By Susan Spisak
October is widely recognized as Adopt-a-Dog Month in an effort to facilitate adoptions for the many pets waiting for loving, forever homes. Downeast Dog News supports this wholeheartedly and this edition focuses on area shelters and rescues and their adoptables. We’d like to kick that off by sharing a few of their many success stories and how adopting and fostering pets is valuable to homeless pets and their adopters, too.
Rick Douglas is Rebel’s treasured person. Rebel was at PAWS Animal Adoption Center in Camden for many years. Rick is thrilled with his companion, “I consider my time with him a gift. And I figure he would tell me the same if he could.” While this is a great pairing, it wasn’t quick.
Meghan O'Connor, Shelter Director at PAWS, shared that Rebel had a bite history, was very reactive to strangers and animals, and had two unsuccessful adoptions. “I did reactive training with him with the help of volunteers Andrea and her husband Patrick Benson.” She saw much improvement and potential in him, so she resolved to find him a match. Anyone interested would have to work with her and go on several “dates” with Rebel to ensure he’d be comfortable and secure. Only then would she consider adoption. Enter Rick, whom Meghan called special.
“I first met Rebel on a bitterly cold day at the end of December 2020. Until I discovered PAWS Animal Adoption Center in Camden, I had just about given up hope of finding a rescue dog. The pandemic had emptied out most shelters in Maine. But then I saw Rebel's photo online and fell in love. He looked so cute and alert,” said Rick.
He lives in Ft. Kent and made the 5-hour trek south several times a week. The first visit Rebel was aloof, only giving Rick that side eye glance. With every visit, Rebel’s interest grew. After a few weeks, he’d hear Rick’s voice and howled in excitement, and soon after it became clear they had a perfect match. “Rebel now is not reactive when seeing strangers and accepts love from others. He is now able to go to the vets and even the groomers with no issue. Love and trust are what he needed,” explained Meghan.
Rick can’t say enough good things about his snow-loving boy, in fact, he’s even written a story about him and is searching for a publisher. He added his vet bills are “eye-watering” as Rebel is Lyme positive, takes meds for hypothyroidism, and gets routine injections for itchy skin. “I don’t begrudge the treatments because he deserves to be happy and healthy after four years in the shelter. Yeah, four.”
PAWS has another success in-the-making with longtime resident, Karter. While weary of strangers initially, as soon as he knows someone, he is sweet. “He is another boy who needs to re-learn trust. Every staff member at PAWS loves him and if we all did not have homes full of other animals, any of us would take him home,” said Meghan.
Shannon Nachajko, Director and Founder of Catahoula Rescue of Catahoula Rescue: Houlas & Heelers, Inc. based in Warren, said she became aware of an Alabama heartworm positive mom, Bernadette, and her seven pups from one of her southern volunteers. Sadly, some of the pups had injuries that were related to injuries associated with BB gun pellets.
They are/were being fostered in states up and down the eastern seaboard from Tennessee to Maine. “Some are fosters that have been with us for years and others are new to us and even better, some are fosters with intent to adopt. This means that they are fostering the puppy to see if there is a connection that works with them and their family, resulting in a fabulous ‘foster fail.’”
STORMI – ALABAMA PUP
So far, only two of the pups have been adopted, but fosters and adopters alike are ecstatic. “I feel that anytime a dog is saved it is a success, no matter the outcome. Sometimes we are able to give them the forever home. Sometimes we get sad news and have to ease the suffering that they are dealing with. No matter which way it is, at least they are not alone. They are surrounded with love, kindness, and these are the memories they are left with.”
Cathy Peralto, Adoption Coordinator for Almost Home Rescue of New England, told the story of Twinkie who came to them from their rescue partner in Mississippi. She was exposed to distemper at a shelter, and while she had no neurologic issues, it affected her teeth, resulting in many extractions.
Older dogs or those with medical issues like Twinkie may spend much time in foster care—or they may never get out of a shelter in the first place, explained Cathy. “With a lack of foster homes, it is very difficult for rescues to commit to bringing adult southern rescues to New England without adoption interest. We thankfully had a foster that was willing to foster Twinkie for however long it took to find her home.”
Fortunately, it didn’t take long. Nancy K. Oxton, BSC, MA, MS, said she and her husband had the privilege to meet this wonderful older gal, Twinkie, at the Pet Rock in the Park event in August 2022. Twinkie had only been in foster care for two weeks at the time. “We fell instantly in love. We visited with her several times that day during the event and spent the next several days talking about her gentle wonderfulness. She joined our kookie family a couple weeks later.” Nancy said her name grew into Dixie and she is their Queen Bee. “She spends her days either sleeping ‘four paws up’ on our couch or micromanaging her pack of wacky Dachshunds, a Corgi, and kitties.
Dixie runs like a gazelle on the family acreage, is the cheerful hoarder of all toys, and is so revered she’s lavished with homemade meals. “I'd say the only down-side is that since she lives with so many little dogs, she believes she is a little lap dog.” Thus, when watching TV, the couple must lean around her big ears to see it. “She is literally the best friend we’ve ever had, and we can’t imagine our lives without her silly self in it.”
Wendy and Shawn Sparrow adopted bonded pair Lilac and Blue from Responsible Pet Care of Oxford Hills (RPC) in October of 2022. The dogs spent almost eight months waiting for an adoption there, and RPC staffers had hoped the Staffordshire Terriers, who had been relinquished by their owner, could find a home together.
Wendy said they had entered the dog adoption arena after their cat died. “We spent many hours scrolling through PetFinder, which was a bit overwhelming as the need for adoptive homes was so great and hundreds of dogs were available. We did end up limiting our search to senior dogs and these two were included as they’re 7-years-old. It was the cute ‘getting married marketing’ that made us notice them,” she said. (RPC staged a wedding for the dogs, complete with outfits and another dog as officiant to draw attention to them on social media.)
The Sparrows traveled the four-hours to RPC and both dogs took to them immediately. Wendy knew the shelter was at a point where they might split the bonded pair up, which broke her heart. While the Sparrows never intended to adopt two dogs, they knew they had the resources to care for both.
They deliberated on their decision, and when they were comfortable, jumped in. Wendy said Lilac has gained 13 pounds at home after struggling in the shelter due to long-term GI issues. She said the shelter did a great job of stabilizing her, but she’s flourishing now with the help of their vet. The Sparrows are pleased with their decision, and Lilac and Blue are settled in and love them. It was almost a year to get to this happy ending, and rest assured, it matters to Lilac and Blue who get to grow old together.
LILAC AND BLUE IN THEIR NEW HOME
Thank you to all the staffers of shelters and rescues, not to mention the fosters who work hand in hand with them to set dogs up for successful adoptions. For those interested in adopting or fostering, check out the shelter/rescue info in this edition.