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Conversations with the Inspiring Courtney Anderson

Today we’d like to introduce you to Courtney Anderson.

Courtney, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I am an AZ native and love this state and its diversity. I went to ASU where I got my degree is Spanish and Ethnic studies. I spent my early 20’s traveling as much as possible. Learning about other cultures, the world and mostly about myself. I traveled alone as I found that alone I would have to find my way around, talk with locals and learn all about the place I was visiting from the people, from the food and the culture, not just from tourist sites and guided tours. In Mexico, I spent time with collectives, organizations and going to any public forum I could find to understand issues affecting the country and its people. One organization I met while down there was Colmillo Blanco (which means White Fang), a small organization with limited funds but a mighty heart. They did rescue, fed strays, offered free spay and neuter and held educational events to educate the community about pet ownership and cruelty against animals. This small group inspired me to come home and also try to make an impact in my community.

In August 2010 a group of big hearted people including myself created Lost Paws: Sterilization, Education and Rescue now known as AZK9. We all loved animals and wanted to help make a difference in the lives of homeless and euthanized pets in Phoenix. We knew, from working previously in a large non kill shelter, that we would not be able to adopt our way out of the numbers of homeless pets needing homes. There were far too many and euthanasia numbers were high. We decided that we would spend our time focusing on spay and neuter, education and rescuing the few we could offer a second chance to. We focused our efforts on canvasing areas of phoenix who most needed access to education, information and free spay and neuter services. Just as our friends in Oaxaca, Mexico were doing, we thought if we could even make a small difference in the lives of these companion animals here in these underserved communities, it would be worth our efforts. We collected food from local pet stores, raised funds to help a medical fund for families who couldn’t afford surgeries, medications, vaccines and unexpected illness diagnosis. We have helped so many families keep their pets over surrendering them to a shelter because they haven’t been able to afford medical care, rental deposits and food. We have a program to temporarily board pets while owners get back onto their feet and have helped both veterans and homeless families. We have partnered with mobile veterinarians and have helped fix nearly 15,000 pets in our community these past 8 years. We are proud to partner and make even a small impact in our community. We recognize we are a pillar of the community, respected and a source of information and assistance to those in need. We have also rescued over 600 dogs, few feline friends, two goats and two Pot Belly pigs, all who will have a home and sanctuary if they are never adopted. I have a heart for the senior dogs and we have created a program to help rescue and place them a forever home where we continue to help with the expense of elder dog. As much work as this rescue has been these beings are worth every bit of time, every tear and love we share with the.

I am proud of our work in the community but also extremely proud of our educational programs and events. I come from an incredibly creative family and I never knew my gift until having the opportunity to work as the community outreach and event coordinator for Lost Paws/AZK9. I love creating fun events that highlight rescue and Pit Bull ownership in a positive way.

Outside of the rescue work that I do I am Spanish tutor. I do not have children of my own but enjoying working with them and sharing my knowledge of language, culture and rescue with them. I do presentations at high schools, with girl scouts groups, animal welfare and educational classes. I enjoy doing anything that I can bring my Pit Bulls along kayaking, 5Ks, hiking, yoga and art festivals, anywhere a well behaved rescued Pit Bull can be out in public, sharing what amazing pets they can be. I took my Pit Bull, Ita, with me everywhere I had the opportunity to. We went to schools to educate students on proper care of pets, spay and neuter, nutrition, discrimination with BSL and stereotyping. I lost her this year to cancer but her and I shared our cause everywhere we could and children were drawn to her. Fighting for her and all the rescue dogs that we have opened our doors to have given me so much inspiration and purpose.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I would say that anything worth your time, your love and your passion is not meant to be easy and worth working for. Rescue is hard on the soul and I tend to be compassionate and a bit over sensitive. It’s hard to always wear your heart on your sleeve and not become jaded by all that is around you. I have found that staying true to why we began this organization in the first place has helped me get through every obstacle that has been thrown our way, and believe me there has been many.

For a young woman just starting this journey, I would say whether starting a rescue, a non-profit with a cause they are passionate about or even a business, work hard to create what you are passionate about, but be open-minded and prepared for change and to evolve. I would say that is what I have learned the most since starting the organization, I am comfortable with staying the same, I hated change and loved how comfortable my comfort zone was but the world has other plans and to succeed in anything you have to be prepared to handle whatever is thrown at you, big or small. I would also say before starting anything volunteer your time, travel and really have a well-rounded idea of both positive and negative examples surrounding what type of organization or business you want to build. The best thing I ever did was take in what I could foremother inspiring people around me, and learn from the mistakes of myself and others doing similar work.

What should we know about AZK9 Rescue? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
I like to refer to this organization as my baby, my contribution to my community and my life’s work. I am proud of all the positive we have done in the community helping families and their pets and helping to decrease the numbers of homeless animals and those euthanized in shelters. As much as I am proud of my community work I am also gratified by the programs I have created through both Lost Paws: Sterilization, Education and Rescue and AZK9. Get Fit With A Pit Challenge was created in 2013 as a way to not just gain exposure and network our dogs and our work but to also educate others and encourage them to get involved with our cause. Get Fit With A Pit was a hiking challenge for the New Year that brought volunteers out to hike our dogs while getting fit themselves. The challenge was about inspiring others to get fit and the best way to do it is by volunteering your time to help rescue dogs get what they needed as well, exercise, socialization and ultimately a new home. I loved this program for so many reasons but the greatest was that our dogs were out all over the AZ trails sharing the message that rescue dogs and Pit Bulls are amazing, active family pets. We had a ton of success with the challenge and inspired many who had never been involved with rescue or sharing the cause to come out and get involved.

I hear all the time that we have some of the best programs, fundraisers and events. I would say that these dogs and this organization motivates me to create fun activities and ways to bring people together to raise money or make an impact. I love the challenge of raising money for this cause and cultivate change in innovative ways.

For good reason, society often focuses more on the problems rather than the opportunities that exist, because the problems need to be solved. However, we’d probably also benefit from looking for and recognizing the opportunities that women are better positioned to capitalize on. Have you discovered such opportunities?
I would say that there is room for women everywhere in society. My animal welfare world is dominated by inspiring, compassionate woman who are out there working their tails off to make a difference. Woman who have families and jobs of their own but come out to volunteer and help by sharing their time, knowledge and experience to help others.

My favorite place to see inspiring women is through social media, I think social media has greatly impacted the way we can share successes, information, projects, goals and inspire others. We can see women excelling in their own business while taking care of their families, building, creating and sharing their talent and hard work. I am inspired by others and hope that I too can encourage other women to follow their heart and make an impact in our world, big or small. I truly believe that we can all do something to improve our community, help others and make a difference in others’ lives.

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Image Credit:

Photo contributors:
Dayna Demaine
Aaron Bolduc

Getting in touch: VoyagePhoenix is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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