Rescue Tail / A Model of Compassion

By Cathy Baier

Big heart, strong heart, kind heart! That’s what it takes to adopt the old, the sick, and the unwanted. Our friend and fellow animal lover, Jeanne Selander, has this kind of heart! We’ve had the pleasure of knowing Jeanne since she started caring for animals at the Sheriff’s Animal Farm in Monroe County 15 years ago. The FKSPCA and the Farm often collaborate and support each other in our animal-saving missions. But we got to appreciate Jeanne even more after she discovered her love for the little canine “unfortunates” who had nowhere else to go. Through the years, she has adopted and fostered dogs from us, other shelters/rescues, and even individuals on occasion when there was a need.

It all began one day in 2013 when Jeanne came to the shelter needing some assistance with a goat. At that time, she had no intention OR interest in adopting a dog. But when she saw Diego and learned he was grieving the death of his person, he tugged at her tender heartstrings.  The die was cast, and Diego became hers. He changed not only her life but that of her kind and generous husband Marco. They began opening their home to other small dogs in need. Oliver came next, again with the help of goats! Jeanne came to pick up some baby goats at our shelter. While there, she saw little Oliver, a senior suffering from congestive heart problems.  Jeanne wondered how Diego and Oliver would do together and was willing to do her best to help them get along. They did, and Oliver became #2!

Many dogs followed Oliver and Diego. Bella came next, an obese senior Chihuahua mix whose person had gone into hospice care. Jeanne suffered a few bites from Bella in the early days until that little dog learned she was in safe hands. Bella went on to lose weight and become a healthy happy addition to the family, earning the nickname Slim Sexy! After Bella came Jasper, a very shy senior (est. 9 years) who was found on the mainland sitting next to a pile of trash at an abandoned house. He was rescued and eventually found his way to Jeanne. His good fortune! Margarita, a younger Chihuahua, was the next special-needs dog to move in with Jeanne and Marco. She came into our shelter as an extremely fearful under-socialized “yard dog.” We recognized that she would need a very special person to continue the trust-building process we had started at the shelter. We also knew Jeanne and Marco were just the special ones to do it. All it took was a call from us, and Jeanne stepped up to the plate to help.

Next up was Kiko, whose history was not well-known, but his biting was. He had been through several homes on the mainland before Jeanne was contacted. She was told he was 12, so she knew he would fit in with her family of seniors. She later learned that poor punctuation was why she ended up with a dog who was 1.2 years, not 12 years old! Being who she is, she took the circumstance in stride and welcomed Kiko into her life. Again, once he felt safe, his behavior changed; Kiko became the wonderful little guy he is today.

The most recent additions to Jeanne’s canine family have been Sunflower (12 years) who is a melt-your-heart sweet senior Chihuahua suffering seizures from hydrocephalus, Bravo (15 years) a terrier whose people lost their home, and Yanni (14 years) a tusk-toothed Chihuahua mix with a heart condition.

Every dog in her care receives the love, medical care, and attention they need. Although she has taken on the responsibility of each one of these dogs, she knows her limits and when to say no, making her even more unique.

One dog in particular intensified her love and commitment to senior and special needs dogs. River was 19 years old when Jeanne learned he was in a shelter in the Upper Keys. He was described as hairless, toothless, and mean! She called the shelter to tell them she was on her way not just to meet River, but hoped to adopt him, which she did. River went on to live with Jeanne and Marco for another year after she brought him home. He blossomed in her care. He became spry and so jaunty that Jeanne said he should be wearing a top hat and swinging a fancy walking stick!  He celebrated his 20th birthday at a party held in his honor, attended by his friends and followers on social media. By then, he was a local celebrity! Unfortunately, River was diagnosed with lymphoma and passed away shortly before his 21st birthday. Although his time with Jeanne and Marco was short, we believe those days were some of his best!River left a lasting impression on Jeanne and was instrumental in her commitment to continue helping old, unfortunate, and misunderstood little dogs whenever she could.  In fact, her rewarding experiences with these dogs has fueled her vision of someday becoming the founder of a permanent haven called River’s Wish for dogs like River, Sunflower, and others like them. Knowing Jeanne as we do, we have every reason to believe it will happen!