Tina the chihuahua, Tilly the pitbull-mix, and Yorkie terriers Sigmund Freud, and, yes, Trump, were among the 25 or so canines who paid tribute, along with over 60 humans, to Emelinda Narvaez, the founder of Earth Angels Canine Rescue.
The memorial, on Saturday at Jan Hus Presbyterian Church, honored Narvaez, who passed away on December 2.
“I feel so lucky to have known her and so sad that such a beautiful light in the world is now gone,” said longtime Earth Angels volunteer Judy Ross. She said that her dog Carmine -- “a beautiful 75 pound ball of mush” -- adopted through Earth Angels in 2005, is a wonderful reminder of Narvaez.
Narvaez, who was 70, spent about 40 years rescuing dogs in New York City and was in route to saving a dog whose guardian was about to enter a nursing home, when she was felled by a heart attack. Her niece Emelinda Banuchi, who used to travel the streets with Narvaez looking for stray dogs to feed and save, called her aunt, “a hero to the dogs.”
For the memorial, the sanctuary was decorated with hand-made posters featuring pictures of dogs adopted throughout the years, dogs currently available for adoption and tributes to Narvaez with words such as “woof woof mommy, we miss you.”
The stories of gratitude, admiration and love for Narvaez were vast, tear-filled, and extended the scheduled one-hour event to almost two.
Diego Aguirre and Jamey Poole brought Rusty James, a gray and white pitbull they’ve had for four years. Aguirre served in the Marines, and said adopting Rusty has helped calm him and that Narvaez “saved both our lives.”
“I wasn’t complete until he came into my life,” Aguirre adds.
Tucker Ranson and Virginia Martinez adopted Pebbles, a chihuahua-mix, from Earth Angels in 2007. “Emelinda brought this wonderful gift into our lives, so we wanted to honor her [at the memorial]. Our lives would be so empty without her,” Ranson said.
While sitting on the floor of the sanctuary with Sigmund Freud, Zahra Meherali explained that she used to foster dogs for Earth Angels when one day Narvaez said to her, “I have your dog.” Meherali thought she meant her next foster dog, but Narvaez had another, more permanent arrangement in mind. Eight years later, Sigmund and Meherali couldn’t be happier. Meherali adds that her mother also has a Yorkie adopted from Earth Angels.
Bill Dodson and Ania Kucharski attended the service with their two Yorkies. One, the previously mentioned Trump (Dodson wanted to clarify that Trump came “named” already) was a labor of love for Narvaez. Trump was abused and very sick, but Narvaez paid for multiple operations before choosing Dodson and Kucharski as the perfect parents. “Emelinda was very happy that Trump would have a friend,” Dodson recalls.
Narvaez had a house in the South Bronx and Ross explains that a couple of days after Narvaez died, Ross saw two stray cats patiently waiting for Narvaez to feed them. “It broke my heart and was a stark reminder as to how many lives were affected by Emelinda and what a hole her death left in the world,” Ross says.
Earth Angels still has a number of dogs, mostly pitbulls, which need loving homes. “Emelinda has been such an inspiration that we all want to continue the work that she did,” Ross said.
To adopt, foster, or volunteer: Earthangelsnyc.org, 917-648-7070, or email email@example.com