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Democrat Photo by Jeanne Sager

LIZ KELLER PLAYS with Miracle, a dog rescued from the woods in the Town of Thompson a few years ago. Severe abuse by his owner has left Miracle with a lot of scars, but Keller has given him the love he needs to get by.

A Miracle Is
Put on Film

By Jeanne Sager
JEFFERSONVILLE — September 19, 2003 – Liz Keller inspires miracles.
The head of the Glen Wild Animal Rescue Shelter and dog control officer for the Town of Mamakating has dedicated her life to rescuing strays from the cold, and now her story is going out over the airwaves.
PAX-TV flew in from California this week to film Keller and her 3-year-old German Shepherd/Husky mix for the “It’s a Miracle” series.
Keller and her pup were a perfect fit.
The dog was found in the woods a few years ago by Town of Thompson animal control when they received calls about a dog whimpering in the woods.
When they went to investigate, they found a small puppy, tied with a rope to a boulder in a shallow grave, with more boulders piled on top of his small body.
The pup had been strangled and was covered in numerous burns and injuries. A visit to a local vet left little to cheer about – the dog was sentenced to death.
Then Keller stepped in. She couldn’t let the poor puppy die after such a hard life.
She took him home and named him Miracle. She nursed him back to health and turned him into a family pet, as well as a dog she uses in training kids about animal kindness.
And it was the story of Miracle that brought PAX-TV to Jeffersonville to film a television spot.
“It’s a real universal story,” said Alec Griffith, film director for PAX. “This story is one people are affected by – who can’t empathize with a little puppy being treated like this?”
They were impressed, Griffith said, by this woman who sacrificed so much to protect those who have no voice – running a shelter on donations alone.
For Keller, it was a choice easy to make.
Originally involved in showing dogs, Keller was introduced to the owners of Top Dog Kennel, who brought her to Sullivan County. (Top Dog is now one of the sponsors of Glen Wild Animal Rescue.)
Eventually she became the town’s animal control officer, and later began picking up animals and taking them home.
The shelter was opened in 1999, and there are always at least 20 dogs and 15 cats patiently waiting in their cages for someone to take them home.
The pets come from all over – from the Town of Mamakating, from people in Sullivan County who find an animal in need, and from New York City where 60,000 animals are euthanized each year because people don’t spay or neuter their pets and fail to take care of the litters.
Keller’s main goal? To adopt out the animals.
“But we never do same-day adoptions,” she said.
People are instructed to fill out a two-page adoption form, and if Keller has a “feeling” about someone, she sends an animal control officer in to do a home inspection.
The question isn’t what’s best for the people or even whether the people are suitable pet owners, but what’s best for the animal, said Mike Yurtch, rescue manager in Glen Wild.
It’s a hard job. The shelter depends on donations and good people showing up to take home an animal.
So what makes it worth it?
“As an animal control officer, I just see so much suffering,” Keller explained. “But I know I can make a difference.”
Her extensive work with local children, helping them learn to fight animal cruelty and love the pets – even teaching animal obedience courses using shelter dogs who can bond with the kids – has made a huge difference.
“You can’t explain how you feel when you see those kids with an animal,” she said. “But you teach them to respect life, you teach them to love animals.
“This program inspires a lot of self-confidence,” she continued. “It makes them feel good to make an animal happy.”
Miracle still has his good days and his bad days. Keller can’t give him to another family because the horrors of his past still haunt his days.
Usually loving and sweet, if someone reaches for his hindquarters where much of the damage was done by his original owner, Miracle gets stressed. He’s even been known to bite out of fear.
That owner was sentenced to 1 year in prison by Sullivan County Court Judge Frank LaBuda. Upon his arrest, outstanding warrants were discovered from the State of Pennsylvania, and the last Keller heard was that he was transferred from Sullivan County’s jail system to Pennsylvania, where he died in prison.
Speaking with kids from the Sullivan County BOCES animal science classes during a PAX-TV taping at Stonewall Farms in Jeffersonville, Keller put out a call for help from area youth to make sure the things that happened to Miracle don’t happen again.
“We need kids to get involved to change the system,” she said. “It’s been the same system since I was a kid.
“Never, ever forget these animals have a spirit and a will to live,” Keller noted.
“It’s a Miracle” airs on PAX at 8 p.m. on Thursday evenings and every weekday at 11 p.m. Check local listings to see Keller and her Miracle.
For more information on Glen Wild Animal Rescue, call 434-7191 or visit 338 Glen Wild Road north of Rock Hill.

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