Powerhouse of Compassion

Jennifer Smith

Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight.  - Albert Schweitzer

Sammy, Maggie, Gracie Lou, Daisy Bell and Hannah Sue greet me at the door, tails wagging, noses sniffing, and snuffing as they announce the arrival of a new guest. They are all so sweet and happy to offer their accommodations to a stranger as they press their damp noses on my legs and outstretched hand. These cheerful pups of differing sizes, ages, and degrees of handicaps belong to Jennifer Smith, founder of Noah's Arks Rescue, a rescue of last resort for severely neglected and abused animals. Sammy, a lab mix who is blind, saved from certain death by Jennifer, centers himself in the middle of the gang. He easily maneuvers through the large, multi-level house with numerous staircases, doorways, decks and patios. The dogs' good natures and high-functioning abilities are a testament to Jennifer's tenacious and caring actions towards her animals.

"I've always donated and supported animal charities." But what catapulted Jennifer into creating her own charity was Riley, who now lives with her daughter. She was alerted to an abused Staffordshire Terrier in Greenville, SC. He weighed in at only 22 pounds; he should have been over 60 pounds. Jennifer called to let them know she would donate money to rehabilitate him, but because it was an abuse case and the owner had not yet been tried, there was nothing she could do, and only minimal treatment was being given to Riley. So she followed the case and the judge sentenced the owner and then sentenced the dog to death. Heat and irritation boiled deep down in her throat, escaping in taut sounds, as she explained to me why she felt obliged to start a rescue mission to save animals that many deem as un-savable. "They have no voice," Jennifer repeated many times. The point is these animals didn't harm themselves, humans did. Why should they pay for their abuse further by being euthanized?

Jennifer works out of her living room on a small Apple laptop. She receives, on average, 2,000 e-mails a day of abuse cases from all over the country. "Even though they've been through so much, their tales still wag. They've moved on and just want to love and be loved. The volunteers and I want to give these animals a feeling of being safe and taken care of." The charity is an offering of salvation-a breath of life for these battered and weary animals. Noah's Arks Rescue is staffed only by volunteers and is financially funded by individual donations. This year the 501c3 charity has received close to $400,000 but it takes thousands of dollars to save each animal due to the necessary surgeries and rehabilitations. All additional costs Jennifer pays out of her own pocket. She estimates she has saved close to a thousand animals since its inception six years ago.

A farm girl from Mississippi, Jennifer became a caterer in Westport, Connecticut, where she raised her daughter, Jori. She and her husband, Tommy, settled in the Lowcountry 13 years ago. Tommy, or Grey Bear, as the grandkids lovingly refer to him, supports her efforts wholeheartedly, even though he worries about it becoming too overwhelming. He tells his wife she is like a fire ant, but then she has these moments where she's his ladybug. Ladybug is her permanent nickname.

The learning scale of this endeavor is mammoth. She is a woman of many talents and skills because she will learn what she doesn't know. Jennifer spends her days on the phone, goes through e-mails, participates in local rescues, negotiates the costs of surgeries and tests, arranges transports, rehabilitations and adoptions, plus trains volunteers. It is an understatement to say that she is persistent and determined. Goethe wrote of pursuing one's passion and mission, "Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius and power and magic in it." Sammy, Maggie, and all the other sweet rescued pups are living in the power and magic of a passion realized. Thank you Ladybug.

Up Close:

Unique abilities:  Chef, beekeeper, photographer, and even designer and maker of her husband's shirts
How she decompresses:  "I get out of the house and take the dogs for a run or just get off the island to meet my friends, go to yoga, or meditate."
Inspiration:  Her husband Tommy.  "He's a big giver of his heart and spirit.  He and I both believe that those that have been given much, have much to give."
Interesting fact:  Featured in a USA Today article for Noah's Arks Rescue
Important fact:  Please go to http://www.noahs-arks.net to view the amazing dogs available for adoption or to become a volunteer.