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Chelsea ICU Nurse Finds Homes For Unwanted Southern Dogs

 Pupstarz rescued these dogs from kill shelters in the south. 
Pupstarz Dogs
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CHELSEA — On May 16, Mel Fields will say hello to three black-and-white lab-Border Collie mix puppies, a 2-year-old terrier named Harvey, and six more dogs moving from Tennessee to the big city.

Then the ICU nurse, who lives in a studio apartment on West 30th Street with her husband and two Daschunds, will pass them off to the foster and adoptive parents she's found. 

Fields, 27, and three other volunteers started Pupstarz in February, a dog rescue organization that finds homes for pets destined for kill shelters. 

In two months, they've placed 20 dogs in new homes in the city and surrounding area. Fields, who works in the surgical intensive care unit at Columbia University as a nurse and is working on a Ph.D. there as well, said she would come home to her husband at night and cry, overwhelmed by people and animals' suffering, and wanted to do something. 

"I think for dogs and small children, too, they always get in my heart because they don't have a voice," Fields said. 

She started donating money, then donating her time. 

"For me, it wasn't doing much," she said. 

After a few years of hard work at other animal rescues, she realized she and her fellow volunteers could run a whole operation themselves. Pupstarz takes unwanted dogs from shelters that euthanize them, as well as from Craigslist, which Fields found "is big" for people trying to get rid of their dogs, she said. 

They have also been approached by people who can no longer keep pets because they're having babies or landlords don't allow them. 

"Even if we just take one dog, you save one dog," Fields said "Then it turned out to be three, the next time was eight and it begins getting bigger."

Their first dogs to be adopted, Gizmo and Kady, rescued from a hoarding situation in Tennessee, were adopted together by a city police officer. 

Many dogs come from a kill shelter in Tennessee. "They pull from Tennessee or West Virginia or some of the Southern states because they don't get adopted," Fields said. 

Tipsy was found on the side of road in Tennessee unable to move her back legs. She earned her name because "she walks like she's tipsy," Fields said.

A pitbull named Scarlett Johansson has been looking for a foster for some time. Her owner doesn't want her, and her dog walker says she is left alone for days at a time without food and rarely goes outside. 

Pupstarz vets potential adopters carefully, making sure that their leases allow pets. Fields has enlisted an attorney friend to help with legal questions and a publicist friend to help get the word out. 

After a long shift helping patients who have just survived liver transplants and other serious surgeries, Fields finds that helping dogs puts her mind at ease.

"I've come to the conclusion that I'm just always going to be busy. But I like it. That's how I survive," Fields said. 

"I feel like I can go to bed and feel better about myself."