South Charlotte

A passion for helping animals

Cindy Rodriguez, 42, of Ballantyne has been rescuing dogs and cats since childhood. She has volunteered with Carolina Pet and Animal Welfare Society since 2009 and with the Coalition to Unchain Dogs since 2010.

Rodriguez’s life changed forever when her husband passed away unexpectedly in 2008, and she needed an outlet that would help her recover.

“I started volunteering as a way to heal from the loss of my husband. I had to do something where my passion and heart were,” said Rodriguez. “It has helped me on my emotional journey with grief.”

With Carolina PAWS, Rodriguez takes phone calls and trains new volunteers, and helps care for the cats at PetSmart in Blakeney. Rodriguez also is fostering a cat named Mystery.

Rodriguez helps the Coalition to Unchain Dogs with its mission throughout the calendar year, in addition to its winter and summer projects. The coalition serves approximately 300 dogs in under-privileged areas of Charlotte.

“The coalition has allowed me to serve dogs in need, and has helped me connect with some of the most selfless people I know,” said Rodriguez.

Once a dog owner agrees to have a dog spayed or neutered, the Coalition to Unchain Dogs pays for the procedure, provides transportation to and from the veterinarian and loans a crate for the dog to use during recuperation. The coalition then builds a fence for the yard and provides fence maintenance for the life of the dog.

The coalition also provides a doghouse if one is not present. The group assists the owner with vaccines and medical issues the dog may have throughout its life.

Each winter, coalition volunteers provide hay to help keep dogs warm during cold months. Hay is the best bedding material to keep outdoor animals warm, said Rodriguez; this year’s hay project took place Dec. 6.

Each summer, the coalition provides tarps to construct shady spots to help keep dogs cool in the hot weather.

Rodriguez helps with each of these aspects of the coalition’s work with dogs.

“They don’t have a voice. Someone has to make their lives better,” said Rodriguez. “It is so rewarding to see the before and after of these dogs.”

Rodriguez owns two rescue dogs: Benny, a 12-year-old terrier mix, has been with her for 11 years. Lola, a 2-year-old terrier mix, has been with her for a year and a half.

Rodriguez also owns three rescue cats. Twelve-year-old Sassy has been with her since shortly after birth. Rodriguez has had 9-year-old Boots for eight years, and she has had 5-year-old Pumpkin for four years.

“I feel like I’ve had a cat in my arms since I was 2 years old,” said Rodriguez. “And the volunteer work with animals brings me so much joy.”