Zoe Kharasch might not strike you at first as a woman with a vision. She is a senior at the University of Illinois in Champaign. She studies animal science and will graduate in May. But just over two years ago, in 2014, something happened that changed her. She shared her experience with Shelter Me.
“We’ve always adopted our animals from a local shelter. We’ve gotten dogs from there and a cat. Well, in 2014, we had gone there to pet the cats in their large cat room, and as we were leaving the shelter, we noticed a small dog lying in a cage in the front room. There was vomit in his cage, and we couldn’t stop thinking of him. We went back to inquire about him and we wanted to take him out.”
Kharasch paused, as if remembering that moment. She continued, “The shelter worker told us that we didn’t want that old dog. We insisted that we did. He told us — why don’t you wait until next week when there will be younger dogs in.”
That made Kharasch realize how older dogs are perceived. She said, “I had never thought about it. I began advocating for them specifically.” They adopted the dog, named him Newman, and adore him. They celebrated what they think was his 15th birthday.
“I made Newman an Instagram account, and we started making
connections all over the world. He has over 8300 followers,” Kharasch told Shelter Me.
Kharasch’s start in rescue came when a professor in one of her classes took her aside after class and told her about a group he thought she might be interested in, Hospice Hearts. She went to their monthly meeting in October of 2015, and they were so taken with her enthusiasm that she was made a board member. She was admissions coordinator to get animals admitted into their program. Over 130 animals were admitted into foster homes in Central Illinois in 2016 — animals whose owners couldn’t care for them because of entering a nursing home or because of a death.
Kharasch knew that her time in Central Illinois was limited. After graduation in May, she would be moving away. But she wanted to continue to work to help senior animals like Newman who might be overlooked in shelters. So she began working on getting her paperwork for a nonprofit rescue. “I sent in the Articles of Incorporation with the intention of getting the rescue established by May, when I graduate. I was told that it takes from six weeks to six months to get approved as a 501(c)3, but it only took two weeks. We were officially incorporated on December 8, 2016. Since we’ve gotten Newman, I’ve wanted to have a rescue in his name.”
Instead of working with individuals who need to find homes for their dogs, Kharasch plans on working with shelters. Her first rescue dog happened sooner than she had expected. She explained,
“All I do on Facebook is find animals in need and tag rescues in their area to see if they can help them. I found a dog, he was 10 years old, at Dallas Animal Services. He had the saddest intake photo, and I was heartbroken for him. I shared it on my personal page, but I’m in Illinois and he’s in Dallas, so I found a friend who runs a senior animal rescue in Illinois who said she’d take him if we could get him here.
Kharasch got the dog a spot on a transport bus going to Illinois. But before it could happen, Dallas Animal Services sent his medical records, which included some bad news. The small, senior dog was heartworm positive.
That caused the Illinois rescue to back out since they already had two heartworm positive rescues and not enough money to pay for a third treatment. The transport company refuses to transport dogs who are heartworm positive. So with one email, Kharasch needed to come up with a plan — fast.
“I posted on Instagram: Can anyone help? A friend said that she is 25 minutes from the Dallas shelter and she was willing to foster. Everything fell into place,” says Kharasch. “I talked to my veterinarian, and she said we didn’t have to start heartworm treatment for a few months. I didn’t have any money. I filled out the rescue partnership agreement with Dallas Animal Services. My friend picked Pepe up and he’s in foster outside Dallas. I worked the next few days setting up a GoFundMe, a Paypal account, a website, and a tee shirt fundraiser. I got donations of $2000, so now when he’s healthy, he’ll be able to get his treatment.”
Kharasch explained to Shelter Me that she has plans to have Newman Nation supporters across the US in every state. That way, if someone who adopts a dog in Arizona decides they can’t keep the dog, someone in that state will be able to help get the dog back to Kharasch or keep it safe. Microchips with information leading back to Newman Nation will ensure that no dog adopted from them ends up in a shelter.
With her first rescue under her belt, Kharasch will be keeping her eye out for more seniors in need of rescue. To realize her dream, she will need volunteers in every state. She said, “I want to be working nation-wide. If I see an animal in Florida or California, I want to be able to help. I’m tired of not being able to save dogs (I saw on Facebook) because of my location.”
And Pepe? Kharasch says on his GoFundMe page that “Pepe is 9 years old, just a little guy at 10 pounds. One eye is shrunk and the other has a cataract. He’s got the usual older dog bad teeth. And tapeworm. And of course, heartworm.”
His foster adores Pepe. She said, “Pepe came to me from the Dallas Animal Shelter very confused and scared. The night I picked him up, he barely ate and was withdrawn. Since being with me, he has become an entirely different dog. He came with a host of medical problems affecting his vision and heart. He enjoys his alone time in his kennel but absolutely loves snuggles on the couch with me and his new bff, Pnut. He is such a little ham and always has a happy wiggle in his tail when he hears me.”
Follow Newman Nation: Senior Pets United on Facebook and Instagram, and visit its website. On the website is a link to apply to foster a senior dog or cat. There is also currently a tee shirt sale to raise money for the rescue — the link is on the website as well.