WHEATON – Anne Aalbue comes by her passion for pet rescue naturally.
As a child growing up in Glen Ellyn, she overheard a family friend tell her mother that nobody wanted the last puppy in her dog’s litter.
“She told my mom she was taking it to the pound,” Aalbue said. “My mom said, ‘Don’t you dare take it to the shelter. We’ll take it.’"
On another occasion, her family came across a dog under unusual circumstances while on the way home from a trip.
“Another time when I was in grade school, we were driving home from the Warren Dunes in Michigan," Aalbue said. “A dog jumped in our car at a gas station. My mom tracked down the owner from the dog’s tags. He said he didn’t want the dog, so we took him home.”
Today Aalbue, 53, lives in Wheaton with her rescue dogs Roscoe and Lily. When she’s not working at her job of 28 years with the U.S. Postal Service, she’s helping rescue dogs and helping the dogs help at-risk kids.
Aalbue is one of the recipients of Suburban Life Media's Everyday Heroes awards.
Roscoe, a pit bull mix and certified therapy dog, often accompanies her.
“Every Sunday, we go to a foster home in Oak Park and work with kids there in the Bryan and Amanda Bickell Paws for Strength program,” said Aalbue, who is board member.
The program pairs formerly abused pit bull-type dogs with formerly abused foster children.
“It helps the children understand they’re not bad kids," she said. "They just had a bad experience, just like these dogs are not bad dogs. They’ve just been abused or gotten a bad rap."
The program also teaches kids structure, boundaries, respect for animals and discipline.
“We work on their listening skills,” Aalbue said. “If they can have a respect for animals, they have a better chance of being placed in a private home or a private foster home. It’s an incredible program, and the kids just love these dogs.
She said some of the kids won’t communicate because they’ve been so traumatized by people.
“You go in with these dogs and spend an hour, and I’ve had the kids say, ‘I love Roscoe. He’s the only thing that I trust,'" Aalbue said. "It just breaks your heart. They’ll brush him and wrap their arms around him.”
Aalbue has a soft spot for pit bulls.
“I like the underdogs and the dogs that don’t deserve the bad rap that they get,” she said. “In the 50s, pit bulls were considered nanny dogs because they’re such great loyal family dogs and they’re so great with kids. The pit bull is the only dog with a purple heart. The wrong people got ahold of them and started abusing them for dog fighting and things like that.”
In addition to volunteering with DuPage County Animal Care and Control, Aalbue is a member of the Chi-Town Pitties, a pit bull rescue, and she’s also volunteered at Safe Humane Chicago, where Roscoe is an ambassador dog.
“We work with juveniles in their Lifetime Bond program for kids that have had less than stellar opportunities,” Aalbue said.
Roscoe also is a Pet Partners-certified therapy dog, so he can go into schools and hospitals.
On Tuesday nights, Aalbue goes to the shelter for its enrichment program for dogs. Run by a certified dog trainer behaviorist, the program, called STAR (Strategic Training and Reinforce- ment), helps keep dogs from becoming stressed out in their kennels.
“We learn to train them and keep them emotionally healthy to get them to the adoption floor. It keeps the euthanization rate down if they have good behavior,” Aalbue said.
Aalbue even started a fundraiser several years ago with friends. Each year they split the proceeds between the DuPage rescue and another charity.
“I’ve been an animal lover my whole life, 'nough said," she said.