Denise De Vynck suffered back injures after a head-on collision years ago. Her spirits were low, she needed a friend and she didn’t know where to turn.
In 1993 she found that friend in an unexpected form — a dog named Charlie.
The friendship that De Vynck found with Charlie served as inspiration for Save a Dog and Kids, the non-profit organization she formed in 1999 that has rescued over 1,200 dogs since.
“I had a parent come to me one day and say her kids did not like the after-school programs and wondered if they could correlate something with the dogs,” said De Vynck. “That’s when it occurred to me that I could have children help the dogs and in turn the kids would be helped.”
De Vynck has worked with children from every kind of background, but said she especially enjoys working with troubled youth. Once she gained her passion for animals, De Vynck said she realized dogs could further help the youth that she works with, and decided to pair the two together.
De Vynck met with one of the nation’s leading experts on abuse, Dr. Frank Ascione, who said children who are abused or see abuse are predisposed to it. After talking with the doctor, De Vynck said Ascone’s research showed that animal therapy is one of the best ways to rid of abusive traits.
“Kids who have been through difficult situations have to feel needed,” said De Vynck. “All types of children can benefit from learning how to train and trust dogs. Those children who are troubled, have been abused or have depression learn to trust again. ”
Save a Dog and Kids does not just work with children, but anyone in need of a new friend. De Vynck explained that Charlie, her first rescued dog, helped her regain her health, and after gaining this happiness she realized she wanted to share it with others.
“Animals are such a gift, such angels,” said De Vynck.
Programs all over the United States have paired up with Save a Dog and Kids to transport the animals to their new homes. Flying Paws is a non-profit organization that flies animals to homes all over the country. Their rescue railroads consist of people volunteering their time and gas to transport animals from one state to the next.
“Bailey, one of the dogs, was transported across 15 states, with 15 different drivers to get to her new home in Chicago,” said De Vynck. “It is really cool to see people come together and help.”
De Vynck has found homes for over 1,200 animals all over the U.S., and those who work with the animals love seeing their progress. Kristen Queen is a new volunteer at the rescue and a student at BYU.
“It feels so good to see the progression of our work,” said Queen. “The process shows Denise’s love for the animals and it just feels good to know we are making a difference. ”