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.

It happens in Morgantown, W.Va., too.  Morgantown is an area populated heavily by students who leave town once the semester is over.  This migration of students out of Morgantown at the end of the semester leaves many dogs that were 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, and it comes from generous assistance and unconditional love from unsung heroes.  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 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 is most proud of a rescue that involved a Terrier mix named Betsy.  Betsy was badly burned in a fire leaving her horribly disfigured, and she was 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.

“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,” Fickey said.

According to the ASPCA, nationwide, approximately 20 to 30 percent of dogs are adopted from shelters and rescue organizations 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.

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 its volunteers are working to extend its 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. She took the Poodle back to Animal friends and a home was found for her.

“It’s great.  She’s just running around being happy,” Freeman said.

When the volunteers talk about all of their rescues, the work they have done and what still must be done for these animals, the pride and joy they feel is evident on their faces.   Their smiles show the satisfaction they get in life, rescuing animals that would not have a chance otherwise.

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Lucy, one of Freeman’s five dogs, is one of the hundreds of dogs who are rescued every year.

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Kate Fickey says it brings tears to her eyes when she thinks about all the dogs that have been rescued.  She praises God every day that the animals have found homes and are able to live fuller lives.

Massage has been shown to help abandoned and rescued dogs get back to the loving personalities they once had.

ASPCA Adoption Statistics http://www.aspca.org/about-us/faq/pet-statistics.aspx

West Virginia Animal Shelter Networks http://wvanimalshelter.org/

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