Emily Walker is the Kennel Manager for Grace Animal Hospital and has been training and fostering dogs for years. She is one of the co-leaders of Streetdog’s Alumni Association group and has 3 dogs-Nala, Felix, and Taylor, cats Zelda and Archer, a bearded dragon, and a crested gekko. She also fosters Streetdog Misty.
From the Tibetan terrier mix of her childhood to the countless dogs she cares for everyday both at home and at work, Emily Walker has been an animal lover as long as she can remember. Her family encouraged her compassion for animals by bringing in most of their pets from the streets. For Emily, rescuing dogs is not just a job, it’s a way of life.
In 2010, Emily moved to Memphis from Southaven to attend the University of Memphis. Although she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do, she enrolled in some psychology courses and knew she wanted to work with animals. She began working at a local boarding facility near her home and loved seeing the dogs every day. She had the opportunity to learn about dog behavior and began training dogs full time. In 2013, she joined the staff at Grace Animal Hospital.
Her first dog came to her in 2010 when her aunt called to talk to her about a dog who was in danger of being surrendered to the animal shelter. After a difficult breakup, she found herself in a battle with depression. The call from her aunt came at the perfect time. Emily agreed to take Nala in and for the next year, they worked to heal each other.
After some encouragement from her mom, Emily went to the animal shelter to adopt a friend for Nala. She intended to adopt a kitten, but when she arrived, the first puppy she saw grabbed her attention. A 7-week old owner surrender, Felix was in the puppy room and looked very ill. Once she learned that he was on the euthanasia list, her decision was made. She took him to the vet where he tested positive for distemper, a disease fewer than 25% of dogs survive.
Felix recovered and Emily returned to the shelter to add a kitten to their family. When Zelda jumped up on her lap, she knew she found the right cat. For the next several years, she fostered dogs-some found great homes, but one adorable little pittie became her first foster failure. She adopted Taylor in October of 2013. Soon after Taylor joined her family, a Facebook post led her to Streetdog Foundation. Hazel was the first of many Streetdog fosters. She was followed by Rambo, Rufus, Athena and her puppies, and Misty, among others.
When I asked her what she has learned from all of this, she replied “Rescue in general tells you that life is unexpected, but still really beautiful. You see the worst in people and also the best. I was angry before I started in rescue…I had no outlet for depression and anxiety. To be able to help something that could not help itself gave me a sense of well-being, relaxation, and accomplishment that I could not find anywhere else.”
What’s next for Emily? She will finish her degree in psychology with a minor in criminal justice. Ideally, she would love to find a way to get paid to rescue dogs, but she would be happy to work in the field of psychology and find a way to include dogs in her practice.