BY TARA ALATORRE
NEW RIVER – A little over five-years-ago Emilee Spear, the founder of Rusty’s Angels dog sanctuary in New River, was working contently as veterinarian technician with a dream and a hand-written list of goals of how to achieve it.
With gumption as big as her heart, Spear has made that hand-written list a reality and is celebrating the fifth anniversary of Rusty’s Angels Senior Dog Rescue and Sanctuary on February 20.
To date the non-profit organization has rescued 164 vulnerable, senior dogs, rehoming 90 of those rescued dogs to loving, nurturing, furever homes.
For the dogs that can’t be adopted, they will live out their twilight years getting spoiled by the dedicated team at the sanctuary that Spear calls “Heaven on Earth.”
“I just feel so lucky and blessed to wake up everyday and do what I love,” Spear said in a phone interview with The Foothills Focus last week. “I am just thankful for the people that are behind us. It is just amazing,
and we would not be where we are today without them.”
Rusty’s Angels is located at the end of a long, bumpy, dirt culde-sac adjacent to State Trust Land with a view looking out over the vast, pristine Sonoran Desert. The expansive property is peaceful, fostering the perfect atmosphere for the dogs to live out their final years comfortably with plenty of space for them to play, walk, swim and take outdoor naps.
Honestly, it is not so different from a typical Arizona mobile home retiree community, except more adorable and furrier.
The sanctuary has built six tiny climate-controlled homes for its permanent dog retirees that are uniquely decorated – often to fit the personality
of a dog – with all the accommodations necessary.
In 2018, Rusty’s Angels spent almost $130,000 on medical, food, grooming, shelter and transportation costs. All that care was made possible by
the sanctuary’s 76 volunteers, which contributed 2,393 hours last year.
“Without the people we would cease to exist,” Spear stated in Rusty’s Angels recent newsletter about the organization’s anniversary. “From volunteers and employees, to foster and adopters, to families that must surrender, to the people who follow our stories on social media; we are effecting them in a way that motivates them to lend their support to keep us going.”
So, what does the future hold for Rusty’s Angels?
“Anything is possible!” she says, while spouting off a list of long and short-term goals for the organization. Spears is currently in talks with Maricopa County about expanding Rusty’s Angels into the new five-acre parcel nextdoor that the organization purchased in July 2018, with the
help of donations and crowdsource fundraising.
“They [county] love what we are doing,” Spears said of her initial meetings with Maricopa’s planning and zoning department, but didn’t want to say much more because the plans are still preliminary. “They even had some good suggestions for us that I had not even thought of.”
The organization estimates that it will need about $120,000 to provide medical care, food, grooming, shelter and transport its 60 senior dogs in 2019. That does not include costs for: Well improvements (well does not keep up with current usage); a generator to mitigate seasonal power outages; a new yard and deck for the adoptable small seniors; and the costs associated with the special use permitting process for the new five-acre
That is why Rusty’s Angels Sanctuary is asking for the community to join them for its annual anniversary “Sunday Funday” celebration at Rum Runner’s Bar on March 3, where the organization will try to raise $25,000 in only six hours to help kickstart its 2019 goals. “It is $5,000 for each year we have been open,” Spears said.
“It’s a big goal so I don’t know if we will hit it, but you got to set
For more information about Rusty’s Angels Sanctuary or to
donate visit RustysAngelsSanctuary. org, or call 480-250-0251. The Sunday Funday anniversary Fundraiser will take place on March 3, from 1 to 6 p.m. at Rum Runner’s, 8355 N. 7th Street in Phoenix.