re happy, because we know it’s going to a good home, because we thoroughly screen those who are interested in adopting. But we’re sad, because we’re losing a family member, but it deserves to go to a good home, and we can fill that kennel with another dog that we can rescue,” she said.
Mackinzie’s nurturing nature and compassion for animals root deep in her family and started early in her childhood. Mackinzie was seven years old when her mother brought home a stray for the first time. “I grew up [loving animals]. My mom rescued dogs growing up, so I grew into the second generation [rescuer],” Mackinzie remembered.
For Mackinzie, it goes beyond just the surface work of animal rescue. The core of SFABBR’s mission is to educate the community. “I feel that removing a dog from a [dangerous] situation is just putting a band-aid on the situation,” explained Mackinzie, “We really want to educate people to stop the problem from reoccurring.”
SFABBR sets up informational tables and adoption meetings throughout the community. The rescue provides literature on topics like vaccines, vet care and “What to do if your dog is sick.” They answers e-mails from writers seeking dog care advice, sending educational DVDs, websites links, and other materials upon requests. They also have an in-house master dog trainer who volunteers with the rescue to provide behavioral advice. SFABBR also wants the community to learn that Bully dogs are loyal and loving animals despite the breeds’ negative reputations. Mackinzie and her team take the dogs out into the community as often as they can.
“We say ‘Come here pet my dog,’ and they say, ‘I can’t believe that’s a Rottweiler and it’s not eating my hand,’ or ‘I can’t believe that’s a Pit Bull and it’s in a kennel with ten other dogs and it’s just playing,” she said. When someone in the community reacts with surprise and learns to open their minds to these animals, to Mackinzie, “it’s like one little battle won.”
Mackinzie’s policies regarding junior volunteers reveals another fundamental approach at SFABBR. Mackinzie’s 16 year old niece nominated her for the series, because she is a role model to many young adults like her niece. The rescue has junior volunteers who must keep their grades up if they want to continue to be involved. Family members of junior volunteers often tell Mackinzie that their juniors have become more mature, more responsible, and have more incentive to do better in school.
Having already conquered her dream to start her own rescue, what’s next for Mackinzie? With eyes on the big picture, she has a five year plan to buy an old farm and turn it into a kennel facility. She imagines a whole sanctuary. She also plans to conquer the next frontier and work on her personal goals like starting a family. Her boyfriend of two years has known from the beginning that her rescue is here to stay and will not go anywhere, and he has been supportive ever since. Mackinzie’s balanced commitment to both her professional and personal life is the perfect example that Women Working to Do Good can have it all.
If you want to start your own rescue, Mackinzie is willing to coach anyone through the process. To learn more about SFABBR, Mackinzie and rescued dogs, check out www.sfabbr.com.
Women Working to Do Good is a series that Hello Giggles and the White House have been collaborating on. We will bring you stories of women in communities across the United States who we think are stars in their own right. Whether they are young entrepreneurs, active community organizers, or making a difference in a single life or community, we think these women are amazing and want to share their stories with you! Each story will also be featured on the White House blog, and we are working together to bring more strong female role models to the forefront.
If there is a woman in your community who you think should be honored in this series, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Images courtesy of Mackinzie Klima