About 10 years ago, Jenny Stringer was driving down Lake Cook Rd. with her mom. She remembers lots of cars on the road, but it was before rush hour so they were still moving fast.
Suddenly, a dog bolted into traffic. Stringer says she pulled into a nearby driveway, ignoring her mother's shouts, grabbed the leash she always keeps in the car and ran after the dog.
"I ran in the street as a van came," Stringer said. "In my mind I was thinking it’s going to stop for me but it doesn’t see the dog."
Stringer said the van stopped just over the dog, narrowly avoiding it. She later found out the dog belonged to a little boy who recently moved to the area from Florida. Apparently that dog was one of the only possessions he brought along.
That's the only instance Stringer mentioned risking her life for a stray, but that's the kind of person she is. It's as if she'll do anything for a helpless animal.
At 37, when Stringer isn't , selling advertisements for local theaters and museums, or raising her three kids, she rescues animals. She's been rescuing for about 12 years and it's even shaped her kids' personalities.
“My kids are learning so much compassion from all of this," she said. “They’re so into this now that they’ll say, ‘oh did that dog get put down?’ They totally get the whole process.”
Her kids are 7, 5 and 3.
Secondhand Snoots in a Barking Lot
Lately, Stringer has been volunteering for an organization called Secondhand Snoots, a donation-funded, volunteer-driven group that helps hard-to-adopt dogs and cats find homes. The organization doesn't have a central facility and Stringer says no one gets paid. Rather, they place animals into temporary foster families while searching for a forever home.
Snoots generally help pets with disabilities that animal control agencies from nearby suburbs might otherwise euthanize.
“We’re the voices for these dogs, you can’t give it a rest," she said. “You can’t save them all, and that was the hardest thing for me, but I have to focus on the ones we can save, and get them a home.”
Some of the dogs that Snoots is trying to place are kept in kennels at , a pet store and dog day care. Barking Lot's owner, Matthew Kriser, says his facility helps the Snoots dogs get ready for new homes.
"We can offer a lot activity, so it allows dogs that take a little bit longer to get adopted keep their sanity while that process is going on," he said. "There’s only a few times a year when I just don’t have the space, so might as well use those extra kennels to help these dogs get adopted."
Kriser does not charge Snoots for the space. Stringer referred to him as a "godsend."
Kriser says the relationship works for him because Stringer is so involved with the dogs Snoots keeps there. Barking Lot employees help, but she's there every day, sometimes with her three little kids, looking after the dogs.
Snoots is currently trying to place about 24 dogs and 13 cats, but only a few of those are at Barking Lot.
The Not Crazy Dog Lady
Stringer owns a few dogs and a 19-year-old parrot. She's a pitbull advocate and, perhaps not surprisingly, a big fan of . She's is not, however, a fan of places in the world where dogs and cats run free in the street. She once witnessed this in Mexico and says she'll never go anywhere like that again.
Much as she likes animals, the trait might actually be genetic.
“I grew up in an animal loving home," she said. "My dad found a crow that was injured and he kept it in our garage. My parents were always like that."
Stringer started rescuing dogs on her own after adopting a shepherd about 12 years ago. She met another animal savior then and says "once you go to the facilities and see the dogs that are going to be put down, it's hard not to get completely involved."
Sometimes neighbors, friends or friends of friends who, for some reason, can no longer take care of an animal, contact Stringer for help finding their pet a new home. She says her success rate for placing these pets is nearly 100 percent.
“I don’t judge, I place. Because you never know," she said. “They were left behind, they’re not broken.”
Visit the Secondhand Snoots website to see a list of animals looking for homes and to make a donation.