By Melissa Bell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 25, 2010; DZ16
Two weeks ago, Local Living ran a story about the abundance of purebred dogs up for adoption and the rescue organizations that find them homes. Some readers, such as Matt Prestone of Fairfax City, wished space had been given to rescue groups that take in any dog, regardless of its breed.
"There are so many other groups out there who are not breed rescue organizations, who will take in any dog, any cat, of any age . . . and hope that they get adopted," Prestone said. He recommended Friends of Homeless Animals (http://www.foha.org), from which he and his wife have adopted more than 10 dogs.
Other readers wrote in to share their stories of bringing a rescue dog home. Here are a few of them. You can read more at http://www.washingtonpost.com/pets.From skittish to beloved
A little over two years ago, my family and I were watching the local news and saw a story about Virginia authorities removing 500 dogs from a puppy mill. We learned that the Washington Animal Rescue League would be taking in a large share of these dogs, and it didn't take long to come to a family decision that we should look into giving one of them a permanent home.
We found ourselves drawn to a little Cavalier King Charles spaniel. When we were given time to interact with her, we found a dog that was skin-and-bones because of malnourishment. Her teeth were not properly developed, and her paw pads weren't normally calloused because she spent all of her time in a wire cage. She was also very skittish.
After performing due diligence, the group selected us to be the dog's new parents.
Today, Liberty has transformed into an affectionate, funny, even goofy, beloved member of the family. It wasn't always easy. But now she's a little dog who wakes me up in the morning with kisses on the nose, who slams her paw down impatiently on the laptop keyboard when she thinks you're not giving her enough attention and who noses her leash into the middle of the room to let you know she wants to go with you in the car. She has been a delightful addition to the family.
Michael Freeman, Dunkirk
'The joy of our life'
After losing our beloved pets, Cory and Willy, to cancer, our house was so empty. After the initial shock, we needed to fill the house again with love. Being dachshund lovers, we went to the Dachshund Rescue of North America Web site (http://www.drna.org) and found two beautiful black-and-tan standard dachshunds. After speaking with representatives of the group, we knew right away these were the girls for us. Gretta and Hilde have been with us for four years and have been the joy of our life.
About a year ago, my partner went to pick up an envelope at the Vola Lawson Animal Shelter in Alexandria. He decided to walk through to see the dogs and came across Duncan, a little black-and-tan dachshund that stole his heart. I got a phone call within minutes saying that Duncan was there in a cage. My first response was, "Get him! I'll be there in 10 minutes." After paperwork and a few visits, he was ours.
We are animal lovers, from fish to a 20-year-old cat and, of course, three beautiful dogs. Though sometimes it is challenging to get them all to the vet, we are very blessed to have our house filled again.
Andrew Batey, Alexandria
We adopted our 6-year-old German shepherd, Lily, from Virginia German Shepherd Rescue (http://www.shepherdrescue.org) in 2004. She likely was the runt of her litter -- with her tilting left ear, her too-long nose and her tail a bit out of place -- and was given up to an animal shelter as a puppy. She was rescued from there but spent the next year in three foster homes recovering from illness and trying to gain weight.
We adopted her when she was about a year old. She is now a Canine Good Citizen and a certified therapy dog with the group People Animals Love. Lily is a tribute to runts, rescue groups, foster parents and therapy dogs everywhere.
Lucy Swartz, Kensington
Truly great Danes
We've had five Danes through the Mid-Atlantic Great Dane Rescue League (http://www.magdrl.org). We adopted Kooper in July. He's a lovely dog who, at 184 pounds, is our largest Dane. Kooper was 4 years old when we adopted him, and we're his fourth owners. He is good with all people and all dogs, heels beautifully on a leash and is a joy to live with.
People give dogs up for all kinds of reasons, but the foster family had him for three months (and turned other adopters down waiting for the right ones), and we are very fortunate indeed. We never expect perfect and have always gotten loyal and loving.
When people ask how we can adopt a dog that we know may have a few short years [Great Danes usually live seven to 10 years], we are always quick to point out that losing a dog means another homeless dog now can have a home and a new lease on life. Ask us who our favorite dog is, and it's always the recently departed, quickly followed by the recently adopted.
Lori and Stuart Levin, Chevy Chase
Three legs, all heart
I found Gracie, a lovely mixed-breed dog with soulful eyes and a beautiful face, at the Washington Animal Rescue League. Her story was a sad one. She came to the group from a shelter in West Virginia, where she was slated to be euthanized. It was assumed by the staff that she got caught in some type of animal trap. Her right rear leg was badly mangled and infected, and the medical staff tried to save it but ultimately had to amputate.
Gracie is quite popular in our neighborhood. She likes other dogs and loves all people and has a high profile due to the absence of her leg. But the loss of her limb has not limited Gracie. She runs like the wind and is the happiest dog I have ever met. At the dog park, people who do not know her are astonished at her speed and agility.
About a year after I adopted her, Gracie and I went through the orientation for People Animals Love. We now do monthly pet therapy visits at a nursing home in McLean. We have also visited the Walter Reed hospital, where so many young soldiers are returning from the war with the loss of their arms and legs.
MaryAnn Griffin, Washington
The perfect match
I turned to Petfinder on the Web and put in the categories "female," "small," "terrier mix" and "young," and out popped an incredibly adorable puppy named Cassie. I had to fill out a six-page application form and have four reference letters. Since Cassie was in demand, I had five people write letters, including one from Ingrid Newkirk, the co-founder and head of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. I wiped out the competition.
Cassie has been certified by the group People Animals Love and visits the Washington Home and Community Hospices the third Tuesday evening of every month. Cassie is also a volunteer model for Critters for the Cure, a group that raises funds for women with breast cancer who cannot afford to pay for treatment.
Shari Barton, Washington
Don't give up
I wanted to point out that there are many rescue groups for hard-to-place dogs, such as Pets With Disabilities (http://www.petswithdisabilities.org) and Homeless Animals Rescue Team (http://www.hart90.org). I was fortunate to find a wonderful new home for my dad's dog, Sparkle, after my father passed away. People should never give up on finding a new home for a dog in need. There are so many kind people out there who can help. Sparkle has a wonderful new mom now.
Dayna Silberman, Rockville
Patience pays off
My husband and I adopted a 3-year-old cairn terrier 2 1/2 years ago. After extensive interviewing and paperwork, we drove five hours to West Virginia to meet the foster mom and pick up the dog. The first three months were very tough. Jack was a terror. Some of his habits we inherited were snapping at and running into moving cars and jogging humans. He also would bolt out the door if it opened. There were times when my husband thought Jack wasn't going to fit in and we might have to return him to the rescue agency.
Well, I'm happy to report that Jack has settled into being a happy-go-lucky little cairn. He's slow to get up in the morning, preferring to sleep late. He's great on a leash and a great companion for walking. He enjoys watching TV and barks at the animals he sees on the screen. It took a lot of patience and a lot of love, but he really is a neat and very intelligent little dog. I can't imagine my life without him. We are looking into adopting another dog through a rescue agency.
Jean Cathey, Sykesville, Md.
'I like you! Take me with you!'
Jazzmyn, a papillon mix, and I met back in early October 2004. She was being fostered by Beth Purcell, one of the founding members of the Paw Pad, a small rescue agency. Her partner was working in the Virgin Islands at the time. On occasion, he'd bring home a rescued dog, as there are lots of strays in St. Croix. Jazz was found hungry and scared at a gas station. One pleasant fall day, I went over to Beth's house. She warned me that she had several dogs there. Just after I entered her house, there was Jazz up on her couch getting in my face as if to say, "I like you! Take me with you!" It was love at first sight.
A few weeks later Jazz was mine, and she has been such a wonderful companion, seeing me through many good and bad times. She's a very social, sweet, sensitive little girl. We joined People Animals Love in the spring 2007. We have visited several sites including the VA hospital, the U.S. Armed Forces Retirement Home and Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library and currently make two visits a month to the Specialty Hospital of Washington in Northeast.
Nan Raphael, Washington
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