Animal rescue: Animal Debt Project saves lives, changes lives

Edie Messick has a passion. And she dreams big. She ended a 21-year career with a stock brokerage firm in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2007 and was at loose ends for a while. Always an animal lover, the pet count in her home was steadily rising by 2013 when she took her dad, Robert, for a month-long vacation in Hawaii.

Unable to sleep because of the time change, Edie was on her computer early one morning when she saw a plea on Facebook from Paws to Rescue in South Carolina. They were looking for funds to pay for the transport of several dogs to their adoptive homes. On an impulse, she sent them enough money to make that happen. In return they made it possible for her to adopt a Black Mouth Cur that she’d fallen in love with.

One thing led to another. Her awareness of the need to rescue dogs headed for euthanasia grew. Her personal dog count was now at nine. She met Jeff Myers who had started something called the Animal Debt Project in Los Angeles. He fostered a dog for her until she could pick it up. They began to talk.

She provided small dogs from her area to a Seattle Rescue to help them fill a need. In the next few months, she rescued 10 kittens and 50 dogs on her own. Her husband, Steve, Chief Information Officer for a large San Francisco firm, was supportive, though his passion for animals is not at the same level as Edie’s.

The time came when Edie made a commitment. She would devote herself exclusively to animal rescue for life. She was familiar with Colorado because her son Scott lives in the area. Steve was behind her. Their search for a rural location not too far from town ended when they bought 10 acres on the Nunn Road in Weld County. The property seemed perfect with a spacious home and three large outbuildings that could be converted into housing for dogs.

Edie moved in along with her step-daughter Melanie, now a senior at Highland High School in Ault and also passionate about animals. Jeff Myers came along too, to partner with Edie in her rescue project.

The name “Animal Debt Project” refers to the injustices and brutality humans have perpetrated against animals over time and the mission of the organization to compensate for these wrongs.

Chad Zadina, owner of Tabby Road Animal Hospital, who has been providing veterinary services for the Animal Debt Project, says Edie spares no expense when it comes to rehabbing the animals in her care. “She has paid for specialists when needed, provides the dogs with shots, has them spayed or neutered and has surgery and dental work done for some of them. She addresses behavioral issues as well as physical.”

Edie runs a good business according to Chad. “She’s conscious of the concerns of her neighbors and works hard to address barking and waste issues. She is someone who is taking humans’ mistakes and correcting them,” he said.

A tour of the Messick property reveals Edie’s commitment to excellence. Each dog has its own roomy cage where it sleeps and eats. “We have no fighting over food here,” Edie says. The dogs spend part of each day running and playing in large fenced in areas.

The “senior center” houses several older dogs in a spot where they can enjoy the sunshine and snuggle into comfortable bedding and blankets. Right now there are about 45 dogs in residence and Edie is friends with every one of them.

“This business is largely Facebook driven,” Edie explains. She learns about animals in need and people looking to rescue a dog on Facebook. Saturdays some of the adoptable dogs are taken to the Fort Collins dog park or Pet Club where people are looking for rescue dogs. The project will soon have a presence at the Petsmart store.

Edie has story after story about animals that might have been dead by now that have found good homes through the project. She shared the tale of Star, a yellow shepherd who survived distemper but was left with tremors and frequent drooling. It was highly unlikely that she would ever be adopted. The other dogs ostracized her. The only dog who had befriended her was adopted and she was lonely.

When two administrators from Sierra Vista Healthcare Center came looking for a therapy dog, Edie said. “This a long shot, but I want you to meet Star.”

“We wipe mouths all the time,” one of the administrators said. “No problem. We’ll take her.” It was as if she’d been waiting for them. In less than 24 hours, she’d befriended a permanent resident who had not spoken a word since he’d been there.

“Come here,” he said the moment he saw Star, surprising everyone. Man and dog disappeared together into his room where she snuggled against him to watch television. By the next day he’d created a framed photo of Star.

“These dogs change lives,” Edie said.

She has enormous dreams for the future which include accommodating more dogs, a vet hospital with a doctor on staff, an adoption center, lodging for people to stay for a few days to see how well they bond with their animal, a treatment facility to make use of waste in farming and growing animal food. Her dreams even extend to employee housing, marketing of merchandise designed and created on site and a concert venue to produce revenue to help the sanctuary become self-sufficient.

Edie dreams big. And she’s not easily deterred by a stumbling block or two along the way.

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1 Comment

  1. Edie and The Animal Debt Project, are the heroes for many of the dogs, strays, homeless, and on the Euthanizing list at Texas shelters. She has saved the dogs no one wanted, and throw like trash. I have witnessed the transformation of a dog, from being someone’s thrown away, to someone’s new family member. I am a rescuer in Houston, and Edie has brought so much needed hope to our city’s horrible situation with dogs overpopulation. I will be always in debt with Edie’s Animal Debt Project, and everyone who supports her cause, and works along her side.

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