Animal rescue becomes a ‘full-time unpaid job’ | The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Janie Smith retired from her long-time job with the federal government in December 2012, but she works as tenaciously as she did before.

“I laugh and say I retired from my full-time paid job for a full-time unpaid job,” says Smith, 70. “It’s just my passion.”

About six months after Smith retired from the Social Security Administration in Pine Bluff after 41 years of service — a few years of which at the Little Rock Civil Service Commission — she decided to go to the city animal shelter to see if she could help walk the dogs.

“That’s what I did,” she says. “And I met some other ladies who were really involved in volunteering at the shelter. I started by going there every afternoon to walk the dogs, and then we decided we would try to help the dogs by finding some rescues that were willing to take them in.”

Since then, she has begun helping with heartworm testing at that shelter and another, and transports dogs twice a month to and from the Companions Animal Clinic in Greenbrier for spaying and neutering. The one-hour drive to her delivery starts around 6 a.m., and she generally returns home around 6 p.m. She says most of those animals go to new homes the next day.

“I started taking dogs to rescues that were willing to take our dogs,” she says. “We went everywhere from Houston, Texas, to South Carolina.”

She reached out to Rescue Road in Little Rock, which partners with Last Hope K9 Rescue in Boston. It serves as a sort of liaison between those organizations and the Pine Bluff shelter to prepare the dogs for the ride to Boston where adopters are waiting for them.

“This includes posting pictures of the dogs on Facebook, researching their care, and preparing their medical packages,” she says. “We coordinate with the sponsor and take the dogs to someone who will take care of them.”

Watching the dogs being loaded and headed toward promised homes in Boston is rewarding, she says, because many dogs aren’t so lucky.

“Other rescues are struggling,” she says. “One of the people I like to help is Amy’s Animal Rescue in Star City. It’s basically a one-person operation.”

There are periodic fundraising campaigns, to raise small amounts of money to cover some of the expenses of rescue operations.

“I spend a lot of my retirement money on fuel, or if the shelter needs puppy food or things like that, I help out as much as I can,” says Smith, who was born in Weirton, West Virginia, and works in the steel business. Mill Town, where her father worked as a heavy equipment mechanic and her mother stayed home with her and her brother.

After high school, she took a job in the FBI’s fingerprint division in Washington, D.C., a job she got with her parents’ blessing after meeting FBI representatives at a campus recruiting fair.

“We had to write the information on fingerprint cards and then file it in a file, that kind of thing,” she says.

A friend from high school went too, and they made new friends there.

“We did all the touristy things, like the Smithsonian and the monuments. It was an excellent experience,” she says.

I had a short meeting with J. Edgar Hoover while she was there, as she took the elevator and found him there with his “entourage.”

“That was probably the highlight of my time there,” she says. “He shook my hand and introduced himself.”

She moved to Arkansas in 1973, after marrying an Arkansas native who wanted to return to his homeland.

She wishes more people in her adopted state would spay and neuter their dogs.

“It’s overwhelming,” Smith says. “I would say the Pine Bluff shelter has 80 dogs and puppies.”

Each animal needs to be walked daily and provided with fresh water and food.

“They need that enrichment, to get outdoors and roam,” she says. “Kennels are not good for them for any length of time. They need that human connection.”

Smith has had dogs since she was a child and now has two dogs, both of which she rescues.

“It was a lot of fun and sometimes very heartbreaking,” she says of her volunteer gig.

She also fosters dogs, explaining that almost every shelter and rescue organization in the state needs people willing to temporarily board and care for dogs, until they can find homes.

“This only helps save more dogs,” she says.

Volunteers from Last Hope recently gathered in Arkansas, and Smith helped set up a command center for them. These volunteers paid their own way and used the money they raised back home to buy supplies to build a shelter in Carlisle.

“They have a lot of people supporting them there,” says Smith, who plans to continue doing what she can to support animal rescues here. “I always told them that until they fire me, I’m probably going to drag my old self out here, and do what I can. It’s worth it. If you have the time and you have a heart for animals, it’s a good thing.” Just an amazing experience.”

If you have an interesting story about an Arkansan age 70 or older, please call (501) 425-7228 or email:


picture Janie Smith, 70, spends her time helping dogs like this one. “He’s the one I was able to send up north, he’s the older boy but I loved him,” she says. “He was a special person, and I visited him when I went to Boston to receive the Last Hope K9 Rescue Award for Southern Volunteer of the Year.” (Exclusive to Al-Democracy newspaper)

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