Lori Jerusik: Dog Rescuer from Chicopee, MA is in it for the Long Haul
I first heard about Mutt Rescue in April of 2017 when a local news program featured a story about the imminent construction of Mutt Rescue’s new shelter in Chicopee. Soon after the story aired I shot an email to Mutt Rescue hoping to score an interview, but we didn’t connect. At the time it was apparent the folks at Mutt Rescue were really darn busy.
Then on October 16, 2017 I met Jay, a gentleman who approached Stray But Looking’s booth at the Easthampton Harvest Festival. Jay introduced himself and told me that he works at Mutt Rescue and Mutt Cuts for Lori Jerusik. He went on to explain that Lori uses what she earns from Mutt Cuts, a dog grooming and doggy day care business to support the activities of Mutt Rescue. In fact, he offered that on the upcoming Monday Lori would be bringing a trailer of adoptable dogs to a PetSmart in Connecticut. I mentioned to Jay that I’d love to interview Lori and he immediately texted her. She was waiting for my email.
My conversation with Jay took place on Saturday afternoon but I didn’t get around to contacting Lori until 9:00 p.m. Sunday (about my bedtime). On Monday morning I woke to see that Lori had responded to my email at around 1:00 a.m. “Sure” she said, she’d love to meet with me and suggested I head down to the PetSmart in Enfield, Connecticut where she would hold a week long adoption event. Lori explained that on Monday she would be meeting a trailer full of dogs at her veterinarian’s office in Berlin, Connecticut to be vetted beforehand.
So, upon leaving my day job on Monday, I headed straight to PetSmart. Beating Lori and the dogs by a few minutes, I entered the store to see Jay’s smiling face. As we talked, Jay explained that it is mainly income from the doggy daycare side of the business that really allows Ms. Jerusik to run the rescue/adoption operation. She basically has two full-time jobs and has built a new facility to house her dog shelter/adoption center with NO grant money and NO donations. Lori has done it all on her own through hard work. Some of the folks I have met in the field of dog rescue could kick others out of the corner office if they so desired. The ambition here is to save dogs. Thank God people like Lori exist.
Dog rescue is not just a cute muzzle and wagging tail you see in a Facebook post. It is grueling and careful work carried out by people with the stamina to stay focused on the goal represented by the light that creeps into the dark when the trailer doors open. Because she is unable to utilize her newly built shelter until she receives one final piece of paper from Boston, Lori finds herself in Connecticut, parked at a PetSmart in a sort of ambulatory shelter. The dogs will sleep in the trailer at night and will be available for adoption inside the PetSmart during the day. She figures all of the dogs will be adopted within 6 days.
Something extra is offered by Lori and it bears mentioning. Her dedication to successful adoptions and forever homes goes beyond the handshake when a person walks away from PetSmart with a dog. Her desire to keep dogs with their new families means that she invites folks who have adopted to contact her at any time for help. Ms. Jerusik says: "I am a behavioral specialist and I do not charge anybody for my advice. I allow people to call me for the lifetime of their dog, and I give them exercises and free advice. If they are willing to travel to my neighborhood, I will walk the neighborhood with these people and their dog and give them a free session because the transition is so important. My heart is in this and I don’t charge for what trainers charge $100 an hour for."
After a 15 hour ride from South Carolina, a road weary 20 dogs emerged from the trailer leash by leash. Seeming to be torn between the draw of light and fresh air and the safety of the crates inside the trailer, any hesitation disappeared once their paws touched the grass. Slowly, then happily making their way into the PetSmart, the friendly and well socialized pups sniffed their way to the adoption area. The chorus of barks and yips increased in volume, as the dogs blew off steam after having been cooped up in tight, dark and possibly bumpy quarters.
Smiling faces pass by the adoption area in Pet Smart and ask questions: “He looks like a mountain dog. Is he?” “Do you have small dogs on the trailer? Say like a Maltese?” Let the adoptions begin.
To learn more about Lori Jerusik and Mutt Rescue please check out their website at muttrescueofmassachusetts.org/