Shine: A Life’s Calling Fulfilled


Today’s story on SHINE comes to us from one of our own. Many of you follow Lenore Diane’s Thoughts Exactly, as do I, and when I put out the call for people who are doing great things in their community, Lenore didn’t hesitate to send me a message. Her friend Elise Cohen runs an animal shelter just north of Atlanta called Pick of the Litter. Small local groups like Pick of the Litter are a vital link in the rescue effort because they have a grassroots connection to their communities and they are often the first on the ground in times of emergencies. Many of the folks who run them do so for little to no pay and no accolades, but they are in on an important secret, one that I hope will spread through this blog: when you give of yourself you often get back so much more in return in ways you couldn’t even imagine. So today, SHINE salutes Elise and the thousands of shelter workers who are cleaning out kennels, brushing mats out of fur and offering an extra hug. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” ~ Margaret Mead.

Lenore sits down with Elise to ask her a few questions, and then she gives us her personal experience with Elise’s unfailing love and devotion to dogs and cats who need special attention.


Lenore: How did you get started in the animal rescue community?

Elise: My first official rescue within the community was fostering a three-legged dog. The dog appeared to be recovering from getting caught in a bear trap, losing her leg in the process. It was horrible! Adopted by a woman in Rhode Island, I kept the dog with me throughout her recovery. As soon as she was well enough to travel, she was transported to her new home.

Lenore: How long have you been operating Pick of the Litter? And, why do you continue to do it?

Elise: After that, I fostered several other dogs for different groups and then joined Aiding and A-petting in August 2005. In June 2006, all members of the group with the exception of one of the directors split off to form Pick of the Litter. Unfortunately, around March of 2008, the remaining director quit, as did all of the other volunteers. Since I was fostering the majority of the dogs, I took over and have been running it on my own since.

Little Ghoulie and Mama Tess before...

Mama Tess after...


Ghoulie after...






Why do I do it? Rescue is the most rewarding and meaningful thing I have ever done. Rescue is also the most difficult and challenging thing I have ever done. There are a million reasons why I run Pick of the Litter. The number one reason is that these animals need me. If I quit or give up, they are the ones that will suffer.

The second biggest reason I continue is the fact that I love these animals more than anything else in the world. Each one of the animals within my care is precious and unique. These animals know more about unconditional love than most people. I cannot imagine my life without them.

I also believe that this work is my life’s calling. I feel as though everything before now was leading up to this, even though the thought of it terrified me. These animals have made me 1,000 times the person I ever could or would have been otherwise.

Lenore: What lessons have you learned?

Elise: There is no way I can summarize what I have learned. It would be like trying to stuff the universe into a sandwich baggie.


When I met Elise I knew two things right away: 1. She loves animals. 2. She is an advocate for animals. Though I knew Elise was active in many animal rescue organizations, I never worked with her directly. I did not foresee what would transpire in 2009.

Let me start with September 2004, the month my husband and I welcomed a third dog into our family. Sydney was a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, and she was around the same age as our other two dogs. Before I agreed to take Sydney, I brought her to our house and introduced her to our other dogs. I have been around dogs my entire life, and I know how to introduce dogs to each other. I know when I am with a dog that does not play well with other dogs. Because the three dogs did well together, we welcomed Sydney into our home with wagging tails.

As months turned into years, we noticed an aggression starting to build within Sydney. When defending her turf, Sydney had a tendency to snap, in a knee-jerk reaction, at whatever was close. Too often, it was Cherokee that was close to Sydney, and it was Cherokee getting the brunt of Sydney’s snap. After Cherokee had her ear ripped three times, I decided I had to do something.

I contacted Elise, seeking advice on how to handle the situation. Elise suggested obedience training, yet I suggested putting Sydney down. When Elise heard that she was angry. After several discussions, Elise agreed to take Sydney into her shelter, and I agree to sponsor Sydney – newly named “Squidney.”

For over two years, Squidney has been living happily with Pick of the Litter. Elise has not had any altercations with Squidney and the other dogs. Why? Because Elise is a gift to the animal world, and she has the ability to work wonders with animals of all shapes, sizes and temperaments.

Squidney and her new buddy at Pick of the Litter

Pick of the Litter is a non-profit, volunteer-based, no-kill animal rescue organization in the metro Atlanta area. The majority of the animals in the program are pulled off of death row from local county shelters. Here they receive long-term care and the opportunity to live out their lives on nine acres of woods.  They rely completely on donations from the public and adoption fees. If you would like to contribute, please visit their Chip-In page  (All donations are 100% tax deductible, as it is a 501C3 organization.) To keep up with all of the latest at Pick of the Litter, ‘Like’ them on Facebook: Pick of the Litter.

 Lenore Meeks is a married mom of two boys, working two part-time jobs, and writing to keep herself sane, while driving others nuts. She is addicted to ice cream, though a recent trip to the ER indicated gall bladder issues. As a result, she needs to avoid fatty dairy foods, and she needs to eat less ice cream. This concerns her – not the gall bladder issue, the fact that she has to eat less ice cream.

Coming up next on SHINE: If a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step as Lao Tsu said, then Ian, one of the founders of the Brooklyn Zen Center, will have us well on our way. 

SHINE on: If you or anyone you know should be featured here, please let me know! contact  {at}   jacquelincangro  DOT   com.




  1. Animal rescue organizations and their “staff” are truly angels.
    Thanks for shining the light on special people and organizations. We get so much bad new, and sad news, that it is refreshing to know that organizations like Pick of the Litter and great humans like Elise are making a difference.


    1. I couldn’t agree more! That’s one of the reasons I started this section of the blog. I’m hoping to do my part to spread some good news through the blogosphere. Thanks for your comment!


  2. A kazillion thank yous for all you and your colleagues do. I cannot bear stories of animals being abused. It is the one thing in life that can cause me think about revenge against a human being.


  3. I’ve volunteered at a couple of dog shelters and have long marveled at the commitment it takes to be the driving force behind them–to see animals so carelessly discarded, and yet to have hope in the people that come and look to provide them new lives . . .

    Rock on!

    Also, I love that “worried . . . about the ice cream” bit. 🙂


    1. Well said, Deborah! It takes a strong and dedicated person like Elise to do this work day in and day out. A big shout out to all of them.


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