PUTNAM VALLEY, N.Y. - Carolyn Steers-Albers' life was changed by a rescue dog, and now she's made it her mission to help change the lives of as many abandoned and abused animals as she can.
Steers-Albers remembers well the first dog she ever had - her parents allowed her to adopt a 16-week-old yellow lab/shepherd mix on her 17th birthday.
"I was at a very difficult time in my life, and I truly believe he saved me," Steers-Albers told Daily Voice.
It was love at first sight, and the bond between the pair grew exponentially, with Steers-Albers struggling, and Oliver always there for comfort.
"From that moment on, my life was altered forever," she explains on her organization's website. "A new me was born. I was always an avid animal lover, but my passion for animals multiplied a hundred fold as my love for Oliver grew."
Steers-Albers lost Oliver to an aneurysm in 2005 and admitted a big part of her died that day, too.
"I swore his memory would live forever and I would devote myself to animal rescue," she wrote.
That was the inspiration behind Oliver's Orphan Oasis - an organization Steers-Albers started in 2014 and runs out of her Putnam Valley home - dedicated to the care, companionship and placement of lost and abandoned animals of all breeds, species, shapes, and sizes.
The organization serves primarily Putnam, Dutchess, Westchester and Orange, but Steers-Albers has gone as far as Texas to help animals in need.
"It's been difficult, and it's been great," Steers-Albers said of her experience. "Because the special needs cases bills are very high, and finding homes is a bit of a challenge."
Cases of abuse are the hardest for Steers-Albers, and most animal rescuers.
"You think that eventually you will get used to it - you don't," she said, mentioning a dog that had been abused with a cattle prod. "Animals who have been abused are terrified - and that stays with you."
But, of course, there is another side.
"On the flip side, when they cuddle up next to you on the couch... it's just so uplifting," Steers-Albers said. "But you never get used to the hard part."
Steers-Albers hopes to begin introducing the orphans to special needs kids and seniors in the near future. "I hope to get that going," she said. "I'd like to work with a Green Chimneys type of program. The best feeling is the comfort that comes from animals, and I think it will be great for both."
For those interested, Steers-Albers said the best way to help is through donations, fostering and volunteering.
The organization has one of its adoption events planned for Saturday, Jan. 14, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Feed Barn in Mahopac, where Steers-Albers invites pet lovers to come and meet adoptable kittens, cats, and dogs."A lot of dogs are ready, looking for homes with stability," she said. "And we hope to build community awareness."
Steers-Albers said Oliver's Orphan Oasis has become her purpose, her passion. Her husband 'goes with the flow,' and her four children - ages 3, 5, 7 and 9 - enjoy the animals. "It's great for them," she said. "They learn to help, and care for something other than themselves, they learn to be responsible for animals.
Steers-Albers said she feels lucky to have realized her purpose, and to be able to help so many animals.
"When that dog leans its head on my lap, and I hear that sigh of perfect comfort and peace... I know why I'm here," she said. "Some people aren't sure why they're here, but I know exactly why. I guess I'm one of the lucky ones."
Oliver's Orphan Oasis can be reached at 914-419-8607, and the organization's website can be viewed here .