February 27, 2024

Mirah Horowitz of Lucky Dog Animal Rescue Earns Marion Medallion

Mirah Horowitz, winner of one of this year’s Marion Medallions, didn’t set out to rescue animals but that’s exactly what she has done with her life and her creation, Lucky Dog Animal Rescue.

Lucky Dog Rescue has quietly worked in the Pee Dee for 14 years ensuring dogs and cats are transported to the Washington, D.C., area to find good homes.

Lucky Dog operates out of a spacious compound on S.C. 327 just south of the I-95 interchange. The property has several buildings on it, and space for more if Horowitz’s plans come to fruition.

The Morning News and Francis Marion University celebrate Francis Marion Day every year by honoring people who work to make the Pee Dee a better place to live.

“Since opening our rescue campus here in March of last year, we’re trying to make ourselves known more,” Horowitz said. “This recognition is amazing for the whole team here. We’ve been operating in the shadows and (earning a Marion Medallion) is shining a bright light on our work.”

“We take animals primarily out of the county shelter, but some out of Florence Area Humane Society as well,” Horowitz said. “We have a standard, every-other-week drive, where one of our staff goes to the D.C. Metro area. In a perfect world the van leaves, the kennels are emptied, we go to the shelter and bring new animals in. We have two weeks to get them ready before they to up north.”

“In reality they don’t move every two weeks, but we’re getting closer,” Horowitz said of the plan and the many moving, panting, tail-wagging and human parts that don’t always add up to a two-week schedule.

“Our operation in the D.C. Metro area is entirely foster home based, so an animal can only get on the van if there is a volunteer foster home to take it in or an adopter waiting for it to arrive,” she said.

Once the animals arrive at Lucky Dog, they will spend a couple of weeks getting to know the staff.

“We’ll get to know them and get some critical information, especially when animals are going into foster homes and not a shelter environment, learning how they’ll adapt to other dogs or other cats. Understanding all those elements is important,” Horowitz said.

During the animals’ time in foster care, Horowitz said, the organization is better able to judge the animals and get a feel for what kind of family would be the best fit for them.

Lucky Dog also provides medical care on site.

“There is not a vet on staff at either of the other facilities (in Florence County) here, so we’re doing spay/neuter services for them once a week. It’s really important the animals receive the proper vaccinations, the deworming, spay/neuter, heartworm tested, parvo tested, all the things that need to happen before they’re ready for an adopted home we can do here,” Horowitz said.

How it all started

“That’s a really great question, perhaps one of the best accidents that happened to me,” she said.  “I had recently moved to the D.C. Metro area and I was working on The Hill and trying to meet people and trying to make friends and my brother had adopted a dog in California and he kept telling me that I should adopt. You meet a lot of people out doing things with your dog.”

“I adopted Sparky as I realized the network that brought Sparky to me, the network the shelter — all of the things that had to happen in his life to get him to me, I thought I could be part of that,” she said.

“I started fostering and getting more involved. I’m a super type A personality and thought there’s a better way to do this, a more efficient way. So some volunteers and I got together and started Lucky Dog and it snowballed from there,” Horowitz said.

“I never started it with the intent to have a full-time job in this. I don’t think I knew animal welfare could be a career at the time. It’s so rewarding and we work a lot in animal welfare; it is a labor of love. There is a lot of emotion and passion, the good and the bad. I can’t imagine doing anything else,” she said.

Different is good

“The D.C. Metro area has a lot of people. It’s not that the D.C. Metro area doesn’t have a stray dog problem or an unwanted dog problem, it does. But there’s not a lot of variety to those animals,” Horowitz said.

The Pee Dee offers a wide variety of rescue animals.

“If you bring in animals that aren’t from that area, that aren’t clones of what is available in D.C., you can save more lives,” Horowitz said.

Rescue groups like hers work throughout the rural South to get rescue animals to where they’re wanted — and it’s usually a northern journey, she said.

“Once you get them out of a shelter and into an adoptive home, they realize their life has changed. Animals that have been strays for long periods or time or who haven’t known where their next meal is coming from, they get reliable food and don’t have to be worried about that and shelter you see them settle and become excited to see you,” Horowitz said. “I find there is nothing more rewarding than having a dog or a cat come out of their shell.

Fighting the good fight

“The things we’re fighting against are the unwanted litters, the lack of spay and neuter in the area. We don’t want these adoptable animals to be euthanized because there’s not room for them in the shelters,” Horowitz said.

And with the arrival of spring, the Florence County shelters will soon have more puppies and kittens than they know what to do with.

To that point, Horowitz said Lucky Dog already has plenty of puppies and just got its first large litter of kittens.

The growing number of animals that need help drive a need for more help on the part of Lucky Dog.

“There are three things people can donate to us — money, things and time. We don’t have any federal funding or state funding; we’re 100% donation driven,” she said. Monetary donations can be made through Luckydoganimalrescue.org.

Horowitz said the shelter always needs wet puppy food, wet cat and kitten food, kitty litter, bleach and towels. Lots of towels.

Towels are needed for all their rescues and then go north with the animals when they travel.

“The more volunteer support we have the more we can do for animals. We’re always looking for people to come walk the dogs. Come help us with the laundry,” Horowitz said.

Growing need means a need to grow

Lucky Dog on its compound has an administrative office, veterinary space, an ICU area for animals in need, a shed for donations and a kennel building for dogs awaiting their journey.

Horowitz said there is a plan for a capital campaign to expand to better serve its clients.

“We are trying to build a dedicated cat building. We have cats housed in our ICU building which is not ideal for them, but it’s better than nothing,” Horowitz said. “We do have plans for an entire cat building with a kitten nursery and with some ability to treat cats with upper respiratory and stuff like that.”

“The second building is a place to board clients for people who want to go out of town and housing for our heartworm treatment dogs,” she said.

A boarding kennel will give the shelter operation a reliable revenue stream, she said.

The organization just got a $200,000 grant to study how to treat dogs for heartworm in a shelter setting, she said.

A third building would serve as a warehouse and replace an open shed that currently serves that need and, in turn, is served by several working cats on the compound who ensure the donations don’t attract vermin.

The organization receives large donations, breaks them down and shares them with neighboring shelters and could accept larger donations and share more with a better warehouse facility, Horowitz said.

Horowitz received her Medallion during a ceremony Tuesday morning at the Francis Marion University Performing Arts Center.

This article was written by Matt Robertson of the Florence Morning News and is published by permission. The original article appears on SCNow.com.