by Lou Mancinelli
This past weekend 12 dogs who might otherwise have been killed were transported from the Darlington County Humane Society dog shelter in South Carolina to the Doylestown area. Four of those dogs had already been scheduled to be euthanized.
Each year approximately 1.2 million dogs are put to death in shelters across the country, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. And each year, rescue groups desperately vie to save as many as those dogs as possible. Almost Home Dog Rescue (AHDR), an all volunteer non-profit group based in Doylestown, is one of those organizations.
Last Saturday the group hosted its Second Annual 5K 4 K9’s in Fort Washington State Park. Founded in 2008, the group pulls dogs from high-kill shelters in the south and midwest, and brings them to the Philadelphia area, where the dogs are paired with foster families, with the hope of being adopted.
The members of AHDR pull, or save, about 500 dogs a year from these shelters, where the fate of the dogs might have been to be put to death. The 5K 4 K9’s marathon is aimed to fundraise and spread awareness. This year AHDR faced an unexpected $20,000 in expenses. One of the dogs swallowed a ball that lodged in its intestine, which turned out to be a $5,500 snack. Two puppies who came from North Carolina caught pneumonia after being in this area for one week, producing a $3,000 veterinarian bill.
“Really, the biggest requirement is having some time and love for the dog,” said Carolyn Powers, one of the members, who oversees the pulling of dogs from different shelters.
For anyone interested in having a dog with less of a long-term commitment, or perhaps for someone interested in learning about the personalities of different breeds, being a foster parent or family for a dog is one way to accomplish that wish. That way you can find out if the dog plays well with kids, or if he’s a good watch dog.
Powers joined the group soon after it launched. Her family was looking for a dog, and when she researched different options, like adoption, she came across AHDR. The group pulls all sorts of breeds at all ages, though many are puppies or younger pit bull and labrador mutts.
“We thought that fostering would be a nice way to find out the right fit for the family,” said Powers. “I love every dog, but every dog isn’t a fit.” She and her family ended up adopting the first two dogs they fostered. “Once the dog comes into your house, you can really see what their personality is.”
For foster families, AHDR covers the costs of spaying or neutering and the cost of shots and other veterinarian visits. They also provide anything you might need, from crates to leashes and food too. To become a foster family, a member of AHDR conducts a home visit and gets to know the potential foster parent. A fraternity at Delaware Valley College was one of the most recent families Powers interviewed to join AHDR. According to Powers, each dog stays an average of three weeks.
“For the most part, we’re really looking for friendly, happy dogs with not a lot of issues,” Powers said. Right now, she’s fostering eight dogs, seven of them puppies, at her home in Ambler.
AHDR asks foster parents and families to teach the dogs the basics. If the dog is not housebroken, teach him how to live in a home. Teach him how to behave on a leash and how to sit. The dogs that come from high-kill shelters may have some separation anxiety or lease aggression, Powers explained, but AHDR will help you work through it. If there is additional training or rehabilitation required, they cover the cost.
“I don’t personally have any children and I wanted to find a way to give back to the world somehow,” said Heidi Waters, a Doylestown resident who works in pharmaceutical research and is one of four AHDR co-founders. “All we want to do is save the dogs.”
For Waters, it’s a release as much as it is a service. “We all have these pretty stressful day jobs,” she said, talking about the group’s founding members and those, like Powers, involved in its everyday operations. “The dog rescue is the thing I think that makes me the happiest.”
The dogs come from the high-kill shelters with broken spirits, unsure, wondering what the future holds, anxious, sometimes days away from being killed. Many of the shelters are overpopulated, Powers explained, because there are so many stray dogs running around who are not spayed or neutered.
“It’s so nice to see the dogs put everything behind them when they are in the right environment,” said Waters.