Thought we could all use something positive today!
Teen devotes time, money, love to shelter animals
Sunday, March 27, 2005
By Megan Duncan, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Augusta Delisi, 15, opens the memory box when she feels depressed.
It's full of grungy dog collars, e-mails of encouragement and a
newspaper clipping that featured Delisi and her rescue work. Even
though it smells like wet dog, the box cheers her when she thinks of
the lives of the animals she has saved.
Delisi organized her first animal rescue when she was 12. She was
looking at www.petfinder.com, a national pet adoption site, when she
saw a posting that said eight dogs at a shelter in Philippi, W.Va.,
were about to be euthanized. Delisi contacted the shelter to have the
dogs transported to the Washington County Humane Society and persuaded
her father to drive her from their Franklin Park home to the
Washington County shelter to pick up the dogs.
She expected puppies but went home with eight grown dogs of different
breeds clambering around the family's Chevrolet Suburban.
Shelters in the Pittsburgh area took the dogs, and Delisi was hooked
on animal rescue.
"When people say I can't save all the animals, I say I can try," she
This month, Delisi's 59th rescued animal -- a pit bull named Ginger
from the Stark County Dog Pound near Canton, Ohio -- found a permanent
Delisi now has a 6-foot by 6-foot kennel with padded flooring in her
basement for dogs while she is acting as a foster owner. She has held
fund-raisers and started her own Web site promoting animal rescue.
For her efforts, she was featured on the front page of petfinder.com
and in an Illinois shelter newsletter. Two weeks ago, representatives
from "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" asked her to send a video about her
While Delisi searches for permanent homes for the dogs, the animals
become part of her own family. A freshman at North Allegheny
Intermediate High School, she has five brothers and sisters, ranging
from 1-year-old Isiah to 16-year-old Olivia. She has three dogs of her
own: Daisy, a corgi; Roxi, a German shepherd mix; and Clover, a pit
bull. Clover is the one dog Delisi's parents allowed her to keep from
her rescued dogs.
Delisi spent two days making the video for "The Ellen DeGeneres Show."
She included the story of the adoption of Lucky and Chance, found in a
large trash bin and suffering from mange and parvovirus, a potentially
deadly virus that attacks a dog's digestive system. She told the story
of Harley, a Doberman pinscher mix, that could dance on his hind legs.
Harley was known as "Cage 55" when Delisi rescued him. He had been at
the Stark County shelter for a year and a half without finding an
owner. More than a year is an unusually long time for any animal to be
at a shelter, she said.
"The dog wasn't even worth enough to give a name to," Delisi said. She
named the dog -- every dog she rescues is given a new name, even if it
already has one -- and said Harley now has a wonderful home.
Not every dog rescue has a Cinderella ending, though. Two pit bull mix
sisters, Dolly and Molly, were euthanized at 14 weeks due to advanced
"They had never known love," Delisi said. "They had never been
outside. I took them outside and they were scared. But they were so
happy even though the world had been so cruel to them."
One unnamed shepherd mix she saw on petfinder.com was too large for
Delisi to house, and the shelter euthanized it before it was adopted.
That inspired her to write a poem, "Life of a Shelter Dog," about a
trusting dog who is unaware of his fate when he is captured and
Delisi adopts dogs mostly from Ohio and West Virginia, where shelters
are crowded with hunting dogs. Once she traveled six hours to
Virginia. She chooses dogs based on the time they have spent in
shelters, their size and the immediacy of euthanasia. One animal she
rescued was a stray cat.
If she hasn't arranged for a less crowded shelter to house a dog, she
brings the animal home, cleans it up, adds its old collar to her
memory box and gives it a name. To save money on veterinarian costs,
Delisi waits for a day when her dad, Frank, can drive her and the dogs
the hour to a reduced-cost clinic in Verona.
Once the dogs are ready for a new family, she takes them walking in
Misty Pines Dog Park in Franklin Park and shopping at pet supply
stores, with the dogs wearing orange and black "adopt me" vests. She
hangs posters on bulletin boards and adds pictures to her Web site,
which she started a year ago.
Delisi said she doesn't blame shelters or petition them to become
no-kill facilities. She said she realizes it is impossible for some
shelters to keep every stray. Instead, she places the blame on
Jamie Metheney, animal control officer at the Pleasant County Humane
Society in St. Mary's, W.Va., said she wished more people were like
Delisi, who has adopted more than a dozen animals from the shelter.
Delisi, Metheney said, is the youngest and only individual rescuer she
works with to adopt animals.
Delisi's mother, Stephanie, said that during the first year, her
daughter cried each time a family adopted one of her foster dogs. Now,
she smiles and asks the new owner to pose for a picture.
Her mother said Delisi has been mature about organizing the details of
rescues and two fund-raisers: Pennies for Pound Puppies, held at
school, and Party for Pound Puppies, held at her house.
At the party, Delisi raised $450 and combined that with money she
earned by baby-sitting to buy treats for animals at the shelters she
visits, to spay or neuter dogs and to update vaccinations. On average,
she pays $250 per dog in shelter adoption fees plus the costs of
spaying or neutering and vaccinations.
She charges $150 per dog. She also asks about any pets or children
before having the family sign a contract stipulating the family will
keep the dog indoors and treat it with care. Pit bulls have a special
contract that bars fighting.
After the dogs find a permanent home, she stays in touch with the
family, watching the dog adjust from a shelter setting to a caring
As soon as Ginger found a home early this month, a man called Delisi
looking to adopt a beagle. So, after school, Delisi planned to be on
the Internet, looking for a dog in need.
"When I did my first rescue, people said I couldn't do it," Delisi
said. "I've shown them I can."
Each time a dog is adopted, she said, she is filled with a sense of
"That was one more life I saved."
For more information, visit www.augiesdoggiesrescue.org.
"For every animal that dies in a shelter, there is someone somewhere responsible for its death".