Besides the obvious gratification that comes from rescue – helping animals – there is a side benefit to the work. The people.

The individuals I come across in this field are generous, kind, and downright inspiring. Once in a while I meet someone whose commitment and devotion to the animals is so powerful that it brings tears to my eyes.

Yesterday I stumbled upon the story of 23-year-old David Carl Lee, an animal rescuer who has surmounted enormous challenges to save dogs that most people would turn their backs on. Maybe that’s because David knows what it’s like to need some help getting by.

Born premature when he was just 32 weeks old, David was a tiny bundle of life, a little fighter weighing less than three pounds. He survived, but was left physically and developmentally disabled, and medically fragile.

“We scrambled his brain trying to keep him alive,” says his mother, Diane Lee, who lives in Pacific, Washington.

When doctors recommended David get more exercise to benefit his weak lungs and heart, it seemed like a painful prospect. He walks very slowly and has little stamina.

Then Diane read about Old Dog Haven. The nonprofit organization takes in old dogs from death row, finding them new homes where they can live out their days in love and peace. She immediately signed up to be a foster family.

David doesn’t walk alone anymore. In the past year, he has cared for 14 dogs who have passed through his family’s house on the way to their permanent home.

“Lack of stamina, slow walks, some medical problems, and long naps – the kid and the dogs are made for each other,” Diane says. “The dogs prompt him along.”

David is wise about his role as a foster parent, which tends to be a short-lived career. That’s because people foster until their households grow full of animals they can’t bear to part with, eventually running out of space and time to take in more. The best foster families know they are serving the greater good if they let the animals go.

“He’s better than I am about giving them up,” his mother says.

That’s because David knows there are animals out there who still need saving. And he is on a joint mission with them. To rescue each other, one step at a time.