There are a group of people on the Westside of the Lake of the Ozarks who are going the extra mile for our furry friends. The group opened the Caring Hearts Dog and Cat Rescue thrift store on Saturday, April 1 at 113 North Main Street in Laurie.

The community has shown their hearty approval in the form of an abundance of donations for the store,” Caring Hearts Board President/Co-Founder Teresa Ensor said. “We live in a very blessed community. The store is full and it is great to see what can be done when a community cares and believes in you.”

Caring Hearts is a non-profit 501c 3 organization, overseen by a board and made up of volunteers who are passionate about rescuing injured, sick, lost and abandoned animals.

Teresa can’t remember a time when she wasn’t trying to rescue animals. She tells about how by the age of five she wanted to bring home every stray she saw. Her first encounter helping strays came with a feral cat colony that was being fed by an elderly man. After he passed away, there was no one to care for them, so she started feeding the colony. One by one, a new cat would show up at her basement door. She fed them whatever she could find in the cupboard. After about 30 cats made her yard their home, her mother caught on. At that time, there were no spay and neuter programs or animal rescues. It took a long time for her and her mother to relocate them to farmer’s barns, but that was the only answer. Now, more than forty years later, she is still trying to save every animal she can.

Caring Hearts board members are President and Co-Founder Teresa Ensor, Vice President and Co-Founder Laura Cullom, Secretary Judy Tookey, Treasurer Carla Miget, Lisa Ganapini and Marlene Evans. Their mission is to make a positive difference in the lives of dogs and cats by promoting health and well-being through community outreach, animal welfare education, and low-cost spay/neuter assistance. The group is committed to reducing the number of animals euthanized due to over-population. They hope to one day be a no-kill foster-based organization.

Senior animals

They especially have a tender spot for senior animals. “We live in an area where there are a lot of retired people,” Teresa said. “We have found, many times, when senior passes, there is no one left to care for their pets.

Oreo inspired

The final inspiration for Caring Hearts came one year ago from a sweet four-year old Boxer mix named Oreo. When Oreo was left homeless, he was placed into a local shelter. According to Teresa, he was hyper claustrophobic and traumatized. “It was a horrible experience for him,” Teresa added. “He was locked into an extremely noisy and strange environment.” Luckily for Oreo, they were finally able to transfer him to a facility where there was a trainer that worked with him and he was successfully adopted into a loving home.

Thriving vs surviving

 Eventually the group would like acquire acreage in Morgan County to build a no-kill rescue where the homeless and neglected can learn to trust and the broken can heal. At this rescue, senior dogs will have a place of their own where they can relax in a peaceful environment with spacious indoor shelters connected to outdoor runs, with access to walking trails and a dog park. “In this safe-haven dogs will flourish and thrive…not just survive,” Teresa explained.

Don’t forget the cats

They also want to build a large indoor/outdoor enclosure for cats where they can climb and play while enjoying the sights and sounds of nature. The setting will give the dogs and cats the opportunity to become their ‘best self’ – which will ultimately help them find loving forever homes.

Versailles to Camdenton

Caring Hearts is a network partner with Shelter Animals Count, No More Harmless Pets and Best Friends Animal Rescue, the nation’s largest animal rescue. Caring Hearts will serve the areas from Eldon and Versailles to Camdenton, including Climax Springs and Stover.

Why another shelter?

There are several shelters at the lake, but each one takes in a different type of animal. For instance, the Blue Moon Shelter specializes in disabled animals. “Ozarks Kat and K9 Rescue is just not set up for senior animals,” Teresa explained. “Even if we had 30 facilities, that would not be enough for the diverse homeless animal population in our area. Everyone has same goals, just a different way to get to them.”

Feral cat colonies and puppy mills

Several of the volunteers have been feeding cats in feral cat colonies in Laurie since 1970. One female and her offspring can have 420,000 kittens in seven years. There are currently five feral cat colonies in Laurie. “Missouri is also the puppy mill capital of the world due to lenient breeding laws,” Teresa added. “This has resulted in increased abuse and unwanted animals.”

For now, the proceeds from donations, grants and the thrift store will go towards spay and neutering education, low cost spay and neutering, straw bedding, pet care education, assisting with the co-pay for emergency veterinarian care, emergency cat/dog food, cat litter and resources to help relocate hard-to-place dogs, such as pit bulls. They will also utilize Murphy’s Spay and Neuter Clinic to help in controlling the ever-growing animal population.

“With the help of the community we can make a positive difference for the animals in our community,” Teresa ended.

Thanks to others who care about animals, the thrift store is packed with new and like-new clothing, shoes, purses, DVD’s, home décor, small furniture, jewelry and all things for men, women and children.

The thrift store is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Monday and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sunday. For information call 573 789-9247. Or visit them on their Facebook page, or online at caringheartsanimalrescue.org.