Articles by Cheryl
Printed monthly in The Union newspaper, Nevada County
A ROAD WELL TRAVELED
For nearly 15 years I have written a monthly column for the Union on every subject imaginable pertaining to
mostly cats and dogs, but some farm animals too. I have covered diseases, parasites, diets, costs, fitting into
a family, temperaments, behaviors, holiday parties, spaying/neutering, hot weather, cold weather and so much more.
Today, my column will be a bit different; it will be about the experience Curt and I have had on this journey
called Sammie's Friends. In 2001 I walked into the Nevada County Animal Shelter and quickly determined
that 68% of all animals coming there were being euthanized. That's daunting, haunting and heart breaking.
For 22 years we have put our heart and soul, our brawn and brain, our money and time, our love and the kitchen
sink, to boot, into this endeavor, called Sammie's Friends.
Curt and I moved here from the Bay Area where he had been a Research Engineer and I had been a Human Resources
professional and later an Organization Development Consultant. Hardly qualifications for starting and directing
an animal non-profit. Or maybe it was. We both had good business skills and had some people skills and
we struggled to train our dear Shar-pei, Sammie. He was an amazing dog but not an easy dog. He required that
we learn about dogs. We couldn't have had a better teacher. Thank you Sam!
We didn't come here with plans to become animal rescuers. It just happened that way. Life is a wonderful adventure
where so many things unfold and you, the player, in your own script just take the next right step (opportunities develop)
and then you take another step and another and great things happen. We provided vision and foundational values and so many
people came forward to help with donations, volunteering, good will, adopting, fostering, bringing their love
at our darkest moments. The quality of life for animals has changed substantially since we started this movement
in 2001. It would take an entire book to cover all the wonderful things all of you have done to help the wonderful
I have a few principles that I live by and these helped us build our organization. In the beginning people would ask
"Who's going to adopt that old animal?" Answer: "I don't know, but I will find that one person in the nearly
8 billion people who populate the world." I learned as a child, on the barren plains of South Dakota, no matter
how bad things are they are a little bit better if you maintain a positive attitude. That is an absolute "truism".
We must have a soft heart and a hard head. That allows you to love and to set good boundaries and make hard decisions
at the same time. As a young child with a poverty stricken family my mother used to say "God helps those who
help themselves." As a child I thought "Geez, she's gonna say that stupid thing again." As an adult I know she
couldn't have been more right. Thank you Mom.
This work has been fulfilling and happy making and it has also been devastating and heartbreaking at times.
We always love the animals and work so hard to help them, as they deserve. The heartbreak comes from
seeing animals abandoned, abused and neglected. But we always know we can help and we will.
The happy making comes from stories like this: One day we received a cute little Pitbull with mange so bad
she had no hair and so emaciated she couldn't stand up. She was carried into the building by the person who
found her. We treated her mange, got her fattened up, and one day a beautiful young couple from Puerto Rico showed
up and decided to adopt her. They later sent pictures of "Bella" running on the beach, playing with kids and diving
into the ocean for coconuts. My heart soared - I was happy beyond words. This is why we do this. Even the ones
who can't get well get to spend their last days with people who care and they are given the grace and peace to leave this world
knowing that someone loved them.
Our parting is with sweet sorrow. We know we did some good and made a difference. That is reward enough
for all of the effort we put in. We have a deep love for the animals and also for the wonderful human beings
who have given so much, along the way, to help these dear creatures. I thank Curt for being the best partner in life
and in Sammie's Friends that I could ever ask for. He is an amazing human being. I thank Sammie for being the
inspiration to take this on. It was no accident that he was our dog. None other could have ever inspired us to do all
that we did. I thank all the human beings and the animals that have taught me so much along the way. Last, but
not least, I thank God Almighty for being with me in the good times and the dark times.
We love passionately, hurt deeply when the animals hurt, and come out the other end soaring when they get a new home
with people who care for them.
P.S. I will be writing articles until the end of June.
Cheryl Wicks is the Co-Founder and President of Sammie's Friends