Santa Paws benefit combines pet paparazzi opp with animal avenging cause
Some linguists may disagree, but it seems there is an intrinsic difference between that which is brave, and that considered valiant. Both possess a foundation of courage, of course. But bravery seems to point more toward personal boldness, while valor is typically incited by external forces. A valiant person or act is consciously undaunted against high risk for a selfless reward.
And so it follows that Valiant Animal Rescue and Relief is soundly named. It is, after all, an organization that stoutheartedly faces down danger in the safeguarding of some of the Lowcountry’s most helpless creatures.
Founded in 2004 by current Executive Director Michelle Reid, the services this non-profit organization provides are threefold: emergency animal disaster relief, support services during animal cruelty seizes, and the rehabilitation and re-homing of abused and neglected animals. Teaming with other organizations, such as FEMA and the Red Cross, as well as partner professionals, such as veterinarians and law enforcement, Valiant has a remarkable history of rescuing scores of animals, from domesticated pets to unlawfully-held wildlife.
Reid is nothing short of amazing… and truly valiant. Her resume reads like a CSI-meets-Avengers casting call, but she couldn’t be more real. In the name of animal advocacy, she has played the role of investigator, consultant, key witness, and emergency responder. Her certifications range from Forensic Photography to Master Naturalist, and her training runs an even broader gamut, from Concealed Weapons to Dog Bite Prevention. She has an impressive portfolio of accreditation with both the Red Cross and FEMA, and is equipped to train members of law enforcement, oversee animal seizes, and provide consulting for government animal welfare organizations. In short, that valor has some solid cred behind it. Because Reid is typically contracted out by local, state, or federal agencies to assist with large-scale animal cruelty and endangerment cases, she is rarely the first point of contact for the general public.
Because it does not operate a shelter, Valiant does not accept owner surrenders, but rather has a network of volunteers that foster seized animals and assist with their ongoing rehabilitation. The primary difference between Valiant and other organizations, such as municipal animal control services, is that Valiant’s model sees the process through from investigation and search to removal and rescue to re-home and rehabilitate.
“Valiant’s core focus, however, is using our animal forensics expertise to stop animal cruelty at the source and to help law enforcement hold offenders accountable,” explains Reid. “In doing so, we can prevent future animals from entering the same situation and can set the precedent that animal cruelty will not be tolerated in our communities.”
When Reid receives a case, she deploys her team of veterinarians, animal behaviorists, and other professionals. Embedded with law enforcement officials and operating under anonymity, this expert squad utilizes a mobile unit equipped with all the gear needed to collect forensic evidence (including colonies of dermestid, or flesh-eating, beetles used to clean the bones of deceased animals analyzed as crime evidence), assess animal conditions, and provide emergency medical treatment. In the case of rescue work necessitated by natural disaster, Valiant partners with other front-line organizations, such as FEMA and the Red Cross.
Valiant was there in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, assisting with the rescue of animals from some of the hardest hit areas. Reid’s team was here in October, when floodwaters threatened the lives of animals across the state, and rescued 52 dogs, 23 cats, and numerous horses. Her organization was responsible for seizing 45 hound dogs – and removing the remains of 200 more – from a Berkeley County property in early 2013. Valiant even coordinated the 2012 removal and relocation of an adult black bear from a backyard imprisonment in Colleton County.
It is clear that the work being done by Valiant is deserving of its moniker; its beneficiaries would agree if they could speak the words. Reid shares that the cases Valiant addresses often reveal concurrent crimes, such as domestic violence, gang activity, and child abuse. But because it is neither for-profit nor government-funded, it relies on the generosity of the community to contribute time, talents, and money to continue its compassionate, gutsy mission.
On Saturday, December 12, the Exchange Club of Daniel Island, along with Lynn Cobb Photography, Lucia’s Premium Pet, Mudd Pie Girl Bakery, Publix, and Greystar Daniel Island Village, will sponsor a “Santa Paws” benefit for Valiant Animal Rescue and Relief. From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Greystar Clubhouse, pets will be welcomed to get their photo taken with Santa Claus in front of a festive Christmas tree. For a $20 donation, Lynn Cobb will do a mini holiday photo shoot with each pet, and make a print available for pick-up at Lucia’s on December 17. All proceeds will go to ARR, and some of the animals rescued and rehabilitated by Valiant will be present at the December 12 Santa Paws event.
Nationally, all Exchange Clubs maintain the mission of child abuse prevention. Locally, the Daniel Island chapter supports Windwood Farms and Windwood Family Services, organizations that directly combat child abuse. But the Clubs leaders believe there is an undeniable connection between that cause and the plight of vulnerable animals. “The Daniel Island Exchange Club takes a broad view of abuse because we know that individuals who abuse children and women often abuse animals and visa versa,” states Clyde Rush, President of the Exchange Club of Daniel Island. “We chose Valiant Animal Rescue and Relief because all the animals they deal with have faced significant abuse. In additional, Valiant is a smaller agency that does not get the recognition and support that larger animal support organizations receive.”
As the event photographer and affirmed animal lover, Lynn Cobb is thrilled to share her shutter skills with the pets, their owners, and the great cause. “Valiant Animal Rescue and Relief is such a great organization advocating for animals that can’t advocate for themselves,” Cobb relates. “I’ve known Michele Reid for many, many years and I know that she works very hard and in sometimes very difficult situations, to bring justice for these animals.”
No prior registration for the Santa Paws benefit is required, but please be aware that credit cards will not be accepted for the $20 donation. The Greystar Daniel Island Village Clubhouse is located at 162 Seven Farms Drive, Suite 115. To donate to, or volunteer with, Valiant Animal Rescue and Relief, visit valiantanimalrescue.org, and discover other upcoming support opportunities by visiting the Valiant: Animal Rescue + Relief Facebook page.
Getting their good side: Lynn Cobb helps prep your pet for a successful shot
1. PEACEFUL LOCATION: For pet photography, it’s best to choose a location where your pet is calm and feels at peace. A good place for this is at your home or perhaps a place where you walk your dog a lot. Also, choose a location that doesn’t have any distractions such as other dogs. The fewer distractions, the more your dog will pay attention to you.
2. MILD WEATHER: Choose mild weather when photographing your pet. If it’s 90 degree heat and your dog’s tongue is hanging out, that won’t make a great photo. Fall, winter, or spring are great times for pet photography. In addition to that, always bring water for your pet no matter what the weather is.
3. GIVE THEM SOMETHING TO DO: Pets love to go for walks, run on the beach, go for a boat ride, sit on a dock looking for birds etc. Photograph your pet doing something they love to do. The best photos are the ones that remind you of exactly who your pet truly is and what places make them happy.
4. GO FOR EMOTION: Although you may want your dog to be looking at the camera for every photo, that probably won’t happen. Play with your dog, give him/her hugs, talk to your dog during the photoshoot. Sometimes the sweetest photos are all about “interaction and love,” not so much the “perfect photo.”
5. TREATS: Of course, always give your dog treats for being good. (Tess, my Labrador, had me write this part in…)