LABRADOR REFUGE DOG RESCUER REPAYS LOYALTY.
ACTON - They help the blind and people using wheelchairs traverse cities independently, find earthquake victims buried in rubble, and lift the spirits of cancer patients and the elderly.
So when Labrador retrievers are abandoned by their owners, LouVon McKim comes to their rescue.
``I just felt like I had to pay back a breed that does so much for people,'' said McKim, who just retired after serving 24 years as librarian at Canyon Springs Elementary School. ``What amazes me is that people give them up. I'm addicted to Lbs.''
The 55-year-old Acton woman is the foster dog coordinator for Southern California Labrador Retriever Rescue, a nonprofit organization that adopts Labs about to be destroyed in shelters and places them with foster homes until they are adopted.
Since the organization was established four years ago, about 100 volunteers have helped place an average of one Lab per day in a new home, she said.
Among the dogs currently up for adoption is a 10-year-old female named Shadow who was given up by her owners because they were moving, and a 2-year-old female named Kaboom who was abandoned along a roadside in the Antelope Valley.
Most of the Labs rescued from shelters have been neglected by their owners, while a few have been abused and need medical treatment, McKim said.
``We had one dog that had a metal peg through his foot and a leash running from his collar to the peg to hold him,'' McKim said. ``Another dog had been cut by a husband trying to get back at his wife. But most of the abuse we see is neglect. The dogs are just put in the back yard and forgotten about.''
Before the dogs are adopted, they are exposed to other dogs to determine if they are sociable, and must pass a rigorous exam by ``Furby the Test Cat,'' a no-nonsense fuzz ball that refuses to play games.
As each Lab approaches the cat and sniffs her, Furby simply looks up at the dog lazily. Further sniffing prompts a mild swat on the nose.
``Furby is the perfect test cat because she doesn't run, so they don't chase her,'' McKim said.
Most Labs are also gentle-natured, even with felines, she added, which is why they are good pets for the elderly and the sick.
``Labs are America's favorite dog, and the reason for that is they are very intelligent and very trustworthy, and they are bred to do things for people,'' McKim said.
One of McKim's four pet Labs is about to give birth to puppies that will be trained by the Guide Dogs of America in Sylmar. She said she has been trying to raise guide dogs for seven years, but none of her other Labs passed the required physical exam.
``Guide dogs have to have impeccable breeding,'' she said. ``They are the top of the line.''
For lovers of this gentle breed, however, all Labs are top of the line.
Lab rescue foster parent Sherita Cox of Chatsworth said saving the lives of these loyal animals is extremely satisfying.
``They are so lovable and have such a nice, mellow temperament,'' she said. ``And their tails are always wagging.''
Information about volunteering for Lab rescue or adopting a new pet is available on the organization's Web site, www.sclrr.org, or by calling toll-free (888) 554-LABS.
(1 -- color) A pair of black Labrador retrievers wait at dog rescuer LouVon McKim's home in Acton for adoptive families.
(2 -- color) LouVon McKim, a coordinator for Southern California Labrador Retriever Rescue, plays with Kaboom.
David R. Crane/Staff Photographer