Made a difference… Suzanne Burry and Dennis Burns

After the Maui Humane Society stopped responding to after-hours emergencies, a Makawao couple with a love for animals stepped up to help.

“Neither my wife or I could sleep at night just thinking about animals lying on the side of the road. Nobody would rescue them,” said Dennis Burns. “My wife kept on me and on me, and here we are.”

Burns and his wife, Suzanne Burry, are the founders and main volunteers for the nonprofit Valley Isle Animal Rescue. Since April 2011, they have responded to 400 to 500 calls from police about injured or lost dogs, cats and other animals.

They’re on call from 5 p.m. to 7 a.m. but also have responded at other times when the Maui Humane Society isn’t available.

In one memorable case, the couple reunited a boy with his dog that had been missing for six years. The boy was 10 years old when the dog ran away at Haleakala Ranch the night before he moved to the Mainland. Six years later, the hungry and scared dog was found near King Kekaulike High School the night before the boy returned to Maui, Burns recalled.

Through her tattoo, bird dog Ginger was reunited with the boy.

“From what I hear, they’re now inseparable,” Burns said.

Another time, the couple rescued an Akita that was running around snapping at players in a baseball game at the War Memorial complex, taking the dog to the Maui Humane Society to be reunited with its owner the next day.

Donations to Valley Isle Animal Rescue helped cover veterinarian bills for another successful rescue – Moke, a Ridgeback terrier who was hit by a car on Lower Main Street in Wailuku in September.

The organization works with police, the Maui Humane Society, Maui Pitbull Rescue and several veterinarians.

“The greatest joy is to see the animals going back to the owners,” Burry said. “One of the biggest satisfactions for me is to help the police out.”

She got to know some police officers while responding to rescues – her favorite part of the job when she worked as a Maui Humane Society animal control officer from 2008 to 2010. She now works with the county Department of Motor Vehicles and Licensing.

Burns also volunteers with the nonprofit Boo Boo Zoo.

When the couple got a call the day after a sharpei-Labrador mix was hit by a car on the Fourth of July, the dog had lost a lot of blood, and “it didn’t look like she was going to make it,” Burns said.

“We just put her in our bed because if she’s going to die, I wouldn’t want her to die alone,” he said.

The dog, Katie, survived. She is among the six dogs, eight cats and three birds that share the couple’s home.

“We’re just here for the animals and the families,” Burns said. “This is what we have committed our lives to.”

* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at