Try as you might, it's difficult to get Ox Bow Estates resident Barbara Brenke off the related subjects of dogs and the Payson Humane Society.
Brenke, who retired to Payson with husband Ron in 2000, volunteers all over the Rim country. She serves as secretary of Library Friends of Payson and takes her turn working in the book store; volunteers at least one day a week at the Tonto Natural Bridge; is treasurer of Payson Birders; belongs to Rim Country Readers, a book discussion group; and, as you might imagine, is a member of Paws in the Park.
But it's the many hats she wears in connection with the Payson Humane Society that give her the most pleasure and keeps her the busiest.
"It's my passion," Brenke said.
She's vice president of the shelter board, president of Friends of the Payson Humane Society, the shelter's auxiliary; and she is the self-appointed mobile adoption person for the shelter.
"I've kind of taken it upon myself," she said.
And it's been a struggle.
"In the past, the board did not agree with (the mobile adoption concept)," she said. "There was a rule we couldn't even take the dogs out of the shelter."
When a new board relaxed the rule, Brenke organized Pups on Parade at the off-leash dog park and began taking animals to the Petco store on Shea Boulevard near Fountain Hills.
"I'm the one that organizes (the Petco trips) and beats the bushes to get people to help," she said. "We go at least once a month, always on a Saturday from noon to 4 p.m."
While the Petco venture has proven extremely successful, Pups on Parade, held the first Saturday of every month, has been less so. But there are some side benefits that make it worth keeping.
"The good thing is we get a lot of dogs out," she said. "It's just good to get them out and socialize them."
Unfortunately, Brenke believes the shelter board, staff and volunteers have achieved about all they can with their current resources.
"My feeling is we're doing everything we can to market our animals given the size of the shelter and the personnel we have to pull on," she said.
Which brings up a subject Brenke is very serious about -- the growing need for a new shelter and the lack of support from the town in securing the land for one.
"The (current) shelter is not state-of-the-art by any means, and we're handicapped by that facility relative to the things we'd like to do and the way we keep (the animals)."
Brenke takes issue with a town council that is considering placing restrictions on the shelter as part of its new barking dog ordinance, but won't help the shelter alleviate the problem.
"We're struggling and we're trying to solve the problem we have and we're really handicapped by our present facility," she said. "We really need the support of not only the people -- which we have -- but we need the town to get behind us and do something pro-active.
"On the one hand they're trying to cite us for (barking dogs), but then they're not giving us the resources to correct what they're citing us for. "It's very frustrating."
Brenke says she realizes that barking dogs can be unpleasant, but that you won't hear them in a new shelter.
"How many times do we have to tell people that the shelter on McLane Road (located in an old house) is not the shelter we're going to replicate someplace else," she said. "It's going to be a state-of-the-art facility with the dogs inside. It will be soundproof, and the dogs will only be outside when they're being walked or exercised."
On a happier note, Brenke has two dogs of her own that she adopted from a litter of shelter puppies. Sundance and Cassidy are white German shepherd mixes picked out by her husband.
"My husband is not as big a dog lover as I am, but he saw these puppies in the rodeo parade, and they're his best buddies now."
It was sunshine, plain and simple, that brought Brenke and her husband to Payson from the dreary climes of the Midwest.
"When my husband was getting ready to retire, he wanted to go someplace where there was sunshine because he had lived in Columbus, Ohio all his life," she said. "He bought a retirement book that ranked places based on different criteria, and Payson was right up there on top in number of days of sunshine."
There are a whole lot of dogs in the Rim country who are better off because of the move the Brenkes made.
"I just want to give the shelter dogs the best life I can and help them in any way I can," she said. "They are in the safest place they can be, but they're still not with a loving family. I feel bad for them being homeless."
Humane Society events
Brenke wants to emphasize the following PHS events and activities that need your support:
- The Payson Humane Society's annual Chili Supper, the biggest fund-raiser of the year, will be held from 4:30 p.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 9, at the Elks Lodge. The popular event also includes a silent auction, potluck sale and a 50/50 raffle. Tickets are $7 for adults and $4 for children. In addition to chili, the menu includes macaroni and cheese, salad, rolls, cupcakes and beverages.
- The Payson Humane Society is holding an open house from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 13. The event is being held in conjunction with National Shelter Appreciation Week (Nov. 7-13) and another national program PHS is participating in called Home for the Holidays.
"It's a push during the months of November and December to get as many shelter animals out of the shelter into the homes, and we do have some of them scheduled for that," Brenke said.
- A holiday food and supply drive is being planned for later in the year.
"We really need kitty litter -- it's very expensive -- cleaning supplies, bleach, rawhide chews, toys for the cats and the dogs, bedding, towels," Brenke said.
Name: Barbara Brenke
Family: Husband Ron, sister, brother-in-law and aunt in Denver.
Personal motto: The Golden Rule
Inspiration: Dogs and other animals. They show unconditional love. They're not prejudiced. They accept people for who they are. They're always happy to see you. They're forgiving. They don't hold grudges. They don't have agendas.
Greatest feat: I'm proudest of the fact that I've helped get so many dogs adopted since I moved to Payson.
Favorite hobby or leisure activity: Birding, reading, playing computer word games, walking.
Three words that describe me best: Dependable, easygoing, honest.
I don't want to brag, but ... I think I can get along with just about anybody.
Person in history I'd most like to meet: Mother Teresa because she was selfless and gave so much. It's a very rare person who can completely think of others all the time.
Luxury defined: Having as many dogs as I want and having the money to build the Payson Humane Society a state-of-the-art shelter.
Dream vacation spot: I've always wanted to go to Australia.
Why Payson? Basically because of the sunshine.