ASC Service Project 2020: Diana Cristancho

STUDENT BIO

Picture taken by Elyssa Barrera

My name is Diana Cristancho and I am a sophomore at Florida International University. I’m majoring in Recreational Therapy in the hopes of becoming an Occupational Therapist. I’ve lived my entire life in Miami which has allowed me to volunteer in a variety of locations and accomplish one of the most important roles a person can have; service.

WHO

Pictures taken by Miami Animal Rescue

Miami Animal Rescue is a non-profit organization that rescues animals from shelters, toxic households, the streets and any other environment that’s unsafe. The rescue is foster-based, meaning that there is no specific location that holds all the animals. Each animal is taken care of by a foster family until they get adopted. All the animals are well taken care of and treated for any injuries or diseases they may have. Rescuing from everywhere around Miami brings in a wide variety of animals with many different problems. Some animals that we rescue include dogs, cats, hamsters, snakes, bearded dragons, gerbils, possums, raccoons, guinea pigs, deer, etc. The most common animals are dogs and cats but we try to take in any animals we come in contact with especially since we partner up with other rehabilitation centers that can take in wild animals. Speaking of partnerships, the rescue works with the PetSmart on 88th street and 137th avenue. Every other Saturday, the rescue has adoption events where potential adopters can come see the animals and/or foster one of the animals available. By doing these adoption events, the rescue gets many donations from the store that include, food, toys, beds, bowls, leashes, collars and more. Every year the rescue saves more animals making it necessary to have a constant supply of materials. The rescue also partners with West Kendall Animal Hospital, who donate or bring down the prices of medical supplies due to the increase in customers we provide them. Every adopter that adopts from us gets a waiver for their first vet visit. This is extremely beneficial because many of the dogs rescued have health conditions that require immediate attention. The owner, Meg Sahdala, does everything possible to rescue any animal encountered even if the limited amount of supplies doesn’t permit it. No matter the hard situation the rescue may face Meg stays true to her mission.

WHY

Picture taken and edited by Diana Cristancho

I have been volunteering for Miami Animal Rescue for almost five years now. Due to the Corona Virus, I was unable to branch out to an art institution to volunteer for, as a result, I chose an organization that I trust and have seen grow over the past few years. They stay true to their mission of rescuing all the animals they can and placing them in their perfect homes. Although my major doesn’t directly connect with animals, I have always loved them and I am interested in animal-assisted therapies. Volunteering in a rescue I have learned not only about animals physically and how they should be cared for, but I have also learned how to understand them mentally.

HOW

Picture taken by Diana Cristancho

I connected with this opportunity in my sophomore year of high school. My best friend Laura started off by fostering multiple dogs for the rescue and she began to volunteer at the adoption events. Laura brought me to an event which led me to start volunteering at the events and as a foster. Ever since then, I have volunteered with the rescue and now it is a consistent activity that I participate in.

WHERE & WHAT

Picture taken by Diana Cristancho

My job at the rescue, especially after volunteering there for such a long time, involves a variety of different tasks. Every day my work changes. One day may be calmer than the other. Most days I’m in the office doing paperwork such as filing adoption papers, emailing adopters, creating community service hour letters, filling out forms for neuter/spay surgeries and more. While I do work in the office, I would also have adopters and fosters coming in and out to pick up medication and to receive their vaccinations. On other days I may go on rescue missions, pick up animals from the shelter, transport animals to and from surgeries, and participating in different adoption and advertising events for the rescue. Some examples include:

Picture taken by Diana Cristancho

On January 14, 2020, the rescue got a large supply of dog and cat food from a brand names NULO. Their products are high end and very natural. They provided us with a truck full of soft and hard food. The owner, Meg, and I transported all the food from her house to her storage unit. It took us about two hours to finish packing everything up and afterward we went back to her house/office to complete paperwork.

Picture taken by Meg Sahdala

On January 19, 2020, Meg, her husband, another volunteer, and I went on a rescue mission. We had been called about an abandoned dog in Florida City. The dog was female and supposedly had puppies but we found her chained up to a tree in a small forest all alone. Before approaching her, we went searching for the puppies and we placed plates of food in different areas around the forest. We assumed that someone had found the puppies and sold them, especially since its an area heavily populated by homeless people. After searching for the puppies, we tried approaching the dog but she came off as scared and a bit aggressive so we kept our distance. In this situation, we called the Police and animal services for assistance. Due to formalities, I am not able to disclose any more information on what happened that day. 

Picture taken by Elyssa Barrera

On January 25, 2020, there was an adoption event at PetSmart. At the event, I helped clean out and organize the storage room and I entertained the dogs and cats in their pens. I also set up new fosters for the animals who didn’t have any and finalize any adoptions that were happening at the store. The process for adoption is quite tedious but it is all for the security of our animals. We do background checks and review the application and contract that they fill out which asks about the information on where they live, work, and who they live with. Knowing this information is important because if a potential adopter lives in an apartment and wants to adopt a large breed dog, we usually don’t allow them to adopt. We want to make sure that each animal has the right amount of space to live in. This is also why we do pop in visits on adopters after a few months. 

Picture taken by Meg Sahdala

On February 3, 2020, I transported a puppy to the vet to get her surgery done. Although I do not have a picture of the surgery from this day, the picture above shows a dog that I fostered for about three months. Her name was Malory and she had her esophagus wrapped around her aorta preventing her from eating any solid food. Every day I had to blend up her food and feed it to her as a puree. For her surgery, we went to a mobile veterinary hospital meaning that the surgery would take place in an RV that was transformed into a hospital (the inside is shown in the picture above). she had a 10 percent chance of surviving due to the procedure. Throughout the entire surgery, the vet had to have an assistant that would manually inflate and deflate her lungs. Her surgery took about three hours long and she was hospitalized for three days. She made a full recovery afterward and got adopted by a loving family who had adopted from us before. Now she lives in a ranch with her two new siblings. 

Picture taken by Diana Cristancho

On February 12, 2020, I spent most of the day doing paperwork in the office but one of the most interesting things that happened was that we rescued a Chameleon. He was very malnourished and skinny so we tried feeding him water, vitamins, and worms. 

Picture taken by Diana Cristancho

On February 17, 2020, we got a call from an Uber driver who was dropping off a rider at Miami International Airport. He reported that when he was leaving, he saw a small black kitten on the side of the road. He picked it up and brought him to us. He had an eye infection on both eyes due to the nose infection he also had. On top of that, he had mites in his ears and all over his body. When he was brought to us, we first bathed him, wrapped him up in a towel, cleaned his eyes off the pus and fed him milk. He made a full recovery with the help of medication after a couple of weeks. Due to his story, we ended up naming him Uber. 

Left: Picture taken by Diana Cristancho
Right: Picture taken by Meg Sahdala

Another experience I had with the rescue, that brought a low of recognition to Miami Animal Rescue was February 16, 2019, where we attended the Model Beach Volleyball Competition in Miami Beach. We brought multiple dogs to the event and we had many different companies and models take pictures with our dogs. Another amazing experience was May 4, 2019, when we rescued a fawn (baby deer) that was tied up to a pole in Florida City. We cut him from the rope and took him to Possum Posse, a wildlife rehabilitation center.

WHEN

SUMMARY

Picture taken by Diana Cristancho

After working with the rescue I have gained a lot of experiences that not many people have. I am extremely grateful that I have been able to do my part in helping animals who are in need. One of the biggest roles I have in the rescue is caring for animals who we can’t give out to other fosters due to illness, temperament, or the fact that they are too small and need to be bottle-fed for a certain amount of time. Having these animals in my home can be difficult, but knowing that I help in their recovery and finding a forever home makes all of it worth it. I’ve also learned how to measure certain medications, administer vaccinations, formulate certain paperwork, send emails, manage difficult situations, make phone calls and communicate with people like lawyers and different veterinary hospitals. When adopters or fosters try to cause problems because they don’t get their way I have learned what to say and what not to say. I’ve had to face hard circumstances like having to pick out hundreds of ticks from the ears of multiple puppies to having premature puppies die in my arms. Working for the rescue is difficult and can be heartbreaking but it has taught me about responsibility, how to be confident, and that the most important thing a person can do is giving back to others. 

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