Georgia native Cynthia Brundage learned about caregiving from the start. When she was only eight years old, she learned to take care of her younger sisters when her mother was in the hospital. It is that instilled compassion in which Cynthia aids the Maltese rescue organization Southern Comfort Maltese Rescue.
Working full time as a graphic designer at Blue Cross Blue Shield Tennessee, Cynthia has always loved art.
“I was an artist, which was an odd duck for my family. When I was in the first grade I was impressed with ‘Angus and the Ducks’, by Marjorie Flack. And that is where I get my love of Scotties. I had always wanted a Scottie and, when I graduated from college, my dad had gotten me one. I had his name picked out in the third grade. He was ‘Ajax’ - one of the Greek warriors in the Trojan War. I have one Scottie now and a Maltese. The rest of the dogs I have are all fosters,” Cynthia says.
When Cynthia was 11 years old, living outside of Newnan on Highway 29, her house was the first one on the corner. “Any dog we had didn’t last over a year; they always ended up getting run over. Back in those days, people didn’t know as much as we do now in caring for pets - you didn’t do anything about their teeth and you let them run loose. I wouldn’t let a dog run loose now,” Cynthia vows.
Cynthia ended up naming two dogs Agnes. The first Agnes acquired distemper and the family had to put her down. Though losing her pet broke her heart, it did not stop her from loving and caring for future pets.
After Agnes had passed, Cynthia’s uncle took her to the Humane Society to get a pet.
“The Humane Society was pretty primitive back then, I got this little dog they called a miniature collie, but she was what we call a Sheltie today. I had named her Agnes too,” Cynthia laughs.
“Good thing we rescued her; in another week she would have been dead of worms. Daddy wormed her and I had her for several years,” she says.
Cynthia’s father Eugene was an engineer and WWII vet. Her mother Dell was a housewife. The young artist attended Auburn University as did many others in her family. Her first job was in the Career Education Center. She was an art major and, rather than taking fine arts, she majored in visual design to earn a better living.
Cynthia recalls drawing a picture of the Scottie from the Angus books when she was just in first grade. Her teacher Ms. Owing saw her picture and had it analyzed by experts who told her that Cynthia was definitely an artist. “She told my parents that they should let me take art lessons. That sweet woman kept that picture and, when I graduated high school, she gave it to me,” Cynthia says.
Cynthia has been a graphic designer at BCBST for 21 years. She has never married or raised a family; she feels her pets and fosters are her family. Her compassion for helping literally ‘went to the dogs’.
“I have always wanted to help people, but I found out over the years that it is really hard to help ‘people’ – they have to want to be helped. But with the animals, they are so grateful for any kindness and you know you are making a difference,” Cynthia says.
She quotes Mark Twain and says, “The principal difference between a man and a dog is that if you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you.”
Southern Comfort Maltese Rescue was founded in 2002.
“I am the secretary. I had adopted a 12-year-old diabetic when I saw him in the Critter Magazine and I thought, ‘I don’t really have a social life, and how hard can it be to learn to care for a diabetic?’ I learned to give him shots and he was the love of my life. We only had two years together – lung cancer took him,” Cynthia says.
“I started fostering and specialized in diabetics. Very few in the group knew how to care for diabetes. I did a little of this and a little of that - and now I am a director along with Mary Dube’ and Debbie Mishoe,” she says.
Debbie lives in Gainesville, Fla., while Mary and Cynthia work the rescue in Chattanooga, though Southern Comfort has fosters in several states across America.
“We have foster moms from New York to Texas; we are one of the largest Maltese rescues,” Cynthia maintains.
SCMR has hosted a number of celebrity pooches from the likes of Brad Pitt, George Clooney and Tony Curtis.
“We like to have fun with the names. We got three little boys in from a puppy mill one time and we kind of went with a theme - Gentleman Jack, Captain Morgan and Johnny Walker …because we are called Southern Comfort,” she quips.
SCMR hosts approximately 22 Maltese that are available for adoption. “We will take dogs that no other rescues will take. We have senior dogs who have so much love to give and still they have a lot of fun, but there are no guarantees in life. Adopting a puppy doesn’t mean it will be with you forever. A friend of mine had a one-year-old Scottie that got sarcoma and it was gone. I have fostered old Clarabelle for three years and she just turned 16 – she may make it many more years,” Cynthia insists.
“You are taking on this little person – and they are little persons – they each have a personality that is unique and, taking them into your life and loving them for what time they have, you don’t know if that two-year-old will live to be 15 or not. I took on JO-JO when he was 12 and, I wouldn’t give anything for those two years I had him,” Cynthia says.
Paired up like salt and pepper shakers, Cynthia has a Scottie and a Maltese of her own as well as fostering other dogs from the rescue.
“My Maltese is named Bubble, she is the diva and my crazy Scottie girl is Hattie McDaniel. Before Hattie, I had Butterfly McQueen. It fit perfect because both last names are Scottish,” she jokes.
The Maltese is an ancient breed that comes from the island of Malta.
“There are roman mosaics showing ladies with their Maltese dogs. They were bred for one thing and one thing only – they are simply to be a lap dog. They are known as ‘the comforter’. They are there to be a love sponge for you,” Cynthia affirms.
“An eight-year-old Maltese is not an old Maltese - that is like an adolescent. That dog could live up to 17 or 18 years. We are looking for people who really want to love a dog who have nothing… their agenda is not ‘what this dog can do for me’ … but ‘what I can do for this dog’. People who have taken a chance on seniors have seen that it was inevitably the right thing to do,” Cynthia says.
“When you take in an animal that has nothing… it is the best thing to do.”
For more information on Southern Comfort Maltese Rescue, go to www.scmradoption.com.