After moving from Toronto, Michelle Montak was waiting on her residency papers so she could begin work in New York when she got involved in a friend's dog rescue work. "My life changed completely," she said, and soon, she had founded a not-for-profit of her own, Gimme Shelter Animal Rescue.
Since its inception three years ago, the organization, which Ms. Montak directs from her house in Sagaponack, has rescued over 500 dogs from what it calls "high-kill facilities," many in Marlboro, S.C. It relies on foster families as opposed to a shelter to help facilitate the dogs' adjustment from desperate living conditions to their new, better lives.
Ms. Montak takes as many animals as she has room for regardless of how easy or hard the recovery for each animal will be. "All breeds, puppies, senior dogs, dogs that need heart worm treatment, which is like $700. Some dogs cost me thousands of dollars. For dogs that have entropian eye‚ I get them surgery. Broken legs, mange, skin infections." The only animals she does not deal with are aggressive ones, because she doesn't have the facilities to handle them.
Gimme Shelter, which relies on donations, pays for dogs to be spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and microchipped, and covers any medical attention dogs require before adoption.
Ellen and Chuck Scarborough, who have adopted two Gimme Shelter dogs, will host a benefit for the organization on Saturday from 5 to 8 p.m. at their house at 520 First Neck Lane in Southampton. Bill Persky, an Emmy Award-winning comedy writer, will be a guest speaker and the Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Loudon Wainwright will perform.
The party will include a tribute to Gimme Shelter's therapy dogs, Leo and Lola, a kissing booth with Leo, cocktails and hors d'oeuvres, a live auction led by Mr. Scarborough, and a silent auction. Tickets cost $125 in advance at gimmeshelteranimalrescue.org or $175 at the door.
When a family agrees to take an animal in, its main responsibility is "to give the dog love," Ms. Montak said, whether its for just a few days or longer. Many families adopt the first dog they foster, but Ms. Montak asks them to continue fostering. One family has fostered over 80 dogs.
Regina Oertile has fostered over 20 Gimme Shelter dogs with her husband, Jim. She said, "Sometimes I keep them for as short as a weekend, and I've kept them for months at a time while they are healing," Ms. Oertile joked that she is a "failed foster" because she "adopted two dogs I was supposed to foster."
"It makes us feel good," she said.