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Woman sacrifices health, marriage and career to save the lives of animals

Sandra with her rescues.
Sandra with her rescues.
Sandra Dezelin Axelband

“It was 3:30 in the morning and I was alone in the house. Bloody, dog body parts and dog guts were all over the walls – blood splattered everywhere – dead dogs surrounded my feet,” shared Sandra Dezelan Axelband, as she wept.

Woman sacrifices health, marriage and career to save the lives of animals
Sandra Dezelin Axelband

Sandra continued:

“I cleaned as best as I could, cleaning up dogs parts and blood from the walls and floors. My finger, bit off at the second knuckle by one of the dogs, bled down my hand and body. But I couldn’t take care of that right away because saving the one dog, who was still alive, was my priority. He came first. I don’t even think when my dogs gets into fights or into trouble. I just think without acting."

Sandra wants it known that dog fights are not a common occurrence; in fact, she has only experienced 3 fights in a matter of 6 years. However, when there is trouble, Sandra sacrifices her own safety first, for the safety of the animals.

Sandra has literally dedicated her life to the abused, abandoned, neglected and sick animals she helps, sacrificing her career, her personal/social life and even her marriage.

At any one time, Sandra Dezelan Axelband shelters between 14 and 20 dogs in her home. She also gives a home to several cats that she saves from abusive homes or the streets. These animals are often in terrible condition, sick and often dying.

Sandra’s days are consistently filled from approximately 4am until she drops into bed, exhausted taking care of all her rescues, feeding, cleaning, exercising, taking sick dogs to the vet, preparing for fundraising events for rescues and rescue adoptions, etc.

An unsung hero for animals in her community, Sandra is unparalleled to anyone who calls themselves an animal lover.

Sandra was kind enough to answer these questions for me, and I thank her for her openness, kindness and time.

Q: How did you get started rescuing and saving animals?

In 2003, I met my future husband who was a veterinarian. After spending a large amount of time with him at his animal hospital, I realized that my true calling was to save animals. I would stay all night with the animals after surgery and would find homes for all the pets that were abandoned at the animal hospital. Some were left in cardboard boxes and some were even tied up to trees overnight so that they would be found by the staff in the morning.

After my husband left me due to my obsession for these wonderful little creatures, I had to go out on my own. Since this was such a passion of mine, this led me to start my own rescue, Dezzy’s Second Chance Animal Rescue.

With so many abandoned animals at the animal hospital, I found a need to find them all compatible homes. I also rescue a steady stream of animals from the local Animal Care and Control before they are to be euthanized. These animals were medically brought back to health and were then placed in loving homes. I pay for all the care and medical expenses out of my own bank account.

After limitless hours, working literally 365 days a year in his animal hospital, I realized that my life’s calling is to try and save as many animals as humanly possible.

Q: What are some of the challenges you face on a daily basis?

I wake up at 4 am every morning and begin my daily care of all the rescues. My routine includes walking all the dogs, feeding, medicating, doing laundry, cleaning the floors and yard, and bathing. Now that I have been awarded Florida non-profit status for my rescues, I review adoption applications, do home checks with potential adoptions, purchase pet food and supplies, and veterinary visits as needed. I do group and individual play time and give additional time to dogs with behavioral problems. Every dog is walked a minimum of 4-5 times per day. I am personally responsible and sole caretaker of 14-20 dogs at a time. I also have several cats as part of my rescue that I take care of daily.

Q: How do you balance your personal life/marriage/home life/social life with everything you do for animals?

These animals put a tremendous strain on my marriage and personal life. I am unable to travel, and I cannot be away from my rescues for more than 5 hours without having to return to them. Unbeknown to me, early January 2011, after finishing my normal daily animal routine, I was faced with a shocking realization that my husband had not only walked out, but that there was a tractor trailer moving van, Delray Beach Police Officer, and 2 private investigators acting as body guards outside my front door. They were there to help facilitate my husband’s get away from me and my rescues. Not only have I lost a few fingers on my hands due to dog fights, but I also have now lost my husband.

Q: Can you choose an inspirational situation to share where you made a huge difference in saving an animal’s life?

During the first week of September 2011, I was driving south on Ocean Blvd. when I noticed a bicycle rider and an SUV pulled over on the side of the road. I initially thought there was a car / bicycle accident. Something made me glance in my rear view mirror after passing them. Lo and behold, I saw that they were hunched over a white object that appeared to be a dog. I slammed on my brakes and u-turned my vehicle. Luckily there were no other cars nearby. I immediately pulled over and jumped out leaving the driver’s door open and the engine running. I ran over to the gathering and asked what is going on. As soon as they said it’s not our dog and that we found him here, I realized that there was no time for words, only time for action. He had not one strand of hair on his body and was obviously suffering from heat exhaustion. I didn’t concern myself with any potential diseases that could be transmitted to me, as I knew at that moment he was dying. I sped back to my home about ½ mile away, which I had just left. Upon arriving home, I wrapped him in wet towels to get his temperature down. I then brought him upstairs to soak him in the tub and he finally started to come around. After he became stable, I gave him a medicated bath and I gave him a complete examination. He appeared to have ear infections, eye infections and crusted, hairless skin which could have been either non contagious Demodectic mange or Sarcoptic mange which is highly contagious to humans and animals alike. At this point I decided that this dog required veterinary care. I brought him to a veterinarian who performed a fecal parasite exam and a skin scraping and concurred that the dog had eye and ear infections. He diagnosed Sarcoptic (contagious) mange and a multitude of worms including rounds, hooks, whips, tapes, and coccidia. The dog was wormed and I was told to administer weekly lyme dips for at least 4-6 weeks. During my drive home I got about 3 miles from the animal hospital and my car broke down. I pulled off the road and realized that I did not have my cell phone with me. I made the decision to run back to the animal hospital, carrying this hairless, contagious 21 lb. dog, as he was unable and/or unwilling to walk. After several weeks of my nursing this dog, 6 medicated baths, 6 lyme dips, several bottles of ear and eye antibiotics, dewormers, and a lot of love, he was given a clean bill of health. He was then able to be neutered and received his annual vaccines and heartworm test. The amazing conclusion to this story is that at the end of November, Hairy was adopted to a very loving person and now has a great life.

Q: What was the biggest sacrifice you made to help animals?

A: I gave up a lucrative career and business as an interior designer.

Q: What are the charities/organizations you run now and what is involved in running them?

A: I am the founder of Dezzy’s Second Chance Animal Rescue. It is a Florida non-profit and is currently applied for and awaiting 501c3 status from the IRS. We do adoption events every weekend at green markets, the Boca Town Center Regional Mall, several Pet Supermarkets, and other area venues. We hold 2 large charity events per year to raise money for the rescues. We just had over 450 people at our most recent event on November 7, 2011. My life is my rescues 24/7.

Q: What can readers do to help in the prevention of animal abuse?

Spay and neuter your pet.

Here is the approximate daily schedule that Sandra follows. This shows a person who has sacrificed her personal and social life, and even her marriage, for the sake of saving, helping and even aiding animals in need, back to life.


Wake up

4:00am - 7:30am

  • All dogs out for 15 minutes
  • Each dog gets walked for 30 minutes divided into 4 groups = 2 hours.
  • Medications for animals that need meds
  • Cats = clean water, scoop litter boxes
  • Start laundry
  • Mop floors

7:30 AM

  • Start paperwork, check e-mails and Facebook – Mostly for the adoption of pets, fundraising events, etc.
  • Make calls and return text messages for the adoption of pets, fundraising events, etc.
  • After work is done and there is time - possible trip out of house to take care of things that have to do with the dogs. (Very little time for own personal care or needs, however for next 6 weeks, I must go to hospital for 1 hour of antibiotic treatment through IV for my dog bite.)
  • Upon arriving home, doggie playtime outside. While the dogs are outside, I pick up dog poop in the yard (done every day).

Once we are all back inside:

  • I review applications for potential adopters, from weekend adoption events.
  • One day a week I go to animal care and control to pick up new adoptees.
  • I bathe dogs and pick up any animals at the veterinarian's office if needed.

On Fridays, I gather all my materials needed for my Saturday events. This includes loading up and gathering:

  • Tables
  • Tents
  • Paperwork
  • Cages
  • Banners
  • Cards
  • All pet related items needed for that specific event
  • Everything gets loaded into van, and depending on the event, are delivered in advance to the event site.

5:30 PM

  • All dogs are fed.
  • 1/2 hour after feeding start shorter walks which takes 1-1 and 1/2 hours
  • I eat my dinner. If I go out to eat I am back in 1 and 1/2 to 2 hours
  • I then read, do computer work, etc.
  • I then do a night walk which takes 1-1/2 hours

I usually pass out from exhaustion on the floor surrounded by my loving dogs.

Message from Sandra:

“I’m not going to change my direction no matter what. I’m a dog rescuer. That’s all I do and that’s all I want to do. And whatever consequences I suffer, then so be it. Let the chips fall where they may. One day I will meet another person who will jump on this journey with me.”

The author of this article, Dr. KC Kelly wishes to thank Sandra Dezelin Axelband for sharing her deeply moving story. There are no words to describe the difference Sandra truly makes in the lives of animals... And since they cannot verbally thank you -- I say "thank you" from every animal you have touched.

This material in this article is copyrighted and may only be respectfully re-distributed for non-commercial or educational purposes with written permission from Mrs. Sandra Dezelin Axelband.


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