Just ask Dottie Lammerts a little bit about her work with the Animal Rescue Friends (ARF) of Nichols Hills, and her love both for animals and for community volunteering shines through.
She has painstakingly kept scrapbooks of photos, letters and other memorabilia from the 14-year history of the ARF organization, which she helped found. As she flips through them, she shows off newspaper stories and thank-you letters from the happy owners who adopted abandoned animals from the organization.
A letter from one couple tells of their trip from Maine, to adopt a shepherd they saw on the group's website, Lammerts said. The dog came right to them when they arrived.
It means a lot “just to know that people are so happy about our animals,” Lammerts said.
A specially outfitted ARF van stays parked in Lammerts' Nichols Hills driveway, ready to transport animals to the location that houses them or to PetSmart at N May Avenue and NW 63, where volunteers like Lammerts work Sunday afternoons to find people to adopt the animals. They won't be there this Sunday because of the OKC Memorial Marathon, but plan to return next week.
Lammerts, who was born Alicia but is known to all as Dottie, turned 91 last month and recently spoke with The Oklahoman in a room in her house that she calls the “bird room” because of pictures of birds and the cage filled with six canaries.
“They'll start singing in a minute. They like people,” she said.
She paints, too, and her favorite subject is animals. Many animals' owners have commissioned her pet portraits through the years. At her house, Angel, a friendly Newfoundland-border collie mix, greets friends and strangers.
ARF caps a long life of volunteering for Lammerts, which includes time as a Nichols Hills town councilwoman; chairing big events like the Renaissance, Winter and Beaux Arts balls; and involvement in other organizations throughout Oklahoma City. She and her husband, oilman Robert P. Lammerts, who is now 93, have always been active in the community.
“I'm in my 60s, and if I live that long, I hope that I can do as much and give as much as they do back to the community,” said Suzy Morgan, ARF's vice president and active volunteer.
ARF formed at the end of the 1990s when a group of women petitioned the Nichols Hills Town Council to give lost and abandoned animals more time to be saved before they were euthanized.
The group grew to include Lammerts, Susan Lathrop, Morgan Louise Bennett, Sally Quillian, Elizabeth Prosser and Shannon Edwards, and by 1999, they were successful in finding enough support to gain the animals more time — seven days instead of three — for adoption, reuniting with owners or going to a “no-kill” animal shelter.
Since then, ARF has rescued 909 animals, Lammerts said. Lammerts these days steers the conversation about her long history of volunteerism back to ARF and the animals it has saved since its inception. Only two ARF animals died before they were adopted, and their ashes remain in the van that transported them to and from PetSmart for years as a remembrance.
Lammerts takes calls about lost animals, meets with volunteers about fundraising and helps transport the animals to PetSmart and back to the place where they board.
“I've always loved animals. ... This is my one thing I do now,” she said. “If my body would just keep up with my head, I'd be in great shape.”