“Amanda to the Rescue”
What: A new television series featuring Amanda Giese, the founder of the Washougal-based Panda Paws Rescue, a nonprofit that helps medically needy, special needs and hospice animals, and her family as they work to give “differently abled” animals a second chance.
When: 9 p.m., Sundays
Where: On the Animal Planet channel and online at animalplanet.com/tv-shows/amanda-to-the-rescue/
With its long gravel drive and backyard overlooking nearby pastures, the property that houses Panda Paws Rescue looks pretty typical for rural Washougal.
Go inside, however, and it’s soon apparent this is no ordinary place.
For starters,the animals who find themselves in the care of Panda Paws aren’t your typical pets. Most are medically needy. Many were born with malformations. Some are injured wildlife. Others have come to the Washougal animal rescue for end-of-life hospice care.
But if the animals themselves don’t give it away, homeowner Amanda Giese, the vivacious — and, yes, bald and tattooed — star of the new Animal Planet show, “Amanda to the Rescue,” definitely will.
“Amanda has that ‘it factor,'” says Christopher Voos, an executive producer for Indigo Films, which created the show for Animal Planet’s Sunday night 9 p.m. slot. “Doing this type of show can be intense, but she is dedicated to the animals’ welfare and to educating people.” On a recent weekday afternoon, Giese, who founded the nonprofit Panda Paws Rescue about 10 years ago, sat in her living room with Voos; a Panda Paws board member; and five dogs, including “Bunny,” an 8-week-old rescue pup born with malformed front limbs, and Giese’s three spaniels: Bullfrog, Garnet and Groot.
“I wanted the show to be extremely authentic to my life,” Giese says. “Most people would be worried about having the crew around when they’re in the bathroom, or walking around naked … but I was more worried about getting our message out and being authentic.”
Production crews spent eight months filming every minute of Giese’s life — including time with her partner, Gary Walters, or “G” as he’s known on the show and two teenaged children, 16-year-old Beast and 14-year-old Jade, both students at Washougal High School — and adventures rescuing a variety of animals in need.
The result is an entertaining, family-focused show that highlights the plight of special needs animals and encourages would-be pet owners to give “differently abled” rescue animals a chance to find their “forever home.”
A recent, two-part episode showed Amanda’s journey to Puerto Rico six months after Hurricane Maria devastated the island and her return trip home with three special needs animals in need of some tender loving care and a new home.
“We helped raise money for Second Chance Animal Rescue of Puerto Rico (SCAR) and met (SCAR founder) Bonnie Lukas,” Giese said. “They call her ‘Pirate Bonnie.’ And she truly had that pirate mindset. After the hurricane, she was hunkered down in her house with no cell phone, no way of knowing if help would arrive, and she just thought, ‘this is it,’ and was ready to go down with her ship.”
On the Panda Paws’ Facebook site, Giese posted a photo of herself with “Badass Pirate Bonnie” and Tara Zurawski, of the group Project Second Chance, a Puerto Rican community-based animal rescue caring for homeless dogs on Puerto Rico’s streets.
“It was beautiful to see three rescuers from three very different places come together, work hard together, get along and form a lifelong bond and respect for one another,” Giese stated under the photo of the three women. “The three of us women are all very different but our hearts are all in the right place and we are all rescuing for the right reasons.”
Ending homelessness, abuse and neglect of all animals is the mission of Giese’s Panda Paws Rescue organization, and messages she promotes on the Animal Planet show, which premiered on Oct. 28, and airs at 9 p.m. on Sundays.
“As long as there’s an animal in need of rescue, my family will be there to help them find homes,” Giese says in the show’s opening credits, which prominently feature Washougal and its “gateway to the gorge” status.
Although the show could have relied on Portland’s popularity, Voos said he knew right away he wanted to focus on Washougal. Not only was it authentic since Giese and her family moved to the town in 2016 to help Beast and Jade, both motocross racers, be closer to the Washougal MX Park, but Voos thought the town had great character.
The co-producer loved the area so much, he recently relocated from his home in Austin, Texas, to Washougal.
The town is the perfect backdrop for the Animal Planet show, and Giese says her yard, which has a little over two acres of running room for the animals and, soon, a wildlife rehabilitation structure, is an added bonus.
Jade and Beast, who feature prominently on “Amanda to the Rescue,” are both active members of the Washougal High community. Beast, the family’s athlete, is on the Washougal wrestling team. And Jade, who says Washougal High is the best, most accepting school she’s attended, may soon follow in her mother’s footsteps.
“Jade dreams of going into the veterinary world,” Giese says of her youngest child, adding that both of her children help with the rescue.
“My family’s my ‘ride or die,’ Giese says on the show. “When you live in an in-home rescue, everyone has to pitch in.”
Now that the show has a few episodes under its belt, Giese and her children are starting to get more recognition from locals who have seen them on the Animal Planet channel, in the media or online.
“Other kids come up to Jade and Beast at school and think it’s cool that they’re on the show,” Giese says. “The show is very family focused and we have a lot of families who watch it with their own children.”
In fact, many parents of special needs children have reached out to Giese to thank her for featuring differently abled animals.
Despite the sometimes hectic, all-consuming demands of running an animal rescue — imagine feeding newborn animals every 45 minutes, all day and night, for weeks on end or carrying a 4-ounce premature puppy around in your sports bra and feeding him liquid from your finger just to keep him alive — Giese says it’s all worth it.
“I love this life,” she says. “It allows me to be creative, to be helpful. If you put me in a cubicle, I would go insane. I’m not meant for a desk job.”
Viewers would probably agree that Giese’s talents are best in the middle of a great animal rescue or adventure.
Giese says she would love to see the show continue: “We’re keeping our paws crossed for a season two.”