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In over head, dog rescuer says she’s done for good

Kelly Mickey Hammond cuddles with Troy 4 year-old hound originally rescued by Hearts Hounds Schererville. |  Michelle L. Quinn/For

Kelly Mickey, of Hammond, cuddles with Troy, a 4 year-old hound originally rescued by Hearts and Hounds of Schererville. | Michelle L. Quinn/For Post-Tribune

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Updated: October 24, 2013 6:08AM



SCHERERVILLE — A local animal rescuer criticized for abandoning some of her dogs says she got “in over her head” and won’t rescue any more.

Linda Szymoniak, founder of Hearts and Hounds Rescue, cited a mental condition in posts to her personal and rescue Facebook pages. The posts said she’s under a doctor’s care and was helped by a medication clinical trial she completed in June.

“People will think what they want of me, and no matter what I say, it’s not going to make any difference to many of them. I have loved animals my entire life, and I really wanted to make a difference for them. I had a dream, and now it’s been dashed to hell and back again.”

Earlier this month, two more dogs rescued by Szymoniak were returned by a kennel owner frustrated by Szymoniak’s lack of follow-up.

Sandra Martinez, owner of South Bend-based SanMar Kennels, delivered the two hounds, Troy and Elvis, to Szymoniak’s home Sept. 14 after getting fed up with her unresponsiveness. Szymoniak had dropped off three dogs — the hounds and a black Labrador retriever — at Martinez’s kennel April 26.

The black Labrador was quickly adopted, but the two hounds were not. And Szymoniak neither checked in on them nor paid the amount agreed upon, Martinez said.

“Weeks went by, and it became a problem,” Martinez said. “(In the last month) I’ve called her four times over two weeks with no response. Then my granddaughter emailed her, and she did respond that she would come out the first of month with dog food and then in two weeks with money for the boarding. It never came.”

After stewing about it, Martinez hopped in her van with the two dogs and drove the hour from South Bend to Szymoniak’s house.

Szymoniak said on Facebook that she was naïve in getting into rescue and all it entails, and lamented that neither her family nor most people in rescue support her anymore. But she placed many dogs in good homes and said she prays for the dogs she might’ve been able to save in the future, telling her detractors they “won.”

“I’m back in that black hole that I finally pulled myself out of last year just before I started my rescue,” she wrote. “I have some (dogs) still in my care and will continue working with the fosters and getting these dogs into homes.

“I am just one person and tried my best.”

Szymoniak also was accused of leaving three sick dogs in a Fairmont, N.C., veterinary clinic without paying for boarding or upkeep. That clinic posted an appeal for donations on its website for the dogs, whose costs now total hundreds of dollars.

Neither Szymoniak nor the South Robeson Veterinary Clinic in Fairmont, N.C., have returned repeated calls seeking comment.

People involved in rescue who follow the Hearts and Hounds page were hopeful but dubious she’ll stop trying to rescue any more dogs.

“If this was the first time, I could maybe work up some sympathy,” said Liz Gill, who donated $730 to the care of the dogs in North Carolina. “But she has a serious problem and it is the dogs paying the price.”

Martinez said she was warned by another rescue organization that Szymoniak would be a problem, but she didn’t want to believe it, calling Szymoniak a “nice lady.”

Now, though, she has concluded: “She should not be doing this.”

Troy and Elvis, the dogs Martinez dropped off, were taken in by a local animal control agency; Elvis is being adopted, while Troy found a temporary home with Kelly Mickey, who fosters pets for Houndsong, another rescue group.

Mickey, who’s taken on special-needs hounds before, took one look at the shivering, drooling dog and knew he had to come home with her.

“He came in very nervous, ,” Mickey said of Troy.

”Then last night, he wouldn’t come inside to sleep because he was afraid to be locked up again,” she added. “This is what happens when they’re left in a boarding kennel for months at a time. He doesn’t know how to react to people.”



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