By Arden Moore
Meet Amy Restucci, a self-described big-mouth, low-maintenance chick who never complains when she makes the trek down I-95 in bumper-to-bumper traffic from her West Palm Beach home to rural Miami.
She doesn’t mind the drive because she possesses an unparalleled drive when it comes to rescuing abandoned, skinny strays roaming the Everglades and rural, impoverished areas in south Miami-Dade County.
Her life took a dramatic turn last September when she agreed to drive down to rural Homestead with a friend to help feed some hungry, homeless dogs. Then she spotted an emaciated pit bull with a rope dangling around her neck. She looked closer and noticed bite marks and wound scars. She then saw giant-sized mosquitoes swarming the dog, unsteady on her feet.
“We fed this dog and she wolfed down the food and was sweet as sugar,” recalls Restucci. “Then something just clicked inside me. I remember screaming to my friend, ‘We can’t leave her! We just can’t leave this dog!’ ”
They coaxed this dog into the car and drove straight to a supportive veterinarian in Miami, who provided needed medical care. A call to a rescue group called Big Hearts for Big Dogs resulted in placing the dog in what Restucci describes as “an amazing home.”
The connection with this dog she dubbed Debbie was instant and powerful. It marked the start of Restucci’s single-focused quest to rescue and find homes for stray dogs. Since September, she has led a growing group of volunteers on regular rescue missions to Miami. At last count, they have rescued more than 300 dogs. She launched a Facebook page called 100+AbandonedDogs of Everglades Florida that has attracted more than 13,000 fans and raised more than $100,000 to feed, provide medical care and place many of these strays.
At a recent organized rescue in April, Restucci drove to the meeting place, a shopping mall in south Miami, expecting to see a few people offering their time and energy.
“More than 100 volunteers showed up! That’s unbelievable,” she says. “Some of them were veterinarians who provided pro bono care for about five dogs. We were able to distribute more than 2,000 pounds of food.”
Restucci’s dogged efforts are making headlines. She was the first recipient of the Pet Hero accolade presented by The National Enquirer, based in Boca Raton. She has been profiled in daily newspapers and other media outlets.
At 43, she says she has found her calling: to help the helpless.
“I’m not a religious person, but I believe in God and am very spiritual,” she says. “I’ve never felt such a connection. When I feel like I am at the end of my rope, I ask God to give me a sign and it always comes to me. I feel like I’m surrounded by positive energy and that when I set my mind to something, there is no stopping me.”
When she isn’t making the long drive down to the southern tip of this state, she shares her modest home with her husband, Ralph, and their four rescued pets: a blind senior Portuguese water dog named Lincoln; a terrier mix named Maggie, blind in her left eye; Red, an affectionate cat plucked from the streets; and Patches, a pudgy cat who was surrendered to a shelter at age 6.
“My husband works four jobs and I’m a low-maintenance chick who never needed expensive jewelry,” says Restucci. “Because of my big mouth, our group has been on every big news station and newspaper here and beyond.
“With everything I’ve seen, our cause should be called 1,000 Plus, not 100 Plus. Dogs on the street starving to death. Dog-fighting rings. Distemper outbreaks. Yes, we can rescue dogs, get them healthy and find them good homes, but the real solution is to offer free spaying and neutering for dogs in this poor area and to educate the uneducated. This is my calling. I’m going to be there for these animals.”
How to help
EVERGLADES#! or call
Arden Moore, founder of FourLeggedLife.com, is an animal behavior consultant, editor, author, professional speaker and certified pet first aid instructor. She happily shares her home with two dogs, two cats and one overworked vacuum cleaner. Tune in to her Oh Behave! show on PetLifeRadio.com and learn more by visiting www.fourleggedlife.com.