The Dog Liberator™

The Dog Liberator rescues abandoned dogs throughout the Southeast. Based in Central Florida, this non-profit organization fosters all of their dogs in a home environment. Founded in 2009, all dogs are fully vetted, spayed or neutered prior to adoption. The Dog Liberator focuses in rescuing the herding breed, which consists of Border Collies, Shepherds, Sheepdogs, Aussies, Collies, and Deaf/Blind Dogs.

Emerging from the Pack

Emerging from the Pack

Written By Serena Drake

Once you make your mark in the TDL Pack, it’s your pack for life! My journey began late in 2012. I was the new Groomer at Val-u-vet (later named Newman’s) and quickly became acquainted with Gisele and her rescues. I became an essential part of the pack by ensuring the new arrivals were prepped in the hygiene area. It’s also a great way to determine their behavior for grooming in general since most collies breeds do need regular hair maintenance and care. It takes a gentle yet firm hand to groom shy/fearful dogs and it was immediately recognized that my hands, were just the right amount of gentle and the right amount of assertiveness to assist Gisele with her toughest of rescues.

Although my career at Newman’s came to a halt, my consistent contribution to help TDL did not. I continued to make regular visits to Gisele’s pack to meet her new members. Anytime there was a pup who needed extra attention, Gisele knew just who to call. My visits ranged from puppy play time, TDL events to extreme grooming needs. Needless to say I have been behind the scenes since my pack initiation.

Serena and Little Grace
Serena and Little Grace

My own passion for dogs started at a very young age. I can’t remember a time I didn’t have a dog in my life. When I was old enough to get my first paying job, I knew I wanted to work with animals. My first opportunity was working at a Pet Boarding Facility in Deland. Quickly I learned that dogs were the gift of life! Knowing how important my own dogs were to me and knowing how awful it must be to have to leave your pet behind at a boarding facility. I would make sure those special pets who weren’t dealing too well, got the extra attention they needed while the family was away. At the age of 14, I was building packs. I would pick and choose which pets got to go out together for play time. The owners were impressed by my ability to observe the animal behavior and know instinctively which dogs were best with other dogs and which pups were better left alone.

As life progressed, my experience with canines grew as well. By the age of 18 I was a bather for a local Groomer in Deland FL. I spent about 16 months doing the hard job of scrubbing the dirt off of our clients. From giant Schnauzers and giant Poodles all the way down to Maltese and Chihuahuas. I enjoyed doing my job and soon wanted to learn more. After I was done with my work, I insisted on watching my mentor groom. My employer soon realized I was interested and capable of studying the way of the clippers. With close instruction and hands on training by both of my mentors, I was able to learn all I needed through experience. I was given more tasks and soon was performing full grooms on several breeds and continued to groom for several years.

Boo Boo
Boo Boo!

Throughout those years of grooming there were many opportunities for me to work a second job while working at a doggie day care as well. This environment really help me developed my canine behavior skills alongside the ability to increase my training skills. My dog, Bernie, and I attended several basic obedience classes as well as a couple agility and advanced agility classes. Working side by side, Bernie and I became a dynamic duo. On those days Bernie wasn’t able to tag along with me, he would hang out with his canine buddies in doggie day care. There were swimming pools as well as a gymnasium with lots of ramps, tunnels and toys! We had the best of summers splashing with the Party Pack.

After some time, and through rough experiences, I realized that grooming for a career was pretty stressful. Having to rush through dogs so that I could keep up with my quota was not what I wanted. Not only did it put stress on me but on my fur clients as well. I soon realized I couldn’t allow the quality of my personal relationships with my clients suffer. I wanted each dog I took care of to know I truly cared, not that they were some object on a production line with deadlines to make money. This environment took away the personal aspect of grooming and I was not okay with that. I made the tough decision to depart from grooming as a career and instead I offered it as a specialized service. Being able to build a trusting relationship with my clients immediately returned the JOY of grooming to me. Although I do have a full time job during the week, I once again have the time I need to give each dog the love and gentle touch they deserve while being pampered and massaged.

I’ve spent countless hours in the company of the TDL pack and in the home of Gisele. Every time I visit, I get a new experience and joy in engaging with the dogs. My favorite dogs to bond with are those that need it most. Those beaten souls who have suffered trauma and who appear to have a brokenness about them, are the ones I am drawn too. My gentle approach opens up their willingness to trust while my assertive commands and gestures let them know I am a leader and they are safe with me. I allow them to make the choice. I allow them to come to me, all at their own pace. I encourage them to push the limits of life and teach them to trust again. That is what is so rewarding, being able to play a role in healing a soul and watching the transformation.

bath time Cortez!
bath time Cortez!

There have been many dogs I have assisted Gisele in healing. My most memorable was Boo Boo. She was shut down emotionally, did not want to be on a leash and tended to freak out when touched by a human. After much dedication by Gisele and her team, Boo Boo was soon ready for her first trip to the vet, which included a visit to me for a bath. If I remember correctly, my kennel assistant James and I had to muzzle her and use a lot of patience to work around her moments of terror. Once we were able to get her settled in the tub, we started lathering the soup into her, she soon realized this was nothing to be terrified of. Even though she never completely relaxed, she did allow us to tend to her completely and even leaned into the towel for some more drying love. Days later Gisele asked me to come over and spend some extra time with Boo Boo before her potential adopter arrived. This day was Boo Boo’s break through. I spent time walking her on leash, putting the leash on and off, and encouraging her to make contact with me both physically and with her eyes. She did it all. She choose to let me pet her, she choose to lay her head on my leg to fall asleep and she choose Leslie as her new Mom later that day. It was an amazing turn around.

Claire and Serena
Serena and Claire Bear

Throughout my participation in the TDL, I have always longed to do even more, to really be fully involved. Life recently has been very eventful for Gisele and myself on a personal level. With Gisele’s on going health issues she has been needing more assistance in taking care of the rescue. Our team has really stepped up and helped delegate responsibilities to other officers in the committee. I have chosen a more personal approach in my decision to become more involved in TDL. With Gisele’s approval, I am now an official part of the packs home life. I get to spend every day with the dogs that I adore. The best part for me? My dog Bernie gets to be a part of this journey with me.

Together Bernie and I are able to make sure Gisele has all the paws she needs to keep things running smooth day to day. I couldn’t be more excited to be emerging from behind the scenes and becoming a full-fledged Pack Leader. Due to Bernie’s extreme exposure to the Pack Life environment he is very well socialized and can blend into any pack presented to him. Bernie is also already marking his flair for being a Pack Leader alongside Lady Di at the TDL household.

Bernie and I couldn’t be more excited to divulge into our new roles at TDL. We hope to add a lot of spunk to the pack! To make ourselves readily available to assist with any aspect that we can and to keep the TDL alive and thriving. Thank you to Gisele for taking us in, and allowing us to help the pack grow! I know this will be an adventure and an opportunity to make life long impressions on all those around us! May anyone who meets the amazing TDL team know they have a pack for LIFE!!!


You can visit Serena and TDL’s Snap Chat by downloading the App or contact

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