Purchasing a dog or cat is like eating veal – gross and unnecessary.  No matter how great the breeder is, purchasing a companion animal lubes the wheels of puppy mill commerce.  Have you seen the “Oprah” and National Geographic Channel programs about puppy mills?

Recently, I was introduced to a local animal shelter that is devoted to rehabilitating and finding good homes for dogs and cats in our area.

“At the Rescue Ridge shelter, we take the most unadoptable animals and invest the time in making them very adoptable,” said Brian Watkins, volunteer dog handler and three-year Asbury Park resident.  “Sometimes it takes months, sometimes weeks and sometimes a day or two but we are dedicated to working as hard and as long as it takes to rehab and find a good home for these dogs and cats.”

Brian lives by, err…with what he says.  He and his girlfriend, Marilyn McGarvin, adopted their companion animal, Gunnar (an adorable pitt bull) from the shelter.

“Gunnar was an ‘eleventh hour’ dog – slated to be euthanized by the SPCA after being housed there for one year – until Rescue Ridge stepped in,” said Brian, who with his girlfriend Marilyn has been volunteering at the shelter for three years.  “Today, he is a super part of our family.”

Gunnar is also paying it forward by serving as a “dog therapy dog” at Rescue Ridge, headquartered on a farm in Howell.

“What Gunner does with the other dogs makes my jaw drop,” said Brian.  “Having a balanced dog around the other dogs speeds up training considerably.  It’s something you have to see to believe.”



Rescue Ridge was founded in 2001 by Terri Willis.  Terri worked tirelessly – some would say gave her life – for stray animals.

“At fifty-one years old, Terri needed and had the opportunity to receive a heart and lung transplant,” said Brian.  “The physicians stressed that she could not be around anything that could compromise her health – including stray animals.  Terri told the doctors to find someone else for the transplant because more than anything she wanted to continue taking care of animals.”

Today, Terri’s passion for helping companion animals – including horses and, one time, a chicken – lives on thanks to her friends Marybeth Tkach, president; Maureen Bedard, assistant director of Rescue Ridge.

Brian, like me, is passionate about the fact that many people are missing out on the love pitt bull dogs from Rescue Ridge give because they suffer from pitt bull ignorance.

“The American Kennel Club rates pitt bulls better in temperament for families than Cocker Spaniels, Collies and many other dogs,” said Brian.  “There are just a handful of breeds that rate better, like the Golden Retriever.  It is all about how any dog is raised.”

It really is how the individual dog is raised.  Anyone who has met my Truman, found on the street by Carolyn Curtain three years ago, will tell you he has so much love to give.

Additional locals who volunteer their valuable time at Rescue Ridge: Doreen Babo, Tinton Falls; Katie Elko, Tinton Falls; Chris McCarthy, Asbury Park and Joni Wuchter, Wall.

Cheers to everyone taking the time to take care of innocent four-legged friends.