Helena resident receives national animal care award

Published 4:49 pm Monday, January 26, 2009

As Sonya Smith plays with one of her foster dogs, Samson, she sums up his history in a quick rush of words.

“Well, Samson’s mom was a wild dog, as wild as a deer. We tracked her for seven years,” she said. “Over the seven years, she had 72 puppies, and Samson is one of the 72.”

He’s also a dog who’s staying in a good home while waiting for a good home, and it’s all because of Smith, who is the founder and executive director of the non-profit Two by Two Rescue, a local no-kill animal rescue. Two by Two doesn’t have a facility, so Smith works more than 70 hours a week to place abandoned dogs in foster homes until permanent homes can be found.

Because of her commitment to animals, Pedigree Dog Food recently named Smith a Shelter Organization Hero. She is one of only eight in the country to be honored.

Smith said she began working with stray animals after seeing them everywhere she went.

“I was serving a necessity. I started by trying to help one dog, and realized that dog had a friend,” she said. “The problem is, dogs are just everywhere. They’re on the streets, on the Interstates.”

Smith said Samson’s mom is the perfect example of why people should spay and neuter their animals.

“People don’t realize a mama dog can easily have 70 to 100 pups in her lifetime,” Smith said.

Smith can take some time away from her tireless work soon. From Feb. 6-11, Pedigree is putting her and her husband up for a week at the famous Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York. The awards ceremony will take place at the famed American Museum of Natural History, and they’ll also sit in box seats at Madison Square Garden for the Westminster Dog Show.

However, Smith is most looking forward to something that has nothing to do with her award. She’ll get to see an old canine friend while she’s in New York, courtesy of an improbable adoption.

Two years ago, Two by Two had Lily, a Yorkie dog, placed in Alabaster. A woman who lived in New York’s Central Park saw Lily’s picture on the Internet and decided to adopt her. While Smith is in New York, she’ll get together with Lily’s owners and be reunited with one of her success stories.

It’s that tremendous success that keeps Smith going.

“We’ve had so many come through, I can’t even count them all,” she said of her foster animals. “If you say, ‘Here’s a dog that’s been in a shelter, but this dog has been in a foster home,’ people are going to choose the foster dog.”

Smith said her joy in her work comes from God.

“God wired us with different passions in our lives, and God wired me with a passion for animals. He has charged me with helping our community understand that we are responsible for taking care of animals,” she said. “Some dogs I look at and say, ‘That’s God’s glory right there.”

To find out more about Two by Two or to become a foster home, visit Smith’s Web site at www.twobytworescue.com.