When Kim George, an author, trainer and business strategist, refinanced her home to help pay for her Pit Bull mix Tess’s $200 per month chemo bills, she found a way to make the situation positive. George realized just how grateful she was that she could afford to save her beloved dog’s life, but got to thinking about other dog owners who unfortunately do not have the same means to care for a sick pet.
George wanted to do something to help out these people and their animals, so she founded Kane’s Krusade in 2012.
The volunteer-based organization is named after Kane, George’s other Pit Bull mix (he’s American Staffordshire Terrier, American Bulldog with Basenji, with “some Bull Terrier and Scottie thrown in”) who she rescued from a high-kill shelter outside of New York City in 2011. With George’s patience and love, Kane transformed from a fearful and depressed dog into a happy and healthy one, and is now a certified Canine Good Citizen (CGC).
Kane’s Krusade officially became a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization in June 2013 and has 35 regular volunteer “Krew” members. The group’s mission is to improve the quality of life for dogs in two ways: by distributing Canine Assistance, Resources and Empowerment (C.A.R.E) kits to low-income families in the greater Springfield area, and also through education and awareness campaigns for misunderstood dogs (“any dog that is labeled or judged based solely on appearance, not behaviour”) like the American Pit Bull Terrier.
“I wanted to hold Kane and Tess up as “Ambass-a-bulls” to show people that Pit Bull dogs are just dogs,” George says, after having faced discrimination herself as a Pit Bull owner. “We believe that love knows no color, age or breed, and that dogs are individuals [who] should be judged by their actions, not their breed.”
Currently, Kane’s Krusade is providing C.A.R.E kits to 23 families and 47 dogs, and adds about two to four new families every month. Every three weeks, Krew members deliver the kits containing dog food, toys, supplies such as collars and leashes, and treats to each family’s home. The group also provides spay/neuter services, vaccinations, microchips and grooming for the dogs.
The group’s medical fund can help treat minor ailments such skin and ear infections, or minor surgeries, but for dogs who are suffering, Kane’s Krusade will also help provide a “good death” for them by covering the costs of euthanasia and cremation services.
George stresses that Kane’s Krusade is not a rescue (though they do have partnerships with local shelters); she and the other volunteers want to help keep dogs with their families, out of animal control and off the streets. By building long-term relationships with these families through respect, trust and compassion rather than judgement, George’s goal is to prevent the economic surrender of dogs to shelters.
“Our families are all low-income — elderly, disabled, veterans, those on state assistance or unemployed — from the poorest neighborhoods in western Massachusetts,” George says. “We serve dog owners who nobody else is reaching, [the ones] who are falling through the cracks.”
And according to George, the owners are generally very grateful and receptive. Thanks to the group’s “pay it forward” policy, George insists that Kane’s Krusade is providing a hand up, not a hand out.
“After six months of services, we require that our families give back to our organization in one of six different ways — whatever feels comfortable to them,” she explains. “This can be anything from providing a written or video testimonial, paying a portion of the dog’s food each month, […] or becoming a volunteer to help other families and dogs. We are creating a community of dog lovers that transcends socio-economic barriers.”
Some families choose to help build customized insulated dog houses called “Kondos.” Each specially designed Kondo has two rooms: An entrance/hallway and a “bedroom” separated by an insulated wind wall and filled with straw for extra warmth. Each Kondo costs approximately $250 in materials with the shingles and insulation generously donated.
Bella, a deaf Pit Bull mix, was one of the first recipients of a Kondo. She was living outside in a dilapidated dog house with no protection from the elements before Kane’s Krusade built her a Kondo. “The best compliment we’ve received is when Bella’s owner told us she came out of her new dog house ‘toasty warm,'” says George. “That’s what we mean by improving the quality of life for dogs.”
But not all the dogs that Kane’s Krusade have helped are Pit Bulls or Pittie mixes.
Mike, who is awaiting disability payments, has three big dogs — Lilly the Mastiff, Moose the Great Dane and their three-legged daughter, Tres — and was struggling to provide for them before Kane’s Krusade got in touch with him. The dogs now receive a C.A.R.E kit with over 90 pounds of food per month to keep them well-fed and healthy. And when Moose had dental issues so severe that he stopped eating, Kane’s Krusade covered the cost of his surgery to remove 12 teeth. Without help and support from Kane’s Krusade, Mike likely would have had to give up his beloved companions.
And it is stories like this which continue to show George just how much these dogs mean to their families and how much they want to be able to care for their animals. She hates hearing people say, “if you can’t afford a dog, you shouldn’t get one”.
“Our families in need love their dogs just as much, maybe more than we do. They do amazing things for their dogs under horrible circumstances,” she explains. “At Kane’s Krusade, we believe that you can either judge or you can help a dog. You can’t do both.”
For another heartwarming happy “tail,” check out this video of Red’s story. Rob, Red’s owner, is a disabled veteran who was distraught over the idea of having to give up his beloved dog when he lost his apartment in November 2012. Fortunately, Kane’s Krusade was able to help find Rob and Red a new home. Together.
If you’d like more information and ways you can help out this wonderful organization, please check out www.kaneskrusade.org or its Facebook page. It also has an Amazon wishlist set up with specific items for the dogs’ care.
All photos courtesy of Kim George for Kane’s Krusade.
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About Crystal Gibson: A child-sized Canadian expat in France who is fluent in French and sarcasm. Owned by a neurotic Doxie mix, a Garfield look-alike, and two needy Sphynx cats. An aspiring writer and pet photographer with a love of coffee and distaste for French administration, she can be found blogging over at Crystal Goes to Europe.