Valerie Louie saved our beloved Uncle Mort from a life of abuse. Then she became a victim of a pandemic. Her death is mourned by four-paw households in San Francisco and the Bay Area.
Ms. Louie spent two decades rescuing dogs like Uncle Mort from animal shelters and making them like our homes to have a new best friend. Her specialty was rescuing the truly abandoned and broken puppy, the abused, the blind, the deaf, and the long tooth.
The day she dropped the sad-eyed mutt I identified at one of her animal shelter events, the little guy immediately put poop on our dining room carpet.
“It’s just a little,” said Ms. Louie. She had a generous smile and the patience of a clergyman.
Ms. Louie, who died of Covid-19 on November 25 after two weeks in an intensive care unit, didn’t just save rescue dogs. She also saved people. She was a nurse and worked at Oakland Highland Hospital for 32 years, starting in the emergency room. Her last position was as an advanced life support coordinator.
She was a single mother. She leaves behind her son Andrew Louie (21), who lived with her and was also infected with the corona virus at the end of October. He has since recovered.
Ms. Louie died on the Mission Bernal campus of California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, the city she was born and raised in. She was 60. Her legacy lives on.
“I can’t imagine how many dogs she saved, probably thousands,” her son said, repeating a number estimated by other volunteers. She farmed the canines to families after retrieving them from animal shelters, including so-called killing shelters in central California, where many dogs are bred, adopted, and abandoned.
Friends said she had a special talent as a matchmaker between dog and family. She would keep a mental record of the people looking for rescue dogs, and when the right fit came on, she would call with the good news.
Some dogs she held – like Ida, a French bulldog found in the mountains of China in 2012. The person who abandoned the dog and found it blind after it was used for breeding discovered Ms. Louie on the Internet through an organization she worked with at the time, called Rocket Dog Rescue. Ms. Louie let the dog fly to San Francisco, her son said.
“She was a powerhouse,” said Meg McAdam, a close friend who also rescues dogs and works at Oakland Animal Services, “and an institution in San Francisco.”
During the pandemic, Ms. Louie rescued around 80 dogs, found them in animal shelters, and bred them home, according to Ms. McAdam.
Honors have been received on a GoFundMe website that Ms. McAdam set up to support Ms. Louie’s son.
“Valerie gave us our cute boomer,” wrote one grateful mourner. “I’ve been praying for her every day since we heard the news.”
Apr. 17, 2020 at 11:09 am ET
“Valerie gave us our Reggie.”
“She helped us a lot with our Zito.”
I can also testify. In early 2018, I saw Uncle Mort, a tormented little soul, for the first time on the back of Ms. Louie’s Toyota RAV4. It was just another Saturday for Valerie taking dogs to an adoption event in a mall on the southern edge of San Francisco.
I’d been lurking at the event for the past two weekends and that feeling of having a dog rose inside me. My wife Meredith, long reluctant because her husband didn’t care for the dog, seemed to temper the idea.
The huddled creature was part long-haired Chihuahua, part depressed. He was 3 years old and much of his life had been spent outside because the man in the house didn’t like his mood, Ms. Louie told me
I told her I would like to try the dog, but I had to convince on the home front. She understood immediately. She’d done it hundreds of times – the real test run for the family on the fence to get a new member with fur and a troubled past.
I signed the papers and a few days later Ms. Louie dropped it off and assessed the fit. She looked around approvingly as the dog laid his opening game on our carpet. His first name was Franco. That didn’t fit.
Franco sounded like a Spanish dictator. The weathered soul in our house, only three years old, looked more like an old Member of Parliament. We named him Uncle Mort. That was the name of a character in a comic book I’d been writing for a decade; The dog and cartoon character were strikingly similar.
The new name was all the more fitting when we witnessed his early behavior that resulted in us looking nervous while awake but mostly sleeping with an oversized snore that sounded like your great-uncle after Thanksgiving dinner and passed out on the couch .
We called a dog trainer to see if Mort could learn to love and be loved. The coach was dubious. “He will be a good dog, but don’t get your hopes up that he will be the family dog you imagined. He’s had a hard time. “
We raised our hopes. We were rewarded.
Uncle Mort has become the most loving and beloved creature in our house and on some days outperformed the children on both counts. My wife is his “person” and when she returns home from even the briefest of absence, he goes bananas as if he had just discovered the ocean.
Now Meredith calls Uncle Mort her “forever puppy”. Mort is so relaxed these days that he regularly lies in various positions of seemingly impossible geometry and vulnerability, all four limbs in the air so he can be caressed around his chest, throat and ears in the way he has become used.
Uncle Mort – or just “good boy” – became the real dog in the window that we had always dreamed of taking home, and so it really hit our household when we found out that Ms. Louie was on the Intensive care unit was
Your tragedy is a typical Covid-19 tragedy. It’s not clear how she contracted the disease, and she went on a fatal roller coaster ride.
On October 29th, she wrote to Ms. McAdam, her close friend, “I haven’t been this sick forever. I can’t break the fever. “
On November 2nd, she wrote: “I still sleep days. I lose a lot of time. “
On November 11th, a friend went to her house to check on Ms. Louie and found her in dire straits. She was taken to the hospital and immediately intubated.
Ms. Louie’s son is taking college classes, studying to be a nurse, and recently took on his mother’s role, helping find homes for the last three dogs she chose.
One was Blitz, a gray terrier mix that is deaf. Then there’s Bronco, a long haired dachshund, and Tavish, a one-eyed pug.
“That was a real Valerie dog,” said Ms. McAdam. “These are the dogs she saved.”
At Highland Hospital, where she worked, her loss was also deeply felt. Michelle Hepburn, director of emergency services and trauma at Alameda Health Systems, who operates Highland, adopted Bella, a pit bull puppy, with the help of Ms. Louie.
“Her passion for caring for people and fur babies was evident every waking moment,” said Ms. Hepburn.