Chippewa Falls (WQOW) - This month's Jefferson Award Winner is a woman on a mission to reunite man with man's best friend.
"They can't speak for themselves, so we have to speak for them."
Sue Hakes said she found her calling.
"I used to watch Craigslist for lost and found pets. I came across a pitbull that somebody had dumped," Hakes said. "We took a trap and we went and trapped this pitbull. The vet said within a day or so would've been dead from starving to death."
Hakes brought the dog to a shelter to be re-homed.
"She is still to this day running along the countryside, in good hands," she said.
And her good deed didn't go unnoticed.
"Then that's where lost dogs of Wisconsin reached out to be an asked me if I would volunteer, and I said 'absolutely,'" Hakes said.
That was eight years ago.
Today, Hakes has helped reunite hundreds of dogs with their owners.
She is one of 60 lost dog volunteers in the Badger State doing just that.
"We reunite about 2,500 dogs a year here in Wisconsin, average about seven dogs a day," Hakes said.
Hakes works directly with those searching for their furry loved one.
"I've been a caseworker, so I directly contact with individuals and help them along the way. Support is a big thing for them," Hakes told News 18.
Hakes also hosts free microchip events and works with several rescues across Wisconsin and into Minnesota.
But it's not just lost dogs, it's stray dogs too.
"I help get these dogs someplace safe, they need vetting, they need to be fixed, the rescues all take care of that," Hakes said.
Hakes grew up with dogs and knows just how owners are feeling when they lose their pets.
"There's a lot of night's I lose sleep. I treat these pets like their my own," she said.
One thing Hakes learned over her years with lost dogs is that dogs are resilient.
"I had a little rat terrier the size of a chihuahua that ran around in the winter for about eight weeks. He was nine years [old] I believe. Eight weeks we chased that dog all over between the owners and myself and we got him back. After all that time, he managed to keep himself alive out there," Hakes said.
She has one message for anyone looking for a lost dog.
"You never give up hope, ever."
If you know someone in your community making a difference through volunteering, nominate them for a Jefferson Award here.