Some weeks ago, First Lady Obama asked us to nominate the person who inspires us. Wow, that's a toughie, because there are quite a few people who inspire me. I had to let that one slide.
But yesterday I received by snail mail a letter from Leo Grillo of D.E.L.T.A.
Rescue of Glendale, CA. When I was working, I always tried to send him
something for his animal rescue work, which inspired me and still does.
Regrettably, I have not been sending him my small checks for years now, but I was glad that I heard from him regarding his 30- year anniversary of animal rescue.
In the fall of 1979 Leo was living in a tiny apartment in Hollywood with his three black cats. Delta, his dog, whom he had rescued in the mountains earlier, was living in a rented back yard because pets -not even cats - were allowed in his apartment.
But his life was about to change dramatically on the morning he took Delta to the forest to run around and exercise. There, in a picnic area, they found 35 starving dogs. What could he do? He left and returned with 5 large bags of dog food which he spread out for those dogs to hungrily devour. He remembered then their loving hearts and eyes filled with gratitude. That was 30 years ago.
Driving home, he realized that he had 35 new friends who now counted on him to survive. What could he do in this predicament? What would others have done? Of the drive home he said: "That drive home was hard. I knew I had to help those dogs. I didn't want to leave them there, but I didn't know what else to do. All I knew was that they needed to eat every day...so every day I made the long drive to the forest to feed them."
Day after day he brought food for them, but then the rains came and some dogs came down with distemper or parvo. He got antibiotics and vitamin C to put in the dogs' canned food, and when some were so sick that he could outrun them, he took those to the vet.
He really needed help and called all the local animal groups listed in the phone book. None would help. He called the giant national groups who he was shocked to learn that none of them spent their money on animals as he was doing. I can understand his frustration and dismay with this because, even though all were involved with animal rights, most did not keep animals.
If they did not provide shelters, why couldn't they help Leo, who was trying to save these dumped, homeless, hungry dogs? I too remember one big national group who had a CEO who commanded a huge yearly salary. Those who knew about this were scandalized and clearly this group was violating people's trust - using the money for sumptious living instead of for animal causes. Leo is still angry about these groups, but I believe that most salaries are now within the reasonable range. And even though Leo still distrusts them, I am grateful to many of them for educating me re the animal issues as well as for their work to convince legislators to make needed humane changes for the animals.
Realizing that no one would help with these 35 dogs, he first rented space in boarding kennels, feeding and cleaning up after the dogs himself in order to save money. Then he rented a house for his 29 dogs and, though he tried to find homes for them, he continually found more of them in the forest.
Always creative, he now needed money to buy a dumpy old kennel to house 250 dogs. He turned to the TV shows and told his story for the newspapers. The Today Show even did three stories on him and Delta Rescue. Finally, people responded, and he was able to build his first animal shelter. The response was good and years later, with the help of the donations of concerned people, he was able to build his SuperSanctuary.
Today that SuperSantuary cares for 1500 animals and, yes, monetary offerings are still needed to feed the animals, hire workers and vets to care for them, and to send those wonderful pictures and updates of the new animal rescues with their often heart-breaking stories, which usually end happily in Delta Rescue.
Leo is a gifted writer, and I had always waited eagerly to read about his latest rescues. If he hasn't already written a book about Delta Rescue, then he surely should. It will bring more revenue and notoriety to his wonderful cause. Since Leo is an actor - why doesn't someone make a movie of this wonderful story and accomplishment? I am tired of seeing violence, gore, and sex in the movies. I miss the wholesome ones of the past.
When Leo announced to friends that his shelter was a no-kill, some people ridiculed the idea, but today there are hundreds of them. There were also other enterprising innovations from Delta Rescue. Among them:
1.They started the world's first kidney dialysis program for dogs and cats at the University of California, Davis.
2. They invented the straw bale doghouse which is now being promoted by the African Congress of Nations and is being used in Bosnia for their very first animal shelter.
3. They sponsored the only wartime animal haven in Afghanistan for injured and homeless dogs and cats.