Story by Dave Eckert
As a huge animal lover, especially a dog person, I was thrilled to hear about a Blue Springs-based group called “Pawportunities.” I first found them on Facebook. I wanted to know more, so I reached out to the group’s director, Carrie Siems, and asked her a few questions. I’m not ashamed to admit that I teared up reading her answers. What follows is just a small part of the Pawportunities story and a chance for you to get involved.
In a nutshell, Siems says Pawportunities changes lives through animal rescue-animal lives and human lives. “We help find homes for animals, provide medical care for those in need, offer low-cost vaccination clinics, and trap/neuter/return community cats to ease the overpopulation problem. Pawportunities also provides custom built dog houses for dogs that would otherwise freeze to death in the winter. We work with at risk middle school students to help break down emotional barriers, give the Blue Springs School District vet tech students hands-on opportunities, collaborate with local youth and community service programs, and operate animal control for the city of Blue Springs,” Siems shared.
Siems says Pawportunities began in 2018 after her son, Bentley, won prize money in a national science fair project. “Bentley took the $500 he won and used it to vet two black kittens he found on Craigslist. Our family adopted the kittens and made a $12 profit. Next, our family took in a mama dog and her nine puppies. It was at this point people began reaching out to us to foster animals, and Pawportunities began to grow. We are continuously amazed at the support we received from our community, and our ability to change lives through our animal rescue and welfare actives,” Siems said. “Pawportunities has adopted out over 3,000 animals, trap/neutered/returned over 1,000 community cats, and provided over 1,500 low-cost services through our community outreach programs.”
I asked Siems to share one story that resonates with her. This is where I cried. “The most memorable dog rescue Pawportunities had the privilege of facilitating was Incredible Journey. He was a German Shepherd that came to us as a ten-week-old puppy. He was found picked up by animal control from a desolate area. He was in desperate need of medical care, more than a municipality could provide, so we took him into our program. We were terrified we wouldn’t be able to raise the funds necessary to get Incredible Journey the care he needed. But amazingly, we did. We lovingly refer to Incredible Journey as our $60,000 dog. He was found with horrific chemical burns on his legs, and we believe he was left in a kennel where he couldn’t stand up, so his legs fused to his abdomen. His legs needed to be separated, and skin regrown on a large portion of his body. Once released from around the clock hospitalization, which lasted 60-days, he attended physical therapy weekly, if not multiple times weekly, and went to the animal hospital several days a week to have his bandages changed. After he healed, the area of skin he had to grow essentially acted like somewhat of an exoskeleton. The scar tissue didn’t have the same flexibility as skin, greatly restricting his range of motion- to the point where he was unable to sit down. He was taken to multiple specialists before ending up at MU where he underwent several more rounds of surgery. His tail was amputated and skin from it was used on his undercarriage, along with multiple skin grafts. He went through this several times during the first two years of his life,” Siems recalled.
“Some people might question all the money that was raised and spent on Incredible Journey, or the number of procedures he endured, but each step was carefully assessed. People continued to donate to Incredible Journeys care because of what he symbolized for them. They were invested in seeing him succeed. And he has! Incredible Journey is the most loving, accepting, and inspiring dog you will ever meet. His body language, facial expressions, gentle reassuring licks, and happy tail wags let us know he didn’t want to give up. This story is so meaningful to us as it was our first glimpse into how we were changing lives through animal rescue and welfare. Incredible Journey will live out his life with his foster, who has an amazingly close bond with him from all the things they went through together,” Siems told me.
So, how can you get involved? Siems says that are many opportunities. “We need more foster families, help at the shelter, donations, or just likes on our Facebook page. Go to www.Pawportunities.com to complete a foster or volunteer application. When we all do a little, we can accomplish a lot when it comes to changing lives through animal rescue!” Siems exclaimed. Just ask Incredible Journey!