Linda Moreno has devoted her life to helping find ‘forever homes’
SPRING VALLEY — While Linda Moreno has been in the restaurant and tavern business for 45 years, her true life’s work has been helping to protect and find loving “forever homes” for the more than 100 dogs she’s fostered.
Born in Annawan and the resident of a beautiful Victorian home in Spring Valley for approximately 50 years, Moreno has owned and operated the Moreno’s On Main restaurant in McNabb for the past 15 years.
“I’d like to sell the restaurant, but I know I’d never be able to find the amount of homes for animals that I do without it,” she said.
Moreno is part of an informal network of devoted animal lovers who have committed themselves to helping each other find homes for the area’s most vulnerable residents.
“IVAR (Illinois Valley Animal Rescue) and The Friends of Strays are shelters ran by a wonderful group of people. We all work back and forth together to help each other find as many homes as possible for these loving little animals. Usually it works out pretty well,” Moreno said.
The shelters take dogs of all sizes, but Moreno prefers the smaller, older dogs and especially those not expected to do well outside of a caring home. A frightened and timid dog in a shelter not only makes it more unlikely they’ll be chosen by someone looking for a new pet, but the stress also places their health in jeopardy.
“If the shelters get a dog who’s not adaptable to the shelter environment, they’ll call me. I like to take in the older and smaller dogs. Puppies take a lot of care and I’m just not home enough for them. With old dogs, you feed them and love them and they’re just tickled to have a nice, soft and safe place to lay down and nap,” she said.
Moreno not only assists animals who need homes, but she also has a knack for knowing when someone would benefit from the type of friendship a four-legged companion provides.
“A lot times when people have grieved they’ll later say they’d have never gotten through it without the love of their dogs. A dog will love you whether anyone else loves you or not,” she said.
Moreno spoke of placing a dog with an older man who’d never before had a dog, but was nevertheless someone who she was sure would benefit from having a dog, especially after he’d recently lost his wife.
“I tried for three years to give him a dog. He was the type who’d never let a dog into the house, it was just the way he’d grown up. Back then, people treated dogs very differently and they usually weren’t allowed in the house. People today have a different perspective towards animals,” Moreno said.
“Once he finally accepted one into his home he later told me that dog had taught him more about love than he’d ever known because he’d never had kids. He told me it was the best thing that had ever happened to him and I think he’d even take another one if I found the right dog,” she said.
Moreno also advocates that if someone dies and their family asks for charitable donations to be made in their name to make them to one of the local shelters.
“A lot of people like that because they feel they’re really helping a good cause and the shelters need as much help as they can get,” she said.
Moreno said as she became more well known as someone who fosters and helps place homeless animals that people began calling her directly when they needed help. While Moreno actively fosters and assists in finding those interested in adoption, she said there’s also several others who, though not willing or able to house the dogs, will provide financial contributions towards needed health care.
“The most dogs I’ve ever had is probably about eight, but I’ve also helped place a lot of other types of animals including a skunk, possums, ferrets and a pig,” she said, adding that Second Hand Ranch and Rescue is another important local animal shelter in need of support.
Moreno keeps a sharp eye out for animals in danger, such as when people lock their dogs in cars on warm days and she also doesn’t hesitate to become involved if she suspects abuse or neglect.
“It’s my fault if I let something happen to those dogs because — kids and dogs, someone’s got to stick up for them,” she said.