Photos Courtesy Parkers Pals
Gainesville couple Pam and David Hanbury are no strangers to welcoming strangers into their homes – four-legged strangers, that is.
Collectively, the couple has been rescuing and fostering pets since 1992 when Pam adopted a tabby cat, Sophie, from her local vet while living in Kansas. In 1995, a sweet cat she named Raindrop came into her life.
“Raindrop adopted me during a rainstorm. She sat on my porch meowing and I couldn’t turn my back. My family welcomed her into our home, looked at the rain, looked at her, and named her Raindrop,” Pam said.
Anyone who has rescued or fostered an animal understands what Pam means – animals rescue, or adopt you – not the other way around. Sophie/Raindrop was the first in many adoptions. In 1998 came a gentle puppy named Baby, a lab/pit mix from the Fairfax County Animal Shelter who the Hanbury’s say helped raise their family dog Chancellor and lived to be almost 16. Then came Parker, a retriever mix who came to them all the way from Louisiana in 2015, followed by Jagger, a chocolate lab, (also from Louisiana) in 2018. Theodore, a golden mix, joined the family from the House of Hope in Maryland last year.
To say that adopting pets from animal shelters and rescues has been a big part of the Hanbury’s lives would be an understatement. It has transformed their lives. They have forged close friendships with those they’ve met through fostering, volunteered countless hours of their time to different rescue and foster organizations, and now created their own non-profit called Parker’s Pals, with the goal to provide material comfort to foster pups awaiting their forever homes.
In its infancy, Parker’s Pals has provided over 120 care packages to over 30 approved foster homes and rescues that include items such as crates, food, collars, leashes, toys, and bowls. By providing these items, it allows rescues to use their funds to pull and vet more pups out of high kill shelters and inspire more animal lovers to welcome dogs into their homes.
The non-profit was indeed named after Parker, the dog they had the shortest amount of time with, but who left an indelible mark on their hearts. When they met Parker, he was estimated to be 5 or 6 and heartworm positive, but they fell in love with him and made him a part of the family understanding his health issues. Parker loved to go on long walks with David and the Hanbury’s other dogs and was always at David’s side. Sadly, Parker passed away suddenly while swimming last summer and the Hanbury’s realized they wanted to find a way to keep his gentle soul giving to others the way he had to them.
Pam had plenty of experience volunteering with rescues. In 2010, she started as a transporter, then as an occasional foster, and eventually an adoption coordinator. She has also helped start a rescue from the ground up.
“Currently I’m busy with Parker’s Pals, but I still volunteer some time to House of Hope. Rescues simply don’t have enough volunteers, so I help where and when I can,” she said.
When Parker was being fostered in Louisiana, the Hanbury’s sent him care packages. He loved his blankie, stuffed animals, and treats, so each care package from Parker’s Pals has at a minimum a hand-tied blankie, a stuffed animal, and treats.
“From my years in rescue, I also know how physically and emotionally draining fostering can be so sending care packages also is meant to provide a lift to foster parents. We want them to know that someone cares about them and what they are doing. Foster parents really are the ones who save these shelter pups. They are the lifeblood of a rescue,” said Pam.
In addition to providing these sweet care packages, through its website and Facebook page, Parker’s Pals highlights a foster parent every Friday to show and encourage others to try fostering. With so many rescues out there and dogs in kill shelters, it’s their mission to spread the word and help find them homes and help in any way they can along the way. With the Hanbury’s experience working with rescues for so long, they had a strong network of rescues and shelters which helped get Parker’s Pals off the ground and to a running start. Each rescue has their own network, which has also helped spread the word even further. And the care packages have been so well received that Parker’s name continues to be one that makes others feel good. “When we read the comments from those who have received a package, seeing their joy has helped in healing our hearts,” Pam added.
Currently Parker’s Pals is partnered with rescues and shelters in Louisiana, Mississippi, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, South Carolina, North Carolina, Michigan, Texas, and New Jersey. Going back to the numbers – over 120 care packages to over 30 approved fosters and rescues is quite astounding considering the fact that Parker’s Pals went live just last September.
Any pet lover would agree that with determination, a mission, and the love of a good dog, you can accomplish amazing things. Parker’s Pals is always looking for partners, volunteers, and donations, and can be found on Facebook at @parkerspals.org and online at ParkersPals.org.