In Memory of Karen Houser

Karen and Sugar All of us at Small Breed Rescue of East TN are deeply saddened by the 07/06/2006 passing of Karen Houser, the founder of our rescue. We all have many fond memories that will keep her forever in our hearts and at the heart of SBRET.

Karen Houser, founder of Small Breed Rescue of East Tennessee, passed away July 6, 2006. We cannot put into words how much she meant to all of us at SBRET and to the rescue community. Karen was always ready to save any dog in need - Yorkies were especially close to her heart. She would drive hours to get an old sickly Yorkie out of a shelter, knowing that it was probably not adoptable. Seniors of any breed were always special to Karen. She rescued countless seniors, many living their final days at Karen's house.


Karen and Gigi We all have many fond memories of Karen, a few come to mind...

  • She was in her work clothes (dress, pantyhose, and all) when there was a dog in need. She just dove right into the darkness of an old nasty doghouse to get this poor puppy out. Her dedication to animal welfare never ceased to amaze me.


  • There were also plenty of times we were lost on some of the the scariest roads ever looking for a house in the middle of nowhere to do a home visit.


  • I will never forget the time we were picking up some dogs and one had gotten poop all over my shirt. Karen thought it would be a good idea to Febreze® me because she couldn't stand the smell. So there we were in McDonalds parking lot... me standing there with arms out and her spraying me down while other people stared at us like we were crazy.


  • Karen helping with St. Bernard transportI recall the odd sight of Karen helping with the transport of a huge St. Bernard. This dog barely fit in her car, was as big as 15 of her beloved Yorkies, and was the last breed you'd expect to see Karen try to get in and out of her car. She loved them all...all breeds, sizes and ages.


  • Karen had a wonderful sense of humor. I remember her just laughing and laughing when I asked if she'd ever been a beauty queen in the pageant circuit, but I was serious. She made fundraisers and adoption fairs so enjoyable with her enthusiasm and sense of humor...watching Karen try to put up the tent was always a comedy routine. She was so funny. I loved to make her laugh by suggesting silly names for foster dogs.

Karen and Chase The story that best exemplifies Karen's commitment to rescuing dogs would be the extensive, exhaustive search conducted for our little missing puppy, Milo. Milo was with his family on Christmas Eve 2005 and bolted from a car accident in a very rural, mountainous area in Virginia. As soon as we got the news, Karen was typing up flyers, contacting newspapers, radio stations, TV stations, and arranging for a search group from our rescue to go to Virginia. That was the first of many trips that Karen and several of us made to Virginia looking for little Milo. We stopped every person we saw and showed them the picture of tiny Milo, and most of the people we ran across were burly guys in plaid shirts with gun racks on their trucks. But it didn't matter - Milo was lost and we were not leaving a single stone unturned. Literally, I think we even turned over a few stones! We got to be such regulars in the area (remember this is a 3-4 drive from Knoxville and it was winter) that people would come up to us and say, "Hey, you all are the ones looking for that little dog." The entire area was plastered with Milo pictures. You will notice to this day, we still have information about Milo on our web site.

Karen You see that was Karen - if there was a dog in need, she was there. She did not give up, even if it was 3 a.m. or 4 hours away. If she thought there was a chance she could make a difference, she was there and she inspired us to have that same response. And what was so wonderful about Karen was that even if it was 3 in the morning and you were cold and wet, she was always upbeat and finding the humor in the situation. So that is what we will do - we will try to carry on the rescue group with that same sense of optimism combined with a caring, determined attitude and sprinkled with a sense of humor. If we can make a difference, we will be there.

Karen and Prissy Karen was our fearless leader, our teacher and friend. She taught us to be steadfast and strong...to push through the pain of seeing dogs in horrible conditions so that we can find creative solutions whenever possible. Most of all, Karen taught us that a small group of volunteers can have a large impact in the lives of dogs in need. She showed us that by combining our individual strengths, we can accomplish anything. Without hesitation, she provided her own money for vet care and supplies when necessary. Karen was a supporter of positive reinforcement dog training. She opened her home to dogs with behavior issues and potty training problems and always used no-force techniques to help them become more adoptable.

Karen and Daisy Thank you, Karen, for being the type of person that makes the rest of us who are left behind want to follow your wonderful example and continue what you started. It will be difficult without you, but we'll continue your mission to educate people about puppymills, to provide forever homes for our doggie friends, to stay small so we can provide the best care for our rescue dogs, and most importantly, to always do what's right for the dogs. You will never know how much you meant to everyone and to the hundreds of dogs (and a few cats) you saved. We love and miss you and are confident that you were greeted at the rainbow bridge by lots of happy animals.

Special thanks go out to the many people that made donations in memory of Karen, offered their support, prayers and condolences, and offered to care for Karen's many foster dogs.

Karen and Gidget Margaret Houser, Charlie Maltman, Kris Houser, all of the SBRET volunteers, Yorkie Friends Rescue, SAIC employees, Karen Lively, Katie Smith, Melissa Tupps, Regina Sims, Southern Comfort Maltese Rescue, Mickey and Joshua Grossman, Steve, Kelley, and Baxter Cook, Dan Sigmund, Jackson Square Animal Clinic, Animal Hospital of Anderson County, Great Creatures Rescue, Shelter Animals Rescue Group, Cindi Nichols, Cynthia Stanford, Carmen Trammell, Linda Leidy, JoAnn Ross, Mindy Jackson, Lisa England, Pam Johnson, Lisa Rains, Marcia Romine, Sylvia Cressler, Jaimie Christian, Marian Cleary, Joe, Brenda and Molly Haymore, Jeff and Tamra Brown, Patrisha Williams.

Thank you all so much! Apologies to anyone whose name was mistakenly omitted - this has been a very difficult time for us.


Karen with Honey Bear and Ginger