Our Inspiration; Our Angel
When I die, I intend to ask God if I can stay at the Rainbow Bridge instead of going into heaven, because there are so many pets that go to the rainbow bridge without ever having known the love and compassion of a human being. Puppies frozen to death in wire cages at puppymills [sic]. Kittens drown because the female cat “just keeps getting herself pregnant.” I want to promise these animals there is still hope for them, it’ll just happen in their next lifetime, when they return to earth again.-Terri TinsleyNovember, 2003
One might ask, how does an ordinary person love animals so much that she would share this personal wish with hundreds, perhaps thousands of strangers? Veteran animal rescuers are probably familiar with Terri’s legacy, thus it comes as no surprise; but for those who are new to her story, Terri was no ordinary person. Those of us who knew her were in constant awe of her limitless energy, boundless compassion, and giving spirit. We wondered whether Terri ever took time to sleep. It was 1999, when our dear friend and faux family member, Terri, and her husband, Perry, came upon a very sick German shepherd puppy being sold for $20 outside the Weyauwega Exotic Animal Fair. Terri knew she could use the Wisconsin Dog Rescue to contact a shepherd rescue, so she paid for the ailing pup and promised her husband the puppy’s stay would merely be temporary. The German Shepherd Rescue she contacted asked the couple to foster the pup for two months, while they awaited the next opening. For the next three weeks, “Pistol ([ironically] named because the worms, anemia, and the maggot living between the skin layers of his neck made him the most lethargic puppy ever) spent the rest of the summer sleeping at their feet, or going for short walks at the dog park as he became healthier.” Soon after, Terri called the rescue to say they HAD to adopt Pistol; it was more than just puppy love! “After Terri became listowner for Wisconsin Dog Rescue [(“WDR”)], she decided volunteering for shelters and other rescues wasn’t enough…” Thus, she formed Arf’s German Shepherd Rescue, Inc. and was granted 501(c)(3) non-profit status in March 2002. Initially she intended to rescue about 4 dogs a year and educate the public; but in true Terri fashion, she “adopted out” 52 dogs AND educated the public, all in less than 2 years. Keep in mind, and this is important, she accomplished this by showcasing the dogs on her non-profit website, including photos and detailed descriptions, and while requiring adopters to complete a 7-page application AND pass a home visit. Amazing…she was simply amazing! Still not impressed? Consider what she did in her “free time:”
- Armed with a Master’s Degree in Education and Technology , Terri worked a full-time job directing a distance education network for 9 school districts, 3 area technical schools and a university in Jefferson and eastern Dane counties.
- Terri and her husband, Perry, ran their own small business, Media Paws, which produced videos and Web sites – many of them for local humane societies, animal educators and trainers.
- Terri went “undercover” to one of Wisconsin’s most notorious puppy mills to document the conditions. View local news coverage
- In the year 2000, “Terri compiled a book, listing all [of] the animal-rescue groups in the state [of Wisconsin], information about them, pictures of dog breeds and details on how to identify them” – all at her own cost. Annually thereafter, she also updated this 125-page directory.
- In 2001, Terri and other like-minded individuals spoke to the Wisconsin State Legislature in favor of an anti-puppy mill law.
- Terri was in charge of the website and e-mail listserv for the [WDR] and Pet Rescue Network (an umbrella organization for groups caring for stray and homeless dogs). The group has hundreds of members, representing different dog breeds, cats and other creatures.
- Through WDR, Terri helped establish screening rules for rescue groups (see our article entitled “How do I know if I’m dealing with a Reputable Rescue?”). She also fostered better communication between shelters, rescues and even veterinarians.
- Terri designed and produced not only her own website, arfrescue.com, but also designed and produced the website of her friend, Sarah Kalnajs, owner of Blue Dog Training & Behavior, LLC (bluedogtraining.com), as a gift.
- She played an instrumental role in getting the Jefferson County Dog Park approved.
- Terri also spearheaded many events to educate people about animals and raise money for rescue organizations.
- Terri and Perry, both, loved and cared for their own 4 dogs, 2 cats, a parrot, and a complete aviary in the basement!
“[Terri] left her biggest mark, perhaps, on [WDR].” “Terri’s dedication resulted in the WDR group being the finest in the United States – proactively working with shelters for the betterment of the animals. No other group can boast the same.” Terri was so successful, in fact, that other states have modeled her system. When Terri passed in a tragic head-on collision in December of 2003, we were devastated – as were all of Terri’s friends, family, co-workers and – the entire animal rescue community. And yet, in her death, Terri continued to accomplish amazing things. The week prior, Terri had saved 4 adult dogs and 5 puppies (despite being on a “break”), and one of those puppies is our foster “failure,” Bear. There was no way we could part with one of the last souls she selflessly saved. Additionally, through donations made in her honor, the Jefferson County Dog Park expanded significantly, and was subsequently named the Terri Tinsley Dog Exercise Area. It is 109 acres of pure dog heaven. It was Terri who introduced us to rescue, and encouraged Daphne to pursue animal law. And ultimately, it was Terri who ignited the flame that we now carry in her memory. Her father-in-law, PJ Tinsley, recently told us that just prior to her untimely passing, Terri was chatting with him about doing just what we have recently embarked upon – in fact, she considered calling it “The Bark Line.” Thus, we know that we are carrying on her legacy in the work we do, and we know that she is guiding us. In the interim, we also know that until we, ourselves, get to the Rainbow Bridge, she is there loving and caring for our four-legged friends in addition to the many, many sweet souls who never knew unconditional love and true human compassion. We were incredibly blessed to know Terri, and will work diligently to see that her vision comes to fruition. Terri’s friend, Sarah Kalnajs, once said, “…to characterize [Terri] as an animal rescuer is not accurate…[s]he rescued lost souls, whether human or animals.” She was an angel here on Earth. Read about Terri’s contribution to the animal rescue world by clicking here: http://www.mediapaws.com/widogrescue2/terri_tinsley_tribute/index.html