By Jacqueline G. Goodwin, Ed.D. • Photos By Danielle Debley
A dog saved my life,” says Janine Guido. “It’s because of a dog that I’m still standing and living today.”
Depression is an ugly, difficult thing. It plays tricks on your mind and makes you believe you shouldn’t be here. Such was the case of Guido, who admits she suffered from bipolar and severe clinical depression for years.
“I was in and out of psychiatric hospitals,” she explains. “One day I found an emaciated, stray dog along the side of a road and decided to bring him home. I named him. I knew I had to take care of him because he relied on me. I also knew that I had to take care of myself and take my medications because he needed me. I also realized that saving animals would be my purpose.”
Guido is the founder of Speranza Animal Rescue. She believes in second chances, love, patience, and acceptance. She is passionate about taking in those animals deemed a “lost cause” as due to her own struggles with mental illness she can relate.
Growing up in Mechanicsburg, Guido and her sister were raised around avid horse-riders. She trained horses and her sister gave riding lessons. Eventually, her family built their own 17.5 acre horse farm. Along the way, her compassion for unwanted animals and the joy brought, never wavered.
In 2011, Guido was unable to train and ride horses due to a knee injury. It was during this period of her life that she dedicated herself to saving unwanted animals full time. Using the family’s farm as her rescue facility, she adopted more dogs, horses, goats and cows. In the spring of 2012, Guido began to pursue establishing an official non-profit organization that she called “Speranza Animal Rescue.”
“Speranza means ‘hope’ in Italian,” explains Guido. “We are an all-breed rescue, rehabilitation center and haven for the animals saved, and each animal is promised as much time as they need,” she adds. “We will not turn any dogs away. We are always full. If one dog leaves, we literally get another.
“We work with local and state police and the SPCA, in addition to other organizations around the country to take in abused, neglected and/or stray dogs and other animals,” says Guido.
Speranza is also unique in that it provides long-term care for its residents, whether they’re dogs, cats, pigs or horses. “We never euthanize an animal because of a lack of space. We have several dogs that are not currently adoptable, but are in rehabilitation. They can be in rehab for medical or behavioral issues and each case requires a different approach and plan,” Guido explains.
Volunteers at Speranza describe Guido as a “dog whisperer” of sorts as she has been known to sit in rain, snow or through the dead of night to convince a stray dog to trust her.
Guido admits that she has a special place in her heart for Pit Bulls and other bully breeds because of the stereotypes that plague them. “Our passion is educating the public about these sweet dogs,” she says. “Some of the Pit Bulls currently in residence were literally on death row at various kill shelters and were hours away from being killed before we arranged to take them. I just want to give the dogs a chance.”
Guido also tries to help the most helpless animals—those who are handicapped—the ones who nobody else cares for. Over the years, Speranza has saved animals that required surgery and were on a kill shelter’s list to euthanize.
She has enlisted the aid of Dr. Ivan Pryor, DVM, owner and head veterinarian at Dillsburg Veterinary Center, who volunteers to treat the animals that need help and religiously tends to the animals at Speranza on a regular basis.
“Dr. Pryor is a God send,” says Guido. “He treats all of the animals at Speranza as if they were his own. We are very lucky to have such a dedicated veterinarian as part of our team.”
Not only are some dogs permanent residents, Guido says Speranza has other animals that will be on the rescue farm for the duration of their natural lives. These include two alpacas, three donkeys, three goats, eleven pigs, one sheep, two miniature horses, four cows and four regular sized horses.
Guido says Speranza relies on several volunteers to help provide a quality of life. Currently, 175 volunteers regularly show up to walk the dogs, clean and stock supplies. “We have three walk shifts, morning, noon and evening and two cleaning shifts from 10 a.m. to 12 noon and from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.,” she says. “Volunteers also help with stocking items which are donated.”
Margie Booze, a reading specialist in the Dallastown School District, volunteers at Speranza whenever she can. Like most of the volunteers she knows the names of the animal residents and proudly tells visitors about the animals’ personal stories and case histories.
“Erkle, the sheep, was very sick when he arrived at the rescue,” says Booze. “The cows, Meatball, Mr. Bean, Noodles, and T-Bone were super small when we got them. And Cadbury, a tiny little piglet when he was abandoned along a road and brought to the farm,” she adds. “And Juliette is now a beautiful pig who has the best ears.” She reiterates the fact that these farm animals are part of the sanctuary and will be here for life.
“I’m here five days a week, and during the summer when I’m on vacation from teaching, I volunteer six days. If I’m off, I’m here,” she says.
Lisa Flasher also volunteers on a regular basis. “I love to come out here and walk the dogs,” says Flasher. “I needed something to do so I decided to help. It’s great exercise and above all, I’m spreading the love to these beautiful dogs.”
“Speranza Animal Rescue is funded entirely by donations from our generous supporters and is manned exclusively by volunteers,” says Guido. “The Speranza mission to save the most abused and neglected animals would not be possible without the continuous donations and annual fundraising efforts.”
Charles Darwin said, “The love for all living creatures is the noblest attribute of man.” Guido and her love of animals foster this statement each and every day as she and her team of volunteers tend to the residents at Speranza.
You can learn about Speranza’s ongoing efforts to rescue, rehabilitate, and reintroduce animals suffering from abuse, abandonment, neglect or catastrophic disaster, discover volunteering opportunities and how to adopt or foster at www.speranzarescue.org. Most importantly, you’ll find things you can do right now to help Speranza make a life-changing difference to animals in need.