On a hot July 15 the Animal Care Network gathered the troops to help animals in Pontiac neighborhoods in memory of ACN volunteer Cindy Merz.
Summers are tough for many animals in Pontiac, but last summer was pretty tough for their tireless friends at ACN, as they lost Merz in July and another long-time volunteer, Ken Snow, in early September.
The all-volunteer ACN sends crews out 52 weekends each year (and some weekdays) to help abused and neglected animals and low-income pet owners in Pontiac. They carry and distribute water, donated food, bedding, and dog houses, and provide basic care and a lot of love, educating the community about proper animal care and rescuing endangered animals.
They usually make 20 – 30 stops a day. On July 15, Merz’s birthday, they made 50.
“That’s what she would have wanted us to do,” said Pam Porteous, ACN manager, who organized tributes to both Snow and Merz, creating power point presentations comprised of photos, letters of appreciation and stories.
“I had so many stories and things to tell about them,” Porteous said. “Amazing, awesome people, they were.”
Snow, says Porteous, was the President of Hagopian World of Rugs. Volunteer Marie Skladd met Snow at a promotional event and told him about ACN.
“He went out that first weekend and had been going out ever since,” Porteous said.
He was, she said, as kind to people as to animals. The story that defined the quality of Snow’s heart for Porteous was his anonymous gift to an elderly couple whose son had been murdered in a home invasion. When he heard that they could not afford to get his ashes, he went to the funeral home and paid for them.
“People just don’t do things like that anymore,” Porteous said. “He didn’t even know them. He had never even met them before.”
He also opened his heart to a homeless gentleman, getting him boots and a new tent. “He worried about that guy like crazy,” Porteous said. “He worried about him in the winter time.”
Both Snow and Merz were regular helpers to Dave Colman who runs the Center Stage warming shelter in Pontiac.
“Cindy and Ken were both like that, so giving and generous, not just with animals, but with people,” Porteous said. “They were just a lot alike.”
Merz had a gift for connecting with people, Porteous said.
The tribute letters from pet owners and fellow volunteers speak of her kindness and generosity but equally of her honesty, tenacity and fearlessness.
“It didn’t matter what type of person or character. They trusted her. She could get through to people,” Porteous said.
That included a gang of “thugs,” Porteous said. “She was brave and she just made a connection with everybody she met. She was the only one who could deal with these guys.”
Porteous said that Merz was the only one who get could them to give up the pit bulls they often had. Porteous organizes the weekly crews, arranging stops at homes based on requests for assistance and reports of mistreated animals. She says that Merz would call regularly asking for stops to make during the week.
“Cindy was in Pontiac several times a week,” Porteous said. “It sucks the life out of you. And that’s what Cindy wanted to do, be out there helping people.”
“Cindy was so sick for the last couple of years, but she went out in Pontiac anyway. She just felt good when she was doing it,” Porteous said.
“We still miss them like crazy,” Porteous said.