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Jackie Matthews, president of Saving the Animals of Rowan (STAR), picks up Crowley after several attempts to get him inside the Tri-County Animal Shelter. Jackie currently has a fractued fibula. She and her colleague, Angela Higgonbatham (back), take new dogs outside to get photos of them for social media. STAR is a local rescue group that transports dogs to other states where dog populations are low. Jackie moved to Morehead from the Northeast to work for STAR.

Dogs' best friend

story by Nate Manley

The sound of howling dogs rings through the Tri-County Animal Shelter as Jackie Matthews walks through the half-full kennel.

Jackie is the president of a local animal rescue, Saving the Animals of Rowan. STAR helps with the adoption of stray and owner-surrender dogs, mostly by transferring them north where there is a market for adoption.

Jackie, who is from northeastern New Jersey, has always had a passion for helping animals. She began to focus on that passion in 2010 when she began to volunteer as a transporter for animal rescues. As she did this more and more, she began to notice that a these "great dogs" were coming from a group in Kentucky called STAR.

"I had a really great job in New York City and a nice house, a wonderful partner, but something was missing," she says.

Jackie, 57, became a member of STAR in 2013, but living New Jersey she would just pay her dues and not attend meetings. Still, she quickly rose through the ranks from a long distance member to president in October 2016.

Last March, Jackie was laid off from her job as an office manager at the New York venture capital firm where she had worked for 30 years. It made the decision to move to Morehead even more clear. In April, her partner, Judy Tankersley, made the move while Jackie remained in the New Jersey to sell their house. Once the house was sold, Jackie joined her in Morehead.

"The universe was telling me this is where I definitely belonged," she says.


While eating lunch at Huddle House, Jackie answers a phone call from the Rowan County Veterinary Clinic about Gissy, a STAR dog. Gissy has a parasite and must be deemed safe for travel before being transported with a group of dogs later in the week.


Samantha Purcell holds Gissy as Jackie pets him at Purcell's mobile home in Morehead. Purcell is surrendering Gissy and another dog to STAR because they have been aggressive towards other animals. The dogs will be taken to the Northeast for adoption with about a dozen other dogs. "I just want them to have good homes," Purcell says.


Jackie hold up Atticus for a social media photo at the Tri-County Animal Shelter. Jackie is wearing gloves because Atticus has mange, a skin disease caused by parasitic mites.


Jackie carries Gissy and Rollee into the Rowan County Veterinary Clinic for a check up before they are transported north. Jackie spends a lot time running dogs between the vet and the kennel, because many of the dogs they rescue have medical issues.


Angel jumps and barks as Jackie walks away at the Rowan County Veterinary Clinic. Angel has a skin condition.


Jackie loads Cyrus into her vehicle before taking him to the STAR kennel for holding until travel that weekend. Cyrus and about a dozen other dogs will end up in New Jersey and Long Island, New York.


Jackie walks into the STAR kennel before hitting the road to Long Island, New York. She is transporting about a dozen dogs up north for adoption. Jackie travels several times a month, mostly to the Northeast.

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