Hundreds of homeless animals finding perfect forever homes, thousands of much needed dollars raised for and by registered 501c3 animal rescue groups, the love and support of Gulfport residents and city leaders: this is Gulfport’s Merchant Association’s Gulfport’s Get Rescued. How did it begin ten years ago?
Being a long time animal rescue volunteer, I volunteered at the SPCA several days a week. I was involved in huge fundraising opportunities, cleaned cages, gave scared homeless animals hugs and, hopefully, hope. There were hundreds of volunteers who did the same.
I wanted to adopt a small dog after losing my love of 20 years, but small dogs were rare at the shelter. Somehow I was put in touch with Chihuahua Rescue. This was a very small group of people who rescued dogs that were not welcomed at the SPCA. After passing their extensive vetting process, I was allowed to choose a dog. I sat in the middle of about ten little dogs and hoped one would choose me to be his or her mom. A white mixed Chi crawled in my lap: I had been chosen. Sally had been living on her own under a car and –oh yes – she had only three legs. Chi Rescue brought her into their group and saved her life.
It was apparent to me the three or four volunteers who comprised Chi Rescue were very limited as to what they could do for animals in need. I met other small rescue groups doing the best they could in such a small organization. Idea: individually they were small and limited, but together they were powerful, and the sky was the limit. I started a conversation with friends and Gulfport city leaders and was allowed to put together a fundraising event for small rescue groups. The space we were given for the event was on the sidewalk in front of Reef Dog. Would anyone come? Yes, 75 people with lounge chairs in tow filled the sidewalk, almost into the street. They watched a doggy fashion show, bought raffle tickets and met dogs in need of good homes. A rescue event was born!
Chihuahua, Dachshund and Chinese Crested Rescues were represented and our first dog was adopted. Her name was Zoe, a beautiful Chi/Dachshund. The rest is history as we welcome over 40 rescue groups, vendors and thousands of participants each year on the last Saturday of February. Small groups alone, powerful together.
Sally died of a mysterious condition and never attended Get Rescued; Zoe lived for eight years in a loving home and has since passed. As you attend Gulfport’s Get Rescued on February 22, please take a moment to appreciate the generosity of a fabulous “little city” by the name of Gulfport and the power of a five-pound, three-legged dog by the name of Sally.