BOLINGBROOK – Before she moved to Bolingbrook 20 years ago, Stephanie Ptak lived in a Chicago apartment with her husband and three dogs.
Born an asthmatic, she vividly remembers succumbing to a severe attack and being rushed to the hospital one day.
"Doctors called my husband and told him to come to the hospital because they didn't know if I would make it," Ptak said. "I survived, and ultimately the medical staff said the asthma attacks were caused by my three dogs."
To this day, Ptak cannot forgive herself for giving up her three best friends.
"It was heartbreaking," Ptak said, explaining that after her husband brought the animals to a shelter, they lost track of their whereabouts. "I'm still torn up over it. Who knows what might have happened."
From that day on, Ptak embarked on a mission to assist animals; and, thanks to advancements in medical science and a larger suburban home with a backyard, she is once again a proud dog owner.
Ptak's mission and job is to find loving homes for her four-legged friends.
The West Chicago native founded Aloha Rescue, a 501(c)3 certified and Illinois Department of Agriculture licensed non-profit. Through it, Ptak has found homes for more than 100 dogs over the last four years, she says.
With the help of her husband, Joe, Stephanie Ptak operates Aloha Rescue from her Bolingbrook home.
They primarily handle canines, but Aloha Rescue has also fostered and found families for cats and rabbits as well.
Part of an animal rescue network, Ptak is in constant contact with pounds, animal shelters, the Humane Society, the ASPCA and many foster families. She explains that when a dog is scheduled to be euthanized, the group is notified and then attempts to give it a temporary home.
When she receives a puppy, Ptak vaccinates it, socializes it with other dogs and works on obedience skills.
Most of the stray or discarded animals come from southern Illinois and Kentucky, according Ptak, who explains that in the rural areas of Illinois, people often neglect to spade or neuter dogs and cats, allowing the animals to run feral.
It is the devastating reality of running an animal rescue, Ptak said.
"I have seen animals covered in fleas, dying of parvo and completely malnourished," she said. "There have been so many times when I think to myself, 'I can't do this anymore.'"
But, Ptak keeps going, constantly inspired by hordes of animal lovers determined to make a difference.
"In the last four years, I have met so many amazing people," Ptak said. "There are so many wonderful people out there who would do anything for these dogs. It's inspiring and shows me that we are really making a difference."
To adopt or donate to Aloha Rescue, call 630-378-5311, or visit www.aloharescue.com.