Linda Turner is not shy about telling people she is, as she says, "a bit touched."

A person has to be in order to survive the emotional roller coaster of being an animal rescuer -- a passion that she has embraced since she was 5.

A Goldsboro native, Turner, 47, now lives in LaGrange, and along with Scarlet Firestone, is the driving force behind Paw-N-Hand animal rescue.

"You have got to be a little crazy, but it's a life," Turner said. "It's never just a dog, or just a cat, or just a pig, or just a whatever. It is never just an animal. We all have our place on this Earth. We domesticated these animals. It is our responsibility to provide for them and take care of them.

"I think everybody has that one thing that the good Lord gives them to make them stand out, and that is what he gave me -- a little bit of craziness and a love for animals. I get a lot of, 'I couldn't do what you do. I couldn't bring them in, love them and let them go.' I sling a lot of snot. It is hard to let them go."

Turner doesn't remember a time that she did not love animals or try to rescue them.

Even as a young child she was always bringing home strays.

"When my parents told me I couldn't keep them, I would beg family members or friends' parents to take them," she said. "It's just kind of what I do. It is who I am."


Turner said she can't think of anything specifically that led her to becoming active in animal rescue.

Social media, including Facebook, provided her some insight into what was available in the community.

"I started that way, reaching out to people saying, 'Hey, I found this dog. I can't keep it,'" she said.

Her goal was to build a trusting network of people and rescues where animals could be moved to and she could be assured they would be cared for.

In October 2014, Turner and her rescue partner, Firestone, volunteered at a Pet Supplies Plus event.

Paw-N-Hand had been around for several years, but had gone inactive.

"We both knew the person who had it, so Scarlet and I both volunteered to do an adoption event here (Pet Supplies Plus)," Turner said. "She and I just clicked. We have the same goal. We have the same passion, and we just decided, well, we are just going to take this and run with it and see what we can do.

"New Year's Day 2015, we got a call from a family that found a dog in their bushes that had been hit by a car and was being aggressive. He would not let anybody near him, and they knew he needed medical help. They'd called other people because nobody really knew us at that point. Nobody would come, so they reached out to us and we went."

Several hours later Turner and Firestone were finally able to get the dog into the car.

But because of the severity of the injuries the dog had to be euthanized.

It was the right thing, she said.

"So I think for both of us that is when we realized we wanted to do outreach," Turner said. "We wanted to go out in the field, get our hands dirty, do what nobody else really wanted to do. That's kind of what we do. We go out in the mud, under houses."


Turner is a single mom, and works a full-time job even though animal rescue is a full-time job as well.

That includes two adoption events monthly, one at Pet Supplies Plus in Goldsboro and the other at Tractor Supply in Kinston.

She goes through lot of Clorox cleanups, a lot of bleach and a lot of towels to clean up behind the animals.

Most of it comes out of her own pocket.

Her son, D.J., 27, is active in the rescue and volunteers as well.

Her daughter Livy, 6, is the future of rescue, Turner said.

"She grew up in rescue, so she knows what we do," Turner said. "When she was really little we could see people walking in town with their dogs on leashes, and she would freak out. 'Mommy, Mommy, we have to save them.'"

Turner would explain that the dogs were safe and being handled properly.

The hardest pill to swallow has been teaching Livy that they can't save all of the animals.

"She is her mother's child," Turner said.


Anger, hostility -- it is all there where animal rescues are concerned, Turner said.

"What we do is not easy," she said. "It is not easy at all. You have your great days where you see this dog that you took from being a bag of bones or whatever, to this amazing, healthy dog that now knows how to play with toys, knows how to sit or take treats gently from you.

"They know where their next meal is coming from and don't have to worry about it and fight for it. It is amazing. It is just amazing.

"But is not really a balance. It is more like a roller coaster of emotions -- days when you laugh and give high-fives and days when you cry and throw things."

Turner bristles when people say "why bother, they are just animals."

"No. They are not just animals," Turner said. "No. You have got to have thick skin. You have got to have a lot of passion, and you learn not to give up. It's hard. There is always a long list."

She pauses, her voice choked with emotion.

"This is where the passion comes in. We say no a lot more than we say yes, and it sucks."

That is mainly due to a lack of resources, she said.

"It is not just fosters," Turner said. "It's not just places for them to go. It is vet bills. It's food. It's donations. Rescues are donation driven."

However, a lot of people don't want to donate to an organization like Paw-N-Hand that is not a nonprofit, she said.

Nonprofits may look good on paper, but that does not necessarily make an animal rescue, she said.

Paw-N-Hand is working toward that goal, but it is an expensive process, and the money they get often is diverted to costs associated with a rescue or its aftermath.

"It's people and it's the passion that make the rescue, and we are blessed to have both," she said. "We have an amazing team. What we do is not for everybody -- take animals, most of ours have either physical or mental issues or both.

"They are not always as quickly adopted. A lot of them have never lived in a house. They have never been potty trained, never been around other animals."

Some of the dogs get along with other dogs, while others are aggressive with them.

But those are kept until a home is found for them.

"We don't give up on them," Turner said. "It's hard and sometimes you want to throw your hands up, but if we don't do what we do, who will?"


A lot of people and places don't want to donate without the tax write-off through a nonprofit, she said.

"We have been working to get one for about two years," she said. "But animals come in and you can't say no. We need that money for vet bills."

That need has included a dog with a heartworm inflection and one that had to have a leg amputated.

"We had one dog that ate a sock and ended up with a $3,500 surgery," she said. "It got stuck. You don't say, 'Hey, you are really cute, and I love you, but I want to put that money toward a piece of paper' that people think makes a rescue.

"A good rescue does not make money. We charge an adoption fee. The $3,500 dog, his adoption fee is the same thing as the dog we picked up off the street and took care of. The worth is the same. They all deserve that chance."