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Exclusive interview with Amanda Giese, founder of Panda Paws Rescue

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The Portland News Examiner had a moment to speak with Amanda Giese, founder of Panda Paws Rescue on April 5. We had a chance to speak about Duncan Lou Who (DLW), the 2-legged boxer pup whose YouTube video went viral. Giese also spoke about the challenges she faces while running a rescue organization for special needs dogs.

Amanda Giese is a real hero whose dog rescue work has touched many people and dogs alike. Some may say there are angels among us and if that is the case, Amanda is certainly one of them. Not only did she take on the task of dog rescue but she takes on special needs cases. As is the case with Duncan Lou Who, many of the animals that Amanda rescues require round-the-clock care and costly vet procedures. Check out what Amanda had to say below:

1. Give us an idea of the amount of work involved in pet rescue:

Rescue is around the clock work. We don’t get to clock in, clock out & go home. Our rescue is in our home. So it relies on us 24/7/365. We try hard to share photos, videos & stories on our Facebook page but the other side that is often not shared are the hours put into cleaning, scrubbing, never ending laundry, lifting, driving to & from medical appointments, physical therapy, the onslaught of emails, phone calls & appointments. There are so many hats to wear when running a small in-home animal rescue and even additional roles when your rescues are special needs, major medical and hospice cases. In a nutshell, animal rescue is a tremendous amount of work.

2. Do you have volunteers or foster homes? How does one go about becoming a foster pet parent?

Panda Paws Rescue has 5 foster homes locally. We have two that are equipped to handle the more major medical or special needs cases, however, the more severe cases stay in our home so I can overlook their care each day personally. Because we are a small rescue we can only help so many animals. We have very limited funds as we operate on public donations only. That means we can only commit to those we can financially afford to help. If donations don’t come in, neither can new rescues. I am very strict about running our rescue in a manner that the ones we have committed to never go without. So over-extending ourselves is something I would want to do. It is the animals in the end that suffer when rescues take on more than they are responsibly equipped to handle & properly care for with due diligence.

3. What items/pet supplies do you need most?

The items & pet supplies PPR needs the most are generally listed on our Amazon Wish List. Because our rescues needs vary so vastly each time we never really have a steady need for one or two items other than food. Our dogs are fed Earthborn Holistic, obviously the type is based on the animal; puppies get puppy food, seniors get senior diet. J We can always use paper towels, unscented baby wipes, Lysol & Lysol wipes, etc. However, if there are more specific needs we have we list those on our wish list for people to pick & choose what they want to send us. I think it makes it more personal because it’s a little more fun to have creative freedom to choose what item makes you feel best about donating!

4. How many animals do you adopt out annually?

Panda Paws Rescue has adopted thousands of animals. However, in the last three years we have had to adjust accordingly to be able to give less animals more quality care. Meaning, we use to have 500-1000 animals in our home each year, but now we have about 150-300 yearly. Because our cases are becoming more expensive & unique medically, it has cost us a lot more to operate PPR responsibly to ensure every animal gets everything they need. Again, it is about quality not quantity. J If we were choosing to save as many as we could in a year we would switch over to saving more healthy, ‘normal’ animals. Which I am not opposed to doing but PPR has a great knack for saving the underdogs.

5. Do you ever turn animals away from being rescued? For what reasons?

Unfortunately, due to the magnitude of animals needing to be rescued PPR has to turn down about 100 animals each week. Many of them are victims of the economy and many of them were dumped in shelters because their issues we just too much to handle. The reasons vary drastically & I feel for many of the families whom have found themselves in the positions they have. Everyone wants to shame many who surrender or want to euthanize rather than treat because they feel they should sell their house, cars, etc to pay for the care their animal needs as it is part of the family. That is a great thought, for a perfect world, which we do not live in & it is just not a realistic expectation. I am not encouraging people to dump their animals or acquire an animal they cannot care for long-term. I am simply encouraging those who are so quick to judge to realize that not everyone wears the same shoes & not everyone can do “what they would do”. We wish we didn’t have to turn away so many, it literally hurts my heart each time & I take it out on myself, but the mass of animals & lack of homes out there is not in the rescuers’ favor.

6. Every animal has a story, which rescued dog touched you the most?

I don’t have a specific one that has touched me the most. I can say that I have learned more life lessons from some than I have others, I have fallen harder for some than others & I have adopted out or lost that “one who got away” a few times. We can all thank my beloved Inky for making me & essentially PPR what it is today. Inky was a tiny 2 lb black Chihuahua puppy discarded in a plastic Tupperware box at a CA dump. He was shattered from the waist down & paralyzed. He was so severely abused that he suffered permanent brain damage & organ failure that we were not able to correct. At 9 months old my boy Inky passed away nestled in my neck. He was far too young to die & he took a giant piece of my heart with him. If there is anyone I miss the most, it would be Inky. I cherish that little guy wholeheartedly & thank God he landed in our care because we have gone on to save so many more in his name. Piglet is one of our most memorable rescues to me & the lessons she taught me I will carry with me to the end of my time here on Earth. Cricket taught me that I can’t save them all not matter what I financially & emotionally invest into them. I am indebted to quite a few PPR alumni if not for teaching me something, reminding me!

7. For those who are local or maybe even not local but are reading this, how can they help?

Honestly, the best way they can help is through donation. Even $1 counts because they all add up! PPR puts about $60,000-100,000 per year into just medical care alone for our rescues. (This includes wheelchairs, orthotics & prosthetics) We need our supporters to help with funding or we can’t continue to do what we are doing. We ask that they volunteer their time at their local shelter or rescue. If they knit, knit a blanket for an animal. If all they can do is lend their support & encouragement, we ask that they do that too! Often times on FB I find myself repeating answers to questions I have answered 100 times over. I am known for asking our loyal PPR friends to take it upon themselves to answer for me since I don’t have a lot of time of time to repeat myself. Everyone out there can help… If something moves you to tears, touches your heart, then use that to move you physically to do something to make the World a better place!

8. What has changed since Duncan made you famous? Are you able to adopt out more dogs? Are you seeing an increase in donations?

Well, DLW hasn’t made me famous. J He has made quite a name for himself though! Honestly, we have gained about 3,000 followers on Facebook & have since had around $800 in donations come in and his current YouTube tally is 3,941,959 views. You would think that we would be blowing up with donations & supporters but the reality is, most people see a clip – they love it or leave it – and then they move on with their day. While I would love to say it has made a huge beneficial change for PPR, it hasn’t, and that’s ok. We are beyond grateful for the attention he has received merely for the fact that he has put a smile on the faces of over 3 million people. He has inspired people whom have needed it most. DLW has been a wonderful ambassador for rescue, special needs animals & adoption. That is all we can ask for.

9. Given your new national platform, what message would you like to tell others?

I would love to encourage people to fall in love with the normal animals out there as well. DLW is a beautiful creature, we love him dearly. But our hearts go out to the millions of dogs & cats that will die each year in the United States simply because they are not unusual or media attention worthy. They aren’t missing limbs, eyes and they didn’t come from horrific abuse or hoarding. They were simply born healthy & normal, they landed in a shelter or rescue for one reason or another & because they are so common they will be overlooked. It is those animals I wish would blow up with attention! Those are the animals I wish to pay DLW’s fame forward to! Special needs animals are amazing but they are not for everyone. They are not easy to care for & the majority of homes out there truly are more equipped to handle the “happy, healthy, normal” animals. Those are ridiculously abundant in the shelter/rescue system & we wish more people’s minds would be blown by those staggering numbers than the lack of limbs on one single baby Boxer.

If you were moved by the video of Duncan Lou Who making his first beach visit, consider what you can do to help. Remember that dogs like him wouldn't have a chance without rescue organizations like Panda Paws Rescue. This is one area where your donations really do make a difference and every bit of effort really can change lives.

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