Imagine that you are homeless. You wander around daily with no place to go in the scorching Iowa weather. You pass by home after home looking for someone to help and may occasionally get offered a scrap of food, or sympathetic look, but still you travel, aimlessly, until finally you are almost dead, suffering from heat stroke.
Imagine that you are deaf and partially blind. You are practically a pile of bones due to sickness and malnutrition.
Imagine someone rescues you, but instead of being treated humanely you are neglected and forced to live in a dark basement.
Diann and Frankie.
These are all true stories and thanks to Reinbeck resident Diann Helmers these animals have been saved from their inevitable doom. Helmers runs Agape Fosters an animal rescue outside of Reinbeck, in rural Grundy County. She has been in business for seventeen years, but has been an advocate for animals for much longer. Diann remembers that at the age of five she brought home her first stray animal, a dog with a bloody, injured eye. As a child she would also rescue drowning turkey chicks that were disposed of by a turkey hatchery. She would rescue other stray dogs, cats, and lizards, anything that needed a loving home. When asked what her parents thought of this behavior, Diann says, "They never discouraged me."
Diann's experience stems from working at a veterinary office, being part of a pet pals volunteer program, volunteering at the Cedar Bend Humane Society plus other shelters and attending seminars on animal care and cruelty. She believes that the basis of her education comes from years of hands on care for homeless pets.
Diann says that Agape Fosters is a non-profit, charitable foundation that is inspected and licensed with the state of Iowa. "I am the exact opposite of what a puppy or kitty mill is," states Helmers. "Mills are breeders with many dogs or cats that live in small, confined conditions with poor health and little to no human touch. I am everything they are not," says Helmers. Diann explains that within the last fifteen years Agape Fosters has taken care of at least 1100 homeless cats, dogs, potbelly pigs and other animals. Many have been adopted. Agape Fosters also helps fund the spaying and neutering of pets with lower income owners, or those trying to get a cat colony population down. Agape Fosters has donated pet food and health care to those in need.
Diann explains that she and her husband Roy mostly run the shelter. He is responsible for exercising the dogs during the day. Diann says that it's very common for dogs to be in his office, or following him around on the farm. He handles maintenance and comes up with ideas to house the pets. Diann says that the property has been redone to best suit the interests of the animals. The "dog house" is equipped with medium to large sized kennels, dog beds, chew toys, a couch, a recliner and a TV. Fenced in areas are utilized throughout the day for adequate exercise. "My dogs do not spend hours and hours in small areas. They interact together outdoors, except in extreme weather conditions."
Volunteers come occasionally and help with cleaning, or pet sitting, while Helmers visits her daughter who lives in Calif. A lot of the care for these animals has been paid for out of their own pockets. "Adoption fees help to ease this burden, we get few donations, those seem to go to the bigger organizations that get more funding and media attention than small rescues do," says Helmers.
Diann would eventually like to get more volunteers in order for her to have more time to speak out and educate communities on the welfare of animals. "It is our obligation to give animals humane care. We need to set a good example for others. The high euthanasia rate needs to drop in most shelters, marketing, socializing, exercise and education on spaying and neutering is the key," believes Helmers.
If you would like to adopt a pet, donate, or become a volunteer please contact Diann at Agape Fosters, 20744 W Ave. Reinbeck, Iowa 50669, or by email: ALTERUPET@aol.com. Agape Fosters can also be found on www.petfinder.com.