L: I’m here at Harley’s Haven today with director Alex Ramsey. Hi, Alex. Thanks for letting me stop by today.
A: Oh, you’re welcome. I hope you don’t mind a few wet kisses and a little animal hair on your pants.
L: (Laughs) For our readers, just to clarify, the wet kisses are coming from Lambchop, Walter and a few of the adorable puppies here in the shelter lobby. And, no, I don’t mind at all. This is cheaper and more effective than therapy.
A: I agree. This is my therapy.
L: So, many of us have read your story in the novel, RESCUED, and I have to say it’s quite a story. You built this beautiful no-kill shelter from scratch.
A: Pretty much. My sister, Kellie, is a real estate agent and found this fabulous location. We were able to take my plans and build what you see today. Of course, none of this would be possible without the generosity of Miss Amy Whiting.
L: Yes, I understand Miss Amy was a dear friend and that she also brought you and your husband, Evan, together—in a way.
A: Evan is Amy’s grand-nephew. Circumstances brought us together, but I’m sure Amy played some role in it. She always did know what was best for me. (Tears up) I still miss her.
L: (Pauses) A number of people who have read your story think of you as a hero in the animal rescue community. What do you say to that?
A: (Blushes) I’m not a hero. Lots of people do what I do. I just love animals and live out of that passion. I’m blessed to be able to do so.
L: Family is very important to you, too. Your mother abandoned you and your sister when you were very young. How do you think that impacted your passion for rescue?
A: I’m not sure I’d use the term abandoned. She didn’t leave us in a convenience store, but deposited us in the care of our grandfather. I’m not defending her, but I’ve come to understand some things about her. I don’t know. I’m sure that had an impact on my life. I was angry for a very long time. I could never bear to see an injured animal or any animal wandering alone and not do something to help them.
L: You bring up anger. A few who have read your story were put off by your…uh…rough edge.
A: (Laughs) You’re so polite. You mean they think I’m something of a bitch. I was and I still can be at times. I feel very strongly about a few things—animals, family and my southern heritage. When I think any of those things are being discounted, I react. It’s a miracle Evan and I are together considering the way I behaved when we first met. I wasn’t very nice. Yeah, I was pretty nasty.
L: Tell us about that first meeting.
A: I was working part-time in my uncle’s grill. It was a family business opened by my grandfather. I’d say I was having a bad day. But that bad day lasted for months. Evan was a chef in
. He was raised in the north and
didn’t really know his Aunt Amy. It’s not unusual for folks to come to the
south and expect us all to be walking clichés of dumb rednecks. I see that a lot and had come to expect it. Let’s just say Evan rubbed me the wrong way from the start. And it was a
rocky start. I assumed Evan was just like those other ‘Yankees’ and, well, that
chip on my shoulder was more like a boulder. I know now I couldn’t give him a
chance because, honestly, from the moment I walked over to his table to take
his order, I felt something, a connection like I’d never felt. Scared the wits out of me. New York
L: You don’t seem so nasty now. What made the difference?
A: Oh, I can still slip into my ‘bitch’ mode now and then. (frowns thoughtfully) I’ve been in the rescue business for a long time. I’ve seen just about everything in terms of animal behavior. The ones I have the softest spot in my heart for are the ones that have been so neglected or abused that they just can’t trust. Now, I was far from neglected and abused. My grandfather and my uncle took very good care of me. Uncle Jack was the father I didn’t have growing up. But I know what that kind of mistrust can breed into an animal. And I think, until I confronted my mother and was able to come to terms with her leaving, I couldn’t fully trust that anyone could love me and not leave me. For as much as my uncle could assure me he was in my life forever, I had to find a way to believe it.
L: How do you gain that trust from an animal that has plenty of reason not to trust?
A: Patience, time and consistency. You hang in there. You wait. You have to prove yourself worthy of that trust. I guess we humans aren’t all that different. When one of those mistrusting animals walks over and shoves its muzzle into my hand for the first time, I melt like an ice cube in August. Their trust is such a precious gift.
L: So what do you want people to know and understand about Alex Ramsey?
A: That I’m a woman of passion. My passions for rescue, family and as a southern woman drive me, make me who I am. Some will perceive me as a strong, no-nonsense woman. They are probably being generous, as is my husband when he describes me this way (and always with a grin). Some might be put off by my rough edges, but those edges are as much a part of me as the compassion and care I hold. I learned a long time ago that everyone won’t like me. It took me years to realize that was okay. If I’m lucky, a few will love me. And that makes all the difference. My husband has the patience of a saint. I see, now, how he rescued me. He'd tell you I did the same for him.
L: Thanks so much, Alex, for your time. If the sounds from the kennels are any indication, you have work to do.
A: I do. It’s feeding time. Thanks for letting me tell my story. Come back any time you need puppy therapy. You asked to visit our cat room, so I'll show you in before I get back to work. But I have to warn you, most people don't walk out of there without a new companion in their arms.