Two Pups to the Rescue
Monday, April 9, 2018
Posted by: Karen Werner
Nancy Silver’s pet project changes lives
By Karen Werner
“Mr. P. and Miss Lacie. They were my everything.”
Nancy Silver, co-owner of Scottsdale’s The Paper Place, is reminiscing about the two dogs she bought at the Crisis Nursery auction years ago. “They were littermates. Only one was being auctioned off but they brought both of them and I thought, ‘Are you kidding me? How do you split those guys up?’”
The two pups became her close companions, well-known to the customers of her store. Silver gave them care and affection and in return they offered unqualified love and devotion.
Years later, when Miss Lacie became ill, Silver would sit in the veterinary hospital and see people whose hearts were broken because they couldn’t afford veterinary care for their animals. “I just sat there and watched, over and over again, poor people turning around and taking their sick dogs out the door because they couldn’t afford treatment,” she said.
Silver vowed to make a difference. “I knew that the care I had been able to provide was not a possibility for many others who loved their pets just as dearly and grieved their loss just as deeply,” she said.
That’s why, together with her friend Bip Haley, Silver established the Two Pups Wellness Fund in 2017, in memory of Silver’s two dogs. Operating under the umbrella of the Arizona Community Foundation, which provides help managing and distributing funds, Two Pups provides financial assistance to shelter and rescue animals in need of life-saving care.
Maricopa County Animal Care and Control director Mary Martin has seen the remarkable impact Two Pups has made in only a year. “For me, this is magical,” she said.
Martin has been in animal welfare for 25 years, starting as a veterinary technician at the Arizona Humane Society before working in shelters nationwide. She ran Animal Care and Control for the City of New York, built spay and neuter clinics in Los Angeles, and was executive director of the Santa Fe Animal Shelter & Humane Society for nine years before returning to Arizona. In all those years, she hasn’t seen anything like the Two Pups Wellness Fund.
“It is terribly hard on your heart when you see conditions that can be treated—that should be treated—but the only thing that’s stopping us from providing treatment is having the resources to do it,” she said.
That’s where Two Pups steps in.
The animals that come to Valley shelters are most often there as a function of poverty. Many have been hit by cars or run away from homes that didn’t manage their animals well. “We see every disease, because these are dogs that have not been vaccinated,” Martin said. “We see a lot of dogs that have been left out in yards with no ability to get out of the sun.” Valley Fever, parvo, cancer, heartworm — the conditions run the gamut.
Martin looks for what she calls “discrete conditions” that have an end point. What that means is, if a dog has a fractured leg, after the fracture is fixed you have a healthy, adoptable dog. Such treatable conditions are candidates for Two Pups assistance. Shelter workers take the animals to private practitioners for discounted treatment and Two Pups pays the bills.
“There is no law against having animals. We see so many animals come in from owners who simply can’t afford veterinary care,” Martin said. After receiving care supported by Two Pups, many animals are able to return to their homes; others get adopted by new owners.
The work can range from simple things, like removing a benign tumor from a kitten’s ear, to more complicated conditions. Silver recalls the night she received a phone call from Bip Haley describing a frightening situation. “Bip said, ‘We have an emergency. There’s an epidemic at the county’s east shelter and we need to figure out what we can do.’”
A fast-spreading bacterial infection had hit the shelter, endangering the lives of 330 dogs. “I said do whatever it takes,” Silver said. “Twenty-five thousand dollars later, we bought all the vaccines. Long story short, we only lost four dogs.”
Another Two Pups patient made headlines and won hearts throughout the Valley. BB Bear, an abused Husky, was beaten within an inch of his life and abandoned in a dumpster near Seventh and Southern Avenues at just 2 months old. Suffering from a massive skull fracture, he was taken to Phoenix Dog, Cat & Bird Hospital. With expert care along with financial assistance from Two Pups, BB Bear made a tremendous recovery. In the process, he garnered national attention and became a social-media sensation. After receiving more than 200 adoption applications, BB Bear was adopted by an East Valley family and selected as a 2018 Hero Award winner from the Arizona Pet Project.
While BB Bear is Two Pups’ most famous patient, Silver has heard dozens of touching stories and received many letters about Two Pups assistance over the past year. Still, Mary Martin says the organization’s impact can’t be quantified. “It’s really more the idea that whenever we see anything that’s going wrong, now there is always that hope that we have an opportunity to do something besides euthanasia,” she said. Today Maricopa County Animal Care and Control has one of the best outcome rates — what they call live release rates — for any agency of its kind nationwide.
What Two Pups has done, according to Martin, is change the entire culture of Maricopa County Animal Care and Control. “We were the agency that would say, ‘Sorry, we can’t. We don’t. We don’t have.’ Now the staff is far more filled with hope,” she said.
Today, when a dog or cat is injured or ill, the staff asks if it’s a case that Two Pups can take on. “That was never how it was before,” Martin said. “It really was a culture of learned helplessness. Now it’s a culture of can-do. It has changed the organizational culture completely.”
Not only has Two Pups changed Maricopa County Animal Care and Control, it has also changed the outlook for Martin. “I don’t think I could have survived without it. I really don’t,” she said. “It is just so sad to watch what happens to the animals who are living in poverty.”
Now, thanks to Two Pups, shelters and rescue organizations have resources that provide a feeling of hope. “We come in the morning ready for the day because we know that mostly it’s going to be good,” Martin said. “Mostly, we can fix things.”
For her part, Silver is grateful for — and a little surprised by — all the good that Two Pups is doing. “I don’t think we realized how needed Two Pups was going to be,” she said. “We had no idea.” New to running a nonprofit organization, Silver is trying to raise funds to grow its impact even more, but admits she isn’t comfortable asking for money.
That’s where Mary Martin is glad to speak up. “I want people to know how large the problem is, and how grateful Maricopa County Animal Care and Control is for having the opportunity to work with Two Pups. If this work resonates with you, please help Two Pups to keep these animals getting care, because without them there would be no hope.”
Hope is something Nancy Silver hears a lot about these days. “I got this e-mail from a woman who is a volunteer down at the west side shelter who said that because of Two Pups, volunteers are happier. There is light at the end of the tunnel. Dogs don’t have to be euthanized. We get letters like that all the time — and it’s all because of my two pups.”
These days, Nancy Silver doesn’t have a dog, and has no plans to get another one. “I can’t do it,” she said, choking back tears at the thought of Mr. P. and Miss Lacie. “Now, I have all these other dogs that are my dogs.”
For more information about Two Pups, visit twopups.org