Nine years ago, Rose Hamilton was walking her son, Jadon, to Zane North Elementary School on a chilly February morning with her 2 ½-year-old daughter, Kyleigh, in tow. Suddenly, she stopped in her tracks.
Another mom had a little black puppy. Kyleigh hadn’t interacted with a dog before.
Rose asked the fellow parent, who was fostering the pup, for permission and, suddenly, Kyleigh Hamilton had a new best friend.
“I still have the picture,” she said. “Kyleigh is wearing a purple coat, there’s a little snow on the ground and the puppy is hip high on her. And then she’s got her hand around her.”
Rose sent the photo via email to her husband, Mark. “You don’t play fair,” he responded.
Roxy (the dog’s name now) came to visit the Hamilton family on a Saturday shortly after the meet, and she never left. She found a new home, with Rose, Mark, John Mark, Jadon, little Kyleigh Hamilton and the rest of the family.
About six weeks later, the Hamiltons welcomed Rusty, another rescue puppy, into their home, too. Roxy needed someone she could play a little rougher with.
“She was a really easy dog,” Rose said of Roxy. “Which tricks you into another one.”
Rose Hamilton laughed. A chance meeting with a puppy at a school playground quickly led to adopting Roxy, then one dog turned into two, and soon she was volunteering as a foster for a rescue group, and then somewhere around a half dozen dogs a year became about 30 a month when she started her own rescue and now, nearly a decade after running into Roxy at the schoolyard, Rose Hamilton has helped save more than 1,000 dogs’ lives.
Woof Love Rescue is a foster-based dog rescue organization based out of the Hamiltons’ home in Collingswood. It launched in August of 2017, a handful of years after Rose Hamilton had gained experience as a regular foster for another local rescue organization.
But, in reality, Woof Love’s genesis was in the serendipity of meeting Roxy and then a conversation just a few months later, when Roxy and Rusty had made themselves at home with the Hamiltons.
“We’re looking at them one night and my husband turns and looks at me and he said, ‘How could anybody throw this away? How does this happen? How are these dogs, that are part of our family, trash to somebody else? How is that? How does that happen?’” Rose recalled. “And you know, we kind of talked about it. I said, we have to do something.”
“Something,” initially, was fostering. Then, 3 ½ years ago, it became Rose Hamilton finding her true passion in running her own animal rescue organization, Woof Love, with a logo she has tattooed just above her wrist.
Hamilton and her loyal network of foster moms and dads throughout the Delaware Valley – she estimated there are around 40, most are local and all are within an hour’s drive, so they can use the same veterinarian to keep the pups healthy and growing – have volunteered countless hours to saving lives and dedicated themselves to promoting animal welfare.
The majority of the dogs arrive at Woof Love from Animal Aid USA, an organization that drives custom rigs – with heating, air-conditioning and stainless steel crates – and have a caravan of three or four vans following their path to and from Georgia. The dogs are saved from high-kill shelters and brought up north for a second chance at life, thanks to rescue organizations like theirs.
“(Good Samaritans) are pulling these dogs from the ditches, from under trailers, from the conditions they’re in, they’re saving them, and then they’re sending them to us,” Rose Hamilton said.
“We make it work,” added Mark Hamilton. “And it’s growing. And the bottom line is we’re saving lives and we’re creating better lives for these animals and also building other families in the area, providing new experiences (for them). Children growing up with a dog – that brings me back to when I was a kid, the American story, children and a dog, going to the park. I’m very proud of her.”
Rose Hamilton estimated that Woof Love Rescue takes in somewhere from 20-35 dogs a month. Thanks to her own pack of fosters, Facebook and websites like Petfinder, the dogs usually have somewhat short stays at Woof Love en route to finding permanent homes and before a new group of two to three dozen dogs arrives four weeks later.
“The areas we’re pulling from (down South), people are starting to get it,” Hamilton said. “It’s not going to happen overnight. Change never happens overnight. It just doesn’t. They’re starting to get it.
“And the dogs we get, we place in wonderful homes and it’s to see the updates on our Facebook page. It never ceases to amaze me, sometimes if I’m having a really rough day, asking how did I get here, and then I’ll get a text or a message or one of my fosters or volunteers comes to me with a story about one of the dogs that we’ve placed. And that’s it. I’m done. I know why I’m doing it, and that’s it. Those moments. I know why I’m doing this. This is who I am.”
For more information, visit woofloverescue.org.