AUBURN — Animals hold special places in the hearts of Rick and Jennie Short.
They even converted a room in their Auburn home for kittens that they foster for area humane shelters that are filled to capacity.
Rick is a deputy with the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department and School Resource Officer at DeKalb Eastern. Jennie works with the DeKalb County Coroner’s office.
“One day, I happened to take off work and went to Walmart and found this kitten in the parking lot,” she said. “I think God just sends me these little animals because He knows we’ll take care of them.
Tigger found his way to the Shorts with two broken legs, believed to have been thrown from a vehicle.
The Shorts took the kitten to their veterinarian, who placed pins in both of his legs and neutered him. “Tigger was up and walking before the end of the day, and he eventually found the perfect forever family,” Jennie said.
They have taken in other special needs kittens, including ones that are blind.
“We will foster kittens for whoever needs us, especially special needs kittens,” she said.
At the moment, the Shorts are not fostering kittens so they can devote their time and attention to care for a foster dog that has congestive heart failure. Because of the dog’s condition, it has to be hand-fed and given medications.
It was the loss of a beloved dog that prompted Jennie Short to do whatever she could to care for homeless animals.
“Six years ago, I lost my dog Daisy” to cancer, she explained. “She was a chocolate lab and my very first dog when I was on my own.
“I wasn’t prepared for that day to come, and it happened when my husband, who is a canine officer, was away at training in another state,” she said.
“I was really beside myself and I didn’t know what to do.”
The Shorts knew Alex Pinnington, who owns Pinnington Funeral & Cremation Services in Auburn. In addition to helping families of the deceased, the funeral home also offers pet cremation services.
“He helped me with Daisy, who was a really big dog, and just was so kind with me and really helped me through the whole situation,” Short said.
For several years, Pinnington has held events during the Labor Day weekend to raise money for the animal care services, such as the DeKalb Humane Society.
A few weeks after Daisy died, Short reached out to see if she could help.
“We worked together that year and had lots of people donate items to sell,” Jennie said. “That first year, we called it, ‘Do a little for Daisy Doolittle,’ because that was her name. We raised almost $5,000 that year.
“Thereafter, we decided to continue doing it to honor pets that we’ve lost to help homeless animals.”
The name of the event was changed to Rescue and Remember. A graphic artist donated his time to create a logo for the group.
“Each year, we raise several thousand dollars for homeless animals,” she said.
While the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Festival won’t take place this year, Rescue and Remember will still go on with a “fill-the-van” event from 9-11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 5 at the funeral home, 502 N. Main St., Auburn. All of the proceeds go to the DeKalb Humane Society.
Caring for animals
Through her work with the coroner’s office, there are instances where Jennie encounters animals whose owners have died and needs someone to care for them.
“I’ve been on many of them where there are animals that need to be relocated or captured in the house,” she said. Often, that task can only be completed with the help of responding police officers.
“One home had several cats, turtles, frogs and what-not, and we needed to clear all of them out of there,” she explained. “One of the officers used his little red scope on the end of his gun to coax one of the cats out of hiding.
“Sometimes, I just feel like it was God’s intervention that I get sent to some of these calls because I know how to handle the animals,” Short said.
In those cases, the Shorts don’t take in the animals. Instead, they contact animal shelters or contact the deceased’s next of kin to try and place the pets.
In one instance, she encountered an badly emaciated cat that surviving family members didn’t want, and wasn’t healthy enough to take to the humane shelter. The Shorts, with permission from the family, fostered that cat to the point it regained its health and were able to find a new home for it.
“At that particular home, there were a lot of animals that had gone without food and water for quite some time, and we knew it was going to be several hours before we could get them out of there because we have to process the scene,” Short said. “I called Rick and asked him to bring food and water for the animals so we could help them right away before they were moved.
“If it weren’t for him, none of this would be possible. He does so much to help.”
A calming sign
“Right after Daisy died, one day I came home, and I was just so upset,” she said.
Short, who ran the New York Marathon earlier in 2014, found a bright orange rain poncho that she taken photos of Daisy wearing.
“The day she died, I was just so distraught,” Jennie said. “I got down on my knees and I said, ‘God, just give me some peace that I can get through this.’ I opened up my walk-in closet, and that poncho, which had been on the very top shelf of the closet — Rick had put it up there for storage for me and I couldn’t reach it — that poncho was laying on the floor in front of it. I just knew that was a sign from God that things were going to be OK.
“That’s when things really clicked for me that I could continue to help animals in Daisy’s name. That’s when this all started.”
In the ensuing years, the Shorts have lost two more dogs to cancer, further strengthening their drive to help animals in need.
They keep the ashes of their pets — including animals they foster who have died “because they mattered to someone,” Jennie said.