About Us

Our Mission Statement

To save mama dogs and their pups, provide care and enrichment, and find loving, forever homes.

ATR specializes in large-breed pregnant dogs and their pups who need time and space to grow and become socialized. Our dogs have significant social time with adults, children and other dogs, and we provide them with experiences that will help shape them into the very best pups they can be. Our mama dogs work with on site behaviorists to develop personalized programs to prepare them for life as your new forever family member. ATR is determined to give you all the information we know about our dogs so we can help find the perfect match for you. All of our dogs are altered, micro-chipped, and up-to-date on vaccines prior to adoption.

ATR is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and receives no tax or government funding. We do not sell, rent, or share our supporter information with any other organizations or third parties.

GERI HORMEL Founder + HBIC

“My name is Geri Hormel and I am the founder of Almost There Rescue. What do we do at ATR? We save bitches. No, we don’t go around seeking out malicious, unpleasant women and try to convince them to change their ways (although someone should!). We save dogs. Specifically, homeless, pregnant, large-breed dogs. We scoop those gals up from less than ideal situations and give them a place to birth and raise their pups. We work our tails off to give our pups the medical help, enrichment, socialization, and love that they need on their journeys to finding forever homes.”

Geri was always the girl with too many pets to count – dogs, cats, goats, pigs, horses, and donkeys. She joined the animal rescue world at 16 years old, walking the dogs, working in adoptions, and then enrolling in the Emergency Animal Medical Technician program at Arizona Humane Society. This led her to volunteer at Second Chance Hospital, learning the medical side of rescue with hands-on experience.

Geri also volunteered and fostered for Arizona Animal Welfare League, Maricopa County Animal Care & Control, Halo Animal Rescue, and more. Realizing that one of the biggest needs in the rescue world was space and care for large breed pregnant dogs, Geri had her first kennel space built in her backyard so that she could start taking these families home. That was the beginning of Almost There Rescue.

MEGAN WIEWEL Top Dog + Director

Megan’s journey with Almost There Rescue started in 2017 with the care of the Hormel family’s very own dogs. She has a background in animal care and a degree in Communication Studies, making her well suited to oversee the day to day operations of the rescue. While each day is different for Megan, her primary responsibilities include coordinating animal care and overseeing staff and volunteers. Originally from Iowa, Megan recently moved to Phoenix from Southern California. Megan says the only thing that could replace her immense love of the ocean is her immense love of puppies!

Megan enjoys being able to help dogs with less than fortunate backgrounds have a second lease on life. She says the position is bittersweet; ‘the bitter’ is having to say goodbye to some of the sweetest, most loving dogs you could ever meet while the ‘sweet’ is the comfort of knowing they are going home with amazing, forever families. Her favorite part of the position is getting pictures and updates from adopters with how the pups are settling in and how their personalities are forming. Megan has fulfilled a childhood dream by being a part of the ATR team!

HEIDI LEYVA Development Director

Heidi oversees all things related to development and marketing, and works nonstop to earn money that directly supports ATR’s mission. Heidi has over seven years of experience in nonprofit leadership; her background and education are in business and marketing. In 2017, she earned a mini MBA for Nonprofit Organizations from the University of St. Thomas Business School. “Of all the meaningful nonprofit work I’ve been lucky enough to have been involved in, ATR is nearest to my heart. Saving the lives of these deserving dogs, alongside the most amazing people is a dream come true.”

Heidi’s been involved in the Arizona rescue world since she started volunteering regularly in 2006. In 2012, she started fostering and later began specializing in medical foster cases and at-risk animals. She refers to herself as a “crazy rescue person” and couldn’t be happier having rescue be her full-time gig! 

Three goofy rescue dogs round out the Leyva household. Generally, there is at least one foster dog that resides there too! When Heidi isn’t fundraising for ATR, she is volunteering so she can be hands-on with the pups she loves!  

ANNIE VERDERAME Communications Director

Annie heads our communications department, showcasing our adoptable pups where ever she can. She is tireless when it comes to arranging that perfect shot with our active models who want to jump, play and give kisses. ATR also calls on her creative genius when it comes time to brainstorm, plan and implement fundraising events big and small.

When Annie isn’t playing with the dogs, taking photos, or posting to Instagram, she is a full-time Pilates teacher, and owns a studio here in Phoenix. It is because of Pilates that Annie met our founder, Geri, and expressed her interest in being involved with ATR.

Annie grew up with dogs, and now has two absolutely adorable rescues of her own(one of which is a part of the ATR alumni!). Volunteering her time to projects close to her heart is not new for Annie. She is passionate about dogs in need and has volunteered at Maricopa County Animal Care and Control with ProjectPAL and OneLove Arizona, and has given her time to Arizona Small Dog Rescue in the past.

Her passion is to spread the word about the importance of spay/neuter while advocating for, supporting, and loving as many homeless animals as she can.

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