Scarlet is an auburn-furred mutt with big brown eyes who startles at a stranger’s outreached hand, but then nuzzles when she realizes it means her no harm. Once pregnant and infected with heartworms, the stray would have fallen victim to neglect and death if not for the lifesavers at East Lake Pet Orphanage. Same goes for Maytag, a tiny kitten left inside a washing machine at a nearby laundromat. And Maurice, the white poodle-mix found covered in greasy grime and with a broken leg inside a duct-taped cardboard box.

Today, Scarlet’s six pups are in permanent homes while she undergoes heartworm treatment. Maytag is with a loving family, as in Maurice.

Inside East Lake Veterinary Hospital, the air smells clean. The walls are colorful. The waiting room is filled with life – plants, slinking cats, smiling workers and volunteers – and overflowing candy dishes and fresh coffee almost any hour of the day or night add to the homey atmosphere.

The orphaned animals inside, after receiving necessary medical treatment, live in comfy kennels often situated with televisions, beds and window views. Human friends hold, pet and walk them. People and pets play together on an outdoor playground.

Inside East Lake’s walls, animals that would in most cases be euthanized find hope, thanks to Dr. Karen Fling and others like her.

“We are just a group of animal-loving vets and support personnel who have seen animals that deserved a second chance,” says Fling, a veterinarian and founder of the orphanage at East Lake. Through the homelike environment, staffers hope to foster good behavior that will lead to successful adoptions and happy futures.

The East Lake Pet Hospital originally opened in 1993. Often, medical and financial circumstances left no other choice but euthanasia for sick or injured animals brought into the clinic. For Fling, on staff since the early 1990s, and some of her coworkers, it was too heartbreaking to stand. With support from the community, East Lake was able to start doing more than the expected.

In the early 2000s, East Lake began housing the pets, and in 2001 officially opened the no-kill pet orphanage.

“We want to make a difference in the community,” Fling says. “If the animal is fixable, we’ll do whatever it takes to treat them without regard to cost.”

But it gets expensive. East Lake has provided as much as $3,000 worth of medical treatment for one orphan. The average cost to treat a pet and prepare it for adoption is $196.41, according to statistics provided by veterinary nurse Renee Tyran.

After operating for years under a significant deficit that nearly thwarted operations at the orphanage, funds will hopefully start coming soon from an unlikely source. A couple of miles away, nestled in a Garland Road shopping strip, is the resale store Second Chance Treasures, where 100 percent of the profits go to East Lake’s pet orphanage.

Barbara McCormick, a volunteer fundraiser who helps find special items for the quaint boutique, says it’s the only place around to find one-of-a-kind gems while supporting a cause that’s close to so many of our neighbors hearts.

“It is a unique idea. Thanks to generous donations from people and estate sales, you can find some very valuable items and gifts there,” McCormick says.

Before Second Chance opened, neighbors had been donating proceeds from estate sales to help supplement the orphanage’s operating budget, McCormick says. Dr. Fling took the estate sale concept one step further by opening the storefront last December.

Though it opened only months ago, the shop is already showing financial promise, “because one person’s junk is another’s treasure,” Fling says. “I did all my Christmas shopping there,” she adds.

With store proceeds, donations, pet adoption fees and other fundraising events throughout the year combined with continued help from the community, Fling hopes to keep up all the good work going on at East Lake.

“It’s the volunteers and the support of the community that keeps this thing going strong,” she says. “Luckily, a lot of dedicated people understand that these animals are precious and deserve a chance.”