This feature was published in the Autumn 2007 Quarterly News Magazine of the University of Washington Department of Communication by student author Celia Hunko. Titled “A Pet Rescuer: Ginger Luke finds man’s best friends a ‘forever home.’”
This biography tells the tale of how Ginger Luke, founder of Ginger’s Pet Rescue, found her way into dog rescue, and all it entails!
His name was Barney. He was a 10-pound dachshund, and he had been locked in a bathroom for almost two years. His mouth was swollen, his collar was too tight and he had mites. He barked constantly. He needed a savior.
That savior was Ginger Luke, who owns the Rickshaw restaurant in Greenwood. Her restaurant delivers to customers in the neighborhood. At one residence, her husband heard barking every time he dropped off an order.
He told Ginger that she should check out the situation, and she took her husband’s suggestion.
She went to the home with the dog, talked to the man who lived there and asked if she could see the pet. At first he told her that the dog was mean and should be put down. She persisted. Would he take money for the dog? Yes, he decided. And for $50, she bought Barney a new life.
Barney became the first “client” of Ginger’s Pet Rescue, a nonprofit organization specializing in “death-row dogs.”
Today, “the mean dog that should be put down” has become a service dog for a deaf woman.
Death-row dogs are animals that are euthanized by the shelter because they run out of room or because the dog is too old. They are dogs that are “unadoptable.”
Nineteen months ago, after finding Barney, Luke’s mission became to help these death-row dogs find their “forever homes.” So far, Ginger’s Pet Rescue has saved more than 500 dogs.
Ginger’s Pet Rescue operates mostly through her Web site, Gingerspetrescue.org. Her network started off with just 40 friends and family who she thought would be interested in Barney. She e-mailed these 40 people and soon had more and more people contacting her, inquiring about adoptable dogs.
“I never planned to do this,” said Luke, who today has a network of more than 3,000 people who are involved in the organization. She has foster homes, families who adopt and people who donate their time and money to her cause.
Luke works with seven shelters, including one in California.
One of the shelters, Ellensburg Animal Shelter, has seen amazing results from its work with Ginger’s Pet Rescue.
Ginger’s success is evident when you compare the euthanasia rate of the Ellensburg Animal Shelter in 2005 to our euthanasia rate since we began working with Ginger in 2006,” wrote the director of the Ellensburg Animal Shelter, Paula Hake, in a letter praising Luke’s work. “We have dropped from a 70 percent euthanasia rate down to a wonderful 8.3 percent,” she added.
Luke’s way works because it puts a face to a dog’s story. Walking into a pound can be depressing and heartbreaking. Luke makes it easier to find a pet. All of her dogs are posted on Petfinder.com, and they all have a story.
“We try to make them as adoptable as possible… We are willing to work with you,” Luke said.
Ginger’s Pet Rescue focuses on effectiveness and practicality.
Many of the dogs that Luke deals with have been abused, neglected or abandoned. Often they don’t know how to interact with people who will love them.
That is why foster homes are the most important part of the process, Luke said. “One foster can save 25 to 30 dogs a year,” she added.
Foster homes act as the link between shelter life and home life for the dogs. Foster parents get the dogs acquainted with living in a home and provide basic training lessons.
“It’s a lot of work,” said Jun Miwa, a foster parent, “but after you get them a home, you feel so good.”
Foster homes also allow Luke to save more dogs from the shelters. If they have somewhere to go, the shelter won’t put them down. This is crucial, she said.
The dogs are a top priority in her life, said Miwa.
Luke owns four dogs of her own and two cats. “I occasionally foster as well,” she said.
Walking into her restaurant of 31 years, there are posters of adoptable dogs and a bin for donations for Ginger’s Pet Rescue.
“It’s all about timing. It’s all about a miracle,” Luke said. “It’s all about getting a second chance at life.”