Chris switched careers to be able to do what he loves the most: help animals. He has a desire to help dogs that are difficult to place or would otherwise die in a shelter. Each of his own pets has an amazing story, and his work with animals is how he met his fiancée, Mariesa, whom he will marry later this year.
It’s a crazy busy life with eight dogs at home, more dogs in foster care, a superhero appearance and a cooking show hosted by one of his rescues. We’ll explain these details and his cast of characters a little later.
Michele Phillips wrote in to nominate Chris for the tireless work he does for dogs and children:
“Chris Hughes does amazing things for dogs and kids! He is an amazing man making a difference for the pit bull breed.”
Michele asked us to look a little further into Chris’s rescue and efforts, and we’re glad we did. Not only does Chris take in some of the most unadoptable dogs, but he also takes his therapy dogs to area schools and hospitals and promotes autism awareness. He participates in charities that help children and dogs, and it didn’t take us very long to see why Chris was so deserving of this award.
Here’s what each of our Animal Hero of the Month award winners receives:
- A feature article like this one
- Social media mentions across all of our platforms
- A permanent spot on the list of winners
- Our custom, engraved gold-tone paw print medal with ribbon
- $50 cash award
- $50 gift card to Pet Food Direct
Chris has chosen to donate his cash prize to Lilly’s Fund, a charity set up by Lilly the Hero Pit Bull‘s owners to combat breed-specific legislation and help other pit bulls in need. The donation represents Pets Adviser’s ongoing commitment to give back to the animal welfare community.
About Chris’s Organization
Rowdy to the Rescue was named after Chris’s first dog, a golden retriever named Rowdy. Rowdy went everywhere with Chris over the years, and the dog would later play an important role in easing grief. Chris’s parents lost both of their dogs within one week, so Chris sent Rowdy to stay with them for comfort.
Rowdy ended up staying there permanently, but Chris wasn’t dogless for long. He would eventually end up with a pack of eight dogs, not including those in his rescue. Part of Chris’s compassion can be seen through the history of the dogs he gave a second chance.
A pit bull was being used for breeding by people operating a dog fighting operation. When this poor dog could no longer produce puppies, her back legs were broken so she could be used as a bait dog. Fortunately, an undercover officer was able to get the dog and her mother from the operation, and they were held as evidence in a cruelty case. Once the case ended, she was picked up by Odessa Second Chance Rescue & Rehabilitation and later adopted by Chris. Dubbed Gremlin for the appearance of her ears, she would soon regain better use of her legs through rehabilitation and hydrotherapy.
Gremlin went on to become the first pit bull ever accepted into the Pet Pals therapy program at Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital, a university hospital, since the program first began 24 years ago. She also visited cancer hospitals and schools for children with autism until retiring recently. She is a permanent resident of Chris’s household.
A blue pit bull named The Stig arrived when the City of Cleveland’s kennel asked Chris to take the dog. Chris pulled The Stig only hours before his scheduled euthanization, and he has been a part of his pack ever since. The Stig was the second pit bull to be accepted into the Pet Pals therapy program, after Gremlin.
Another addition to the family would come once again from Odessa Second Chance Rescue & Rehabilitation. A mixed breed named Quinn was rescued from a hoarder.
Sammy, a pit bull mix, was found chained with another dog in the basement of an abandoned home. He was underweight and shy, but he recovered and received training in socialization so he could stay with Chris and the other dogs.
A bull terrier named Meatball came from rescue with a self-mutilation condition. He had once chewed his tail so badly it had to be amputated. Distraction techniques such as holding onto a ball now prevent Meatball from harming himself.
Money and Tejas arrived through Mariesa’s compassion for rescuing greyhounds. Money came from Alabama through Forever Home Greyhound Adoptions. Tejas went to the Second Chance at Life prison program before heading to the same rescue. Both of these retired racing dogs were taken in by Mariesa, and they were foster fails that happily became permanent residents.
Finally, one more dog in the family makes eight. Because he is old, has a black coat (known as black dog syndrome for being difficult to photograph and advertise) and is a pit bull mix, Mr. Moses had three strikes against him when he went into a Florida shelter. He had been surrendered at 12 years old because of his age. Sniffing Snouts Pit Bull Rescue pulled him, and he was later adopted by Chris. Now “Chef Mo” is the co-host of a cooking series that shows pet owners how to make safe pet treats at home.
Watch this video of Chef Mo and Mariesa making “Pitty Pies”:
Rowdy to the Rescue takes in dogs that are difficult to place. There are foster homes in place, but more are always needed. One of the animals currently in foster care is Bunny, a pit bull that was sitting in a shelter with large mammary gland tumors down both sides.
“She wasn’t going to get any better sitting in a shelter,” Chris told me. So he took her in. She has had a mastectomy and is scheduled for a second operation. The tumors are malignant, but she is responding well to treatment.
Sarge, a 10-year-old German shepherd mix, lived his entire life chained up behind a house. Food, water and shelter were provided, so authorities could not remove the dog. The family moved out and left Sarge tied up in his usual place, and a neighbor retrieved him and called Chris. Sarge has some gastrointestinal issues and muscle atrophy from the lack of exercise, but he is doing well in foster care.
Other rescues include a pit bull receiving treatment for the Parvo virus and the occasional intake of puppies as they arise.
On the next page of this article: Chris as the Incredible Hulk!
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