How a homeless dog save 1,500 cats, dogs and changed a few humans

Dawn Knight and Rufus

MADISONVILLE, TEXAS: Ask Dawn Knight to tell you the story about the day she met her Rufus. Romeo and Juliet, When Harry Met Sally and Ned and Norah’s Ultimate Playlist have nothing on this love story.

Five years ago, Mrs. Dawn was watering the grass at the Madisonville cemetery around 7 am. “I noticed an emaciated, and obviously injured, dog walking just a few feet from me, oblivious to the world around him.”

She continued, “So, I thought to myself – how strange. I followed him down the street until he came to a yard where he had laid down in a little dirt. I couldn’t tell what was wrong, but I knew he was starving, injured and hurting.”

“Long story short,” Mrs. Dawn said, “this dog, who was covered in maggots, had been mauled, and only had a 35% chance of survival that night, would become Rufus.”

She added, “He would be the one dog that would make a difference in the lives of more than 1,500 homeless dogs and cats in Madisonville and surrounding area.”

Rufus survived. And Mrs. Dawn started her fight to help give homeless dogs and cats a second chance. She started Rufus Refuge.

Rufus Refuge is a non-profit organization that rescues abused and neglected animals, and provide loving homes for animals in need. It began in 2015, and to date, they have had 1,306 adoptions, and Mrs. Dawn said, “that doesn’t count the catch and release of the feral cats.”

The organization doesn’t have a shelter per say, as most of the animals are fostered out, or end up the Knight home. But there are not a lot of people, she said, “who can foster or offer to foster, and we don’t have a shelter. Our funding doesn’t come from the city or the county governments … we are funded by donations.”

After Rufus came into her life, Mrs. Dawn said her “eyes were open to the problem Madisonville … Madison County … had with strays.”

She and two of her high school classmates were having a meal together in Madisonville, and the two friends looked at her, and told Mrs. Dawn that she should do something about all the stray animals. Before the day was up, the three friends agreed to partner together to do something.

And do something is exactly what Dawn Knight has done and is doing. With the help of some faithful volunteers, and her family, she has been able to help with a number of rescues from Madison County and surrounding communities – one that stands out in her mind was a late night rescue of a multitude of dogs who were involved in an animal abuse situation. “Some of our groups couldn’t even go in the building … it was so bad. But I did.” She said those dogs needed to be helped.

Mrs. Dawn didn’t go into the idea of being animal rescue without knowing what she was getting into. She did a lot of research, visited other rescues, talked to veterinarians, and even got on board with an animal shelter in Huntsville, and was instrumental in turning it around, and cleaning it up.

“If someone calls in to report an animal case to the county, they will refer the call to us,” she added.

Rufus Refuge has partnered with a nearby Pet Smart, and they do a lot of adoptions from there. “And the community has been exceptionally supportive.” When needs arise, the groups do fundraising.

Mrs. Dawn said she has seen a lot with her work with the rescue … things that she won’t ever be able to forget.

“Animals are just like children … they are innocent … they need us to care for them.” She stated.

Like Clint and Clayton. According to Mrs. Dawn, Clint, a male, and Clayton, a female, were “dumped on the side of the road outside of Midway, Texas, and during this time, Clint was hit by a car.”

Here is where you need to get the tissues. More than likely, Clint laid on the side of the road for eight to nine hours, and Clayton never let him. At some point, a good Samaritan pulled both dogs from the side of the road. “Clint looked completely lifeless, and barely breathing.” This individual called Rufus Refuge for help.

So, they did. Late in the evening, they met the vet, Dr. Pohl, to see if Clint’s life could be saved. Dr. Pohl is Clint’s hero – which is why, they say the dog is named after him.

No one thought Clint, the dog, would survive. And poor Clayton, at a foster home, was sad, wondering where Clint was.

According to Mrs. Dawn, Clint spent at week at Texas A&M “receiving MRI’s, CT Scans, rehabilitation therapy as well as medication to aid in his recovery.”

He and Clayton have reunited.

“We try to give every dog no matter what a chance at life,” she said.

If you would like more information about Rufus Refuge, and how you can help, if you are in the area and would like to donate time, become a foster or if you are not in the area, and still would like to be a part of the mission, visit the Facebook page @RufusRefuge or contact them by email at