Jackie Rose looks back to a point in her life over 20 years ago when she met her soul mate. Given the opportunity to do it over again, she wouldn’t change a thing — except where she picked him up.
Now, she says, “I know better.”
After almost two decades of waiting, Rose was finally in a position to start her search for “the right one.” She just bought her first home in Florida and had a budding career: it was time.
Freud was cute, short and blond, and right from the start it was evident that he possessed an “old soul.” From the moment they met, Rose felt an instantaneous bond that seemed to span centuries — they understood each other.
But what Rose didn’t know was that Freud came from an institution that would later represent the antithesis to her life’s passion — the puppy mill.
“I didn’t know any better then,” she said. “I know better today, that there are hundreds of thousands if not millions of animals in shelters all over the county that need a good home. And I was really contributing to the problem. But I am grateful that I got Freud.”
Today, Rose is the executive director of the Addison County Humane Society in Middlebury and her beloved dog Freud is a bittersweet reminder of what ails the modern animal shelter.
Though it was just a year and a half ago that Rose first found herself leading the team at the shelter, her passion for animals burned bright through her years as an attorney and manager of a non-profit substance abuse agency, and even her beginnings as an animal lover as a child in Hollywood, Fla.
On Rose’s fifth birthday, she awoke to find the bathroom door near her bedroom closed. Waiting on the other side was a small black poodle named Lady, who Rose’s mother adopted from the local animal shelter. Lady was just one of the animals she spent her childhood with. Growing up in the midst of the John F. Kennedy craze, Rose’s family named their dog Caroline, the cat JohnJohn, and with Jackie’s name, the trio completed a furrier version of the Kennedy dynasty.
Just after Lady passed away, though, the family moved into a condo where animals were not allowed. Here she waited out 15 years without an animal companion. By the time Freud, the yellow cocker spaniel, showed up, Rose was eager for the company of a dog. Her passion for animals seemed to grow as she got older, and though she would have loved to pursue a career as a vet, she felt she lacked some necessary skills.
“I was one of those people who didn’t really have great math or science skills, so I didn’t see myself going into the world of veterinary medicine,” said Rose.
Instead, with a degree in psychology, Rose ventured down another avenue that, despite working with two-legged animals instead of four, turned out to have much in common with her current job. For 20 years, Rose helped people with addictions who found themselves vulnerable and in need of help. To Rose, some of these people and the animals she helps today share similar qualities. Still, Rose says she thinks animals possess an extraordinary skill.
“I am especially intrigued by their ability to survive and how much love and joy they give unconditionally by just being.” Rose said. “They bring so much to our lives as people, and they don’t realize they’re doing that. And they’re not looking for anything, and they don’t want anything in return. It is just part of their general makeup, it’s just who they are.”
When Rose tried to volunteer at her local humane society in Florida, she was consistently met with no reply. But on a chance encounter on the Web while she was looking for more contact information for the shelter, Rose was funneled to the AnimalSheltering.org Web site. On a whim she looked under the jobs listed on the Web site and saw an opening for an executive director position at the Addison County Humane Society. The idea of rushing up north to spend her workdays helping animals was an entertaining but far-fetched idea, Rose thought; after all, she had no animal welfare experience. But with a final supportive push by her husband, Rose sent in her application. Five weeks later she, her husband and their new dog Jackson found themselves in Middlebury.
“It was a fluke, it was truly a fluke,” said Rose. “It was the universe giving me the opportunity to follow my heart.”
The small shelter spent the summer before Rose’s arrival without an executive director and welcomed Rose’s expertise in the world of non-profit organizations.
“It was an opportunity for me to take the skills that I had as far as running a business, managing a non-profit, and managing people and working with staff and just apply it to a population that was near and dear to my heart,” Rose said.
The shelter, established in 1975, is a small non-profit facility with only three full-time employees, Rose being one of them, plus eight part-time staff. In addition to the 200 animals they take charge of, the facility is also attends to all of the cruelty and neglect calls that come through Addison County. Staff members are responsible for investigating the cases themselves and, if need be, involve law enforcement agencies.
“Every day is really different,” said Rose. “The one thing that’s constant and consistent is the wonderful animals we have, and the cat sitting on my lap while I’m typing on the computer, I mean that’s the constant.”
Rose said she is affected daily by the animal’s stories that come through the shelter. On average Rose sees between 50 and 75 cruelty complaints per year. Three weeks after arriving at her new job, Rose received a call about four horses in Starksboro. The horses were emaciated, two of them near death. But one of the most difficult parts of a case like this, said Rose, is that the owner did not intentionally hurt the animals, but rather did not have the means to care for them anymore and did not want to see them go. She did the best she could possibly do, said Rose. It’s important to remember that behind every animal, there is a person attached, Rose said.
“I spent 20 years prior to this running substance abuse and mental health services,” she said. “And it was wonderful watching people change their lives and become productive citizens.” Here, said Rose, she utilizes the same tactics while dealing with cruelty or neglect cases and painful surrender cases.
Rose is adamant about people coming to the shelter before they think about going to a breeder. For her, the most rewarding part of her day is when an animal gets adopted.
“There’s nothing better than that,” she said. “And you can come to the shelter and see it every single day, somebody’s taking home one of our animals and that animal is going to be come part of that family, and they’re going to be loved and cared for. Knowing that we’re a part of that is without a doubt is the most rewarding.”