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Happily Furever After Rescue

Giving animals a new "leash on live."

Happily Furever After Rescue grew out of the love of one special woman, Jaclyn Gartner, for one special dog, Tyler. Big Y has supported this nonprofit organization through its Community Bag Program.

Tell us about Happily Furever After Rescue.

Happily Furever After Rescue, founded in March 2020, is all about “making dreams come true four paws at a time.” We rescue dogs and cats locally and from kill shelters around the country. Many of the animals we save have been abandoned, abused, lost or neglected and are truly given a second “leash on life.”

I’m a one-woman show; I do it all, from arranging the transports, processing all the applications and answering every call and email, to running and managing the website and social media. It’s all me, and I absolutely love it. I wouldn’t be able to do any of this without the support of our wonderful foster families working alongside me. 

I was inspired to start a nonprofit organization after adopting a sweet and beautiful big-headed, 90 lb. pittie named Tyler. He was the dog nobody wanted; he was in a shelter for two-and-a-half years and was even adopted and returned multiple times. When I saw his flyer, it felt like fate, and I just knew he was destined to be mine. I took a chance on Tyler, and adopting him completely changed my life. He sparked my interest in animal rescue, so I began volunteering at my local shelter in 2018, then started my very own in 2020.

In December 2019, I was presented with the opportunity to save two little dogs from a severe hoarding situation in South Carolina; they only had an hour left to live. I jumped in headfirst, knowing I needed to help them. The dogs were named Bruce and Red, and they came to me very under-socialized with no experience living in a home. This was a very challenging first rescue. With love and patience, we built trust, and they were eventually adopted. Since then, we have done over 400 adoptions.

Unfortunately, I lost Tyler in December 2021 to aggressive bone cancer at the young age of seven. He made such a lasting impact on my life, putting me on this incredible path of saving lives. For that, I will forever be grateful.

Many of the animals we save have been abandoned, abused, lost or neglected and are truly given a second “leash on life.”

What services do you provide to the community?

We are a foster-based rescue that saves dogs and cats locally and from kill shelters throughout the country. We are able to act as a resource in helping the community with re-homing and surrender situations.

This year we’ve gotten a lot of local calls from people needing to surrender their pets and reports of abandoned animals. For example, a few weeks ago, we got a call about a senior dog left abandoned in a home after a messy divorce. She was lucky to have found us because this 12-year-old Chihuahua was in bad shape: she had a lump on her chest, needed full dental work and, at times, had trouble walking. We provide all the medical attention our animals need, regardless of the cost. This dog needed us, and we are lucky to have been able to save her.

What sets you apart from other nonprofits in your community?

All of us here at Happily Furever After Rescue care so deeply about the animals in our care, and our passion shows. Since we are foster-based, our dogs and cats can experience home life before adoption. They learn important skills, receive basic training and, in many cases, are socialized with other animals and/or children. When you contact the rescue, you’re working directly with one person, which I believe creates a personal approach. I strive to get to know my adopters so I can place the ideal animal with them. I am proud to report that because of this, we have an extremely low return rate.

Even after adoption, many of our adopters and I keep in touch. I send handwritten “Gotcha Day” cards on their one-year anniversaries.

Tell us a story that illustrates the good work of your organization.

Happily Furever After Rescue is about saving lives. You truly feel gratitude from the animals once they come into our care and safety, considering many come from dreadful situations.

One example of these incredible rescues is Rocky, who came to us from an extreme cruelty case in North Carolina. He was first brought to a kill shelter where sadly, he was at risk of euthanasia, and his time was up. After enduring over a year of abuse and severe neglect from his previous owner, we had to save him and give Rocky the life he deserved. When we got him, he was severely emaciated and malnourished. The vet said Rocky was near death, weighing half his average body weight. Thankfully his previous owner was charged with animal abuse.

Since then, Rocky has been adopted and is now a happy and healthy boy at 60 lbs. He is another prime example of the resilience of these rescue animals. They were failed by some humans but still have so much love to give.

Another story I’d like to share just happened this past week. We were thankfully able to save the longest resident in a shelter who was listed as “code red,” meaning her life was going to end that day. We quickly committed to her, and she took the 15-hour journey from South Carolina to Connecticut. She showed up, and as a dog from the south, she had never seen snow. When she got off the van, she immediately flopped herself into the snow and started making snow angels. It was an absolutely beautiful thing to witness, and I couldn’t help but get emotional knowing this dog almost didn’t make it.

The work that we do is hard, but through the tears, we’re able to see all the good and that makes it all worthwhile.

What is your most outstanding achievement or contribution to the community?

Being able to assist the local community is something I’m glad we’re able to do. There have been so many animals left behind. Family members call us pleading for our help after their loved ones end up in assisted living due to old age or, worse, they have passed away. I’m happy and blessed that we can act as a safe haven for animals that need us.

What do you want people to know about Happily Furever After Rescue?

For anyone looking to get a dog or cat, please consider adopting. Adopting a pet saves more than one animal because it makes room for the next dog or cat that needs to be rescued. When you adopt, you’re genuinely making a difference and saving lives.

If you can’t adopt, there are many other ways to support animal rescue and get involved. You could foster, donate or just spread the word about the importance of the “adopt, don’t shop” mission. I’ve personally fostered 14 animals, which resulted in keeping my eleventh and thirteenth foster dogs. I can’t say it’s easy, and there may be some “fails” along the way, but I can promise you, it’s worth it.

Adopting a pet saves more than one animal because it makes room for the next dog or cat that needs to be rescued. When you adopt, you’re genuinely making a difference and saving lives.

How are you using the funds you’ve received from the Big Y Community Bag Program?

As a foster-based rescue, everything is provided to our foster volunteers. Any monetary donations accrued from the Big Y Community Bag Program will be used to purchase supplies for our dogs and cats. We provide everything imaginable – from a bed to a crate, food and treats, monthly prevention and more!

This has been such a rewarding program to participate in, and we’re so grateful to those who have supported Happily Furever After Rescue thus far.

Is there anything you would like to add?

While our rescue is based in Connecticut, we do adoptions everywhere. We’ve had people drive as far as six to eight hours away to come to adopt one of our animals. As long as all members of the family are willing to come to meet our dogs/cats in their foster homes, we’re happy to accommodate out-of-state residents.

Jaclyn Gartner is the President and Founder of Happily Furever After Rescue. Here, she is pictured with her beloved Tyler. Adopting Tyler changed Jaclyn’s life and inspired her devotion to animal rescue.

Published December 19, 2022.