By: Andrew T. McDonald, Sebouh Majarian and Ryan Ross
Man’s best friend. A moniker given to dogs of all sizes, shapes and breeds. Dog owners show adamant love and affection to their pets with the dogs reciprocating that love. But what about the hundreds of dogs who fall through the cracks every year? All over the country, there are dogs that are abused, abandoned and neglected by their owners. With no place to go many times they are left in the wild to fend for themselves. Feeling unloved and alone, they wander the streets with many meeting their fate by the hands of a dog pound worker putting them to sleep. With so many dogs being unnecessarily euthanized every year, it forces the thought that this is not how man’s “best friend” should be treated.
A big problem surrounding pet adoption in Morgantown is that it is an area populated so heavily by students living outside of the town once the semester is over. This migration of students out of Morgantown at the end of the semester leaves many dogs adopted by students left to fend for themselves on the streets, abandoned by their owners. Morgantown resident Casey Fields adopted his pitbull Milo from a no-kill shelter in the spring of 2011. “I think it’s terrible so many helpless dogs are just abandoned when their owners leave town. I just can’t understand how you can show a dog so much love for nine months and then just one day leave it on the street and book” says Fields.
However, there is hope for many of these animals coming from the generous assistance and unconditional love from unsung heroes. Women like Kate Fickey and Laura Freeman have devoted their lives to working closely with the animal-rescue organization, Animal Friends, based out of North Central West Virginia, to get abandoned dogs of the area off the street and into a home where they can be shown the love and affection that they so greatly starve for.
They have seen success stories from some of the most unlikely places. Fickey describes her proudest rescue, a Terrier mix named Betsy that was badly burned in a fire leaving her horribly disfigured and nicknamed “the ware wolf”. Hopes of adoption for the Betsy were slim when her stay in the shelter was getting close to a year. Fickey says that no one wanted to adopt Betsy because of her disfigurement but one day the impossible happened. An elderly woman came in with her daughter and granddaughter looking to adopt and the trio saw Betsy. Smiling, Fickey recounts “ Nobody wanted to adopt Betsy and one day a lady came in with her daughter and granddaughter looking for a dog for her kids and the grandmother exclaimed ‘oh my God she’s beautiful and just like that, Betsy had a home.”
According to the ASPCA, nationwide approximately anywhere from twenty to thirty percent of dogs are adopted from shelters and rescues just like Animal Friends. Animal Friends however, does not accept animals from the public but rather the dogs are rescued from the area’s kill shelters. Most of the animals that they take in are from cases of an elderly owner passing away or the dog is brought to them to escape homes where domestic violence is prevalent leaving the animal with no one to love and take care of it. Animal Friends was established by a close-knit group of friends previously involved in animal rescue for several years.
Despite being in a small area, Animal Friends and their volunteers are working to extend their borders when rescuing animals. Freeman rescues dogs of any breed but says that she has a passion for rescuing Poodles. In her most recent success story she found a two-year-old Poodle who was previously living with a Senior Terrier in a mismatched home. Freeman found out about the dog through her niece. She packed up her car and drove down to South Carolina to find the Poodle to bring back to Animal Friends who had been in a shelter since June. She took the Poodle back to Animal friends and a home was found for her. Soon after Freeman said that she went back to follow up on how the dog was fitting in with her new family and she could not have been more proud of the results. “I went down to South Carolina and picked her up and brought her home and it’s great she’s just running around being happy.” When the women at Woofs talk about all of their rescues, the work they have done and what still must be done for these animals you can see the pride and joy that shows in their faces and the satisfaction they get in life rescuing the animals who otherwise would not have a chance.
Lucy, one of Freeman’s five dogs is one of the hundreds of dogs who are rescued every year being placed in a good home instead of fending for herself on the streets.
Kate Fickey says that it brings tears to her eyes when she thinks about all the dogs that have been rescued. She praises God every day because she believes that’s how the animals have found homes and are able to live fuller lives.”