Donna Mathias has a two-fold passion that guides her life. The first is children – she is a 4th grade teacher at Fulks Run Elementary and has taught for 33 years! 30 of those years have been at FRES.
Her 2nd passion, and no less admirable than the first, is her love for animals.
She has managed to combine both passions by establishing a program in FRES, called the Pet Care Club. Different speakers come to the class to educate the kids on animal care, learn about different careers working with animals, and best of all, get to see all sorts of animals, and learn what it takes to be a responsible pet caretaker.
Kaitlin Mazer, Development Officer from the Rockingham-Harrisonburg SPCA was one visitor, as were both instructor Tiffany Estep and her students, from Massanutten Vocational Technical Center. The FRES club has seen reptiles, silkie chickens, learned about therapy dogs and how to train a dog, and what are the characteristics of different breeds. Every club meeting is started with the question – how do we save thousands of animals in a very short amount of time? Spay and neuter!
This Pet Care Club was a result of Donna’s newly created Almost Heaven Animal Rescue LLC. When she is not in the classroom, Donna has been out in the community rescuing dogs and cats, transporting to clinics, trapping and feeding ferals, and assisting in finding lost cats and dogs. Her compassion knows no bounds! As her recent Facebook post stated – “ In this venture we have undertaken in animal rescue, the importance of making the biggest impact includes building a village, spay and neuter assistance, and educating youth in responsible pet care, as they are the future in making a difference in animal welfare. Children simply have open hearts, open minds, and an innate love of furry creatures. I had the opportunity to impart my passion for animals by starting a Pet Care Club at school. We have guest speakers from the community bi-monthly, who bring a variety of animals to share with the children. AHAR hopes to expand this to civic groups and organizations. “
To spread the word about Almost Heaven Animal Rescue, Donna is willing to come and speak about her passion. Please contact her if you would like to have her as a guest speaker.
Of the many miracles in her rescue operation, two really stand out. The first is the case of “Mysterious Mia” a beautiful Maine Coon cat that appeared out of nowhere, in an area of WV where Donna had been feeding feral cats. Mia came home with her, and after a long search over 2 months, that took the search as far away as Indiana, the chip in “Mysterious Mia” finally led Donna to the cat’s owner in Harrisonburg! Phoenix, her real name, had been missing for 5 months! Her owners were ecstatic to get her back! Phoenix was 16 years old at the time she went missing. She is alive and well, home with her family. Miracles do happen! You can read the story of Phoenix in a previous issue of the CRC.
Another miracle rescue is that of Noel. A German Shepherd was seen running loose in the same area of Fulks Run for some time last December.
No one was able to catch her, but people were leaving food for her. Donna had gone out there, several times, after school, to see if she could spot her. She returned to the area on Christmas Eve, sat on the ground, and, as if knowing her angel was here, the dog came out of the woods, and slowly climbed into Donna’s lap. She took the dog home. All the proper steps were taken to try and locate an owner, to no avail. The newly christened Noel now lives happily with Donna. A better ending could not have been written!
Almost Heaven Animal Rescue is off to a good start. Donna decided, after years working at rescue, fostering for Potomac Highlands Rescue for almost 20 years, and starting Fulks Run’s Jessie’s Fund cat rescue with one of her students, that she needed to start something in Hardy County, WV, where the need was great.
Hardy County has no shelter for cats, no program like what is available in Rockingham County. Feeding ferals is a wonderful thing, but unless the cats are spayed and neutered, the problem never ends. The population explodes.
The ambitious 4th grade teacher met some like-minded people, over a rescue of 30 cats, who supported her efforts to become a 501(c)(3). AHAR now has an established board of 4 members and is working on obtaining grants. They hope in the future to be able to set up a scholarship fund for Hardy County students who would be willing to go into veterinary sciences, staying and working in the county after their education is complete. This would be a great accomplishment for Hardy County, where the need is the greatest. On this side of that county, the rescue can work with Anicira for spays and neuters, but areas around Moorefield are a distance to travel. A transport van is another dream she hopes to accomplish.
There are never enough homes for all the dogs and cats who need them, and AHAR is trying to find partner organizations to work with, to find homes in Northern VA. As a rescue, Donna said, “ We felt we could have the biggest impact in spay and neuter programs in controlling the populations.”
Although still in the beginning stages, Almost Heaven Animal Rescue is a much-needed resource for WV. With Donna Mathias and the board behind it, there is no doubt the rescue will reach its goal.
Whether you live in Rockingham County or over the line in Hardy County, if you would like to help AHAR control the exploding animal population, and help with rescue and/or transport, please contact Almost Heaven through the links below. And remember, always spay and neuter your pets!
Almost Heaven Animal Rescue PO Box 464, Mathias, WV 26812
On Facebook Almost Heaven Animal Rescue