Connecticut Voice

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The Girl with the Dog: Connecticut Rescuer Travels to Help Ukrainian Pets

By Renee DiNino / photography by Todd Fairchild


Marissa Squires didn’t start off as a business owner, entrepreneur, animal advocate or founder of a puppy rescue.

“I was a young girl that developed a passion for dogs after seeing at a young age how they selflessly gave back to us,” Squires said.

This led her on a path to animal advocacy and, in return, selflessly giving of herself to those in need. She found a way to combine her passion of animals and leadership skills by turning them into a thriving business and rescue. This, of course, did not come easy.

Squires grew up in Terryville, Conn., with her parents Wayne and Elena, and younger brother Austin. It was apparent from the beginning that Squires would most likely fill her life with animals. Her love for animals grew stronger as she grew up and her friends would always associate her with a dog, whether it was bringing a dog to a party, being constantly with a dog or helping an animal in need.

Squires attended Central Connecticut State University and fell into the world of sports through soccer, a sport she played all through middle school and adulthood. She was quite a player, which led her to follow a path of sports medicine.

“I’ve always loved science; it just always interested me. Medicine in general always interested me and how the body works,” explained Squires. This lasted for two years. She found herself in the world of finance as an accountant at a mortgage company and discovered the art of making money. However, in 2007, many mortgage companies closed; she found herself without a career.

“I truly did some soul searching and found myself pulled towards a lifelong passion about animals, and dogs to be specific,” said Squires.

Following a new direction, a huge income cut and adjustment, she applied and got a receptionist position at a veterinarian clinic. Over the next three years, she advanced to veterinary technician, became a certified veterinary massage therapist and founded New England Puppy Rescue ( Through continued work as a vet tech, she continued to learn, take classes and expand her knowledge on the holistic-minded approach to helping dogs. This transferred over to her rescue.

She started New England Puppy Rescue in 2010 and has helped over 1,500 dogs find loving, safe homes. Many of them had to be nursed back to health before adopting out. In fact, it is not uncommon for her to have many pups in her care at one time, whether it be at her home or in one of the 30 foster homes within her network. She keeps her rescue relatively small in order to handle the flow of pets. Squires can help ensure all the puppies that come into her care get the best care possible, and all adoptions or foster families are vetted out.

“Many, not all, but many people only think of puppy rescue as the adorable videos they see on social media,” Squires added. “I truly wish it were that easy! Don’t get me wrong, puppies are the most magical creatures, in my opinion, but unfortunately they don’t always come to us in the condition you see. Between illness from the shelters, lack of socialization, neglect, abuse and who knows, it’s not always the cute head tilt photos or videos. It takes a lot of work, between puppy poop and paperwork, tears of joy and heartbreak, puppy kisses, and tail wags. This is not for the weak of heart.”

Eventually Squires found yet another path that would combine all of her skills and let her interact with prospective and current pet owners who wanted to take the best care of their pets.

Dogology ( was founded in 2013 with a vision of feeding the whole dog: mind, body and soul.

“All the things the pet parent could find outside of their veterinary office,” Squires said in an excited tone. “I wanted this to be a place where people could find pet nutrition, training, expert advice, no judgement, reputable rescue adoptions and holistic resources. I want dogs to thrive, and all it takes is knowledge and mindfulness; we owe it to them.”

While maintaining her business and rescue, she also found time for love with the kind of person who could keep up with her work ethic, driven personality and round-the-clock rescue routine. Jamie McDonald—a familiar name in Connecticut known affectionately as Bear—is Jamie of Bears BBQ fame. The two met through a business acquaintance. They are quite a pair with their need to give back to their communities, help those in need and fight for those who can’t speak for themselves.

At the start of the war in Ukraine, McDonald headed to the Ukraine border and volunteered for almost a month with the World Central Kitchen; his son Collyn would also join him. This meant Squires was at home taking care of her business, her rescue and their five “dog children”—he came with three and she had two.

While McDonald was in the Ukraine, he was bombarded with images of humans in their most vulnerable condition, families torn apart, and children sent to the border of Poland in hopes they would survive the attacks. He was doing the best he could to capture the moments through his photography. He was also witnessing a need to help all the displaced animals that, like their human counterparts, once had safe homes. This was a conversation he shared with Squires. They worked together to arrange for her to arrive in Ukraine. Squires worked as a vet tech in Poland for one week on the border rescuing and helping aid in the care of many animals.

“I was the triage when the incoming animals came across the Ukrainian border. I examined them, tested them for contagious diseases, medicated them, addressed emergent needs and helped to facilitate their rescue,” Squires said about her experience. Her strength is what got her through the days of seeing animals come with injuries due to bombings, starvation or wandering on the streets.

“I was thankful I had my experience in rescue so I could jump into action and treat the immediate needs of the incoming animals,” Squires continued. This, of course, was the same for the Ukrainians; it was just a horrific time and to be a part of helping in any way has changed my life forever.”

When we’re kinder to animals, we’re kinder to people. Squires lives her life like that. She is one person making a big difference one pet at a time with an army of volunteers and fosters for her rescue and the support of her anchor at home, Jamie McDonald, and the pups Bernie, Duke, Callie, River and Remi.