Celebrating those who give of themselves.
By Judith Lawrenson
Photography by Bill Lawrenson
“There is a Hebrew word, ‘mitzvah,’ which means a good experience or a good deed. We named our dog Mitzi, short for Mitzvah, because she has been such a wonderful experience for us.” —Ray Mintz
The idea of Hospice for those nearing the end of life is a warm and comforting thing. People, who are in that setting, are always deeply grateful for the love received from Hospice care volunteers. So, for those of us who are animal lovers, what do we feel for beloved pets that are coming to the end of their earthly lives?
Jan and Ray Mintz are the most interesting couple I have met in a long time, and the most compassionate, too. Transplants from the New Jersey and Washington D.C., they have been volunteers with Palmetto Animal League (PAL) since 2011. They started with a puppy who had been so badly abused he was terrified of human contact.
Pink: Share some of your philosophy about animals and what inspires you to volunteer at PAL.
Ray: Animals are terrific creatures to watch and enjoy. To me dogs are so special. They are playful, loving, caring and clever. They are comforting and appreciative. It is easy to humanize them and think that you and he or she can understand each other and communicate. I have always been a contributor to animal rescue organizations, and after we lost our dog, Fred, in July 2011, I read an article from the Jasper Animal Rescue League about a dying dog’s legacy. Its wish was that you would give the love and care that you could no longer give to it to another dog. That pretty much was my feeling. If I couldn’t help Fred, then I would help someone else. That is why I volunteer at PAL and it really feels so good to be useful.
Jan: We first became volunteers when we had to put down Fred. Our vet told us of a dog, Melvin, who had been physically and emotionally battered. That was the start. Ray became a “dog whisperer.” He visited Melvin five times a week, sitting in his pen and gently stroking him and speaking softly to him. After a little more than a year, Melvin was able to go to a dog behaviorist, who taught him how to be a member of a pack. After all of this, he was adopted by a nice family.
Pink: Currently, Jan and Ray are seeing a dog through her end-of-life experience as canine Hospice caregivers. Mitzi is a large dog at almost 80 pounds. When she was rescued she was given a very short time to live. Here is Mitzi’s story:
Ray: Mitzi is a very sweet dog, who deserves a good life. Sometimes, I wonder if she can relate how she is being treated now to how badly she was treated in the shelter she came from. My hope is that we are making her feel good about her life now. At first, we were told she only had weeks to live. That was 11 months ago. Maybe our tender loving care is contributing to that. The most important thing is we are doing this for her, not for us.
Jan: We had been dogless for just over two years when Ray received an email from Amy Campanini, executive director of PAL. The email had a picture of Mitzi and asked if anyone from the Sun City Dog Club would adopt her. Unknowingly at the time, I received the same email from one of my friends. I showed the picture to Ray and the rest is a love story between the three of us. (As Jan tells me this, she laid down on the floor next to Mitzi and Mitzi put her big head across Jan’s arm and pushed closer to her.)
Shortly after Mitzi came to Jan and Ray in February 2014, she had an elevated white cell blood count and her cancer had metastasized to her spleen. Believing her time was short, Jan and Ray loved her more every day, expecting the worst. That was nearly a year ago.
Pink: How has all of this changed you two?
Jan: We were not planning on having another dog, but one look at Mitzi changed that. She has become the focus of our household, engaging us with her big, soulful brown eyes. Although she never barks or makes noise of any kind, she tells us what she wants and needs. She seems to understand everything we say!
Ray: This all feels good for me, except when I worry if Mitzi is not comfortable or what we will do when the final decision has to be made. A part of being Jewish is trying to do good works and “fix the world.” Maybe that is also a part of my inspiration.
Pink: Whatever it is for Jan and Ray, they have given an unbelievable gift to a dying animal. Mitzi did not have a happy life before the Mintz's, but when she passes, we can all rest assured knowing her final time was filled with love and care. I never cease to be amazed at the goodness of people. Jan and Ray are right up there at the top.
Palmetto Animal League
Palmetto Animal League is a private, non-profit, 501(c)(3), no-kill animal rescue organization. The Adoption Center, which includes living space for approximately 150 adoption-ready cats and dogs, serves as headquarters for the league's operations. The mission is to build a community where every neglected animal has a second chance at life, guided by a compassionate approach to animal welfare through humane sanctuaries, proactive relocation and solving overpopulation through enlightened management techniques.
They offer animals a friendly, comfortable, low-stress environment which encourages humans to visit, adopt, volunteer and get involved. PAL is at 56 Riverwalk Blvd. in Okatie. They can be reached at 843-645-1725. The adoption center is open Monday through Saturday noon to 7:00 p.m.