Anyone from the community who has had the opportunity to adopt from Stettler’s Animal Haven Rescue League (AHRL) would know Michelle Fisher, cat coordinator and treasurer.
Fisher’s love for animals is manifested in many of the activities she incorporates in her daily routine.
“I have loved animals for as long as I can remember,” Fisher said. “We had a Chesapeake Bay Retriever named Brutus when I was two years old and he would pull me around in a sleigh; he was the sweetest dog.”
Fisher’s family had a Bluetick Coonhound when she was older and she rescued her first cat when she was about 19.
“I think I’ve always had an affinity for animals and for wanting them to be safe, happy and well cared for,” added Fisher. “Any time I would see a chained up dog or a stray cat I would want to make their lives better. I even ‘adopted’ a wolf through a wildlife campaign – I’m not sure how he’s actually doing though.”
Over the years Fisher has been able to rehome a few dogs and cats just by talking with people who were willing to let her help.
“I didn’t ever think of it as rescuing, just making a difference in an animal’s life. I donated a fair bit of food, blankets and money to rescue organizations and Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), because I believed in their work and had the greatest admiration for their volunteers,” she said.
Fisher never really thought of helping with an actual rescue until she moved to Stettler and heard of AHRL, where she I met Ruby Starrs, the founder, before the organization was actually formed.
“I was amazed at how this one person was determined to make a difference and I would see Adrienne Copeland, owner of Passionate Paws, walking her foster dogs,” Fisher said. “Adrienne told me about Animal Haven, but it wasn’t until I saw an article in the local paper, which said that AHRL was going to fold if more volunteers weren’t found that I decided to see what an actual rescue was about.”
Fisher attended the meeting on Jan. 15, 2014 and has been with AHRL ever since.
At the outset Fisher wanted an administrative role because she was not sure whether she could handle the unknown circumstances that usually surrounds a rescue.
“I didn’t think I could handle dealing with animals that were in pain or mistreated and I guess that’s what I thought rescues always dealt with,” Fisher explained. “So I started as the media/fundraising coordinator and then added treasurer to the mix.”
At the time AHRL did not have many cats in its care but there was a real need for volunteers, so Fisher became the cat coordinator.
According to Fisher, organizations like AARCS, who roll in to save 200 dogs from a terrible situation, The Alberta Spay/Neuter Task Force, who hold clinics every year and alter hundreds if not thousands of animals and people like Erin Deems with Saving Grace Animal Sanctuary who spent weeks rescuing animals during the Fort McMurray fire are true rescuers in her eyes.
“I just try to do what I can with what I know to help animals; so whether that’s delivering a dog to the vet for surgery, picking up a litter of kittens that need a home or having to make the toughest choice with an injured or sick animal, I just try to make a difference one animal at a time,” Fisher said.
Narrating her favourite memory, she said, “My best success has to be Daisy, a dog that came to us from a spay/neuter clinic.”
Daisy was thin, dirty, had worms and was just terrified. Fisher had the chance to meet her when she was first brought in and even though she had been through something terrible she still wagged her tail.
With love and dedication of her amazing foster mom Cassy, Daisy transformed into a beautiful dog to match her sweet disposition.
“She has been adopted into a wonderful home and is quite a spoiled girl, which I love to see,” Fisher added. “But the sad stories tend to stick with me a bit more I think because I tend to let everything in and it’s hard to let go.”
Fisher’s saddest story involves a cat named Ranger, who was found lying on the highway off Erskine, “too sick and hurt to go anywhere.”
“We took him into our care and to the Stettler Vet Clinic as soon as we could,” she said. “The vets told us he was probably 10-14 years old, emaciated and ill with a fatal disease. I will never forget the look of utter defeat in Ranger’s eyes; it was like he was done.”
Fisher along with AHRL volunteers made the necessary but always heart-breaking decision to euthanize Ranger.
“It still hurts my heart that this poor senior cat ended up alone, sick and dying on a highway by himself,” Fisher said. “AHRL is only able to continue helping animals because of the dedicated volunteers who willingly give their time, effort and knowledge every day. It really is a group effort and each person brings something different to the table.”
Fisher said that there is a real need for AHRL in Stettler to keep its doors open.
“We want to keep our organization successful and viable for years to come,” Fisher said.
AHRL is running a Tupperware fundraiser from Saturday, Oct. 15 to Thursday, Nov. 4, and will be holding their annual general meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 1 at 6:30 p.m. at the Stettler Board of Trade building. For further details, please call 403-741-6128 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.