BY KARYN BRODSKY
It is said that dogs are man’s best friend, and in the case of Elise Bissell of Richardson, TX, a volunteer animal advocate, she befriends dogs who have no one else.
Bissell and two partners, Relle Austin and David Maldonado, founded and run Dallas Street Dog Advocates (DSDA), a nonprofit organization, which rescues stray and forgotten dogs off the streets of Dallas, provides them with necessary medical care and training, and works to find them permanent, caring, forever homes. Rescuing dogs, says Bissell, is a societal need that must be filled.
“These animals need our help, and if we don’t help them, who will?”
Bissell’s love for animals began at a very young age. She says she was “born to save animals” and that the first word she spoke as a baby was “dog.”
“When I was very young, we lived in Martha, a small town in West Texas. Martha had no animal control, so if pets were unwanted, they were either put in the trash or dumped on the side of the road to die,” she recalls. “I once found a litter of kittens in the trash and brought them home, as well as many dogs. My parents never knew what I would show up with next.”
Bissell originally wanted to be a veterinarian. While a student at Texas A&M University, she excelled in biology and other sciences and ended up attending nursing school. She says she’ll never regret that choice, as she loves being a nurse, but she feels her calling is with the dogs.
“It’s so interesting to me,” notes Bissell. “Mammals, including dogs, have similar physiology and medical issues to those of humans, so my nursing education and training is easily transferred.”
After years of rescuing pets, Bissell started Take Me Home Pet Rescue in 2008, which is dedicated to helping, healing, and finding homes for unwanted pets of all types. At the time, she adds, not many pet rescues existed, but today there are many.
About two years ago, Bissell and her partners started DSDA by going into South Dallas and unincorporated areas where people literally dump dogs. Bissell and a group of 40 to 50 volunteers regularly pick up stray dogs, have them checked and vaccinated by a veterinarian who will also board them temporarily, and ultimately find them foster homes. Some of the rescue dogs are picked up by Dallas Animal Services, which Bissell says has really improved their services.
Stray dogs in South Dallas and the unincorporated areas are a major problem, says Bissell. Many residents get dogs for home security but can’t afford to care for them. In addition, there is nowhere close by to bring the dogs. The Dallas shelter is 30 miles away and not easily accessible for people without automobiles or who can’t afford to pay for gas. There are dogs in these areas that are chained to their property and become aggressive, which precludes them from being adopted. Some time ago, Bissell says, a woman was mauled to death by aggressive dogs.
“This event triggered the creation of DSDA,” says Bissell. “A study was conducted, of which I was a part, and it helped us to get funding to rescue these dogs and prevent aggression.”
Last year, which was DSDA’s first full year, Bissell notes that the group rescued 29 dogs from one specific area, where they had been dumped and were reproducing. She adds proudly that thanks to intense media coverage, almost all of them have been adopted.
Before adoption, many of the dogs’ find a temporary home with Bissell, as well as those of her partners. Currently, Bissell is fostering four dogs that came from a trailer park and from a hoarding situation.
Bissell is grateful to her husband Charley, who’s very tolerant and knows she’ll never stop rescuing pets, and to her three adult sons, who have helped and been very supportive throughout the years and who love animals.
While Bissell says rescuing stray dogs can be exhausting, frustrating, and even depressing at times since there are so many dogs, and her organization can only do so much, she also says it’s rewarding. She cautions that people who don’t choose to spay or neuter need to understand that the burgeoning dog population is a social, economic, and availability issue.
“People need to take this seriously,” Bissell warns. “It’s a big problem.”
For tirelessly working around the clock, seven days a week, to rescue dogs and find them loving, forever homes, for advocating for spaying and neutering, and for setting an example to the public about how to responsibly care for dogs, we present Elise Bissell with our Very Inspiring (Pet) Parent award.
Editor’s Note: To learn more, volunteer, or donate needed funds to help rescue dogs through the Dallas Street Dog Association, visit dsda.org.
Our Very Inspiring Person Award honors the everyday, and not-so-everyday, heroes in our midst. Those whose tenacity, integrity, and courage inspire others to exemplify the same character and put their families and community first, in spite of the challenges life has thrown at them. For complete details or to nominate, visit goodLIFEfamilymag.com or email Tricia@goodlifefamilymag.com.