t's not always easy to talk to Chuck Schmidt over the phone. If your timing is off, the dogs barking in the background will drown out his voice.
Schmidt, an Army veteran and former trucker, lives in his rural Belview home with 17 dogs and 22 house cats. Oh, and then there's all the outside cats that make themselves at home from time to time as well. He feeds them all in his animal hotel.
To say Schmidt is an animal lover would be like saying LeBron James likes basketball, like Maya Angelou was good with words. Schmidt almost loves these creatures too much for his own good. But it's who he is.
"They are my life," he said. "They're the ones keeping me alive - they're the reasons for me wanting to stay alive."
Schmidt's compassion for animals can be traced back at least five decades. And in the Army, he had planned on going into artillery, but when he was stationed in northern Greece, he found himself going to a school for dog training. Today, he cares for them and rehabilitates them.
"Nowadays, the military gets its dogs from civilian contractors, they don't train their own," he said. "In the '80s we trained our own dogs."
This is the second time this paper has featured Schmidt. We did a story on him two years ago at his request because he wanted the public to know there are hundreds if not thousands of animals out there that need help. His plight is making the social media rounds as well, but he can't seem to get on solid ground financially and worries what will happen to the animals if his situation doesn't improve.
He loathes the idea of euthanasia. He lets the dogs and cats have the run of his house and estimates he has adopted out more than 780 dogs in the last decades, as well as more than 1,500 cats. He doesn't charge adoption fees, but he wouldn't turn away some help - not for his sake, but for the animals.
"I've spent thousands and thousands of dollars out of my own pocket on my animals and I've never asked for nothing in return," he said. "If people want to donate when they adopt a dog or cat, they can. But I'll never ask."
There are two ways to look at Schmidt. You could look at him and say he dug his own hole and it's not your problem. Or, you can look at him as a man who would just as soon starve then watch his animals go hungry. The guy will spend his last 100 bucks of disability on the dogs and cats if he had to.
"I don't want no handouts," he said. "I figure it's easier for me to go without than a dog or cat. They didn't ask to be beaten or dumped on the side of the road in the country. They just want a fair shake in life."
I look at Schmidt as a man who cares too much. He collects animals because he cares about them. Still, he sure wouldn't mind getting rid of them all if he knew they were going to a good home. Schmidt's health isn't good, but it's not himself he's worried about, it's the animals. He's taken them in from all over the country. He can't say no. And he's someone who could use some help to help his four-legged friends.
Parents make sacrifices for their children. Schmidt's making them for a bunch of dogs and cats.
To me, his is a pretty cool story, and I'd like it to have a happy ending.
If you have any ideas as to how to help Schmidt, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org