By Stacy E. Smith
Since my grandparents were Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, the Yiddish word “Mashuggah” or “Meshuginah” was known to me and a part of my earliest vocabulary (the spelling, however, varies and mine is merely transliteration anyway). The slang, “Mashugy” or “M’Shoogy,” I recall, was often used by my own parents. For those of you that need a translation, no matter how you spell it, the word simply means “CRAZY” (noun, adjective, etc.). There is no doubt that the Silverglats were referred to as such often enough for the name to stick when they began their 100%, strictly no-kill, emergency animal rescue and shelter in Savannah, Missouri, so aptly and lovingly named “M’Shoogy’s”.
Another word you might attribute to the Silverglats is “dreamer.” They started this place, or should I say project, twenty years ago after moving from the city to the country and somehow starting a collection of dumped, abandoned and injured dogs. Twenty-one dogs to be exact. They decided they should build some pens and start finding them homes. The whole thing snowballed and became the Silverglat’s mission. Originally, the “dream” was to make M’Shoogy’s self-supporting by turning it into a tourist attraction and educational center complete with a deli-style restaurant and a general store that would sell souvenirs. When we visited we saw inside the main building a deli case and cooking areas as evidence of the project having been started. Outside the main building Gary Silverglat points out the building that was eventually to be the general store. Neither project was completed because the animals kept coming and coming and coming. The dream of completing the “money-making” portion of their project has remained just that.
The other part has become a reality, however. The part where they save sick and injured animals that would otherwise be shot, left for dead or euthanized has materialized quite nicely. But the Silverglats want to be more than a stop-gap solution. They dream of “fixing the problem”. They dream of their kennels & catteries being empty some day. They dream that they no longer receive 8200 calls a day from people with animals that need somewhere to go and the Silverglats must turn away. You see, when are full (and they almost always are) they can only take in injured animals. Not just dogs and cats, but working closely with the Missouri Department of Conservation, they are on call to rescue wildlife as well. They have a Cougar, two wolves, a deer, hawks and raccoons that have all been nursed back to health at M’Shoogy’s. Some of them are released back into the wild; some can no longer take care of themselves, so M’Shoogy’s will be their permanent home. The dogs, cats, horses, the pot bellied pig, the chicken, ducks & geese that come to M’Shoogy’s receive the same promise. If no home is found for them, they will live out there days at M’Shoogy’s. No animal is euthanized unless the animal is suffering and cannot be cured. That means young and old, the amputees, the blind and even the extremely “cranky” live out its natural life being loved and cared for. Luckily, M’Shoogy’s adopts out around 3,000 animals per year.
What does it take to care for all of these animals? First, it takes a veterinarian or two or three. The Silverglats opened a veterinary office as part of their 22 acre compound. In addition to providing the necessary care for the animals in their charge, it is open to the public and provides medical care at 10% over cost to anyone that needs it. They have walk-in hours every day starting at 12:30PM Monday through Friday. It also takes at least ONE TON OF PET FOOD PER WEEK. And don’t think they get it donated. Some of it is, but the rest is purchased with cash. So ultimately, one would deduce that what it really takes to care for these animals is cold hard cash.
Where does the money come from? So far, except for a very few donations over the past twenty years, the money has come from the Silverglats themselves. This husband and wife have spent approximately $6 million of their own dollars to serve and protect the animals that so desperately need them. Unfortunately, the money is finite. The Silverglat’s don’t like to ask for money, but PAW PRINTS doesn’t mind mentioning that they desperately need help. Not only money, although monetary donations are imperative and now, probably an emergency, but they also need volunteers. There are hundreds of dogs and cats and other animals that need to be fed and have their kennels cleaned every day. The volunteers are also necessary for M’Shoogy’s to open their door to the public every day so potential adopters can come find their “match made in heaven” pet.
M’Shoogy’s has a higher purpose than just rescuing and adopting out pets. Although they are a sanctuary for those
that no one wants (yet), they have a greater mission. They believe the problem can be “fixed”. Gary Silverglat tells anyone that will listen in no uncertain terms that “we do NOT have an animal control problem; we have a people control problem.” He logically believes that the problem really is society’s. He points out that “We are full of non-compassionate and irresponsible people that don’t care what happens to animals.” Not only do people not care about animals, many don’t care about people. There is a disregard and disrespect for life in general. Gary has a minimum of three investigations running per week that have to do with animal abuse and neglect; and that’s just in his neck of the woods.
The Silverglats know that you can’t change people’s feelings over night, but you can change their behavior. How? With laws that force them to behave differently. After a grueling four year battle, the Silverglats got a law passed in St. Joseph that gives law enforcement some teeth when it comes to breeding & dumping of animals and it also give the public the ability to turn in those they witness dumping animals with a license plate number and a phone call to the cops. How easy is that? Additionally, anyone with a litter of puppies or kittens better have a breeder’s license. If they don’t, they are fined $500 and $50 for each puppy or kitten in the litter. On top of that the dog or cat must be spayed within a specific period of time or the dog’s owner will face further prosecution. The way this helps, in case the answer is not obvious, is that legitimate breeders have no problem obtaining a license and following the rules. They are not the cause of the overpopulation problem. The cause of that problem is people who simply don’t get their dogs spayed or neutered, allow them to reproduce and the cycle continues. Once they’re caught, the problem is solved – irresponsible pet owner by irresponsible pet owner.
Why just in St. Joe? Why not in Kansas City or Overland Park? Good questions. The Silverglats have presented this option to many members of various city councils in the KC Metro and was met with a cold shoulder in every case.
The Silverglats have another idea. Something they believe will help with one of the problems inherent with violence between human beings. Their belief, along with others that have spent their careers studying the problem has to do with a lack of respect for life in general. What we all know to be true is that education is the best preventative medicine for at-risk kids. These kids grow up in an environment that shows them time and time again that life is expendable and perhaps the only way to belong to a group and not be invisible is to join a group. Translated, that means gangs and violent behavior that comes all too easily.
What if there was a way to get these kids involved in a group early on? A group that is not a gang, but one that teaches them respect for life – for animals. That teaches them that it isn’t only newspapers that can be recycled, but life can be recycled as well. At one time M’Shoogy’s tried to organize a group that does just that called “Rescue Rangers”. It is intended to give young kids the power and self-respect that comes with the confidence of accomplishing something good, to make a difference while teaching them that the value of saving lives.
Rescue Rangers is free to join and free to be a member. Members will receive a badge, a monthly newsletter and the tools to help neglected and abused animals in their neighborhoods. They’ll have phone numbers and resources to use when they discover an animal that’s been hit by a car or when they witness violence or abuse toward animals. They’ll be empowered to help end violence and suffering of animals and grow up with the empathy needed to value all life, including their own. They also reap the benefit of being a part of something, part of a team that is out to do good for others and that understands every life is precious and deserves to be saved. This program does not quite exist yet, however as it will need funds (donations) and corporate sponsorship.
M’Shoogy’s needs a helping hand from the public. For any of you out there that have ever considered volunteering on behalf of needy animals, this is a worthy recipient of your time. Consider your skills and what you might have to offer. Are you physically strong and able to get your hands dirty? Are you well connected with people in the community and able to help raise funds? Are you particularly adept at planning creative gatherings and willing to help put together fund raising events? Are you blessed with enough money to go around and willing to donate some – even without a party or tangible item from a silent auction? Then do it. There are lots of tragedies out there and lots of places that need your help. If you’re considering helping, put M’Shoogy’s on your radar screen as you consider where to place your efforts.
I can tell you that there are plenty of animals around that are sure glad that the Gary and Lisa Silverglat are as crazy as they are, because if they weren’t these animals wouldn’t be alive. Some of them are young and attractive, some are old and decrepit, and some are even missing eyes and limbs. Every single one of them was left by previous owners to die and many would have been euthanized at a shelter that couldn’t find them a home nor keep them any longer.
For more information about M’Shoogy’s or to contact them go to www.mshoogys.com, email them at info@mshoogy’s.com or call them at 816-324-5824