LITHIA — People in the dog rescue community share a passion about saving furry folks from a life too short or an existence of abandonment or despair.
They also are known for banding together to make that happen.
Lori Hoffman stood out among the community because of her conviction that all dogs deserve compassionate caretakers. She was always willing to do whatever it took for the more than 3,000 animals she's had a hand in rescuing.
Ms. Hoffman never turned down the opportunity to take in discarded dogs, who oftentimes were near death's door. She always found a way to help them despite difficult obstacles such as the uncertain cost of the animal's health care.
In Ms. Hoffman's quest to help every dog's life she humanly could, she founded Heidi's Legacy Dog Rescue, an all-volunteer nonprofit organization based in Lithia. She named it in honor of a gravely ill German shepherd she took in after learning its owners had dropped her off out on a country road and left her to die. Heidi eventually died, but her spirit lived on in countless canines thanks to how Ms. Hoffman guided the helping hands of the rescue community.
Despite her success in saving a myriad of dogs' lives, Ms. Hoffman, 74, lost her own to cancer. She died on Aug. 2 and is survived by Arthur, her husband of 43 years; a son Matt, who lives in New York City; and daughter Amanda Scott, a Valrico resident who for many years served under her mother as vice president of Heidi's Legacy.
Hoffman's death hit hard in the hearts of dog rescuers, fosterers and adopters throughout the Tampa Bay community and well beyond.
Alabama resident Joyce Stanley recalls responding positively to a 2012 request on the Heidi's Legacy website to adopt a malnourished German Shepherd named Precious, who dog catchers picked up in Wetumpka, Alabama.
She was surprised to learn the animal was rescued by the Florida organization and was subsequently shocked when two volunteers from the group offered to transport the dog back to Alabama and deliver it to her forever home on the day before Thanksgiving.
"Thank you, Lori, and may you rest in peace with all your rescues in heaven," Stanley said.
Davida Margolin, a volunteer with Shepherds Beyond Borders in Maine, is grateful Hoffman helped establish his rescue group.
"She imparted words of wisdom and encouragement and together we've rescued shepherds from Puerto Rico after the hurricane and dogs from Miami and other parts of Florida," Margolin said. "She led by example and she was and will always be awe-inspiring."
And Justin Wagner, a dog rescuer from Homestead, described Ms. Hoffman as "like a rescue mom to me. Anything I wanted she gave to me."
"I respected and admired her more than any one of my contacts in the rescue community and I work with over 30 rescues in the U.S. from Tampa to Wisconsin, just to name a few," he added.
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Vicki Parsons, a longtime Brandon resident and admirer of Ms. Hoffman, is also the owner of adopted animals from Heidi's Legacy Dog Rescue.
"Lori Hoffman was like the Statue of Liberty for dogs, particularly German Shepherds," she wrote in an email. "She took the tired, the sick, the homeless pups who were dropped off on the side of the road or scheduled to be killed in a shelter — even dogs so terrified they had to be captured in a cage for her to rehabilitate."
And Clearwater resident Gail Sierra described Hoffman as someone who worked miracles to salvage the lives of hurting dogs.
"She was an angel, pure and simple," added Suzanne Souza, a former Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals shelter manager in Lakeland who since meeting Hoffman in 2005 interacted with her on multiple occasions and adopted a Lhasa Apso by way of Heidi's Legacy.
It's an organization Hoffman's daughter vows to continue. And thankfully, she has the group's wholehearted support.