Imagine this: You’re a lifelong animal lover, and you’ve rescued animals your whole life. You raised your children to love animals as well. And throughout their childhood, they joined you on more rescues than you can remember. There are so many stories you recall from their youth when you’d brought them along with you on a rescue.
Your children are adults now, and just like you, they’ve become animal rescuers.
You’re in your twilight years now, dealing with old age and all the challenges it brings. You need a wheelchair to get around. You seem more and more forgetful these days. But you can still remember animal rescues you made, way, way back in the day.
Those old stories and photos revive and sustain you. Sometimes it seems they were only just yesterday.
The animals you now share your home with were rescued many years ago. They’ve aged with you too, and you remember their stories well. Their companionship means all the world to you. And it’s not just the love that they give you. They also remind you of the full life you have lived, a lifetime of caring and kindness. “It’s been a good life,” you sometimes remind them, and in their own way they all seem to agree. Such is your life these days.
Now, imagine that one day someone you trust drives you to a new place for a visit. The people you meet there are really quite nice, but you can’t remember why you have come. After a while you are ready to go on back home, but the folks say you’ll be staying a while. You seek out your companion who brought you there, but it seems they have already gone. “They’ll be back real soon to check in on you,” you’re told. “So, we’ll take care of you till they return.”
“Wait, what’s going on? Where am I?” you ask. You’re scared and feeling alone. “I need to get back to my animals now,” you say, as they lead you down the hall to a room.
“Here is your bedroom and all of the things that your companion said you’d want while you’re here,” they explain. “And here is your roommate. You’re sharing a room!”
“Roommate?” you ask. “But I have to get home. My animals are waiting on me.”
Your new roommate is clearly confused when she says, “you say that same thing every day.”
“Did she say ‘every day’?” you think to yourself. “Every day? What the heck does she mean?”
“I just need to get back to my animals now. My animals are waiting on me…”
Mrs. Barbara Hudson, now 74 years old, has been a champion for animals her whole life. Now, she wakes up everyday in a nursing home, hoping it is the day she can get back to her dogs.
“My mom has always had a special love for dogs,” says Barbara’s daughter, April. “She started rescuing animals way back in the 1970’s, when I was about ten years old. Anytime mama would see a stray dog, she’d try to rescue them and bring them back home.”
“Back in those days,” April recalls, “there weren’t many animal rescue groups or any help with spaying or neutering. That stuff was just about unheard of back them.
“Mama would catch all the cats and dogs that came into our yard and get them spayed or neutered. For the first 15 years or so, it was all out of pocket. After that, she began working with a new rescue group. She fostered most of their dogs, and she was the muscle behind what they did.
She loved to say ‘I can’t save them all, but I can change the life of one today.’”
“Doing the kind of rescue work mama did, your name gets around. I don’t know if you’ve ever come home and had dogs tied up to your fence, but that happened to us a lot growing up. Everyone knew that if a dog got to mama, they’d be safe and well taken care of.”
Over the past 8 years, Barbara has stopped actively rescuing animals due to her age and health. “But if anyone stopped by her house needing help,” April says, “she’d never turn an animal away. She’s always been so compassionate to animals, and their human families as well.”
Recently, Barbara’s companion put her into a nursing home. “My brother and I didn’t even know they were planning this,” April says. “We only found out a few days after it happened. We’re now working to try and get her back home.”
“We’ve been taking care of mama’s five dogs ever since. And nothing will happen to them as long as I’ve got breath in me. They’re her dogs – they’re her life – and I’ll never let anything happen to them. But mama is really grieving for them now.”
“I truly believe that if she was back home with them, if she just had a dog in her lap, it would calm her down greatly. If mama’s going to remember one good thing about her life, it’s going to be those dogs. They have to be in her life. They just have to be,” she says.
“Mama is not doing well in the nursing home now. She’s really missing her dogs. I want to get her back home so she can be with them in the final years of her life.”
“The nursing home says she can come back home if we can make mama’s house accessible for her. And I’ve committed to move in with her and care for her full time,” April says. “But I’ll need to be able to get her around in her wheelchair.”
Brother Wolf’s NeighborCorps team toured Mrs. Barbara’s house a few days ago to assess the improvements needed to get her back home. “The main thing that’s needed is a wheelchair ramp to access the front door of her house” says Jason Byrd, who manages construction projects for Brother Wolf. “And we’ll als0 need to repair some basic flooring and sheetrock inside. With just a few volunteers and some basic supplies, we could knock all this out pretty quick.”
Barbara has devoted her life to rescuing and caring for the animals in our community. Now is the time for our community to come together to make sure she has the peace and dignity she deserves in her twilight years.