Meet Elise Bissell, founder of Take Me Home Pet Rescue, an organization dedicated to helping, healing and finding homes for unwanted pets. With a degree in nursing, Bissell has a background in caring for the sick and injured and now she shares that gift with our four-legged friends. Bissell oversees the huge task of coordinating volunteers and overseeing a 2800 square foot adoption center in Richardson, where she estimates TMHPR has saved about 2,000 cats and dogs.
Bissell credits her small town roots with her desire to save helpless animals. Back then she recalls few resources for homeless animals. As a child, she remembers bringing home stray pets and nursing them back to health and then trying to get the animals adopted. Now, with organizations like TMHPR, Bissell is thrilled to see more chances for unwanted pets to survive and find homes.
We wanted to know more about Bissell and Take Me Home Pet Rescue and she was kind enough to share a few thoughts:
Dawn Tongish: Please begin by telling us about Take Me Home Pet Rescue.
Elise Bissell: Take Me Home Pet Rescue was started by moms and kids in my neighborhood who wanted to make a difference by helping homeless dogs and cats in local animal shelters. We incorporated and became a nonprofit 501C3 in April, 2008. Since this time we have grown to have over 125 volunteers from all walks of life, three part time employees, and we even have had a small Pet Adoption Center for three years that is located at 561 W. Campbell Road, #303, Richardson, Texas. The adoption center is used as our main office, to store foster supplies, a small in-house photo studio for the pets we rescue, and for our Saturday Meet N’ Greets held between 10A-2PM. We have rescued almost 2,000 dogs and cats and may have 20-40 cats and 30-40 dogs in our program at any given time. Though we have a facility, the pets are actually housed in foster homes for the most part. Dogs may be kept in one of our four runs for isolation purposes to be sure they are healthy enough to go to a foster home and cats rotate in and out of the three small “cat rooms” we have on a routine basis if we have enough foster homes willing to help.
DT: What are your duties at Take Me Home Pet Rescue?
EB: I am the founder, director and president. I assist with reviewing surrender applications for dogs and communicate with shelters and people who find strays. I coordinate foster placements, medical care and follow up to be sure all is well after the pet is safely placed in the foster home. I review applications for the dogs, communicate with potential adopters and assist the home visit team for new dog fosters and adoptions. In between, I work on writing our blog, answering emails, coordinating fundraisers and do general trouble shooting. We have an active Adoption Center, which is a 2800 square foot store front off of Campbell in Richardson and I am responsible for the staff and volunteers who work there every day as well. You will also find me at our Adoption Center during Meet N’ Greets most every Saturday between 10AM-2PM.
DT: How did you become involved with Take Me Home Pet Rescue, and why are you so passionate about the work being done at the organization?
EB: I am from a small west Texas town and was born in the days when it was safe to let your children run wild. We were allowed to walk to and from school, ride out bikes where ever we wanted and even eat mud pies. It was the good old days, however, when it came to animal control, we had none. When an animal was hit by a car, it was just lie there until it died. People would toss unwanted litters of kittens and puppies in the trash or just take them outside the city limits to let them free and fend for themselves. I was always bringing home sick, injured and unwanted animals from as far back as I can remember. My family moved to Dallas when I was 13, where I attended Ursuline Academy and then graduated with a BS in Nursing from TWU. I liked working in the hospital but it was not my calling. About 10 years ago I started visiting the Richardson Animal Shelter with my 3 young children. We started bringing home stray kittens and finding them homes. I eventually talked a couple of my friends into helping me start TMHPR and then retired my nursing career which seemed like natural progression in my life.
DT: Why do you work in the non-profit sector?
EB: I am a full time volunteer and am very fortunate that my husband and family support my efforts with TMHPR. Since I no longer contribute to the household income, my family does not reap the benefits of the many hours I work. However, I feel that I am contributing to society and making the world a better place for everyone, at least the four legged creatures in our care.
DT: It can be difficult for any non-profit to pay the bills. How do you stay afloat?
EB: This is a tough question and our expenses have grown every year. I jokingly call myself a “Professional Beggar and Puppy Pusher”. We try and not take in more animals that we can afford. We do not board animals that we do not have foster homes for which helps keep down our expenses. We are very lucky to have generous sponsors and our “in network veterinarians” who provide us with a discount. TMHPR relies solely on donations from the general public, corporate matching programs (which has grown over the years), individual company donations, adoption fees, and fundraisers. We have been an official nonprofit for over six years now and so far we have been able make ends meet every month.
DT: How can the people of North Texas and beyond help you meet your needs for 2014? What are your biggest needs?
EB: Our biggest needs are funds and fosters. Without foster homes we cannot take in more animals. Without funds, we cannot afford to take in more animals. We are also in constant need of in-kind donations such as food and other supplies. A list of these items can be found on our website at www.takemehomepetrescue.com. We can always use new volunteers to help care for the pets that are at the adoption center. We have a “Cat Team”, “Dog Team”, and the “Cleaners”. Our Volunteer Coordinators do a great job training these new folks. Applications to volunteer can be found on our website as well. One of my long term goals is to open a low cost spay/neuter and vaccination clinic where low income people can visit and have their pets cared for.
DT: What is the most memorable moment in your experiences at Take Me Home Pet Rescue?
EB: Our volunteers work together towards the common goal of placing an unwanted pet into a home where it is wanted. Every time a pet is adopted, it is memorable. I guess one of my very most memorable moments was when Emily was adopted. She was a pitiful pit bull we pulled from Dallas Animal Services several years ago. She was in terrible shape, full of infected bite wounds and her ears had been crudely cut off with scissors. Emily lives in a home with three other dogs now including a Great Dane, a grumpy old Chihuahua, another pit bull and two teenage children. She is a loving dog and has even passed the Canine Good Citizen test and is working on being a therapy dog. Her family made her what she is now and her past is behind her. Most dogs are great dogs. Even dogs who have been tortured by people can learn to trust again if given a chance.
DT: What is the first thing you do when you walk into work each day?
EB: I start my morning by checking emails and facebook postings. This is before anyone in my house gets out of bed. The day progresses by caring for the animals that may be living in the adoption center, picking up new ones from shelters, coordinating vet care, reviewing applications for adoptions. The day ends the same by answering emails and checking facebook postings. There is literally never a dull moment. I imagine a day when people voluntarily spay and neuter their pets and there is not a problem with homelessness. I will then be able to rest.
If you'd like to nominate a local resident for a BubbleLife community profile, contact Dawn Tongish at email@example.com or find her on Twitter at @DawnTongish.