JANUARY 13, 2001
CARROLLTON - Rottweilers deserve a better reputation, and Cynthia Thomas means to see they get it.
As leader in Mississippi of the Southern States Rottweiler Rescue League, she seizes every opportunity to promote the breed and the work of her group.
In her distinctive Yorkshire-cum-Southern accent, Thomas is asking for people to join the league she latched onto about a year ago, several months before she got her own Rottweiler pup, which is now a bounding, hefty, friendly bundle known as Callie.
"I'm a 'big dog' person, always," Thomas began. In addition to Callie, she and her husband, Balos Thomas, have a Rottweiler mix named Buddy and a German Shepherd they call Ferdi.
Cynthia, Callie and Cyhthia's grandson Adami
A fuzzy white cat with dark grey markings named Rosie tops off the menagerie.
"It used to be you couldn't join SSRR if you weren't on the Internet, but that's not the case anymore. When people join our organization, they volunteer to serve in certain areas, and there's no membership fee. Our website is www.southernstatesrescuedrottweilers.org. My phone number is 662-237-9591. We're concerned with saving abused Rotties."
The group, which has 159 members scattered across Alabama, Arkansas, northern Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas, is about two years old. So far, the league's volunteers have effected 81 adoptions. The group's president is JoRett B. Redman. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thomas said as chief of the 10 members in Mississippi, she "answers web-based e-mail, tries to organize fund-raising events, help our members answer questions, and promote the organization."
"Really, I do anything I can to benefit. We've grown a whole lot since I've joined. We're looking for people with big hearts. Anything you can do, we can use you. There are people who operate foster homes for dogs, or people who transport the animals. We got one to an approved home in Pennsylvania, for example, and volunteers took different legs of the journey."
There's a long list of suggestions of what's needed to help these animals. Just call, or log on.
"This is my breed of dog," Thomas said. "They're highly intelligent, and they're most receptive to training. They're very social dogs. We have thoroughly enjoyed Callie."
Suppose someone called from the Humane Society of Leflore County and said a Rottweiler had been brought in.
"I'd go down and evaluate him. I'd call our president and ask what next. The dog would be taken to a foster home for a period of time. Information about these dogs are posted to our website, and if you see one you like, you can apply to the foster person to adopt.
"You fill out forms, which are quite lengthy. References are checked. A league member goes to your home and looks around, and if you pass, you'll probably get the dog. It costs $225 to get a dog. We try to match up families right. These animals have gone through terrible experiences, and we wouldn't want them to go through more bad times."
Thomas, the mother of two and now a grandmother, obviously considers her pets an integral part of family and home.
She found out about the rescue league by "surfing the web. I'd been doing some reading about Rottweilers and felt sorry for them because I felt they were misunderstood, mishandled. They want to be with you. You can't just put a Rottweiler in your back yard and forget him."
Her "Rottie", Callie, is being very carefully, firmly, but lovingly trained, Thomas said.
"She's been to track meets, goes into places with us. She interacts with people of all ages and races. She's very socialized," Thomas said.
Like Callie, Thomas knows what it's like, being a foreigner accepted into a different culture. She came to the United States in 1960 from England. "I've been here 40 years; I met Balos overseas. We came to Carroll County in 1968," she recalled.
Since joining SSRR, and especially since accepting her leadership role, Thomas' retirement has literally gone to the dogs, as well as to home and family. It's a role for which she seems ideally suited, as she tries to "get the word out" and to attract more volunteers, especially in her adopted state .