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Hidden Gems: Meet Nicole Laber of Laber of Love Pet Rescue

Today we’d like to introduce you to Nicole Laber. 

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
Before my husband, Joe, and I adopted Chewy, we had no idea that there were animals out there like him – he needed hundreds of dollars of vet care and weeks of rehabilitation before he could be adopted to a new home. Chewy was found with a severely infected eye that had to be removed in order to save his life. After we fell in love and brought him home, we began to volunteer for the organization that saved his life, the Shelby County Humane Society. We spent countless hours socializing dogs and bringing them to adoption events and began to raise funds for the organization. From there, we, along with several other members of the community, formed another organization to partner with the Shelby County Animal Shelter, the Shelby County Animal Rescue Foundation (SCARF). Both myself and Joe were on the Board of Directors from the beginning and together volunteered on average 20-30 hours per week. Through that partnership we were able to help raise over $2.4 million for a new facility for the Shelter as theirs was falling apart around them; start a TNR program in Sidney, OH, that has been very successful, and ensure that all pets passing through the Shelter were fully vaccinated. Although we are no longer SCARF Board Members, we are still very active volunteers for the Shelby County Animal Shelter & Adoption Center. 

Because of that one-eyed Shih-Tzu, Chewy, we were not only pointed on a path toward animal rescue, but we were also given a passion for helping dogs and cats that no one else wanted. In January of 2019, we had to make the decision to euthanize Chewy at the age of 16, but thanks to him we adopted several special needs or senior pets. These special pets included a three-legged cat, a blind, very old Shih-Tzu, and a 13-year-old Shih-Tzu who we lost to cancer just weeks after bringing her home. All of these special pets and many more who have been in our home have passed on. We currently have a four-year-old Shih-Tzu/Poodle mix (Pete) and a nine-year-old Shih-Tzu mix (Lenny). Pete came to us after spending his first year in a hoarding/breeding situation with 120 other dogs. He is terrified of strangers, loud sounds, and leaving the house. That just makes him all the more special to us! Lenny was adopted at the age of 7 with a history of sarcoma. We have also fostered countless dogs and cats, all of who were either in hospice care, were recovering from medical procedures or had special behavior issues. 

During my last several years with SCARF and volunteering at the Shelby County Animal Shelter, I saw several pets enter the Shelter that were at the end of their lives due to terminal medical conditions. These pets became where my heart was leading me. Thanks to the caring Dog Warden, Deputy Kelli Ward, we were able to help several Shelter pets by fostering them through this difficult time. Although these pets suffer from many health concerns doesn’t mean they don’t deserve love and a safe, warm home. We were honored to have these pets stay with us during whatever time they had left. It was a joy to be able to give them all the love they can handle and then hold them through their last breaths because no one else is there to do it. 

Helping these pets on a larger scale became a dream of mine, and in 2019, with the help of some wonderful friends, this dream became a reality. Laber of Love Pet Rescue was officially founded in August of 2019 with a mission to give the old or sick a place to spend their last days or months so that they do not die without knowing they are loved. Several years later, this continues to grow and flourish. My hope is that this rescue will continue to help the older pets that end up in Shelters in our area for many more years. Many people don’t realize that they are the best dogs and cats, and they have so much love to still give. 

I am eternally grateful that Chewy came into our lives all those years ago and changed everything. He is why we do what we do today. 

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
The road has not been without challenges to get to where we are today for Laber of Love Pet Rescue. But we believe that each challenge has been given to us for a reason; we have learned through each obstacle, grown from it, and become a better organization because of it. We embrace every challenge with a mindset of “what can we learn today?” Our first and biggest challenge came within months of starting the organization. Laber of Love Pet Rescue was formed in the fall of 2019, and the COVID pandemic started early 2020. Everything we knew about publicity and fundraising from our past non-profit were out the window. We couldn’t have large-scale fundraisers or get out and be seen in the public. We had to rethink it all. We quickly pivoted and realized all of our marketing and fundraising would need to be done on social media. Thankfully, my husband is a social media specialist and could tackle this head-on. He was able to grow our presence online quickly and keep our followers engaged. Fundraising dollars soon followed! We knew if we kept the faith and used our money wisely, funds would come in. 

Our second obstacle has been to find board members who would stay with us through this trying time. However, what we found was that when one member left, another stepped up. And the right people found us. We were blessed with people who could help get us more organized, write grants, and when the time came to organize fundraisers. The people that we needed were right there. 

The obstacle we now face is finding others to join us as hospice homes. We know that not everyone is able to handle the types of pets that we take on nor are they emotionally able to take on this task. This is a special type of fostering that is not right for everyone or every family. But we know the right hospice fosters (fospice as we call it) are out there, and we will find them. 

Appreciate you sharing that. What should we know about Laber of Love Pet Rescue?
The mission of Laber of Love Pet Rescue is to provide hospice care to older pets or those with untreatable medical conditions that find themselves without a family; to allow these pets to live out the remainder of their lives with love, dignity, and comfort by providing a safe home and necessary medical care; and to provide education to the public regarding the care of these pets. 

Our main objective is to offer short-term fospice care which allows unadoptable, sick animals to get out of the shelter before they are euthanized (which is often the only humane option that Shelters have for these animals). Our rescue wants to ease the responsibility of shelter workers that need to make the most difficult humane decision by offering another option. Laber of Love Pet Rescue brings those pets into our rescue and places them in a foster home where they will be welcomed and loved for the remainder of their lives. Each pet is treated with dignity and respect. They are given the same medical care that we would provide our own beloved pets. Laber of Love supplies the foster parents with all of the necessary resources until the pet passes on or, together with our trusted Veterinarian, we decide it is time to humanely euthanize the pet. 

Once the pet enters our rescue, we will then determine what medical care will benefit and give the animal the most comfort for its remaining time in our foster home. We then provide the vet care needed and everything else the pet requires for whatever time remains. When the pet’s quality of life diminishes, and the pet is suffering too much, together with our trusted Veterinarian, a decision is made to euthanize the pet. This is the last, most loving decision we feel that we can make for our fosters. After the euthanasia, we ensure that each pet is cremated so that their end of life is completed with dignity and grace. 

Laber of Love currently has 9 pets in our care – seven dogs and two cats. Three of those dogs are in our home including Nevaeh. Nevaeh came to is as a four-pound, 10-year-old Yorkshire Terrier from a Shelter in Cincinnati. The shelter staff indicated to us that she had several health issues including her having no teeth, a recessed bottom jaw, and oral, nasal fistulas. Upon her entry into the rescue, Board Members evaluated her health and deemed it necessary for an immediate Vet appointment. Her symptoms included an inability to eat on her own, severe coughing and sneezing, and seeming to be in quite a bit of pain. Nevaeh was taken to the Vet 2 days after arriving at her fospice home, where a thorough exam and blood work were done. Thankfully the bloodwork was unremarkable. She was not given any medications at that appointment with the hopes that some good food and living conditions would improve her cough/sneezing as there was no infection noted. The plan was to observe her and as she got better to follow up with a dental surgeon to address the fistulas. 

Unfortunately, the symptoms continued to worsen over the next week. We were worried that she would not be with us much longer. It was then decided to have a follow-up Vet visit to do more extensive tests. An x-ray was done of her lungs at this appointment, where it was also determined that her heart was enlarged, she had evidence of a collapsing trachea, and her lungs resembled those of a dog with long-term asthma. At this point, we determined that she would not be a candidate for anesthesia. A breathing treatment and 2 maintenance medications were prescribed. CBD oil was also discussed as an option to help with pain management. 

Since this appointment and having the medications begun, including the CBD oil, Nevaeh is a completely different dog! She is feisty, has gained 1.5 pounds, and is virtually cough and sneeze-free. She still needs to be hand-fed her food at each meal as she can’t pick it up on her own, but she is doing wonderful and is completely spoiled rotten! She has now been with us for ten months and we are looking forward to much more time with her. 

Another goal of our rescue is to raise awareness and educate others of the need of these senior dogs. We have begun a monthly blog on our social media pages and all of these posts are shared on our website as well. We feel that education is an important aspect that may eliminate the need for our rescue in the future. Wouldn’t that be amazing! 

Alright, so to wrap up, is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
There are many ways to support our mission and organization. Financial donations can be made on our website via PayPal or mailed to us at PO Box 115, Troy, Ohio 45373. We also have an Amazon Wish List with many items which are needed for all of our current and future pets (https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/BVX1FTJJJU18?ref_=wl_share). You can also shop on Amazon Smile and choose Laber of Love as your Charity of choice for donations. You can also follow us on all of our social media channels for other ways to support Laber of Love Pet Rescue and to meet all of our fospice pets. 

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Image Credits

Sarah Clark Photography

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