Los Angeles pet lovers.
By Lori Golden
“My Stray Rescue has a really good relationship with the pound because I pull a lot of the dogs from there,” explains Randy. “Especially the ones that are injured. I don’t want them to lay there and suffer for five days before they’re destroyed. They always call me with all their gunshots and animals that have been abused. I’m the guy that always takes them.”
Randy then sent out a simple little press release like he’s done a hundred times before. But this one said, “Dog that survived gas chamber needs a home.”
“We were so full I was just hoping that one local station would show up and do a story so we could find him a home. Instead, I pulled up to one of our shelters and there were live news trucks everywhere. I couldn’t believe it! AP, and St. Louis Post Dispatch, and PEOPLE Magazine was flying down that day, too. First I thought, ‘who got murdered or what burnt down?’ I didn’t put it together that they were all there for Quentin.”
The publicity worked. “We quit counting at 700 people who wanted Quentin,” Randy continues. “They were from all over the world. The sad part was, I would have thought that we would have adopted out a lot of dogs, but we didn’t. Everyone wanted Quentin. He became so popular, so fast, that it made him unadoptable.”
“I didn’t want to keep Quentin. God knows, I’ve fostered thousands of dogs and my goal is to find them all homes. I have four dogs of my own. The deciding factor was I did one home visit for Quentin to one of the wealthiest families in St. Louis. I asked, if they couldn’t get Quentin would they be willing to adopt another dog, explaining how we have so many other wonderful dogs. But they wouldn’t. They only wanted him, no doubt only as a trophy or a conversation piece. I thought, if I can’t even adopt to the wealthiest family in St. Louis…”
“I was probably going to go ahead with the adoption anyway,” says Randy, “but then I brought Quentin to my house. I have a dog named Hannah, who hates all other dogs. I always have to separate her from any dogs I’m fostering because she always beats them up. When she met Quentin she lay down and rolled over on her back and went real passive. She treated him like a mom. They slept together and played together. This was right after that home visit. Quentin acted like he lived here all his life, and he and I also bonded immediately. He trusted me. That’s when I started thinking that maybe I should just keep him.”
As the story of Quentin grew, Randy began to think the dog had survived for a reason. “He should have died. But not only did he not die… he was completely alert and standing on top of dead dogs. No dog had ever done that before. It’s the closest thing to an animal miracle I’d ever heard about,” exclaims Randy.
Quentin is a Basenji-mix, about a year old. He has a “sissy-like” bark and gets along great with Randy’s other dogs. “It’s like he’s always been a part of the family,” Randy says.
“It was reported that the pound had said Quentin was aggressive when he was there and no one could touch him. That’s why they wanted to destroy him after three days. And that’s why I say we have to give dogs at least a second chance before we pull the switch so fast. The last thing he is, is aggressive. You just can’t judge these dogs in the shelter because they don’t act the way they really are. Quentin is such a good boy. He loves children, loves to travel, and he loves to fly on airplanes. He’s so smart that I haven’t trained him to do anything but be a dog.”
Originally named Cain, Randy changed his name to Quentin, for San Quentin, the prison.
“I thought, ‘you’re going to start a new life with a new name, and I’ll be your guide.’ I had no idea it was going to turn out to be such a big story. That also ties in to why I kept him, because I thought, ‘there’s work to be done and we can probably help save a lot of animals together.’”
Randy Grim has been saving animals all his life. One of 5 children growing up in Washington, D.C., Randy was picked on the most by his father. As a kid “I would steal food from the house and feed the cats in the sewer and sit down there with them. Poor things, they probably had horrible diarrhea because I would steal tuna fish and milk. I was about five. Then my older sister and I would bring home strays. I didn’t even know you could buy dogs until I was a teenager. Even when I was a kid I saw plenty of stray dogs. My parents never said ‘no’ when I’d bring these dogs home. They’d put ads in the paper for the owner, and when no one would ever claim them, they still never said ‘no.’”
“As a kid I felt safe and good when I was with the animals,” continues Randy. “When I found out you could buy dogs and there were all these breeds, I was horrified. Even as a teenager I made that connection and wondered, ‘why are we selling them when there are so many that need a home?’ I didn’t understand that. I never had a game plan with my life… ever. I just wanted to do what made me happy. I didn’t mean for it to follow me to adulthood, it was just always constantly there.”
For instance, while working as a flight attendant Randy found himself smuggling cats back home. “Like when I was in Instanbul and this cat just kept following me around, everywhere I went. It was so sweet. And I thought, ‘what the hell. I’ll take him back with me.’ Whenever you would think, ‘wow, that person’s been in the bathroom for a long time,’ it was probably me and a cat!”
“But I hated being a flight attendant,” he admits. “That chicken and beef thing got old fast, and I hated dealing with the public. I knew I was going to get fired eventually if I continued the way I was going, so I dodged a bullet and quit first. I only smuggled about twenty cats in all. I kept quite a few of the cats and found homes for the others, and I always spay and neutered everybody. ALWAYS! I was young back then, but I also knew I wanted to be helping animals. I just didn’t know quite how… or why.”
Always the rescuer, Randy kept seeing stray and feral (wild) dogs around the city and finally couldn’t take it any more. “To be honest, I saw a lot of myself in them. It was that fear and not trusting that I could empathize with. Helping a feral dog in a way was helping myself or saving a part of myself. I just connected immediately with their plight. I know it had to do with my childhood but I don’t have time to go through twenty years of therapy.”
“There was a time when my family and friends did an intervention like I was an alcoholic or something, because I had so many animals. They hated to be around me because they were afraid I was going to ask them if they wanted a dog. I was so mad, but that also helped to give me the drive and the push to form a non-profit organization.”
For a period of time Randy had a grooming shop that he finally sold in 1999, because “I couldn’t keep up the double life. Everyone thought my grooming shop was so busy but it really wasn’t. It was full of strays. I sold it when I finally got a building, because I didn’t need the grooming shop to house the animals anymore.”
The defining moment in his life came when he rescued Bonnie, a starving feral female he found roaming through a park. She was frightened and pregnant, and after taking her to a vet, Randy learned her puppies were just days away from being delivered. 13 pups and a sick mother later, Randy spent two weeks hand-feeding the puppies and caring for the mom. “I felt like I had no choice but to help these puppies and their mom,” explains Randy. “The other option was to just let them die. When the last pup was adopted I called my friend, who was an attorney, right away. I said, ‘I don’t know how I’m gonna do this but I need to make this an organization and get some help.’”
In 1998 Randy Grim founded Stray Rescue of St. Louis through which he has saved an estimated 5,000 dogs. The shelter has two buildings, a free spay/neuter program for the poor, 200 volunteers, as well as housing a cat rescue group that concentrates on feral cats and TNR (Trap, Neuter, Release) programs.
Earlier this year a book about Randy’s rescue triumphs and struggles was published entitled The Man Who Talks To Dogs(St. Martin’s Press). Author Melinda Roth spent a lot of time observing Randy and offers this description of the dogs he saves: “These are dogs that belong to no one, the ones animal-control experts can’t catch and humane shelters won’t deal with. They are stray or feral, either abandoned or born wild on the streets, which means they won’t come near humans and statistically won’t live past their second year. And their numbers are growing every day.”
Randy believes his message really is that “one person CANmake a difference. I’m not going to pick and choose who gets to live and who gets to die. I want people to care about them all. God knows I do a happy dance when I have a healthy adoptable dog. I’m like, yay! I understand that, and I’m not disagreeing with that at all. But I look at the scope of the entire problem. People often say that ‘we just can’t save all the animals in the shelters… we have to kill some of them. That’s just the way it is.’ Even if that’s the reality it doesn’t mean you can’t strive to end that reality. I always like to think there’s hope. A real miracle would be to stop the killing!
I met Randy last month when he received a Guardian Award from In Defense of Animals. But IDA had been in touch with him long before Quentin ever came into his life. In fact, he says he’s really close to getting the guardian language passed in St. Louis. Now that he has a sidekick, IDA is helping Randy, with Quentin as the poster child, in his quest to promote the plight of homeless animals and educate about spay and neuter programs. In fact, Quentin was just named the cover-pooch for the Starpooch 2004 calendar.
“I don’t feel comfortable using phrases like ‘my pets’ or being ‘their owner.’ The word ‘guardian’ makes the connection of respect, love and care that I share and owe to my kids. (My preferred wording of ‘my pets’.) Being an animal guardian helps ensure that the mindset of our society of discarding the rights of animals or to be part of a throw - away society when it comes to all living things is not acceptable. We can’t just pick and choose what we want to discard in this world especially when we created such a horrible environment for the animals. To me we should try to save them all… not just save them but prevent, too. To change the way people think. Quentin ended up at the pound just because his people were moving to an apartment that didn’t accept dogs. That’s such a lame excuse. Animals are not to be disposed of, but cared for and respected, guarded from harm’s way. A world of animals and guardians is my own personal nirvana. A man can dream.”
(Randy Grim and Quentin are available to speak with groups large and small.about the plight of homeless animals and the need to educate the public about spaying and neutering. For more information visit Randy’s website:www.strayrescue.org or call
First published in August of 1999, The Pet Press has become THE only local resource for
pet lovers in the Los Angeles area. The mission of The Pet Press is three-fold:
Each issue of The Pet Press contains the following sections: