Life can be sweeter the 2nd time around; Canine rescue groups breed loyalty, love.
In Central Massachusetts and beyond, men and women are being lured into networks that alter their lifestyles. Drawn by their favorite breed of dogs, they answer telephone calls day and night and meet at pickup spots to help Belgian Malinois, basset hounds, Irish setters and nearly all other breeds on their journey to a new home.
Ann G. Lozier's chosen breed is Belgian Malinois, the masterful canines sometimes used in law enforcement and often mistaken for German shepherds.
Ms. Lozier, who lives in Hubbardston, admits to being skilled at inspecting prospective homes for Belgian Malinois, but laments that she is less skilled at letting go of rescued dogs after taking them in as foster placements.
That combination of abilities has worked just fine for her two Malinois, a 62-pound male named Riley and a 48-pound female called Lyca, which came from homes in which neither they nor their owners were happy.
Like a lot of people in breed rescues, from Affenpinschers to Yorkshire terriers, Ms. Lozier was unsuspectingly drawn into the rescue world by the breed itself.
More than eight years ago, she was looking for a protective dog that would thrive on outdoor activities, but not be too big for her to handle.
After thorough research, including listening to breeders and owners, she decided on a Belgian Malinois.
"I liked the way the dogs will strongly bond to one person and I like that they're an active dog. I can go hiking with them," Ms. Lozier said.
Exercising a Belgian Malinois is not optional. Without an outlet for their energy, Ms. Lozier said, they can become destructive.
"Most of the rescues we get are from people who really love them, but just can't handle them."
Ms. Lozier walks Riley and Lyca about six miles a day, seven days a week, in heat, snow and torrential downpours. Leaving them in a fenced-in yard would be inadequate.
"They like the interaction with their people. It's the pack. The pack goes for a walk," she said.
Owners often surrender the dogs to shelters, which sometimes contact www.Malinoisrescue.org to come and get them. The Belgian Malinois' journey to a new home begins with a visit to a veterinarian for an examination, shots, and spaying or neutering, as needed.
The group has a list of people waiting to add a Belgian Malinois to their families. While intake and placement specialists do the matchmaking, the dogs are placed in foster homes that have been inspected by volunteers for safety and space.
The next task is to bringing the Belgian Malinois to its new home, which is either done by one volunteer or, for long trips, a series of volunteers who set out a route and meet at places where the dog can be safely transferred from one car to another until it gets to the new home.
The "underground railroad," as some rescue workers call it, is a common element of breed rescue organizations.
Patricia A. Lovett of Holden is well acquainted with the transport and fostering system for her beloved breed, the Irish setter. She has been volunteering with the Irish Setter Club of America since 1982, when she was living in Brooklyn, N.Y., and found an Irish setter tied to a tree.
Years later, she brought American Airlines pilot Steven M. Churchill into the lifestyle on their first date - a fundraiser dog walk.
Known in town as "the Irish setter lady," Ms. Lovett has plush accommodations for several foster dogs at a time. Time to spend with the dogs, large sleeping crates and custom-height water bowls, a grooming center complete with a dog bathtub, a fenced outdoor play area and dog beds throughout the house combine make her home a foster dog spa.
Earlier this month, three Irish setters stayed with Ms. Lovett and Mr. Churchill as they checked the dogs for behavior "quirks" while waiting for permanent homes. Their owner had been hospitalized and was not expected to recover sufficiently to continue caring for them.
One Christmas Eve "they just kept coming" and she ended up with seven Irish setters sitting under her tree until they found new homes. One of the dogs came from a woman in Rhode Island who had purchased it from a breeder in Canada, but did not want it anymore.
The Irish Setter Club of America contacted the breeder, who welcomed the dog back.
The network of Irish setter rescuers, like many other breed rescues, operates coast to coast, with people conferring at dog shows, and using the shows as a stop in their transportation system.
While at an Irish Setter Club of America competition in Florida this year, Ms. Lovett spent hours with other volunteers grooming Irish setters en route to their new homes. Club members brought the dogs to the show to meet volunteers who took them on the next leg of the route.
A person might buy an Irish setter because it is pretty, but have no interest in its playfulness, intelligence or desire for attention.
Left on its own untrained, Ms. Lovett said, an Irish setter "will eat a porch."
"You can't just bring a dog in the house and put him on a shelf and say that's that," she said.
Dawna L. Hartman of Spencer, intake coordinator for New England Basset Hound Rescue, which is based in New Hampshire, envisioned owning a massive, fluffy dog until she happened upon a sick little basset hound 20 years ago.
A dog lover by nature, Ms. Hartman was a college student working for a veterinarian when a pet shop employee brought a basset hound puppy into the office to have it euthanized.
It was too sick to sell, Ms. Hartman recalled, and the shop owner needed the death certificate to get back the money she had paid the wholesaler for the dog.
"It came home with me," she said. "I ended up keeping him and fell in love with the breed."
After getting married and settling down, she started volunteering with New England Basset Hound Rescue and is now intake coordinator. She takes calls from people surrendering dogs and from shelters and veterinarians that end up with surrendered basset hounds.
She has two rescued basset hounds, Bonnie and Hoover, "after the vacuum, not the president," she said. And she has a foster basset hound named Charlie.
"We have an adoption application on our Web site (www.NewEnglandBasset-HoundRescue.org). That's how most people find us," Ms. Hartman said. The application goes to the adoption coordinator, who does a background check, calling the applicant's veterinarian and the animal control officer in his or her hometown. "And she does a home inspection," Ms. Hartman said.
"We make sure they go to experienced basset hound owners because they're not the easiest breed to raise," she said, adding that the organization rescues and finds homes for about 200 basset hounds a year.
Bred as rabbit hunters, basset hounds are single-minded about scents and whatever they want.
Still, Ms. Hartman finds them charming and smart. "If you don't mind a dog that doesn't listen to you, it can be the right dog," she said.
Unlike some of the other rescue groups, New England Basset Hound Rescue asks individuals who are surrendering their dogs to drive them to the foster home. "They're usually very happy to do it, very willing," she said.
CUTLINE: Ann Lozier pets her two rescued dogs, Lyca, left, and Riley, at her home in Hubbardston.
PHOTOG: T&G Staff/RICK CINCLAIR
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|Title Annotation:||LOCAL NEWS|
|Publication:||Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)|
|Date:||May 27, 2007|
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