5.16.2011

The Night That Changed Everything

Certain events in our lives shape who we are. These events can make you, or break you. They can make you weaker, or they can make you stronger. They often change your entire outlook on life, and push you to follow your dreams. When tragedy strikes, the outcome… is what you make it…

The Night That Changed My Life
It was April 10, 2003. My boyfriend at the time, Philip, was driving my car. I was in the passenger seat, and my best friend, Jessica, was in the backseat. We were driving to my friend Tiffani’s house. We turned down an old Mississippi country road…

And then… 
I woke up.

The screaming woke me. 

It took me a minute to realize... that the screams were coming from me. As I opened my eyes, I saw the windshield… completely shattered. I looked around, and realized that my car was in a body of water. 

Panic set in… but I had no idea just how bad things really were. My mind started racing, and I couldn’t comprehend what was happening.

The pain in my body was unbearable, but I didn’t have time to figure out where it was coming from. I looked at Jessica, and saw the blood on her face. I went to open my car door, but it was jammed. I went to move… and that’s when I realized… I couldn’t.

I said, “Jess, I can’t move my legs!”

That’s when I looked down… and I heard myself scream in a voice I didn’t recognize. My left kneecap was in the middle of my thigh, all my bones were coming through my skin... and my left foot… was hanging by a thread. I didn’t even think I had a foot anymore. My right leg was also broken, and I literally couldn’t move. There was blood everywhere. And the pain… I’ve never known that kind of physical agony.

Jessica got the rear door to open, and she said, “It’s okay, Ash. I’m going to get help.”

I heard her step out into the water...
And then… I was alone in the darkness.

I looked at Philip. Blood was pouring from his face. I shook him, but he didn’t flinch. I started shaking him as hard as I could, yelling, “Philip! Wake up! Please! You have to wake up! Philip, PLEASE!!!”

That’s when I came to the realization that Philip was probably dead. I heard a blood curdling scream come out of my body: “NOOOOOOO!” 

And I passed out from the pain.

I woke up, as Jessica got back to the car. On this particular road, there are only 2 houses. Jessica had walked for a very long time in the wrong direction, and she was turning back to try to find help the other way. She said, “I’m gonna go this way now, Ash. Please hold on for me. I’ll be right back.” 

I said, “Jess, please don’t leave me!” 
But of course, she had to leave to find help.

The pain in my legs was so unbelievable. I wanted to crawl out of my own body. I was shaking uncontrollably from the pain. I was losing so much blood, and I could feel myself going in and out.

And that’s when it hit me: I’m going to die here. At 18 years old.

It hurt so much… I couldn’t imagine surviving. Plus, we were in the middle of nowhere. It would take forever for an ambulance to get there. Then, they’d have to find a way into the water to get us out.

With that realization, I could feel all the hope leaving my heart...
Suddenly, I knew: I'm about to die.

I thought about my parents and my little brother… getting the call to say there'd been an accident... and that I didn’t make it. I thought about my dogs, Darby and Goldie… waiting for me to come home again. I thought about all of the things I wanted to do with my life. Everything I wanted to be. I was a Freshman in college, and just a few hours before, I had my whole life ahead of me. Now, I was sure that today would be my last.

But then... I decided that I couldn’t let that happen. So, the next time I started to lose consciousness, I thought about my family, and I fought to stay awake. I prayed. I held onto my dreams, and made a promise to myself that I’d achieve those goals someday. I wasn't sure how long I held on for, but it felt like days.

Eventually, I reached the point... where I couldn’t hold on any longer.

As I felt myself letting go... of my life and this world...
I heard the sirens.
The sirens that would save my life.

I was in the hospital for weeks. My body and my legs were severely damaged... especially my left leg, which had been completely crushed. Further, my left foot was essentially ripped from my body.

The initial surgical plan was to amputate my foot. At 18 years old, I didn’t even know how to process that information. But an amazing surgeon stepped up and offered to try and repair the damage.

After multiple surgeries, Dr. Durgin saved my foot. And after months in a wheelchair, I finally learned to walk again.

I went on to finish college, get my Master of Business Administration (MBA), and start my own business, Lucky Dog Retreat, and my own nonprofit rescue, Lucky Dog Rescue. I kept all of the promises I made to myself that night. For me, it was the night that changed everything.

I'd later find out that the old country road we were driving down, had been washed away in the severe weather the week before, and our car had plummeted off a steep embankment... into a creek, landing on a tree stump. We never saw it coming.  

While I had no concept of time that night, I'd later learn that it took well-over an hour, from the time the wreck occurred.... until help finally arrived. I was seconds from death, when the ambulance got there.

Without my best friend, Jessica, I would have died that night. She truly saved my life.

I would also find out that Philip didn’t die in the accident. However, Philip died one year later, on St. Patrick’s day, in a tragic house fire. It was beyond-devastating.

I wanted to share this story, because it made me… me. If you’ve ever wondered why I’m so driven, why I care so much, why I follow my dreams --above all else, now you know. If you’ve wondered why I have my own business and nonprofit rescue at 26 years old, now you know. My life… is happening right now. I don’t wait for someday down the road.

Because, on April 10, 2003, I didn’t think “down the road” existed for me. But 8 years later, I’m exactly where I promised myself I would be. Even though I'm in pain every day, I walk the dogs anyway... because I can. And while that night was the worst night of my life… it was the best thing that ever happened to me.

*Written in loving memory of Philip Lindsey

78 comments:

  1. Wow - this was a powerful post. It's incredibly inspirational to see how you've given it all in your life, and in doing so saved so many other lives.

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  2. Everything that you are is everything you were meant to be. You are an amazing and wonderful woman and every day i thank God for you.

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  3. Amazing. Truly Amazing.

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  4. God knew you going to save his creatures. He gave you the will to live and go on with your dream. You are amazing woman and I praise you for everything you do to help all the animals.Thank God for you. God bless you anad all your work.

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  5. I agree. All I can say is "wow". No word can do your story justice.

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  6. Incredible story by an incredible young women. God bless you Ashley. God has given you a gift and you are making Him smile with happiness!

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  7. What can you say to that?? Wow. You are such an inspiration. Thank you for sharing.

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  8. Wow God Bless you,How powerful he is that he gave you a second chance , because he knew what an angel to this world you would be,very empowering

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  9. you are a insperation to all of us, thank you for being so true to urself and to our furbabies, u survived to be thier angel!!!

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  10. Patricia NicoliniMay 16, 2011 at 8:43 PM

    Thank you for sharing "yourself" with us Ashley. You truely are an inspiration. Although I have never met you or even spoken to you, voice to voice, you have helped shape me into the woman I am becoming..........at 46 years old. Thank you.

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  11. Thank you for the post....you don't know how you've helped....and thanks for all you do for the innocent critters. You are an angel in more ways than you know.
    God Bless you and your rescue.

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  12. You made the crucial mental decision to survive; and then, to thrive and make your dreams a reality. God bless you, Jessica your "guardian angel" that night and Phillip, whose memory you honor. Would I had your focus :).

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  13. You are wise beyond your years. I am sorry you have such pain, but thankful you have the strong spirit to deal with it daily in such a positive and heroic way. Yes, you are a true hero. So much tragedy in your young life, yet you are not jaded. You cannot control what happens to you in your life, but you can control how you react to it. Well done beautiful young woman, very well done. I admire you and will for the rest of my life.

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  14. I love you so much, Ash...I am so grateful that you made it through that night xoxo

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  15. I know a lot of dogs and a lot of people that are glad that you are here today and are making such a difference. You are only 2 years older than me... and one of my heroes. I can only hope to do something as amazing as you are one day soon.

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  16. Ashley, I haven't followed you for long, and when I saw your picture, I wondered how a woman like you, at your age, become a warrior for dogs. Many of us have had life changing events, not as dramatic as yours, but I think you were saved for a purpose, and you're fulfilling that purpose. Your strength shines through in each post. Now we know where that strength comes from.

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  17. We all have a purpose in life, you are incredible for what you do!! Every dog that crosses your path is a lucky one :)
    I am so glad you made it, this earth wouldn't be the same without you :)
    God bless you always in everything you do!! You are an inspiration.

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  18. Wow, this is so amazing and inspirational. You are such a warrior, Ashley! Keep up the good fight, its what makes you..you! :)

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  19. God sure had his eyes on you that night and what a wonderful future he has blessed you with, and all the animals you save. I wish I could help each one of them...I try to pass on all pet rescues I get in hopes that someone down the line can help..Keep up the wonderful work he has saved for you...And thank you for sharing your amazing story of strength and courage.

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  20. Ashley, your story is so powerful...and your will to live equally so. Thank you for sharing this with all of us. I am so glad you are here for the animals that cross your path, and as another poster wrote, you are an inspiration. I am glad to have you as a friend on FB, and the people and animals who know you in person are truly lucky.

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  21. You are a Darling Young lady, That was an inspiration for me to read & I am yrs & yrs older. God wanted you to help save & love his animals, & I might add dont think anyone could do a better job. Love you for your courage & all that you do for the animals. Phyllis Kaelin

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  22. What a beautiful person you are. What a horrible experience. You are here for a reason and you are DOING what you said you would. God bless you!

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  23. This story can only be described with one word; AMAZING! Ashley you are an inspiration! Thank you for all you do!

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  24. WOW! That is totally a beautiful story (and yes i cried). Thanks for all the good work you are doing. God wanted you to stay here and take care of his animals......And your doing a wonderful job.!!!!!!!

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  25. U r truely blessed..... u have the heart of an angel....there is no way to explain how greatfull the world is to have u in it....u are the definition of love and compassion....thank you for sharing....and thank you for what you have done and continued to do.....u make my soul smile...u make me see that there is still good in the world!!!!!! THANK YOU!!!

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  26. What an ordeal you went through! You are a very blessed and amazing woman! You have totally inspired me to do something very meaningful in this life. I had cancer and a total knee replacement 11 years ago when I was 30, I always said I didn't want to life just slip on by but 11 years later, I wonder what I've done to make it or anyone elses better. I vow to do something great starting now, I am handicapped but after reading what you went thru and you didn't let it stop you, why should I let it stop me? You are awesome!!!

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  28. You were meant to be here with us, to help all these poor bebies! Love you, girl!

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  29. Thank God, for you!

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  30. What an amazing story! God knew what he was doing with you and why bug things you were going to accomplish!!! You are truly an amazing woman!! God bless you!!

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  31. Now~~ I Understand You...Thanks :)

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  32. Wow, just wow. Makes me feel ashamed for having even one lazy, woe is me day. Very inspiring. Thanks for sharing with us.

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  33. Thank you for sharing your story. Really makes a person think. I'm afraid of everything and have always been. Pet Pardons has gotten me started on something I have always wanted to be a part of. I'll keep thinking of your words. With some strength maybe I can go further.

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  34. I thank you for sharing this, this is exactly what I needed to hear today. I have a dog named Darby too. Thank you - I am not articulating this very well but this was very moving to me and something I needed to hear. My life is happening NOW.

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  35. Melody Hamby GossMay 17, 2011 at 2:22 PM

    Truly inspirational! God has a plan for all of us. He is working thru you, to save lives and give hope to everyone that you touch. I know you have put my life in a diferent direction, but thts another story. God Bless and keep you. Melody

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  36. Thanks Ashley, it's nice to get some perspective on your willingness to see far beyond limitations.

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  37. great post Ashley; I shared with our Twitter followers who I'm sure will be as inspired as I was by your story! thanks for all you do!
    @HFLanimals

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  38. thank you for sharing, Ashley. and for reminding us to live each day as if it might be our last, and to always follow our dreams.

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  39. That was incredibly powerful. Thank you for sharing your story and inspiring me.

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  40. I was wondering how you got your drive!! Now I know!! THANK YOU!

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  41. congratulations on being the person you dreamed of being - going for it! at 33 i'm still waiting for my inspirational moment that will help me decide my path. i have a great life but not yet fulfilling a larger purpose - your words are a spark!

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  42. Really amazing. Everything happens for reasons which we are never fully aware...you know yours. You inspire but most of all you save lives. God saved you to be the voice for these loving creatures. Amen for that.

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  43. thanks for all you do, and for reaffirming my own passion and dream, help those that cannot hel themselves. Thanks and keep following your heart.

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  44. All I can say is your AMAZING!!!! You are a Angel here on earth..... all animal lovers can feel your power. Thank you, thank you, God Bless, Tammylee <3

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  45. Just another Wow! Ashley you are an amazing young women and God bless you for all you do for his creatures great and small. You shall recieve your gift of Gold in heaven one day but not for a very long time.

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  46. Ashley, you are an amazing person. You really are!!! I hope everything in your life turns out just the way you pictured it and more. You are doing the most difficult thing is helping the animals in need. Without you they would be put to sleep and they would not have found loving homes and had a second chance at life. I pray that you get better with help of these animals. You are an amazing person, keep up the good work and the wonderful spirit that you have!!! Regina

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  47. Ashley, what am amazing story and amazing accomplishments. I don't know you, yet I feel proud of what you have done in your life. Amazing things happen to amazing people, you are living proof.

    Best of luck always!
    ~ L.

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  48. You are an incredible person Ashley..something tells me that whether you experienced a tragic accident or not you were meant for greatness! I only wish there were more people in the world like you! Thank you for all you do! :)

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  49. Simply incredible post! I am glad you followed your dreams and made the world a better place. Sadly sometimes people go in the opposite direction and wallow in self pity of what happened to them. You just show how strong of a person you are on the inside with the work you do every day.

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  50. You answered your own prayers, AMAZING!

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  51. Thank you for sharing this part of your life with us Ashley! I have been waiting for on down the road for 45 years... until now! You have been a blessing to me for months....

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  52. that's it, i'm calling the vatican and electing you for sainthood. move over st. francis! you are the modern patron saint of the animals!

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  53. Thank you for sharing your story with us Ashley. You are a wonderful person and I thank you for everything you do for our animal friends.

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  54. Wow Ashley, how inspirational. Life certainly does change and shape us. I battled cancer this past year so I too, in many ways, now know where you are coming from. No tomorrows for me....it's all about today! God had a mighty plan for you and I think you are fulfilling it. You are such a blessing!
    JSartain

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  55. Thank you Ashley for the sharing of your story I never knew this before :tho right from the very start when I heard your name mentioned with the animals you love and save, I have said you were an angel of god ,,and you truly ,truly are,,its so true,,what a wonderful lady you have become I can assure you if your furbabies could talk they would say all this and more: Thank you !!

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  56. thank you for sharing such an inspiring story. i hope it encourages others to act on their dreams, too.

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  57. Ashley, for a long time, I've been thinking we are so much alike! I'm outside all the time with Champ, Charlie and Lucky and when I'm texting someone or on the phone with someone, if its not pitch black outside, I'm most likely outside with the dogs. When my friends ask what I'm doing I always say, " Outside with my dogs, you?" and they usually respond, " You're obsessed with your dogs." I am! Since you and Dustin got married and opened Lucky dog, I realized how much I love dogs! Even if the dogs are bad tempered and bites me, I still could never in my life hurt them! I've realized I want to work or own a business like Lucky Dog! Me and you are so much alike, and I'm glad! I love you Ashley, and Happy Birthday!

    -Libby

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  58. Dang. I've never heard you tell this story in full. I'm in awe of you and your work

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  59. Ashley, you need to write a book.... Seriously. You have a gift with words and you could fund you life-saving work for years to come!!

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  60. You are truly an amazing soul, may the rest of your days be filled with love, peace and joy. You are doing a wonderful thing, living and giving of yourself. You are an inspiration to many, keep on keeping on my dear, and thank you for sharing this story with us all :) with warmest regards, Christine

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  61. Ashley, this is the first time I am reading this. I am so sorry you had to go through that horrible ordeal. I can't imagine the pain you went through. I am also sorry for the loss of your friend, Philip.
    You have amazed me with your compassion and dedication since I "met" you, but now you inspire and impress me even more.
    Good luck with everything, and may you continue to live your life NOW, and your dream, and at the same time, save so many sweet, innocent souls from pain. <3 you Ashley.

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  62. Thank you for sharing that! I lost my dad when I was only 13 and it was then that I realized each day was a gift. AT 33, I fell on ice and permanently injured my back and was in constant pain - yet I took care of my home, my yard, my animals, and my step-son and went on to have a daughter. I've been helping animals and awareness since age 13 (I'm now 56). I've now had 2 successful back surgeries and have been riding my horse. Each day is a gift, we're here for a reason, and pain means you're alive! I will continue to help you pass your message and try to advocate for the voiceless as long as I live - be they children, returning vets, animals....

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  63. That which does not kill us, will make us strong.

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  64. What an incredible story of survival and determination. You were saved for a purpose, and you are serving that purpose. Bless you for your work.

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  65. You are truly an unbelievable lady!! You are an inspiration to us all!! Thanks for sharing your story. God bless you and all that you do to make this world a better place for the animals!! Love from NY..
    :o)Alissa

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  66. Ashley you are truely a beautiful person,i agree with Dianna, yes you need to write a book,Bless you huni for saving all these dogs in need, your their guardian angel.
    best wishes chrissy (England) x

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  67. U R BLESSED WITH A SECOND CHANCE AT LIFE AND THATS EXACTLY WHAT U R DOING GIVING HELPLESS ANIMALS A SECOND CHANCE AT LIFE GOD GIVE U THE STRENGTH ND THE HELP U NEED TO CONTINUE UR QUEST U R A TRUE EXAMPLE OF LOVE COMPASION I REALLY WISH I WERE LIVING NEAR U I WOULD B BLESSED AND HONORED TO HELP U RITE NOW ALL I CAN B IS AN ADVOCATE TO THOSE MORE ANIMALS GOD BLESS U ANGEL

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  68. You are very blessed. Alot of people go through life never knowing what Gods will is, or was, for them. HE made it perfectly clear what HIS will for you was, and God bless you for recognizing it and seeing it through. You are truly my hero. Thank you GOD for giving us and your animals this precious gift, Ashley.

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  69. An amazing inspirational look into your life , thanks so much Ashley for sharing it with us !!!

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  70. Oh my gosh!!!! I could never imagine!!

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  71. you were meant to live....GOD sure had great plans for you and what you chose to do!!! this world and all the animals you help are truly blessed <3

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  72. God always takes care of His own :)

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  73. What a powerful story. I know all the animals you have saved are glad you made it. You are truly a blessed person. Thank you for being you.

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  74. LOVE Ya... FOR WHO YOU ARE n WHAT YOU DO

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  75. Wow! God obviously kept you alive for a reason, and I'm so grateful for all you do to help these animals.

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  76. You found the meaning of life when you fought for your survival following that dreadful accident. You are living life to the fullest while you save hundreds of beautiful animals daily. I have been inspired by your story to co tinue to advocate for the animals that appear on my Facebook page. to see that each one of us can make a difference is important.. Thanks to YOU more animals will be helped!
    Feel well!

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  77. What an inspiration of life that goes on & on..

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