Yogurt’s international trip this week was one of many animal rescues Gray has performed in 15 years as a volunteer at the Tracy Animal Shelter, 370 Arbor Ave.
For her efforts, Gray was applauded as volunteer of the year by Tracy Police Department, which runs the shelter, during an awards presentation Friday, Jan 20, at the Tracy Community Center.
Gray, 46, said she had a lifelong a passion for helping animals.
“I love all of them — I wish every one could get out,” Gray said. “Hopefully someday that will happen, but in the meantime, we try to get as many of the adoptable ones out as we can. As long as they are not dog or people aggressive, we get the majority of them out to rescue.”
Gray has been involved in animal rescue for 23 years and has worked with the Tracy Animal Shelter since she moved to Tracy 15 years ago.
She visits the shelter once a week to take pictures that she sends to her contacts all over Northern California, hoping to save dogs and cats that are in jeopardy by transferring them into the care of no-kill rescue groups, including Tracy-based People for Pets, Animal Rescue of Tracy and No Place Like Home.
“It’s a full-time job. I spend 40 hours a week, work on weekends and pet fairs,” Gray said. “I call and bug them when I’m on vacation. I worry about the animals to see who is there and try to communicate with rescues.”
Gray created Animal Rescue of Tracy in 2003. She has since started a family and turned over the reins of the organization, but she still provides a temporary home for some of the rescued animals.
“I’ve loved and had animals since I was tiny,” Gray said. “Just started rescue and working with the shelter, just trying to get as many saved as we can.”
Gray has seen small changes at the Tracy shelter through the years and counts the days until a larger one opens. Construction is slated to start this spring on the new shelter, which will be on Grant Line Road near the east edge of town.
“I will always volunteer, because unfortunately, they are going to have a new shelter, but the problem with animal overpopulation isn’t going to change here in Tracy,”
The greatest challenge Gray confronts is finding a way out of the shelter for pit bulls and Chihuahuas, she said. Few people want a pit bull unless it’s a puppy or unusually well behaved. The majority of Chihuahuas in Tracy haven’t been spayed or neutered, and rescue organizations are inundated with the small dogs, which aren’t adopted as readily as some other breeds.
“It won’t change until we’re able to get a no- or low-cost spay or neuter in town to get control of the pit and Chihuahua population,” Gray said.
Animal control officer Lisa McDonald said Gray calls every day to see what dogs and cats are available for rescue.
“She makes our job a lot easier,” McDonald said. “It’s hard to euthanize, but knowing we get a lot of them rescued because of Kim, that softens that blow.”
Gray can recount many stories about dogs and cats she has rescued.
About a month ago, she was working to find a home for a female pit bull. After many emails and phone calls, the dog was adopted by a family in Washington with a young autistic boy. When the dog cuddled against the boy for the first time, Gray said, he declared her “my dog.” She said the pit bull was going to be certified as a therapy dog.
“The best part is seeing them go to rescue and know they are not going to be euthanized and they have a second chance at getting a home that obviously will be a better home than they had,” Gray said.
Ben Miller, animal control supervisor, said Gray had been volunteering at the Tracy shelter longer than any member of the staff had worked there.
“Kim’s value to the shelter cannot be overstated. As a volunteer, her efforts as our rescue coordinator helps hundreds of animals annually find new homes,” Miller said. “With all the wonderful volunteers we have with the police department, Kim is an extraordinarily worthy recipient of the award.”
Gray was pleased to be thanked for her efforts at the shelter.
“I was very surprised — it was really nice,” she said. “I do it because I really love the animals and want to get them to safety, but it was nice to be appreciated for it.”
• Contact Glenn Moore at 830-4252 or firstname.lastname@example.org.