- January 23, 2013
I’m only slightly joking when I tell people I believe we have a saint who exists among us in Central Florida. But it’s only this past weekend that I realized how much I’ve been selling her short in that description.
I started hearing about Pet Rescue by Judy in the first months after we moved to Winter Park. The first time I actually met Judy Sarullo was in September of 2009 when my partner and I were helping launch Winter Park Lost Pets and went on a visit to her facility with the site’s founder, Shelley Heistand. I remember how Judy stopped and interacted with each dog as we walked about, often touching them through fencing, cages. I also remember how we ended up leaving with an English bulldog named Emmy, fostering her.
I see that saint quality in Judy more than ever now. But this past weekend, at Pookie's Pet Nutrition & Bow Wow Bakery’s Bark in the Park event, I asked how she does it all and she responded, “Don’t forget, I’m an Italian from New York so we’ve got a lot of get-up-and-go.” I can’t help but also see a scrappy prizefighter, always ready to take on the next challenge. She later admitted, “I bite my fingers a lot and I curse under my breath. There’s sometimes now that we have to say no because we’re so full with animals and we’re trying our best but everyone I see that I can’t take. I just cry because it’s heartbreaking to see the conditions and the cruelty. (Her voice spikes) It seems like the cruelty is worse now than what I’ve seen over the years. Maybe it’s a sign of the times, but they’re treating them worse and worse and abusing them more and more. There’s no excuse for that.”
She continued, “There are so many animals with the economy, we’re getting killed. People losing their jobs, their homes, they’re abandoning animals, so we’re getting more in now than we ever have. When they come in they have no clue; they’re petrified. These animals cry just like people cry. They don’t know what’s happening to them. Why did my family leave me? They don’t understand. And some people just leave them in houses, in apartments, on the streets and that’s really unjust.”
When things are good, you can rely on most anyone. When the chips are down in life, it takes special people with special gifts, amazing fortitude. In such a time, you’d do well to have someone like Judy Sarullo on your side. Judy is that type of person, and is surely surrounded by so many others. I see photos of abandoned dogs online, ones so horribly abused you wonder if a person could have truly inflicted such trauma, and I go to pieces. Judy perseveres, does what needs to be done to help.
I ask her if others have referred to her as a saint and after a brief hesitation she says, “Some people say I’m a saint, but some say I’m a devil and that’s OK. Some people I tick off and some people love me, but some people don’t like me. It’s OK. I can handle it.”
Pet Rescue by Judy has moved 11 times over the years and is looking forward to a new forever home in the near future. The new buildings are old and they are seeking volunteers, including contractors, painters and others to help renovate the buildings. They have estimated a total of $250,000 will be needed on top of their yearly needs of around half a million. If you’d like to volunteer or donate, please visit www.petrescuebyjudy.com. There’s amazing work being done by some amazing selfless individuals and they could use your help.
This evening at the ballpark I meet Stephen Bacallao, who’s been volunteering with Judy for seven years and is the organization’s treasurer and bookkeeper. They talk for a bit as I listen, and I sense as well as he surely knows her now, he still has a bit of awe for this woman who, at 108 pounds, is often out at very late and very early hours rescuing animals. “Judy is all about the animals,” he said. “Everything that she does, everything … it’s all about rescuing the animals, getting them the best care possible, and re-homing them so that we can go on and rescue the next animal.” He said from their rough figures estimating 3,000 animals placed each year, Judy has helped place 60,000 animals in the group’s 20 years.
Judy is quick to thank her volunteers (up to 200 at any time), foster families (50 to 60), and veterinarians who help make the operation work. She mentions two specifically, Animal Hospital of Vista Lakes and Chickasaw Trail Animal Hospital, Drs. Scholl and Mealey. “I’ve been with Dr. Scholl for 20 years,” she adds. “If it wasn’t for Dr. Scholl, I wouldn’t be here today. She’s absolutely phenomenal.” She also mentions the Seminole County Harley Owners Group (SCHOGS), which each year helps raise significant money.
Stephen tells me Judy will remember an animal before she remembers the person. “It happens all the time. She recognizes them, but as soon as you mention the animal, she remembers everything. And you know that because there will be something specific she’ll say about it. Not only does she remember the pets, but the pets remember her.”
I ask Judy if there’s one that stands out over the years, expecting time needed to consider, but get a quick response. Her eyes widen and she says Massey. She explains, “Massey was rescued by Massey Pet Control in Maitland. He was outside in the bushes. He was pure white. He was starved to death, so all the wonderful employees there were trying to give him their lunch, give him some food but they were petrified because he’s a pit bull/ mastiff, I mean American bulldog. And they called us, and we drove out there and got him, put him in the car and drove him to Dr. Rubenstein who kind of pronounced him half dead and I said, no, he’s not going to die. So, we gave him liver and vegetables and vitamins and lots of love and care, and antibiotics and got him on his feet and thank God my Tony — Tony and John — came and took him even though they were both petrified — well, one’s petrified of dogs — which one’s petrified of dogs? John. And then they were both petrified of pits, but they took him into their home and that was their love for four years, but unfortunately our Massey passed away a couple of weeks ago. They’re devastated as all of us are because he was just the most wonderful, loving dog in the world. And he taught a lot of people that pit bulls are absolutely loving animals and that we have to get rid of the stigma that pit bulls are bad. It’s just bad people who make bad dogs.”
Tony Scelzo, of Tony and John, was nearby as Stephen continued the story and Judy doted on another dog. John explained they “had a Christmas dinner and they invited Judy and so she came over, hadn’t seen Massey in a while. As soon as she walked in the door Massey immediately recognized Judy and went over.” Tony jumped in to finish the story, “And he just jumped up into her arms licking her face like crazy. You had 18 people, all guests, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. It’s like my God, that dog did not forget what she did for him.”
For him, and 60,000 others, for a community.
Local Luv'n Local
Raw Health is a frozen pet food for dogs and cats made right here in Winter Park! It’s simple, nourishing and irresistible for your pet. Raw Health follows the philosophy of feeding raw by using species-appropriate formulas with simplified ingredients. Raw Health's cat and dog formulas are produced in small batches under strict quality-control protocols and lab tested for pathogens.
Production of our dog formulas occurs in a 35-degree environment, using Premium USDA-Approved meats and fresh parsley, sweet potatoes and squash, with Icelandic kelp and alfalfa added to round out the nutrition. Our cat formula is all meat and a small amount of fish, leaving out the vegetables since cats' digestive systems cannot process vegetable matter as they are true carnivores. Taurine requirements are met since raw meat contains taurine as well as concentrated amounts contained in our chicken heart ingredient.
It's available at Pookie's Bakery in Winter Park.
Clyde Moore operates local sites ILUVWinterPark.com, ILUVParkAve.com and LUVMyRate.com, and aims to help local businesses promote themselves for free and help save them money, having some fun along the way. Email him at [email protected] or write to ILuv Winter Park on Facebook or Twitter.