For almost 13 years, Panda Paws Rescue has taken on some of the most difficult medical cases in the region — and now they rescue is featured in Animal Planet’s new television program, Amanda to the Rescue!
Washougal is a tiny town in Southwestern Washington State that flanks the Columbia River and has a population of just under 16,000 people. It’s also the home of Panda Paws Rescue (PPR), which is piloted by Amanda Giese and her family, and is the focal point of Animal Planet’s new television program, Amanda to the Rescue.
For almost 13 years, Panda Paws Rescue has taken on some of the most difficult medical cases in the region. Prior to delving into animal rescue, Amanda, 35, had a varied career, including night club promotions, go-go dancing, and working in a veterinary emergency room. Wait. Go-go dancing?
“I was a single mom at the time,” Amanda explained. “I loved dance and the creation of dance, and it was easy for me to work in a veterinary clinic and dance on the days that I had off. I was one of very few go-go dancers; there were a few in LA, New York, and Portland…it wasn’t as common then as it is now. I’m sure I permanently have glitter in my lungs from that!”
Her background working in a veterinary ER would prove to be beneficial for Amanda later on. “I was a ‘baby’ vet tech and Dr. Brock (who is featured in Amanda to the Rescue), was a ‘baby’ vet,” Amanda recalled. “We started our first year together. We had a great working relationship and became great friends outside of work, as well.” No longer a “baby” vet, Dr. Brock continues to collaborate with Panda Paws.
Emergency rooms are often places of pain and sadness. But they can also be places of surprise, relief, and joy. Panda Paws steps in where others cannot, and cares for animals that would otherwise be euthanized.
PPR received a lot of press for rescuing two very special bipeds, Duncan Lou Who and London. Duncan Lou Who is one of the rescue’s most famous alumni, born with his rear legs fused in an “X.” The misshapen legs were unusable and twisting his spine. Eventually, they would cause him pain and his mobility would be compromised. “He was already walking before he had the surgery,” Amanda said. “Removing the extra weight made a huge difference in his ability to walk.”
One of Amanda’s hardest cases was London, a two-legged pit bull.
“This was my first multiple felony conviction case – it was in Crescent City, California. London’s front legs were severely shattered and he was in excruciating pain.
“Dr. Brandon said that we either had to do a double amputation or euthanize him,” Amanda recalled. They did the double amputation.
PPR purchased an Eddie’s Wheels For Pets cart and Ducati Motocorsa in Portland, Oregon personalized it. “They pimped his ride and transformed it into a one-of-a-kind Ducati Wheelchair, authentic paint and all,” Amanda said. “London is living happily ever after now, but at the time, I received hate mail and death threats. It was very controversial at the time. A lot of people thought that it was cruel and inhumane. In hindsight, I’m very fortunate that I pushed through it.”
Goldilocks is another PPR alumni. “She had the most fractures I’ve ever seen in one dog,” she said. “She had two plates in the jaw and a shattered femoral head.” She had more internal hardware than any of the other dogs I’ve worked with.
“Groot is the most work in our pack,” she explained. “Double eye enucleations used to be super frowned upon. Euthanasia was considered the humane option, but we’re pressing for further education and opportunities for animals. Not long ago, everyone was euthanizing for cleft palates – and now we’re learning how to feed and help them. Now we can actually close the palate and allow for a life free from suffering.”
Panda Paws has worked with other animals, but primarily focuses on high-needs dogs – but Amanda is open to helping other species in the future.
“Someday, I really hope to have a longhorn and a highland cow pair,” Amanda said with a laugh.
There are currently five dogs, two cats, and an assortment of fish in her pack. “We typically try to rescue one to five dogs at a time, sometimes as many as 30, but our volume is low to focus on more needy ones,” she said.
“We’re seeing a paradigm shift with rescue and with medicine. It’s amazing to see where we were and where we are today.”
There’s a lot of trust between Amanda and her surgical team.
Amanda is in surgery with 99.9% of the animals she rescues. “The only ones I don’t scrub in for are cardiology; you can’t have any distractions,” she said. “Because my background is medical, I’m very fortunate to have the surgeons invite me in. There’s no part of each rescue that I haven’t seen.”
While PPR partners with hundreds of organizations and it’s big on family. And friends. The organization’s name was suggested by Amanda’s friend Emily Schmidt, who suggested Panda Paws after Amanda’s nickname: Amanda Panda.
“I get asked all the time: ‘Do you rescue pandas?’” she said with a laugh. “And I always say, ‘Well, duh, yeah I do!’”
Amanda’s partner, Gary Walters, 48 (known affectionately as “G”), met her when she was a go-go dancer. “He runs his own company, and the IT side of Panda Paws,” Amanda explained.
Amanda’s children, Jade, 14 (she was named after the stone) and Beast, 16 (named for his vigorous appetite), support her work. “My son wants to go into the military and defend his country, either in the marines or the navy,” Amanda said, “and Jade is my right-hand woman; she wants to become a veterinary surgeon.”
It’s hard to miss Amanda’s beautiful body art. “All of my tattoos have a meaning,” she said. “One of them says, ‘If love could’ve saved you, you would’ve lived forever.’”
Amanda considered closing the rescue several years ago, but fortunately, she changed her mind. “It was compassion fatigue,” she said. “Anyone who’s in a caring position can experience this. I hit a wall; I was burning the candle at both ends. I thought, ‘I don’t think I can do this anymore.’ I was losing myself. I got to a point where I talked to my board and told them I needed to dissolve this.”
“And then I realized: I can’t stop this. This is who I am, who I was born to be, what I am meant to do.”
So instead, she reevaluated the rescue, taking three months off and then scaling back the scope of their rescues. “I had to do what was feasible for a mother of two to stay sane and healthy,” she said. “We still do large rescues, but we have rescue partners that take the highly adoptable animals, while we take the major medical cases. We’re relying a lot on our rescue partners.”
Amanda’s new television show, Amanda to the Rescue, highlights these stories.
“This show shines a light on working together,” she said. “We’re all in rescue; we have the same goals in mind. We have different platforms and different niches, but we can collaborate.”
Being part of a television program came naturally for Amanda and her family. “We love our camera crew and we’ve loved working with Animal Planet,” she said. “We have a very small house and a large camera crew of five people, and they’re all, like, 6-foot-4,” she laughed. “It’s been a really good experience. We’ve finished filming the first season, and I miss them – I miss them! There’s no one in the bathtub with a camera!”
Amanda has been awestruck by the volume of support she has received. “We have such a great, supportive fan base already, but the volume of emails from people saying thank you – it’s really inspired them and pulled them out of their depression. There was a gentleman who was shot and he’s in a wheelchair now…after watching the show, he saw that his life has value and that it’s important for him to remember that. The show has already positively impacted people. In this day and age, how we turn on the TV naturally, it’s cool to turn it on and see kindness.”
Panda Paws relies solely on public donations and receives no grants or federal funding. “Financial donations are incredibly important for us,” Amanda said. “It costs us hundreds to thousands to help each dog.
Amanda turns 36 in January; to help celebrate, please consider sending a donation to the rescue!
To learn how you can support Panda Paws Rescue, visit www.pandapawsrescue.org.
And to learn more about Amanda to the Rescue, visit www.animalplanet.com/tv-shows/amanda-to-the-rescue.