Parishioner’s love for animals comes to the rescue
CELINA — As a young girl, Yvette Garza never found a stray she didn’t bring home. But a love for all God’s creatures, great and small, created an obstacle for her family.
“My parents were always afraid to open the door to my bedroom because they never knew what they would find,” admitted the founder of Lost Paws Rescue of Texas. “I remember hearing, ‘Yvette, we can’t keep a possum in the house!’”
Decades later, the St. Thomas Aquinas parishioner is still rescuing animals, albeit on a larger, more organized scale. After working with other rescue groups, Garza opened a 501(c)(3) charity in 2005 to give abandoned dogs and cats a second chance at finding a forever family. Preventing animal suffering and cruelty, as well as promoting responsible pet ownership, is also part of the nonprofit’s mission.
“God puts us on this earth for a purpose. My purpose is rescuing animals,” explained the organization’s CEO, who estimates Lost Paws Rescue of Texas — based in Celina, Texas — has saved more than 10,000 dogs and cats over the years. “I view what I do as a ministry.”
Housing 60 dogs — separated by size in different buildings — and a new puppy barn for mothers and their newborns, requires time, money, and a team of dedicated volunteers. The founder’s parents, Annette and David Garza, are two of the rescue’s most ardent supporters. David Garza, a retired Catholic deacon still helps out at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Pilot Point when he’s not transporting animals from Amarillo or Abilene for his daughter. Cupcake, a Yorkie/terrier mix and escape artist, who was returned several times by various owners, is his constant companion.
“When I pick up animals or take them to the vet she goes with me,” the deacon explained. “Cupcake was adopted five times, but people kept bringing her back because she wouldn’t stay in the backyard.”
Cupcake’s story is an example of the rescue’s commitment to matching a pet with the right owner.
“There are instances when it doesn’t work out with a family. We always take an animal back and start again,” he said reassuringly.
A more difficult task is witnessing abuse cases. Lost Paws recently took in 10 schnauzer mixes, three of whom were pregnant, from a home in Randall County under investigation for animal cruelty.
In another incident, bolt cutters were needed to remove a chain from the neck of a small dog tethered to a backyard post. A lot of his hair had fallen off because he was so flea infested.
“He wouldn’t let anybody near him because he wasn’t socialized at all,” Deacon Garza recalled. “It took two to three months to get him back into shape and find him a home.”
Some of the most neglected animals are found at puppy mills where animals are bred solely for the expensive puppies they produce. Sparing older adult dogs from being euthanized, Lost Paws shelters French bulldogs, Pomeranians, and other popular breeds after promising their owner not to make any money from the transfer.
“People spend a lot of money on the puppies. Unfortunately, no one takes care of the moms and dads,” Garza said, explaining many for-profit animals spend their entire life in a cage. “These dogs take longer to socialize because no one has ever touched them. They’re not house trained and don’t even know what a couch is.”
All the animals rescued by Lost Paws see a vet, receive vaccinations, and are spayed or neutered before adoption. Annette Garza tends to the more seriously ill dogs in the family home.
“She loves them,” said Garza describing how her mother keeps the dog bed next to her while knitting to ensure the canine patient stays warm and eats. “We’ve had dogs with broken legs and illness where they need to be watched so they can recover.”
In-kind donations and fundraisers help provide resources for the rescued animals. When Garza gets discouraged by the rising cost of food and supplies, supporters come through with just enough money to keep the program going.
“I go on social media and ask for cleaning supplies, food, cat litter, and other things that help us care for the animals,” she said. “St. Francis is the patron saint of the rescue, and his statue is in every one of our buildings. He’s the one I always look to for support.”
The 30 or more cats in the program are housed in Lewisville and are adopted from the PetSmart store there. Adoption events for dogs are held each Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon at PetSmart locations in Frisco and Southlake.
Garza, who holds a full-time job in addition to managing the rescue, gets to know each dog’s personality and the type of caretaker each one needs. During the pandemic, pet adoptions from Lost Paws increased as Texans struggled with loss and isolation. Bringing a cat or dog home helped them cope with anxiety issues.
“I just love to see the difference we make in people’s lives,” said the advocate, calling her ability to work with animals a gift from God. “It’s not easy and takes a lot of sacrifice, but it’s a blessing. When I see a person’s face light up because of an animal, it’s inspiring. I thank God for allowing me to be a part of it.”