Marie Skladd is the President of the Michigan Animal Adoption Network (MAAN), an animal rescue non-profit organization based in Metro Detroit that I have volunteered with for a little over two years. To say this woman is an inspiration would be the understatement of the century.
Marie started in animal rescue after hearing a radio public service announcement for an animal shelter in Oakland County that needed volunteers. “I’ve always loved animals and thought I would offer to volunteer one Saturday per month. After my first day, I was totally hooked and volunteered three Saturdays a month for 12 years.” Clearly she was made for this line of work. “I just couldn’t believe how many wonderful animals were housed in the facility looking for new homes,” she added.
Marie Skladd is not a typical animal rescue enthusiast. She has devoted blood, sweat and tears to animals for over 20 years. Animal rescue can burn the average person out quickly. Not Marie. She talks about how she may cry about a homeless or abused animal, but she is keenly aware that their need is greater than ever. She has seen the effect of the economy on Metro Detroit’s pets. “The pictures on our web site give me the only inspiration I need to continue the work God has chosen for me to do. Plus I get to work with some of the most caring people on the planet in doing so,” she said.
Marie does not just talk the talk; she walks the walk. As President of MAAN, Marie could simply run meetings and delegate, but that’s not the type of person she is. Marie continues to devote a full Saturday every month to join the Animal Care Network (a division of MAAN) on the streets of Pontiac, Michigan caring for “outdoor” animals – “pets” that are forced to live outside no matter the temperature.
The goal of the Animal Care Network (ACN) every weekend is simple – to care for Pontiac pets by providing food, water and proper shelter. And she has seen it all – animals starving to death, animals that have been severely injured been in dog fighting rings, animals that might freeze to death and animals that might die from heat exhaustion. It’s not work that the average person can handle, but Marie see the big picture.
She says that it is hard to see animals living in such poor conditions, but the gratitude she sees from the animals makes every Saturday she spends on the streets worth her time. “The most rewarding part of the work is seeing an animal we have just fed and watered, with a full stomach, lay on a big bed of straw we just delivered gnawing on a big chewie we just left!” she said.
Marie told us a special story about one animal she helped. “Many years ago, on a cold winter day, the ACN team was offering assistance at an address in Pontiac. It took us quite a while at this house, because there were several dogs, all of which were very aggressive.
Just as we finished, I happened to look over in the yard next door and there was a very old Shepard mix with virtually no hair watching everything we did for the other dogs without making a sound. Her condition was just pathetic. We promptly knocked at her owners’ door to see what we could do for her. The owner told us his son had brought her home months ago, yet he had never offered her any veterinary care. She was totally emaciated. He had also named her Grunt! I asked if I found a “little old lady” to take her would he surrender her to the Animal Care Network. He agreed. A week later I had set up a foster care home and a veterinary appointment for “Grunt”.
We immediately changed her name to Bella. A Team of four volunteers worked on her for over a year to get her to look like an “adoptable” animal. Each of us would take her for a month or so and work on her bathing schedule – which was four times a week! It was as if her skin was like an elephant and with the special soaps and loofah sponges it would slowly get the next layer of skin off. She couldn’t have been more patient with us doing so on her behalf.
A year and a half later, the most phenomenal older couple named Joan and Bob happened to hear about her. When Joan called me, she mentioned they were looking for an older/slower dog, ‘just like the both of them!’ It only took one meeting for the match to take place. Bella lived the rest of her days sleeping on their bed with toys and the love she had never had until she met all of us,” Marie said.
MAAN and ACN are always looking for new volunteers. Please visit the organization’s web site and fill out a volunteer application. You will then be contacted by a volunteer coordinator and be scheduled to join an Animal Care Network Team.
“You’ll know after your first day as to whether or not you will be able to handle this type of animal rescue. If not, we have many other projects and events that will offer assistance to the animals,” Marie said.