The Woody Fund namesakes
A class of 1996 Port St. Lucie eighth graders had an exceptional year and it all came about because of two five-year-old Golden Retrievers, Rusty and Woody. The duo had nearly come to the end of their lives, chained, starving and neglected in the backyard of a Port St. Lucie home. No one knows who called for help. Perhaps it was a neighbor hearing a whimper over the fence, or someone catching a glimpse of the tumor hanging from the neck of one of the dogs, but whoever it was, they saved two lives that day. It was one of the worst cases of abuse and neglect the animal control officers had ever seen.
Rusty, malnourished, with a tumor diagnosed a year earlier hanging from his neck, leaned when he walked from the weight. Woody, suffering from mange and heartworms as well as malnourished, needed treatment for his skin and ear infections. Despite Rusty’s tumor, Woody was actually in worse condition, like a skeleton with raw skin and black patches of puffy “elephant” skin stretched over his bones. With hardly any hair, Woody weighed 30 pounds when he came to GRRMF. Claiming he didn’t have funds to pay for needed medical treatment, the owner refused to turn the dogs over to animal control who might have been able to help before their condition had become so dire. The owner was charged with two counts of animal abuse and was sentenced to time in jail, fines and community service. But our story isn’t about the owner – it’s about that eighth-grade class who raised community awareness about animal abuse and the legacy of two Golden Retrievers.
Rusty and Woody needed compassion and medical care. We shared with you the deplorable conditions these two young retrievers were found in by animal control officers. Taken to a vet, they received the treatment they desperately needed. The healing could begin but it would be a long road for Woody and Rusty. Now back to that eighth-grade science class at Northport Middle School in Port St. Lucie taught by Mary Jones (now Mary Toto). Ms. Jones shared the circumstances of Rusty and Woody with her students, who showed a great deal more compassion than the dogs’ owner. The students, coming from a district struggling financially, raised $310 (mostly in coins) to start a fund to pay for the two dogs’ medical treatment. They didn’t stop there, encouraging additional donations to the fund and raising awareness of abuse and neglect to animals. This was the beginning of “The Woody Fund” established through Golden Retriever Rescue of Mid-Florida to provide extraordinary medical treatment for rescued dogs.
The students went further, taking their mission all the way to the White House, writing to President Clinton – “You can help us by continuing to speak up for abused and neglected animals and working to protect the environment we all share.” Clinton (also an animal lover who had recently adopted a cat, Socks, who was then a resident of the White House) wrote back to the students. Little did they know that their act of compassion would still be yielding results 25+ years later.
Rusty and Woody had come a long way from that dreary back yard where they were chained, neglected and starved of care. Needing to find a long-term solution for their continued care, St.Lucie Animal Control petitioned the court to obtain ownership. Golden Retriever Rescue of Mid-Florida offered foster care to the two dogs where they were placed to recuperate and heal both physically and emotionally. Good loving families were found for them – Woody with a veterinarian that had worked with GRRMF and Rusty with another family who still volunteers with GRRMF today. Both have long ago crossed the Rainbow Bridge leaving a Golden Legacy.
Sadly, Woody and Rusty are not the last of the neglected and abused dogs that have come into the GRRMF family and the Woody Fund is still a critical part of our fundraising. In just the past five years, we have seen dogs such as Caramel, overbred in a puppy mill, Hazel, shot and left at the side of the road to die, and Brownie, relegated to spend all her days and nights in a backyard in Florida’s blazing heat, never receiving house-training or treatment for a cataract that left her blind. Still more dogs have come to GRRMF with medical issues after being surrendered by loving owners who just didn’t have the funds to provide the necessary treatment.
The Woody Fund is Woody and Rusty’s Golden Legacy, those two five-year-old Golden Retrievers who clung to life despite all odds. Many of the 4000+ dogs rescued by GRRMF since 1991 have had major medical issues and we continue to save and care for each dog in honor of Woody and Rusty.
Donations to the Woody Fund can be made online or mailing your donation to: GRRMF Woody Fund, P.O. Box 1449, Goldenrod, FL 32733.
by Susan Tucker