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Community Highlights: Meet Laura Forma of ThisIsHouston Rescue

Today we’d like to introduce you to Laura Forma.

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
A group of four independent rescuers met at a coffee shop back in 2019 and we chatted about how we wanted to help make an impact on the city’s stray issues. We were all rescuing and fostering dogs on our own but we were ready to form a 501c3 nonprofit dog rescue group together, and that’s what we did!

ThisIsHouston initially started as a Facebook hashtag to help shine light on Houston’s dirty little secret; the stray overpopulation problem. Most people aren’t aware of the stray issue we have here, so the hashtag was used to help show others exactly what Houston consists of. Many rescuers were using the hashtag on multiple Facebook posts of Houston stray dogs in need. A Facebook page was later made, and we turned a simple hashtag into a successful dog rescue group.

We quickly found out that we best fit in the rescue community as a group that focuses on the severely sick and injured dogs because many other rescue groups focus either strictly on the healthy dogs or they aren’t capable of funding an injured dog’s care. So we chose to focus on the underdogs who desperately need someone to fight for their life. We have had so many dogs make amazing recoveries and transformations, and that inspires so many people around the world to support us.

Many of our injured dogs are coming from Cleveland, TX which is about an hour away from Houston. We rescued two very sweet, deserving dogs from there named Ash and Rose and unfortunately, we lost Ash to distemper and Rose to parvo. Rose was recently, at the end of April. But those two losses infuriated us. No dog should have to suffer from these awful diseases so we chose to shift a bit of our focus to Cleveland. We started an outreach program in the area and we’re setting up twice a month to offer free vaccinations, microchips, dewormer and spays/neuters to owned pets in the area. We have street feeders feeding the strays and we’re networking them to the rescue community to get them out of the area. We’re pretty determined to help make changes out in that area, so that’s what we’re focusing on currently.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
The process to become a 501c3 non-profit animal rescue was quite easy, but that’s where the easy part ended. Our first dog as a 501c3 was a very sick dog named Thomas who went viral. He was in awful condition and since people didn’t know who we were and what we stood for, they criticized us and attacked us online. Some people even demanded we euthanize him, and others accused us of allowing him to suffer and using him to “make a profit.” He was our very first dog and we were already questioning if this is what we truly wanted to do.

Fortunately, Thomas made a miraculous recovery. And as odd as it sounds, I think all of the criticism actually helped influence us to focus on dogs like Thomas. Despite all of the negativity around him, we gained a lot of supporters and those supporters seem to multiply with each new dog we intake. Still to this day, we continue to get some criticism. Focusing on the severely sick and injured, we easily spend somewhere between $1,000.00 – $20,000.00+ of vet care on each dog we intake. There are lots of people who can’t comprehend why we would spend so much on a dog so unfortunately, we get a lot of flak for that. However, we know our work speaks for itself and thankfully, our amazing supporters know that too.

A huge struggle that will never go away is the fact that there are so many dogs in need, and there’s little we can actually do, especially without available foster homes. It was once estimated that there was over 1.2 million strays in Houston. We certainly don’t know 1.2 million people who want to foster or adopt a dog, so that struggle will always remain.

One thing we have learned is that nothing ever goes as planned. We can plan to rescue an injured dog, cure him or her, and watch them blossom into the dog they were meant to be. But we often lose many amazing dogs to life-threatening injuries or deadly diseases like parvo. Our hearts truly break with each dog we lose, and we struggle for a couple of days when we lose one. It’s not easy to constantly have a broken heart, but that’s just something we learn to live with.

While nothing has been easy, it’s been a pretty amazing journey so far and we wouldn’t change a thing.

How do you define success?
There are many different ways to define success. To us, success is any time we can save or change a dog’s life. Success is transforming a broken dog into a happy dog. It’s proving people (and sometimes vets) wrong; that euthanasia isn’t always the answer. Success is pouring time, emotions and money into a dog who is fighting for their life and getting to watch them walk out of the hospital days or weeks later. Success is showing people that paralyzed dogs can still live happy lives. Success is finding every dog that perfect home where they are never abandoned or neglected again. Success isn’t always a happy thing though… Sometimes it’s finding them a family they can call their own when it’s too late to save them or giving them a name in their final moments so they don’t have to pass away without a name.

Success is reducing the stray overpopulation and getting word out about the stray crisis here in Houston and Cleveland, TX. Success is having supporters and followers from all around the country, and our success wouldn’t be possible without our supporters, donors, fosters and adopters.

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