Her identity unknown, the aging Belgian Shepherd mix with a ragged coat and gray-tinged muzzle faced an uncertain future at the dawn of 2010. Like many lost dogs waiting in shelters around the country, her chances of finding a new home were running out. Or so it seemed, until something magical happened New Year’s Eve.
For its annual New Year’s Eve Rescue, a volunteer team from Animal Friends, a pet adoption/resource center in Pittsburgh, rushed in to save the gentle black dog — christened Glinda — plus 30 other unclaimed canines waiting for homes across western Pennsylvania.
Glinda and the others were whisked off to Animal Friends and given health checks, baths, and behavioral evaluations before moving into comfortable kennels to await adoption and a new life.
It took a while, but Glinda’s advanced age was trumped by her sunny disposition. “Glinda was very sweet, so we used her as part of our pet-assisted therapy program,” says Jolene Miklas, Animal Friends’ director of communications. Then one day a lonely retiree who had recently lost both her boyfriend and beloved old dog stopped by. “Kathy met Glinda, fell in love, and now they’re inseparable,” she says. “You hear this phrase all the time in rescue, ‘Who rescued whom?’ Well, we really feel that way about Kathy and Glinda.”
Founded in 1943, Animal Friends started with one office, one phone, and a few volunteers committed to finding homes for pets left homeless when their soldier-owners shipped off to World War II. Today the shelter has grown into an impressive 30,000-square-foot facility set on 13 acres, which encompasses a one mile dog-walking trail and off-leash dog park. “We have a classroom and library for kids to come learn about animals, and we host training and behavior classes and even BYOD (bring your own dog) wine tasting,” Miklas says. “We’re really a shelter and beyond.”
In addition to rescuing dogs, the annual New Year’s Rescue event aims to bring attention to the importance of outfitting dogs with ID tags, licenses, and registered microchips. “These are all lost pets that have no way to get back to their owners,” says Miklas, who sadly notes some of the dogs sport collars or bandanas when found, but no ID. If they had tags they would most likely be returned to their homes, she says.
To learn more about Animal Friends and their 15th New Year’s Eve Rescue (set for Dec. 30 due to shelter closures on the 31st), visit www.thinkingoutsidethecage.org