Home People Profile Bham People How Lisa Mardis Fosters Love for Birmingham’s ‘Furry Friends’

How Lisa Mardis Fosters Love for Birmingham’s ‘Furry Friends’

By Ryan Michaels
The Birmingham Times

Lisa Marie Mardis got her first ever spanking at age 13 from her grandmother Addie who had just bought a new comforter.

“I was thinking, ‘Well, she’s not going to want this comforter. It’s in the closet anyway,’ so I pulled it out—she never uses it. I pulled it out, and I cut it up, and I made coats,” Mardis remembered.

The coats were for the dogs of Birmingham’s South Titusville neighborhood. “[My grandmother] saw me with a needle and thread and some scissors…and she said, ‘What the hell are you doing? Are you crazy?’” Mardis recalled.

Mardis’s love for animals has not waned. Even now, she can be found handing out Purina cat food and refills for self-cleaning litter boxes from the back of a small rented truck sometimes outside The Lovelady Center in Birmingham’s South East Lake neighborhood.

Mardis founded her nonprofit Rescues on 85th, in 2021 to help low-income families better take care of their pets, or as Mardis calls them, “furry family members.”

Her love of animals began early in her childhood, when she would visit her aunt Helen, who Mardis estimated had eight chihuahuas. In her own home, growing up with her grandmother Addie Mardis, Mardis recalled having two German shepherds, first Michael and later Pepper. Between the ages of 10 and 14, Mardis said she remembers her passion for taking care of animals began to grow.

“I would bring them in to the backyard, I would take care of them, and then I would find homes for them,” she said.

A Chance Rescue

Mardis’s homestyle rescue missions for stray animals have been underway since she was 10 years old which set her on the path to building her organization in late 2021, when she rescued a Yorkiepoo she has since named Kurt Russell.

While taking her other dogs for a walk down 85th Street in South East Lake, where she lives, Mardis said she saw the animal sitting inside a trash can. He was clearly in rough condition, but she planned to let him be.

“I couldn’t let him go. I went home …I was like, ‘What are you doing? Get your butt back out there, and go get him,’” Mardis recalled.

She could see that the dog was in bad shape and limped on what appeared to be a broken leg. “He was infested with fleas and thorns and rocks and everything,” so Mardis started calling around and got him to the late veterinarian Dr. William Weber at the former Eastwood Animal Clinic in Irondale. Mardis said she found that the leg was not broken but merely matted in fur. Afterward Mardis started Rescues on 85th which helps prevent animal deaths by handing out donated food and supplies for animal care and also provides cremation and burial services.

The rescuer said she has personally picked up animals with mortuary bags and transported them to Family Pet Cremation and Burial Services in Birmingham’s Red Mountain community.

If any of the pets have identification microchips, their owners are notified of the animal’s death and burial and receive access to grief counseling.

Additionally, her nonprofit provides adoption services to animals taken off the streets and is planning to give access to a spay and neuter service for low-income pet owners.

Pets have always played a special role in her life, Mardis said.

“I don’t mingle too much with society. As a child, I always stayed in. The television was my friend. I would go to school, come back and no friends. The only friends I had were cats and dogs, growing up. High school, only friends—cats and dogs. As I got older, no friends, cats and dogs,” Mardis said.

Early in life, Mardis said she realized that animals are nonjudgmental.

“Animals love you unconditionally. They don’t size you up by what kind of clothes you have, or what kind of car you drive or, or anything like that.,” Mardis said.

Mardis said she sees significant neglect of animals in the Birmingham community and that she’s doing her best to combat that. Her term furry family members, she said, is important to reframing how people think about the animals.

 “You know, [some people say] ‘It’s nothing but a dog. It’s nothing but a pet,’ something that you own, a piece of property.’ No, it’s not. It’s a life, a furry family member. They are part of the family.”

For more information about Rescues on 85th, visit their website https://rescueson85th.org, or go their Facebook page at https://facebook.com/rescueson85th.

To view their adoption page, go to https://adoptapet.com/shelter/192687-rescues-on85th-birmingham-alabama.