By Taylor Pomasl
Tammy Schimmel gently lifted an injured cat from its kennel, the open wound on its back glistening. She held it in her arms for a few moments, kissing the animal’s forehead and laying her on the examination table. A bad case of ringworm had devastated the cat physically, and Tammy held in her hand a spray bottle with its cure. She squeezed the trigger, and the yellow liquid beaded on the cat’s fur. She gently massaged the liquid in, softly reminding the cat she was safe and it was going to be okay. When she was done, she replaced the cat in its kennel, waiting until it had rewrapped itself up in its blankets and leaving it to its painless bliss.
“Tammy is an extremely dedicated caretaker who never fails to show compassion for every animal that comes through the shelter’s doors,” said Sara Nelson, a caretaker at the Eau Claire County Humane Association. “She enriches the lives of not only the animals she cares for, but also her fellow staff members.”
Tammy Schimmel was lucky, recognizing her dream career before she finished high school. At 15, she discovered her passion for animals. She followed her dream after high school and began volunteering at the Eau Claire County Humane Association. This volunteer work turned into a paid position. It’s seven years later, and she says she still continues to try and make the world a better place for animals. In a position where no day is the same, caring for the animals is reason enough to go to work every morning, but seeing the animals go home with their “forever family” makes the job rewarding, Schimmel said.
“You know you’re doing something,” Schimmel said. “You’re good. You’re helping, and it’s peaceful.”
However, not every animal is lucky enough to immediately come into Schimmel care.
Amigo, named so by Schimmel who thought the 4-month-old Pitbull puppy brought to the shelter just wanted a friend, had been abused. Reduced to skin and bone, Amigo had endured physical abuse when his former owner cropped his ears with scissors. Caregivers decided the best thing for the puppy was to euthanize him to end his suffering.
It was her first experience with an abused animal. Schimmel stepped in, asking to take Amigo home and give him a fighting chance.
“It was a day and a half later that he died – the day before Christmas,” Schimmel said. “My whole life I’ve been a Pitbull magnet, and it made me fight for him even more.”
Amigo was cremated. His urn sits on Schimmel’s television at home. Schimmel’s work with abused animals had just begun.
Diesel was a 9-year-old Pitbull brought to the shelter as a surrender. At the time, the shelter was full, and the owner was asked to make an appointment to bring the dog back on a later date.
“It was probably an hour later, and some lady was driving on the freeway and called saying she’d seen this guy throw hot coffee on his dog and throw him out the window,” Schimmel said.
After healing from this incident, Diesel was sent to a dog rehabilitation center to cure his dog aggression, a trait that kept him from being eligible for adoption. Later, Schimmel got a call from the center. Diesel had fought with another dog and was seriously injured. Shortly after the incident, Diesel was euthanized.
His ashes rest alongside Amigo atop Schimmel’s television.
As her years at the shelter continued, Schimmel found not every case ended badly. Of all the abuse cases that she’s been involved in, the story of her current dog Chico was “easily the most impactful,” she said.
Chico was a puppy found at a house with activity that suggested drug use and inhumane breeding. He was subjected to starvation and physical abuse at the hands of his owner. When Animal Control wouldn’t enter the home to liberate Chico and his siblings, Schimmel took action.
“ ‘I’m sitting outside their house right now, and I have been for the last three hours. I’ve watched people going in and out of there, and if you don’t get here right now, I’m going in there by myself,’ ” Schimmel recalls telling Animal Control.
That day, Schimmel saved a few of the puppies, then after years of working with Animal Control to obtain lawful reason to enter the home, all the puppies were rescued and brought to the shelter where each one was adopted to loving homes. She would close the case with the runt of the litter and her new partner Chico.
Karen Rabideaux, the assistant director of the ECCHA describes Schimmel as a “compassionate animal caretaker.”
“Tammy’s heart is in the right place with the knowledge that we cannot save every animal but she will surely do her best for each and every one,” Rabideaux said.
Because of her work with abuse cases, Schimmel says she plans to continue working at the shelter, and studying to become a humane officer who deals specifically with animal cruelty cases, such as investigating puppy mills.
“I can’t really picture myself doing anything else, other than working with animals,” Schimmel said. “It’s a very emotional, yet rewarding experience when I get to find an animal a home.”