Sheltered Paws Dog Rescue has been helping dogs since the late 1990s, when founder Christina Hamberg was volunteering at the SPCA of Cincinnati. Hamberg interacted with the same dogs for weeks or even months, and found that as time passed the dog’s spirit was often diminished by being in the shelter environment. She reached out to fellow volunteers, friends, and co-workers to place the dogs in foster care while they were waiting for adoption, and Sheltered Paws was soon born.
Hamberg and her fellow dog lovers worked in partnership with the SPCA to find foster homes for the dogs that were adversely affected by being in a shelter. As Hamberg states, “many dogs become really depressed after being at the shelter and being passed by time and time again. They start to refuse food, become lethargic, or even act out in frustration. Consequently, their chances of adoption diminish even further. Being placed in a foster home with lots of love, attention, and training gives these dogs a new lease on life and a better chance of finding their forever home.”
After their initial success at matching dogs and foster homes, Hamberg and the other volunteers realized there were more dogs they could help at the SPCA. They decided to also focus on special needs dogs, such as mothers with puppies, injured dogs, or those with medical problems. While the SPCA is able to attend to basic medical issues, the shelter does not have the budget or staffing to deal with more extensive veterinary care. That’s where Sheltered Paws comes in, as the volunteers work to supplement the efforts of the SPCA. The volunteers and the shelter work in conjunction to save as many lives as possible.
One such special needs dog is Lucy, who was dropped off at the SPCA in January 2010 by a man who said she was abandoned at a house in his neighborhood the previous summer. Lucy was emaciated, with all of her bones protruding, and she had no muscle mass left at all. Her body was also covered with numerous sores, including a baseball-sized open pressure sore on her hip. As Sheltered Paws volunteer Jennifer Schneider recalls, “I remember meeting Lucy that day. You just wanted to cry that someone would let it get this bad for her.”
Sheltered Paws and the staff of the Sharonville SPCA took Lucy under their wing and tended to her medical needs with special foods, medications, medicated baths, and hydrotherapy. The dog made tremendous strides over the next two months and was soon well enough to be considered for adoption.
Joel Sellers, an SPCA volunteer who visited the shelter regularly to walk the dogs, bonded with Lucy when he saw the dog in her run and thought she looked like she could use some extra tender loving care. He started walking Lucy every time he went to the shelter and became so attached to her that he regularly gave his wife Alli “Lucy updates” after a day of volunteering. While the couple was not in a position to adopt a dog at that time, Joel and Alli made a pact that if their situation changed they would adopt Lucy.
Some months later, Alli volunteered at an SPCA mobile adoption event and mentioned the bond her husband had formed with Lucy to Jennifer Schneider. Schneider was thrilled to report that Lucy had moved to a foster home under the care of Sheltered Paws and was still available for adoption. The time was now right for the Sellers to bring a dog into their home and, after passing a compatibility test with the couple’s cats, Lucy was ready to move into her forever home.
The Sellers brought Lucy home in November 2010, and Alli reports that their lives have never been the same, as Lucy’s “happiness and sheer joy for life is infectious.” The dog who was left emaciated and near death is now known as “SnoozerPooch” due to her love of sleeping in on the weekends, and she spends her days playing fetch and going for car rides with her forever family. As Alli states, “Lucy is the biggest goofball, and her personality is one that just makes us laugh every single day.”
Lucy is just one example of the hundreds of dogs given a second chance and a new life thanks to the collaborative efforts of the SPCA and the volunteers of Sheltered Paws. In order to save even more lives, Sheltered Paws is always in need of more foster families who are willing to open their homes to a shelter dog. In addition, financial donations are always appreciated, as the rescue is run entirely by volunteers and all of their donations go directly towards the care of their dogs.
To learn more about Sheltered Paws, including how to help, visit their website here. And to see some of the dogs who have followed in Lucy “pawsteps” and are currently waiting for their forever homes check out the slideshow at the top of this article.
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