Frisco Enterprise > News
One animal at a time: Humane Society president dedicates life to saving four-legged friends
By Julie Bird, special to the Frisco Enterprise
Julie Wilson, president of the Frisco Humane Society, has been rescuing animals for most of her life. She has been passionate about animals for as long as she can remember.
"My mother tells me that I used to find dogs in the street and take them back to their owners," Wilson said.
The dedication she has shown the organization and the animals in its care is representative of a true and devoted animal lover. Wilson's passion for fostering animals is something that found her.
When she was seven, Wilson's dad brought home a Chihuahua that had been abandoned by its owner. The dog had three puppies, which Wilson was able to care for, and eventually find homes for. Since then, she has fostered more than 200 dogs and cats in her home before placing them with new families, and she has had an impact on thousands more animals through her work with the Frisco Humane Society.
Since its formation in 2000, the Frisco Humane Society has rescued 7,470 dogs and cats through the help of volunteer foster parents like Wilson.
Frisco Humane Society works to combat the problem of pet overpopulation in the Collin County area. In 2009, 1,746 animals were euthanized in Collin County because of the overcrowding of shelters. Aside from rescuing animals that are up for euthanasia in local shelters, Frisco Humane Society also works to cut pet overpopulation by spaying and neutering all the animals they care for, and educating pet owners about the importance of spaying and neutering.
Without the dedication of the organization and its volunteers, hundreds more animals would be put to death every year in Collin County. Wilson became one of those volunteers in December 2003.
"I was rescuing on my own. I would take in dogs, and if I couldn't find their owner I would get them vetted, spayed or neutered -- whatever they needed," Wilson said. "I'd try to find them homes, but I was running out of friends."
She said she got in touch with volunteers at the Frisco Humane Society who helped her get a dog adopted to a new home. After that, she began cleaning the cages of cats that the organization holds at local PetSmart stores in hopes of finding potential adopters. Wilson also helped with fundraising events and sometimes worked as a "shelter walker," photographing dogs on the euthanasia lists of local shelters to try to get them adopted through the organization's website.
"It was an extremely hard thing to do, knowing so many get euthanized," she said.
In October 2005, Wilson was appointed president of the Frisco Humane Society. Since then, she has continued to foster dogs and cats, but also devotes her time to organizing events, such as Barktoberfest in October and adoption events at PetSmart stores in Plano and Frisco. She also presides over board meetings and coordinates the organization's volunteer efforts.
Her dedication to the organization does not stop there, however, and she has been known to don a Clifford the Big Red Dog costume at the Barktoberfest celebration every year.
"Well, it started that I couldn't get anyone else to do it," Wilson said. "And now he's sort of become our mascot."
Wilson currently shares her home with a number of animals. Besides the numerous dogs she is fostering, she has a Himalayan cat, Mustacho, and two Chihuahuas, Riley and Penny, whom she refers to as her "rescue failures."
"They are the two my husband just wouldn't let me adopt out," she said.
Parting with the animals that come into her home temporarily is often bittersweet, Wilson admits. "They're all your favorite," she said.
Focusing on the final positive outcome of the adoption process is an important part of fostering animals.
"I know that they're going to a home that's even better than mine, that they're going to loving 'forever homes,'" Wilson said.
Recently joining social networking websites like Facebook has also made letting go of animals a little easier, since she is able to keep in touch with new owners, Wilson said.
"I love that I get to see pictures of them enjoying their new homes," she said. "Facebook has been really fun for me."
Wilson continues to open her home to foster pets, knowing that if she doesn't let them go, she won't be able to save other deserving animals. The animals placed with the organization's foster homes are most often from the "death rows" of area animal shelters, meaning many of them were saved days, or even hours, before being euthanized.
Wilson has also found a number of animals through other means. She and her husband, Skip, own Brookhollow Rental, a rental company for construction machinery and tools that looks out onto Harry Hines Boulevard, a busy Dallas street. Wilson said they see numerous dogs running on the street through traffic and are able to catch about 10 to 12 a year. Many more, unfortunately, are not as lucky.
One of Wilson's own dogs, Penny, a 2-pound Chihuahua, was found running down Harry Hines by Wilson and her husband.
"I really thought she was a rat at first," Wilson said of the miniscule canine who now spends her days curled up in a dog bed on top of Wilson's desk at Brookhollow.
"I always make an effort to find the dog's original owners, but they usually don't have tags or a microchip," Wilson said.
If this is the case, she usually brings the dog to her home to foster them until it can be adopted.
It's easy to see that Wilson's other dog, Riley, has experienced even greater trauma; he has only three legs. When Wilson found Riley in a shelter, one of his hind legs was badly injured -- so much so that it required amputation.
"I met Julie at the vet's office, and she was just holding him closely and comforting him; his leg was mangled," said fellow volunteer Darryl Bittner.
Bittner added that she has always been touched by Wilson's never-faltering compassion for the animals that need her help.
Wilson's dedication to animal welfare has made an immeasurable impact on the lives of many animals, and on the Frisco community. Being able to foster so many animals has been one of the most rewarding experiences of Wilson's life, she said, and she does not plan on stopping anytime soon.