Lucky Dog Animal Rescue is an all-volunteer nonprofit that rescues homeless dogs and finds loving homes for them through weekly adoption events
By Jane Hess Collins
Animal adoption used to be a handmade sign reading “Free to Good Home” next to a box overflowing with puppies and a desperate looking dad offering to off-load a pup to anyone who walked by. Today adoption is safer and more sophisticated, thanks to organizations like Lucky Dog Animal Rescue (LDAR).
As I drove up to the PetSmart parking lot in Falls Church, the entrance was a circus of volunteers, foster parents and 83 dogs of all sizes and ages who were hoping to find a home. Two volunteers sat behind a table, matching volunteers with dogs who would be ours to watch for the next two hours. I took my place in line, realizing later I had ditched in front of 20 people who had been standing in the 95 degree humidity.
A volunteer gave me a name tag that read “Anika, with Jane” while another volunteer handed me a precious, 2-year-old Pug/Chihuahua mix on a leash. This was Anika. Just rescued from a high-kill shelter the day before, this 13-pounder was a vulnerable doggie bag of fright, confusion and hope.
Could she trust me?
Next came the one-minute training on what to do with our precious pups over the next two hours. All dogs wearing green bandanas around their necks, like Anika, were friendly with other dogs. The ones in red bandana were not. The dogs weren’t allowed to sniff each other since they were in various stages of vaccination, and with 83 dogs in a small space that was a lot harder than it sounded.
We could take the dogs into PetSmart, and most of us did to escape the heat. Anika and I trotted down the side aisles, checking out the other dogs as much as we were allowed, as well as the dozens of people who had shown up to find an adoption match.
It was doggie speed dating.
LDAR did a terrific job of getting the word out about the adoption event, and PetSmart was crammed with people specifically looking for a dog to adopt. Having memorized Anika’s one page biography, I worked the moms and small kids as best as I could. “Anika is just wonderful with kids,” I cooed to the moms as the toddlers tried to pet her. “And she’s so great with other dogs.”
Anika, already traumatized from the last 24 hours, was not about to be on display. She led me to the far corner of the store and planted herself under one of those gigantic, industrial ladders on wheels. If anyone wanted her, they’d have to find her.
And someone did. Coming somewhere from my left, I heard, “Anika! It’s her! Here she is!”
Two women ran toward me, then right past me, then knelt down and peered into Anika’s bewildered face. They had found her picture on Petfinder, and one of the women, Holly, was convinced that Anika was exactly the dog she needed.
Holly coaxed Anika out of her hiding place and tentatively walked her through the store. As she took a few Smartphone pictures of Anika to send to her husband, she tearfully showed me pictures of her beloved dog of 16 years she had to put down recently.
Anika was it. Game over.
We expectantly walked to the adoption table in the back of the room, where 22 other new dog parent-hopefuls were filling out adoption papers. The background check and home visit would take a few days. The adoption fee would cover all vaccinations.
My job had been only to keep Anika on a leash for two hours but I-unjustifiably-took personal credit for her adoption. It was hard not to fall in love with this frightened little bundle who parked herself under a warehouse ladder, and I needed to believe I was part of the reason that she was now spared a life in foster care, a shelter or worse.
LDAR is always looking for pet lovers to be foster parents, help with home visits, transportation, fundraising or adoption events. Contact them here to find out more. If you’re unsure, help out with an adoption event. Just spending two hours with a rescued dog will give you a sense of connection with the thousands of animals who are abused and abandoned every year.
And Anika? She is still listed Petfinder, with an “adoption pending” status.
That means, hopefully, Holly has her new dog and Anika, finally, has found a happy, loving home.
Jane Hess Collins helps and encourages people to give back through her volunteering, writing, speaking, coaching and workshops. You can follow her other Get Out and Give Back volunteer stories on Facebook, Twitter and her website. If you’d like her to volunteer with your organization, contact her here.