As area shelters fill to the brim with furry victims of the recession, we pause to honor the humans who rescue them. In time for Valentine's Day, here are a few love stories about people who adopted needy dogs and nurtured them to good health, only to discover that they — the new owners, that is — benefited more from the relationship than the pet.
Jean Batts had long wanted to get a dog, but her husband refused.
But when Batts was struck by a car, her husband thought — erroneously — that she was dying. Feeling guilty, he relented “and let me get a puppy,” Batts said.
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That was in 1979, when they lived in Chicago. With the help of therapists, Batts regained her ability to walk. She named the boxer puppy Tappy, for the little dog “seemed to be tap dancing when she was excited.”
Later, when her marriage ended, she and Tappy grew closer.
“She kept me laughing and she kept me walking,” Batts recalled.
When she returned to Lexington in 1985, Batts couldn't find a job. She had always enjoyed drawing and had taken some classes in art and art history, so “out of sheer desperation, I decided to specialize in animal portraits.
“That decision changed my whole life,” Batts said.
Working primarily in pastels with some portraits done in oil, Batts developed a following that resulted in a steady stream of commissions.
Tappy died in 1991 and Batts adopted other boxers—first Derby and then Bison. When Bison developed cancer and died young, “I cried for three years,” Batts said.
For six years she didn't have a dog, and quit walking, which made her arthritis much worse. Batts knew that she needed to get another dog.
When leads to two possible boxers fell through, Batts decided she was open to any dog, as long as it was sweet-natured. From the Lexington Humane Society she adopted an Airedale-briard mix she named Lexi, in 2006.
Thanks to Lexi, Batts is out walking three times a day. Her arthritis pain has lessened and her mobility increased.
And thanks to Tappy, Batts is still painting animal portraits.
-- By Margaret Buranen, special to the Herald-Leader
When Debbie Webb's parents' health declined, she moved them to Lexington so she would be close by.
Alma and George Karem, married for 62 years, had lived in the same Louisville house for 45 years. George Karem was a retired pharmacist and had owned a drugstore.
The Karems settled into their new home, with devoted caregivers on duty around the clock, but they were still lonely. To keep them company, Webb lent her dog to them, switching the dog back and forth every three days or so.
But that arrangement proved unsatisfactory. Webb missed her dog, and the dog was stressed by being shuttled from house to house. And the Karems grew depressed when the dog was back at the Webbs' house.
Webb decided that her parents needed their own dog.
When she and her son stopped at the Lexington Humane Society, they were drawn to a buff-colored labradoodle.
When Rascal put his nose through the cage bars to sniff their hands, “we fell in love with him,” Webb said.
Renamed Shadow because he stays close to George Karem, the dog's gentle nature delights everyone who meets him.
“The caretakers love this dog,” Webb said.
When their caretakers take the Karems for a ride in the country, Shadow sits between them, giving them another bond. He jumps into Alma Karem's lap, making her laugh.
Webb said that with Shadow, “my father feels like someone needs him, and his doctor is amazed at how the dog has helped him.”
The Karems have given Shadow a wonderful home, and he has given them a common interest and someone new to talk to and about. His steady love for both of them is a reminder of their long commitment to each other.
-- By Margaret Buranen, special to the Herald-Leader
When Jane Bryant meets someone new in Woodford County, it doesn't take them long to figure out, “Oh, you're Saber's mom!”
So inspiring is his story that even now, five months after his death last August from cancer, people still want to talk about it.
“They always say what a wonderful story it is,” Bryant said.
For the first seven or eight years of his life, Saber's life was hard. The red woolly husky lived in filth, his fur matted and dingy, chained to a dog house near the side of a creek along a country road.
Eventually, concerned Versailles residents Joyce Fogleman and her husband, Nick Stanfield, along with a team of volunteers from the Woodford Humane Society, convinced Saber's first family to give him up for adoption.
After that, all it took was a trip to the groomer to shed memories of that former existence and prepare Saber for a brand new life.
“He jumped into my lap, and it was if he was saying ‘Look at me! I'm clean! I smell good!” Fogleman recalled.
Bryant, Fogleman's neighbor, fell in love with Saber upon first sight and adopted him a week later.
For the next 2½ years, Saber's life was what many dogs only dream of: the run of the house, with his choice of two beds and a futon to lie on, an endless supply of dog toys and unconditional love. He could go in and out as he pleased with his own fenced-in yard.
Daily, Bryant and Saber would go on long walks together. Almost always, Fogleman went with them. In their mutual love of Saber, the women's relationship grew from neighborly acquaintance to deep friendship.
All those years on the end of a chain made Saber appreciate life all the more.
“When we took walks, you'd think he was pulling a sled. He just walked so hard and so fast. You could tell he felt like it was such a wonderful thing to be out walking,” Bryant said.
Saber's death last summer was devastating to both women.
“I don't know why he took up such a special place in my heart,” Fogleman said. “But he was just the best dog.”
Fogleman and Stanfield decided to honor Saber's memory by adopting their own red woolly husky named Misty from the Northern Lights Sled Dog Rescue last September.
Bryant honors his memory by volunteering with the Woodford Humane Society, working with the agency's calendar and education committees. Her Humane Society calendar features Saber's picture in February. That's hard. But she knows his legacy lives on. His story is just too good not to tell.
“Pets can come back from so much adversity, and you can look at them and say, ‘If they can do it, I can do it,'” Bryant said.
-- By Robin Roenker, special to the Herald-Leader
Christine Martin is never surprised to see a new dog at the end of her driveway. Almost weekly, she finds one there, hungry, cold and in need of a new home. It happens so often, she has lost count of the animals she has helped rescue.
She has never failed to find a home for an animal yet.
“I'll pull out of my driveway, and there will be a dog there that somebody's dropped off,” said Martin, owner of Pet Companions Country Inn, a pet-boarding kennel in Nicholasville. “And I'll just open up the van and get them, and put them in the rescue.”
Since opening her boarding and doggie day care business in 1999 and then moving it to her Nicholasville farm in 2002, Martin has helped place dozens of abandoned dogs into new, loving homes.
And not just the ones dropped off at her doorstep. Whenever the local humane society, the Jessamine County Save Center, lacks space to keep all their available dogs indoors, Martin steps in to board them at her business until they are adopted.
“She's just outstanding. She works tirelessly on behalf of the animals,” said Susan Black, a friend who helped Martin find a home for an abandoned Labrador just before Christmas.
When Martin sees a dog chained outside, starved for attention, she can't help but get involved. Several times, she has successfully encouraged families with dogs in those situations to give them up to new homes where they can live indoors.
“People wouldn't like to be chained up any more than a dog does,” Martin said. “It's cruel. They are companion animals. They want to be with us.”
Right now, Martin has 15 dogs boarded at her kennel and available for adoption. Those dogs include boxer puppies Lucy and Vivian, sisters who were dropped off at the Jessamine County Save Center near death, starved and wormy and anemic. Martin took them both in, and they are thriving. Both are ready for loving homes.
And there's Rocky, a boxer-Lab mix. And Hendrix, a husky-boxer mix. And several pit bulls.
All of them came to Martin, in need of a home. And she's not planning to let them down.
“Dogs that don't like other people, usually I bond with. I have a connection with them. And I just always feel like they find me somehow,” she said.
To see Martin's dogs available for adoption, go to http://petcompanionscountryinn.com.
Jessamine County Save Center also has dogs available, and Martin is boarding some of them. You can see them online at http://jessaminecountysavecenter.com.
-- By Robin Roenker, special to the Herald-Leader
Abused Jack Russell got over his fears and learned to play
We got a beagle from the Humane Society here in Frankfort back in 2002. The lady who owns our mobile home park would not let us keep him, as he was over the weight limit. Snoopy was a Love on the Leash dog, but we had to give him up even though some dogs got to stay who were bigger than Snoopy. But then, that is another story.
My adopted daughter worked at the Humane Society here in Frankfort. She called me and told me they had a dog that was just what I needed. He was a Jack Russell terrier, mixed, 1 year old, with big brown eyes that would make you melt. He had been abused. I knew I was not going to leave there without him.
For three days after we brought Wishbone home, he was scared and would hide from us. But as time wore on, he got used to us. He did not know how to play and we taught him how to play. His favorite game is tug o' war.
He is so spoiled and so loved. He makes us laugh, as he is always doing something funny or cute. We give him a stuffed animal every day (we get them from Goodwill). He looks forward to a toy every day and deserves one.
He was so pitiful-looking when we first got him. He was so thin, but after a lot of TLC, he has picked up weight. He loves to get up in my lap and loves to be rocked. He also likes to have his back scratched and tummy rubbed when he gets back from his morning walks at 4:30 a.m. with his daddy. If I am asleep, he wakes me up by touching my face with his cold little nose.
This little dog has been a blessing to us and can really cheer us up when we are down. He does not like for us to get out of his sight. I hope if people want a dog they will adopt a pound dog, as they need love and have so much love to give back. Wishbone has been with us now for four years. That was the best decision we ever made.
-- Dottie Cozine, Frankfort
Puppy mill survivor gets medical care and lots of love
Gracie is not just your typical 6-year-old Shih Tzu. Gracie is a puppy mill survivor. When rescued, she had little fur due to an untreated thyroid condition. Once adopted, she was immediately taken to the vet to determine other conditions resulting from neglect. Gracie had an eye infection, along with cataracts on both eyes, yeast and bacterial ear infections, and both a fungal and bacterial skin infection. Her hind quarters lacked normal skin and instead had swollen, leathery, dark “elephant” skin. Gracie also needed a dental visit to remove several teeth that had caused a mouth infection leading to jaw deterioration. She had already lost eight teeth and had five more removed. On top of all that, her feet were splayed from living years in a wire cage.
For weeks, Gracie was loaded up on antibiotics, steroids, and other medications, some of which she will take the rest of her life. Although physically and emotionally she is much older than her actual age, she is definitely learning to be a dog all over again — this time a spoiled dog!
Gracie is learning to play with toys as well as her brothers and sisters. She knows when it is time for supper and gets very excited. She has definitely created a bond with her new mommy and daddy and barks whenever she can't see them. Gracie will live the rest of her years in a home filled with love. She will now get to experience what she missed out on the first six years of her life!
In the typical puppy mill, dogs are bred at every heat cycle. When they can no longer provide puppies they are disposed of inhumanely. They live in crates as small as 2 feet by 2 feet with their mate. Cages are never cleaned and they are rarely provided with enough food or water. Cute puppies are sold in pet stores and online; however, mommy dogs like Gracie aren't so cute and happy. Instead of buying, adopt love!
-- Rhonda Vice, Nicholasville
New puppy eased family's grief over loss of another
Lucy came into our lives after the death of one of our beloved Yorkies, Rerun. Rerun fought a brave battle with a brief illness, but ultimately the infection was resistant to antibiotics and there was nothing more that we could do. The void that was left in our hearts and in our family was tremendous. Aside from his adoring mommy and daddy, Rerun left behind our 3-year-old twins, Carter and Perry, his litter mate, Sally, and another Yorkie, his sister, Bailey.
Obviously, Rerun's death was tremendously difficult for my husband and me. We got Rerun and Sally as newlyweds, only two months after we were married.
Because they were litter mates, I could see Sally grieving. My husband and I purposely spelled Rerun's name when mentioning him instead of saying it because of the reaction she had one night when I did say his name. Carter continued to say that Rerun was his favorite puppy when asked. Perry said she was waiting for the butterflies to bring Rerun back. They would tell me that they could hear Rerun barking at times. However, the two biggest things that I noticed were that Carter suddenly became scared of the dark the week after Rerun died, and because I had been so upset at the end of Rerun's illness and his death, if I cried they would instantly ask if I missed Rerun.
My husband and I decided to look for a beagle instead of a Yorkie. How we found Lucy is a long story, but she came from the Nicholas County Animal Welfare Society. She came home on Dec. 13. We surprised the children, and as soon as my husband walked in the door with her, my son Carter ran over to me and asked, “Are you happy now?” Last week something caught me off-guard and Carter caught me wiping tears from my face as I looked at Rerun's picture. He asked what was wrong and then said, “Mommy, you can't cry …we have these many now” as he held up three fingers.
Carter is now sleeping with the big light off in his room, and Perry now tells me that Lucy can turn into Rerun.
Lucy has been extraordinary because she has only been with us for three weeks, but she has filled an obvious void that was created for my children. What she did for me was bring such positive puppy energy back into the house. Our two other dogs are playing more. My husband and I are laughing more. I am so thankful for animal rescues. This little puppy who was found in a brush pile has found a forever home. She has already left her paw prints on my heart.
-- Jennifer Blevins, Lexington
Shelby helped couple learn some important lessons
My husband and I had been married for about a year, and I approached the subject of wanting to get a dog. After much discussion, we decided that we wanted to adopt one from the pound, that we wanted a female between the ages of 2 and 4. So the search began for the perfect dog. I would make weekly trips to the Petsmart and Lexington Humane Society, not to mention browsing online. After a little over six months, my search came to an end.
It was a Saturday in May and I was making my weekly trip into the Petsmart. There was a crate with towels all over it (so you could not see the dog) and a note attached which said, “Please leave me alone, I am having a very bad day.” This definitely piqued my interest. I wanted to know what kind of dog was in the crate. So I moved the towels aside, and there she was, sleeping. She was the most beautiful dog in the world. What really got me were her orange eyelashes and brown nose. Her information card stated that she was 3 years old and a golden/lab/chow mix. At that moment, I knew that she was meant to be my dog.
We adopted Shelby on May 23, 2005, from the Woodstock Animal Foundation. I cannot begin to tell you how much joy she has brought to our lives. My husband takes her for rides in the truck all of the time. They are the best of buddies. Shelby and I walk a mile or two every morning. Shelby will wait for me to come home from work — she lays in front of the storm door, and when she sees my car pull into the driveway, she jumps up and runs to the back door to greet me. No matter what kind of day I had at work, when I leave, I know I will see Shelby waiting for me in front of the storm door, and that always makes me smile.
Shelby has enriched our lives by teaching us a couple of very important life lessons. One is to enjoy the simple things in life. Dogs do not care about material possessions or monetary value; they just want to love someone and receive love in return. Every day is the best day ever in a dog's life. Another lesson is that everyone deserves a chance — look beyond the surface. I mean, I am sure that there were several people who walked by her crate, saw the sign, and didn't think twice about not looking to see what was behind those towels. I am so glad that I looked beyond the surface to see Shelby for the loving dog that she is and that I was able to give her a chance for a great life.
-- Susan Whitney, Lexington
Three-legged dog captured her heart, has been a ‘saint'
In 1998, while living in Danville, my husband passed away and I moved to Nicholasville to be closer to my son. My friend from Danville lost her dog, so I went with her to the Humane Society to look for it. As I was walking down the aisle, a dog jumped up on the cage, looking at me. As I passed back by she jumped up again. I realized she had only three legs.
I went home and was all alone. All I could think about was the look in that dog's eyes. I needed a dog like I needed a hole in my head — my house was decorated all white. The next morning, she was still on my mind so, of course, I went back to the Humane Society and told them I wanted that dog.
I brought her home, and she is the most popular dog at Lake Mingo Park in Nicholasville. Everyone in the Orchard knows Lacy Jane. She has been such a joy and inspiration to so many. She has never torn anything up or messed in the house. She is truly my “saint.” She has helped me make so many friends and is one of the greatest joys of my life.
-- Patsy Rader, Nicholasville
Everyone in the family gota great new friend in Terra
We met our mixed black lab dog, Terra the Terrific, at the Woodford Humane Society, where we volunteered as dog walkers. I do not know her history, but her former life was miserable. She was in a separate room with her eight lovely puppies. From the time I looked in her soulful eyes I knew I would take her home. All her puppies were adopted.
Terra is a very loyal friend and loves to roll on her back to have her belly rubbed. My live-in elderly mother, who has dementia, loves to pet and talk to Terra. My mom lights up when she sees Terra early in the morning greeting her. Terra likes to sit underneath Logan's (my son's) keyboard while he plays, and my son loves her company as well. She is a great friend and keeps us healthy since she loves to take walks with us often. She especially loves to walk with my son Lance when he comes home from Western Kentucky University. Terra is the engine that keeps our family moving!
Then there's Fluffy the bunny. We adopted Fluffy many years ago from the Woodford Humane Society. Fluffy is “toilet” trained and keeps her area very neat and clean. She has the run of our recreation room and has never been locked up in her cage. My elderly mother has a daily ritual of giving Fluffy her carrots and petting her on her back. Fluffy knows the routine as well. It is wonderful to see them interact. If my mom forgets to give the carrots, Fluffy will nudge my mom's foot and sit quietly until my mom gets up. Fluffy is approximately 12 years old and elderly as well. She gets along with Terra the Terrific splendidly. Fluffy is the talk of the house when my sons' friends visit — they have never seen a bunny walk freely in a house! We love our little family member!
-- Hendrika Pauley, Versailles
Adopted Yorkies tell how they aren't pets, but part of family
We, Bentley and Winston, are the Shrader family's Yorkies. We are both rescues (or pound puppies, as some people say) from the Lexington Humane Society.
Some people call their dogs and cats pets, but our mom and dad consider us part of the family. We always sit on their laps or beside them, sleep with them, play with them and are constantly by their side. Mom and dad often wonder why dogs are so affectionate, loyal and love unconditionally. We think it is because God wanted us to show others how to love.
About a year and a half ago, Winston was really ill. Our local vet said if he wasn't taken to a specialist he could die. He recommended the Veterinary Hospital at the University of Tennessee, so Mom and Dad placed Winston in a warm blanket and drove to Knoxville as fast as possible. Winston had to stay for a week and the cost of the care was thousands of dollars. But Mom and Dad said they would always pay what it cost to keep us healthy.
We never need a clock. Somehow we always know when it's time for dad to come home for lunch or from work. We sit by the door and greet him with doggie hellos and wagging tails. And yes, we do the same for mom. We always know when their cars pull in the garage.
Our human sisters also adopted their dogs from the Lexington Humane Society.
Karie adopted her terrier mix 8 years ago. She calls him Snort because he has a reverse sneeze, so he snorts when he sneezes. He makes everybody smile with all his cute antics.
Kelly, our other human sister, and Zane, our human nephew, adopted a black and tan hound named Zeus. He is so big and friendly, but we can't play with him because he would squish us with just one paw.
We surprised our Nanny Bates (mom's mother) on her birthday. She wanted a lap dog, so we presented her with a Brussels Griffon puppy (also from the Lexington Humane Society). She named her Lily, and Nanny says Lily is the best birthday present she has ever received. When Nanny was in the hospital last year, Mom and Dad sneaked Lily into her room and Nanny said Lily was the best medicine she could have.
We don't know why we ended up at the Humane Society, but we are so happy to have been adopted by such a loving and caring family. We can only wish that some day there will be no unwanted animals. But for now, we hope other people can open their hearts, share love and give a forever home to a shelter animal.
-- Karen and Ken Shrader, Lexington