Summer 2017

I Rescue Dogs A Conversation With Annette Hiltibran God Rescued Me by CHARIDY MURPHY The first thing I notice about Annette Hilti- bran is her down-to-earth sense of humor. She quickly ushers me into her home amid the sharp barking of three tiny Maltese fluff balls and breathlessly apologizes for the state of her hair (it is up in rollers) and her home (I think it is immaculate), explaining why she is running behind, “I have a new job and I love It. But, whew! It is kicking by behind!” laughs Annette in her light southern drawl before scooping up and cooing to one of her excited pups. “Now, what do you want to know?” asks An- nette as we settle in to chat. “I mean, I’ve been married about 100 times...I finally figured out I can live with dogs, but not men!” she jokes, then motions towards her dogs. “These are my fur-babies, and I just love ’em to death!” She in- troduces the nervous little bundle she is hold- ing as “Cowboy.” His housemates, “Rodeo” and “Sassy,” excitedly wriggle and bark at our feet, wanting to get in on the attention. Annette doesn’t disappoint. They are each cuddled and made over in turn. Watching Annette with her dogs, it becomes obvious she is a natural caretaker, which is one of the reasons she began rescuing dogs. She explains she desperately wanted children as far back as she can remember, but devastating personal losses left her bereft of the children she dreamed of lavishing her love on. However, she also says she was the last person anyone would have expected to rescue an animal. “Oh! I was such a priss!” laughs Annette, “If you had a dog or a cat, I would not come to your house! I was so afraid I would get dog or cat hair on me, or I would get mussed up somehow!” It was when she was 36 that health problems forced her to undergo a hysterectomy, shatter- ing her dreams of ever having children. Few people would blame Annette if she were angry with God for her devastating loss. Instead, Annette says God used her loss to set her on a journey that has given her innumerable oppor- tunities to use her deep desire to nurture others, including rescuing animals. “Shadow” was the very first dog Annette 6 | Summer 2017 ON A MISSION