As a kid, Tina Roche loved animals and had an overwhelming desire to care for them. In 1969, the 9-year-old volunteered at Kennebec Valley Humane Society where she cleaned animal cages and walked dogs. Four years later, she went across the street and found a job at Pine Tree Veterinary Clinic. Then 13, Roche assisted the veterinarians in surgeries, treatments, pet grooming, and bathing.
Her youthful avocation became a vocation as she left for Florida in 1987 to work in a Florida animal shelter. She returned a year later to reclaim a former job at a Chelsea self storage center. Roche returned with a new friend, Fats, a rescued Persian cat. Fats assisted the Florida animal shelter as a blood donor. Roche drove up Interstate 95 with Fats to join Roche’s two other Persian cats, Ashley and Pinkie, in her Augusta home.
In 1990, Roche and her two siblings inherited their grandmother’s East Boothbay home. She bought her siblings’ shares in 1992, and moved to her new home. She brought three cats and an adopted golden retriever to East Boothbay. She loved two things about her new home: the view and opportunity to adopt rescue dogs. She later adopted a pug named Buddy who became her “soulmate.” In Roche’s almost 30 years of caring for rescue dogs, Buddy remains her favorite “baby.” Buddy has always held a special place in her heart. “All of my furry friends are special, but Buddy really stood out. We connected instantly, and I still miss him,” Roche said.
Her cottage is decorated with pictures, calendars and wall art celebrating pugs. She adopted Buddy after Boothbay Animal Hospital veterinarian Dr. Dean Domeyer told her about the dog’s medical condition. Roche described Buddy as dealing with “mega-esophagus” which made it difficult for him to swallow food. She made a small stand to enable him to eat food and for her to burp him afterwards. Eventually, Buddy’s condition worsened, requiring her to send him away for professional care. Later, she received a mother and son pug duo from a Georgia “kill shelter.” The two homeless pugs were mother, Faith, and son, Bronson. They were found walking down a roadway following a hurricane.
Six years ago, Faith died from cancer, and Bronson is now almost 13 years old with a mild trachea problem. Even though pugs are her favorite, she has cared for other breeds such as Pekinese, collies and even a half-wolf. “I really like the ‘underdogs,’ ones with a medical problem. I think they need love more,” she said. “That’s my true love, caring for animals. I love nurturing and caring for them to bring them back to health.”
Her most recent rescue came from a desperate plea on Facebook. A Boothbay Harbor man needed a home for his 10-year-old Pomeranian. The man’s mother died in 2019, and pets were not allowed in his apartment. On Facebook, he wrote: “I need a friend or angel to care for my dog.” He received an immediate instant message about contacting Roche who agreed to care for the foxy-faced Chloe.
Roche had no problems with taking in a strange new dog. “I had no trepidation at all. I love Chloe, and so do my friends who visit. She has a great personality. She is fluffy, and Bronson really likes her, too,” Roche said. Life remains good for the Pomeranian. She has found a new canine friend in Bronson. The two spend hours laying happily beside each other, and sharing Roche’s love. She also found a new human friend in Roche and countless others who visit Roche on a regular basis. But more importantly, Chloe has found a new warm and loving home.