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Norwich Bulletin - 1/3/2010


One of the definitions in the dictionary for the word hero is a person, who in the opinion of others, has heroic qualities or has performed a noble or heroic act and is regarded as a model or ideal. I would add that a hero is someone who does such a deed with no thought of themselves in the process. In other words, a hero is a completely selfless person.

We have many unsung heroes in the world and today I am going to talk about one of Norwich’s own. A person who has done so much not only for animals but for people that I probably will not be able to touch on all of it. In fact, her children tell me that she has done so much that they don’t know all of it.

I met Sue Ponder when I first started to do rescue in 1995 and my husband and I were producing “Pet Talk” for the local cable channel. She was guest on my show because she made vests for army, K-9 Law enforcement, Search and Rescue, Tracking and other service animals, along with other necessary paraphernalia that is necessary to these jobs. She also did a lot of animal rescue on her own, way before I even thought of doing it.

And she took the dogs in, she did the medical work and resocialized them and then found them good forever homes without any help from anyone. She and her husband Dan just did what they could and never expected anything in return. In fact, that pretty much sums up who Sue Ponder is.

Getting away from the animal good deeds for just a moment, I would like to talk about some of the things that Sue does that for the last fourteen years I knew nothing about. She is a volunteer for the American Warriors and has been for a long time, both with her time and money. She works to help send World War 2 veterans to the WW2 memorial in Washington DC. She does a lot of volunteer work for mental health organizations like Outreach and their related programs. She has made countless numbers of costumes and props over the years for them.

After the Peachtree Aparment fire, Sue went out and trapped cats in the neighborhood to recover the pets that had been lucky enough to escape the fire. She and Dan were able to reunite many of those cats with their owners. She printed up flyer, asking her neighbors to let her know when there were any strays around the neighborhood so she could try and find their owners.

And now it’s the holiday season and this is the time Sue bakes cookies – lots and lots of cookies. And not just for the people she knows. Sue goes out into the streets of Norwich and hands out bags of cookies to everyone she meets, namely the homeless that wander the streets because they have nowhere to go.

Her children tell me there were many times they would come home for a holiday to find their home filled with people they had never seen before. Sue believes that everyone should be with family during the holidays, so she offers hers to many people most of us would never think of bringing home.

I can go on and name other selfless acts – her work with the Historic Norwichtown Days working on the Colonial re-enactment on the Norwichtown Green; her work on the Norwich Winter Festival committee and her floats. I remember that I was part of one of those floats with some of our rescue dogs at that time.

When I asked Sue to tell me something about herself she merely said, “Well I’ve been doing rescue for quite awhile.” That’s the beauty of a true hero’s heart – they don’t consider what they do as being terribly important. But it is – to many, many people in Norwich.

One of the ways that Sue pays for her rescues is through her personalized objects she offers through I was actually the recipient of one of those objects – a beautiful memory box of Milo, which made me cry the moment I saw it. She offers these boxes, luggage tags, ornaments, cutting boards, cups, dog tags, you name it – she can put your pet or pets on it.

I actually have a beautiful flag with one of my Abys on it and the name of my cattery – the colors and the detail are unbelievable. Everything is shown on her website which is listed above. And not only does this enterprise pay for some of her rescue expenses – she actually donates a percentage of everything she sells to Helping Paws. There is no end to the generosity I have received from Sue in the last fourteen years.

Her daughter remembers walking with her mother on a cold wintery day and watching her mother take off her gloves and give them to a homeless person who had none. This random act of kindness is the essence of Sue Ponder, Norwich’s little known hero.

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