Pictures are important for rescues: A Golden retriever with a blurry photo might not receive any applications; with a good picture, the same dog might have a home in days. That’s one reason black dogs don’t get as much attention as lighter ones—they’re harder to see in photographs. Says Horowitz: “People like to make eye contact.”
The first time the rescue coordinator at the shelter in Florence, South Carolina, sent out a photo of Chi Chi in the hopes that Lucky Dog would help, Horowitz didn’t respond. Chi Chi was cute and a good weight, but white dogs with freckles aren’t as popular as poodle mixes, Shih Tzus, or yellow Labs. Horowitz was short on fosters—she couldn’t pull a dog who might not get adopted quickly.
She can’t take every dog. She gets requests from shelters several times a day. Pet owners e-mail to ask if she’ll find a new home for their dogs. Some tell her they’re moving or just had a baby; others say their dogs became aggressive or they can’t afford the vet bills. The woman in Florence kept e-mailing about Chi Chi, saying what a great dog she was, and Horowitz finally said yes. A sign went up on Chi Chi’s kennel in mid-October: going to rescue.
Many rescue organizations are breed-specific—Mid-Atlantic German Shepherd Rescue, Maryland Westie Rescue—but Horowitz takes every breed, from yorkies to rottweilers. She looks for a variety: big and small dogs, mutts and purebreds: “If I’ve already got two black Labs and I have one spot open and the shelter sends me a photo of a yellow Lab, a collie, and a black Lab, I’m not going to add the black Lab,” she says.
Puppies are a challenge—they have to have two of three vaccinations before she’ll take them or they might get sick on the transport van. She doesn’t like to separate siblings for the first few weeks, and only a handful of fosters will take a litter of puppies.
“Puppies are hard to have to say no to,” says Horowitz. “It is so disheartening to think that a puppy is going to be put to sleep in a shelter.”
She tries not to have too many older dogs at once. There are people who want older dogs—Lucky Dog recently found a home for a ten-year-old Pomeranian named Clover—but they’re harder to find.
Horowitz has found that people are more often willing to open their hearts and homes to dogs with health problems. Horowitz got Raine, a boxer mix with a brain disorder, from Rocky Mount, Virginia, about five hours southwest of DC. The puppy—found in a dumpster—fell down a lot, had trouble with steps, and struggled with being on a leash. A physical therapist and Lucky Dog volunteer, Anne Wuhrer, agreed to foster Raine and work with her on balance problems. Wuhrer wasn’t sure Raine would get adopted: While other dogs played and greeted strangers at an Alexandria adoption event in December, the dog was so cold and scared that she could barely stand. A volunteer wrapped her in blankets and put her in a grocery cart. Soon a couple with a young daughter had put in an application.
Two weeks later, Wuhrer got an e-mail from Raine’s new family. “She has gained confidence and has perfected the art of leaping from the couch or my bed to the floor,” they wrote. “She is not quite able to jump up yet, but I imagine it will only be a matter of time.”
Lots of people stopped to pet Chi Chi when she was being fostered, but few were interested in adopting her. Jason Paraiso was taking the dog on three-mile runs every morning, which kept her from gnawing on the furniture. If anyone asked about Chi Chi, he and his wife, Carla Cleveland, told the truth: If she didn’t get exercise, she was going to chew.
“You get protective,” says Cleveland, who put Chi Chi in a seat belt on the way to an adoption fair at Petco in Rockville. “If you know the dog is going to a good home, then you’re okay with it, even if you are a little bit attached.”