Holistically helping lost, abandoned, abused or neglected dogs with emotional, social and physical elements is the goal of Agape Animal Rescue &Training Center staff serving Nashville and middle Tennessee.
From the group's location at 121 Cleveland St., their daily mission is to assist with smooth transitions of rescued dogs into forever homes. They endeavor to teach dogs basic obedience skills, including proper leash manners and friendly house manners.
"We also strive to match our dogs with the best family possible, working through as many applications as necessary to find a home that offers the dog the most fulfilling, enriched life," says Tanya Willis, Agape Animal Rescue executive director and dog rescuer since 2001.
She launched the Agape rescue group in 2004.
"Despite the misfortunes these animals have endured, our commitment to them remains steadfastly clear: to provide loving, emotionally stable, nurturing foster care for them while they wait for their forever homes, for their forever families," says Tanya.
This pet advocate says she can't remember a time in her life of not loving animals. "I grew up in a family where we got our pets from shelters or we picked them up off the side of the road. I knew that one day when I got my own place, I'd have my own pet. What I didn't know is that my forever dog would find me," she recalls.
Tanya is referencing "Mack," a beloved, inspiring Golden Retriever. In 2001, when just a 15-pound puppy, he jumped in front of Tanya's car on a country road. She says she took him home and made a veterinary appointment. On the way down the same road, she then found five more puppies, presumably Mack's littermates. So, she scooped them up and took them all for a veterinary appointment, too.
"My experience with trying to find homes for those five puppies sparked something in me. And I knew that I'd found my calling in life," Tanya states, noting that Mack at the time wasn't going anywhere else but with her.
The dogs taken in by the Agape group come from all sorts of situations, including owner surrenders, abuse cases, hoarding issues and large-scale puppy mill rescues. Tanya says they always need foster parents for those types of urgent situations, so they can save as many as possible at one time.
Agape supplies medical needs and supplies for the dogs in their foster program, in addition to training tips.
"We just need more people to show these dogs what a stable environment is, and to show them what a true loving life is like," Tanya adds.
Pet parents of Agape-related dogs indicate one of the best benefits of adopting from this rescue is that they know the personalities of any dog in which they're interested because the dogs have been monitored, understood and nurtured in foster homes.
Some Agape-associated dogs also go on to become certified therapy dogs who help children as they push through different obstacles in their lives.
Tanya says they feel blessed that Agape has come so far since the beginning. "Mack, as the runt I found discarded and broken in the ditch, eventually grew into a healthy, vibrant 102-pound organizational mascot. Mack passed away from liver cancer in 2016 but his legacy thrives on through the lives being saved at Agape Animal Rescue."
In fact, anyone who wishes to support Mack's legacy can join "The Mack Pack," for a monthly membership financial gift of $15. Members receive a personalized digital membership card for their pup(s); exclusive events and offerings for Mack Pack members; and a specialty Mack Pack member tote.
Agape has an ongoing need for pet supplies, and can arrange for their pickup from donors:
Towels and washcloths
Wire pet crates of any size
Food and water bowls
Dry and wet dog food (must be unopened)
Durable dog toys
Compressed rawhide bones
Heartgard/Interceptor heartworm medication
Frontline/Advantage flea and tick medication for dogs
Gift cards to local grocery stores for pet supplies
Gift cards to local gas stations for animal transport
Any other type of pet supply that would benefit rescue dogs, foster parents or forever parents who are in need of assistance.
Amazon shoppers also can seek out the Agape Animal Rescue Wish List online to send additional medical products, dog food, personal pet care items, pet toys, paper towels, gift cards and cleaning supplies to the group.
Playing roles in dogs' lives who need that human spark of love is vitally important. Agape supporters verify they can see and feel the unconditional love that the dogs give right back to them.
Mike Panesi, Agape former volunteer coordinator, summarizes their work in a wonderful way: "We're in the business of creating love stories every day!"
There are several gratifying ways to get involved with valuable results being accomplished by Nashville-based Agape Animal Rescue. Volunteer time at special events, such as adoption days, fundraisers, festivals and as ambassadors of the group. Additionally, some behind-the-scenes support can be done from one's home, such as supporting social media, office administrative tasks or graphic design. Foster intake dogs on a temporary basis to be around and love on more dogs than one's own. Adopting a dog means immediate room for rescuing another dog in need. Donate as a corporate sponsor, memorial gifts, wish lists, planned giving, United Way designations.
"Through no fault of their own, our (Agape Animal Rescue) dogs found themselves in homeless situations. We're dedicated to making a positive difference in these dogs’ lives from the moment they enter our foster program."