Five years ago, Tracey Crompton volunteered for the first time at Angel Ridge Animal Rescue in Meadow Lands. Her assignment – to walk a three-legged dog – changed her life.
“I cried all the way home because I found out who I was,” said Crompton, 49, of Eighty Four. “I found my purpose. I realized why I’m on this earth.”
Over the next four years, Crompton, a former floral designer, volunteered with Angel Ridge and Pet Search.
In December 2017, Crompton and four friends – Candace Bentz, Carla Conklin, Mary Beth Madalinsky and Bettylnn Meyers – started Bridge to Home Animal Rescue, a rescue group dedicated to finding homes for unwanted, abandoned and abused dogs.
A little more than a year into the nonprofit’s existence, Bridge to Home has placed more than 500 puppies and dogs into loving homes throughout Southwestern Pennsylvania.
Bridge to Home has grown rapidly, and Crompton, who serves as president, has established a network of nearly 60 foster homes that provide shelter and care for abandoned dogs until they are placed with permanent families.
“Tracey spends all of her time rescuing animals on a daily basis. She eats, sleeps and breathes rescue,” said Heather Juran, who fosters dogs for Bridge to Home.
“I spend all day, seven days a week. You don’t get a break, but it’s OK,” said Crompton. “There are days when I want to quit, but I’ll get a picture from someone, and they’ll say, ‘Hey, look how good so-and-so is doing,’ and it makes me want to keep going.”
For her efforts to rescue dogs, Crompton has been selected as the Observer-Reporter’s ExtraORdinary Person for the month of February.
Crompton keeps a photo album filled with pictures of all of the dogs she has helped rescue, and she knows the stories of every canine.
The first dog fostered and placed by Bridge to Home was Uno, a 4-month-old beagle bought from a pet store and surrendered two months later. Uno was adopted by a retired couple.
“We were so excited. I had butterflies in my stomach,” said Crompton.
She pointed out other dogs: Rex the Super Pup, a mixed breed whose jaw was broken in two places when Bridge to Home took him in (his jaw was taped shut for three weeks, and his foster mother fed him through a syringe until he healed; Minnie, who was seven months pregnant and gave birth to a litter in Crompton’s home, and Popeye, a Chihuahua and Jack Russell mix who slept in a garbage can.
“This little guy, Popeye, was in the kill shelter,” said Crompton. “He lived in a garbage can. He actually lived there. That trash can is where he slept.”
Crompton can share dozens of heart-wrenching stories, including the plight of Rocky, who was taken from a hoarder’s home. He didn’t have human contact and spent most of his time in a crate.
“When he got here, he sat in the kitchen in a crate and wouldn’t come out. I hand-fed him for days,” recalled Crompton. “I had him for a month and I got him to walk down the street on a leash. He ended up loving walks, and he got adopted.”
The happy endings, like a mixed-breed dog that recently was placed in an assisted-living home where he spends his days being loved by residents and staff members, lift Crompton’s spirits.
Crompton believes Bridge to Home does more than place dogs in homes: the nonprofit builds families.
“You’re not just helping this dog; you are helping the family. You’re completing a family,” said Crompton. “I think the best thing you can do for a child is get a dog.”
Crompton, petite and silver-haired, credits her volunteers for the nonprofit’s success in finding homes for unwanted canines.
“It’s the volunteers who make this work. It’s teamwork. We all work well together. There’s no fighting, no drama. We all like each other. The volunteers are what holds this together,” said Crompton, who noted the amount of time volunteers donate for a variety of tasks, including fostering dogs, organizing and hosting fundraising events and handling paperwork.
Bridge to Home also is grateful to the veterinarians, pet companies, businesses and donors who collaborate with the nonprofit.
Bridge to Home holds adoption events to find homes and raise people’s awareness about the nonprofit and its mission.
Crompton’s husband, Freddie, an electrical engineer, manages Bridge to Home’s website and publishes the quarterly newsletter.
Donors can visit Bridge To Home Animal Rescue’s Facebook page and Amazon wish list to see and donate the most-needed items, and the organization has a PayPay account for donations.
All money raised for Bridge to Home goes directly toward the care of the dogs, including medical treatment, spaying and neutering, microchips and vaccinations.
Russ and Heather Shawbell, who are currently fostering German short-haired pointer mixed puppies named Reggie and Rico, said working with Bridge to Home has been a rewarding experience.
“All I’ve wanted to do is save dogs all my life, but we both work, and this rescue has given us the ability to do it at our house, when we can,” said Heather. “Tracey has been wonderful.”
Crompton follows up on the dogs Bridge to Home places to make sure the canines and the families are doing well.
Bridge to Home also has an alumni page for families and the dogs they have adopted through the nonprofit.
Last summer, Crompton hosted a meet-up event at Mingo Creek County Park, where 100 dogs and their owners gathered throughout the day.
Adoptions cost $200 for mixed breeds and $400 for purebred dogs.
Bridge to Home has provided an opportunity for dogs to find forever homes with caring families, but Crompton said the organization has helped her step outside her comfort zone in order to do something good.
“I always wanted to help, but never felt like I could. And one day I just thought, why not me? Why isn’t it me that helps?” said Crompton. “I’ve never been happier. I have a husband who supports me in everything I do. This has changed who I am. It makes me happy.”
As part of the ExtraORdinary People feature, Tracey Crompton has been given $500, underwritten by the Observer-Reporter and Range Resources, to donate to the charity of her choice. She has selected C.R.I.C.A.A.T., an animal rescue organization in Washington.