By Alex Jones
MEET THE inspirational husband and wife duo and their team who work around-the-clock saving dogs with unsightly illnesses, deformities and broken bones – including a dog with TWO MOUTHS – and they do all of this whilst juggling FULL TIME JOBS.
Heart wrenching photos show an incredibly emaciated pup on the verge of starvation, a pooch with four broken legs being cuddled by a volunteer, and a dog with such severe ulcers that its eyes had to be removed.
Another photo shows a dog called Toad who has two right ears and an extra mouth with a few teeth on the right-hand side of her head.
All these dogs and many more may would have faced a terrifying, painful end if it were not for the compassion and industry of Mutt Misfits, a United States charity set up to help unwanted animals in situations that could lead to harm or euthanasia.
The family-and-friend-run group primarily focus on animals with major medical illnesses, injuries or advanced age that are often overlooked.
By partnering with shelters in Oklahoma and the public, Mutt Misfits promote responsible pet ownership, spay and neuter, and the adoption of special needs pets.
It is their goal to ‘save the un-saveable’.
Heather Hernandez (32), founder of Mutt Misfits, explained how her incredible organisation came to be.
“Many moons ago, Mandy James and I worked as the rescue and foster coordinators for the municipal shelter in Oklahoma City,” said Heather, who has adopted two mouthed Toad herself.
“Time after time, we found ourselves begging organisations to transfer the seriously sick and injured pets, but never with much luck.
“Major medical cases are obviously very expensive and most organisations don’t have the funds to take on sick pets.
“So we started Mutts, along with my husband John, to focus on the pets that others so often overlook due to lack of foster homes, funding and the fact that most people just don’t want to adopt special needs animals.
“The municipal shelter here in Oklahoma takes in about 25,000 animals a year. The euthanasia rate is right about 25%. Our goal as an organisation – and as animal lovers – is to lower that rate by allowing animals with major medical needs a chance to receive care via our program.
“Obviously our medical bills are insane, so donations are always needed.”
Her husband John was initially nervous about how much work the trio would be taking on and revels in the franctic workload.
“When Heather and Mandy told me their idea of wanting to found our own organisation I was a little nervous at first,” he admitted.
“It’s a lot of responsibility and work to take on.
“We all have full time jobs already so this seemed a bit daunting, like why take on another full-time job that we will can’t even be paid for?
“Well, like happens so often, the wife wins, so we banded together and formed Mutt Misfits.
“I’m a punk rock music fan so Heather and Mandy appeased me by letting me have a Misfits themed name and logo.
“It’s been two years now and we have saved over 300 sick and injured animals along our journey.
“It’s an insane amount of work and stress and time and maybe we lose a little sanity every now and then.
“But it’s been a fun ride and we’ve saved some really great animals.”
Mutt Misfits regularly takes in animals with broken bones as well as diseased and/or elderly dogs or ones with major deformities.
The cost for every animal brought in to Mutt Misfits’s is rarely below £1,000, despite the heavy discount the non-profit company receives.
Since inception in 2017, over 300 animals have been brought in to the program.
Some of the animals are able to be completely healed and brought back to healthy, adoptable status.
Unfortunately, as is the nature of their work, some are not, so the company seeks out responsible owners who are willing to look after a dog with additional needs.
“Unfortunately not all of our cases end up with happy endings,” added the Mutt Misfits president.
“Due to the extreme illnesses and injuries we take in, we have lost a few friends along the way.
“We always do whatever we can to help.
“When we rushed one of our dog’s Micky to the emergency vet we said ‘pull out all the stops. It doesn’t matter what it takes. If we don’t have the money, we will find it. Just save him’.
“He had been surrendered to a shelter with his two brothers, in absolutely horrible condition.
“We had him started on a medical plan to get him healthy but he had gone septic from the mange, infection, parasites and neglect.
“Recently, after having him in our care for two days, he crashed.
“He was in ICU for 12 hours.
“We sat on the floor and cried with him.
“We held out hope until the last second. But his body was too weak. He passed away in the arms of his foster mom in the ER.
“Losses like this are nearly unbearable. But we keep fighting for the sick and injured pets.”
Despite the heartbreak, sometimes the team manage to snatch the unlikeliest victory from the jaws of defeat.
Heather continued: “Some of the pets, no matter how awful they look at the beginning, end up with fairy tale endings!
“We were contacted by the shelter about a dog who was so emaciated, they considered euthanising immediately.
“But they gave us a chance and several months and several thousand dollars later, Vincent is a fat, happy, one eyed, one eared mastiff living his best life with his new best friend.
“Mutt Misfits was founded to help the animals overlooked in shelters, the ones who seem too far gone, and the ones whose care seems overwhelming and daunting.
“It’s always messy, it’s always stressful, and it’s always worth it, to show the special needs pets that they matter too.
“Caring for special needs animals typically takes a lot more work than traditionally ‘adoptable’ animals.
“With more work, comes so much more adoration and appreciation from those animals.
“A dog’s companionship can change the world for a human.
“All dogs can make great pets, but the love and loyalty you receive from a special needs pet is unlike any explicable bond I’ve ever felt before.”
Every day is a different challenge and a new reward added Mandy James.
“An average day for us includes taking care of own pets as well as fosters,” explained the co-founder.
“Heather and I both have special needs pets of our own personally so sometimes that takes a little extra.
“One of mine, for example, does swimming physical therapy and goes to a chiropractor so her appointments keep me on my toes.
“We also care for our fosters, which range as far as their needs.
“We also are in basically constant communication with our shelter partners, our vet staff and our fosters making sure everybody has everything they need to take the best care of our babies.
“So the day to day can include lots of time on the phone or driving pups around to where they need to go, delivering supplies or any number of things to help everything run smoothly.”
Mutt Misfits is 100% volunteer and foster home based with no paid employees and no shelter facility.
100% of donations go to the care of the animals. To donate, please click here.