Today we’d like to introduce you to Emily List.
Emily, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I have worked with animals for seven years, both through dog rescue and wildlife rehabilitation centers. My mom is actually who first got me into dog rescue. She volunteered to be a foster with Paw Prints in the Sand Animal Rescue, and that is where I first learned to handle dogs of various ages, behavioral issues, and personalities. I fostered a Labrador Pitbull Mix named Luna, she was around a year old, and I was really excited about fostering her because I grew up with a female Lab. As I fostered Luna for a while, I remember being surprised at how different she was from my own Lab, Molly. She was very energetic and outgoing with other dogs, while Molly was gentle and even-tempered. This was the first time that I came to acknowledge that dogs have personalities and are unique, just like us!
This realization intrigued me, and it spurred me to research about dogs and their quirks. Of course, this research gave way to articles discussing behavioral issues that are common in certain breeds and that are common as a direct result of abuse or neglect. I volunteered to take on the dogs that were labeled as aggressive or fear biters so that I could work with them and learn more about the rehabilitation process. I also volunteer with Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center in Huntington Beach. It was definitely a different experience for me, coming from a background of working with dogs. You can’t just cuddle a dove or an opossum! An unfortunate thing about working there is that I see a lot of damaged animals, and they are injured in various degrees and from items such as BB bullets. They suffer wounds and gashes mostly because of humans. My eyes have really been opened to how people view animals and this view does not foster kindness. I have found that domestic and wildlife animals share this unique vulnerability.
Simply in the way that people say “I want chicken for dinner tonight” shows how industries have created and perpetuated this language of anonymity and collectiveness that takes away the life that is in each of these animals. They are so manipulated and controlled by humans that it has become so normalized. I’ve had to take off the rose-colored glasses and acknowledge how society views animals, and this has been done by witnessing the individualistic nature of each animal I have worked with. They really do have some funny quirks and personalities! By being vegan and by volunteering my time to animal rehabilitation, I have learned so much, and I seek to further educate myself and educate others through my time and work with OC Pom Rescue.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Not every foster that I have had has been easy. I had a foster a couple of years ago named Faith. She came to me with lacerations all over her body and her eyes had been gouged out, along with kidney failure and heart disease. What really shocked me, though, was how kind she was, even though she had seen the worst of humanity. When she laid with you, she would always try to get as tight as possible into the nook of your arm. I thought she only had a week to live, judging by the looks of her and our vet’s estimate by the extent of her injuries and her age- she was 15 years old. To our surprise, though, she lasted a year! And this was a year filled with beach trips and dress up days. I would say that this was a turning point for me in my life and my involvement with animals.
I started to step into a more active role in dog rescue and I sought other ways to help, like through wildlife centers. She showed me the profound impact that love and attention have on a dog. They are social animals and they need that social connection. Animals are not always going to be there for us to gratify whatever we want, so we have to be there for them when it matters. I have seen it time and time again where I get a foster that is on their deathbed, and I get the opportunity to love them for a year or more. Faith’s death took me down, but I will forever be grateful for the impact that she had on me.
We’d love to hear more about your organization.
I am a co-founder with OC Pom Rescue, a Pomeranian and small breed dog rescue based in Southern California. I specialize in training and socializing dogs that have extreme behavioral issues, such as possessiveness, unprovoked aggression, biting, etc. The dogs in my care undergo a vigorous bootcamp to address their needs and to rehabilitate them away from their learned habits from bad environments. Fortunately, all of my fosters have been adopted out to loving homes! I stand by the belief that all dogs have the capability of being rehabilitated, given that they get the help and resources that they need to be their loving selves. I co-founded OC Pom Rescue with the mission to save dogs from senseless euthanasia and from neglectful situations that warrant fearful behavior.
I am proud to say that our founders do not shy away from dogs that are challenging and require a bit of time before they can be adopted. Most of the dogs that come into our rescue have behavioral and medical issues stemming from neglect, abuse, and malnutrition. We understand the trauma that these dogs have gone through, and we allocate all of our resources to go towards their training and medical needs. We all share the purpose of working against profit-based industries that target small breed dogs for entertainment & short-term ownership, and we strive to flip the script on how animals are viewed by educating about their sentience and right to life. Educating others is my priority, for this is how I believe we can enact change!
Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
When I lived in Fullerton, there was this hiking trail and creek behind my neighborhood that my family and I used to visit all of the time. I was seven years old when we welcomed my dog, Molly, into the family. It was a sunny, beautiful day and we took Molly on a short hike. I remember as soon as we got down the hill and had eyes on the creek, Molly bolted towards the water. We ran after her and by the time we reached her, she was full body in the creek with only her head out, perched on a big rock. She was so cute, but so dirty and covered in green stuff! That was the moment I knew that Molly and I were going to be best friends; and since then, we have had many outdoor adventures together.