AUBURN, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- According to the ASPCA, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to animals, each year more than seven point five million animals enter shelters around the country. Half are dogs, the other half, cats.
They wind up there for a number of reasons: an owner’s death, fire, natural disasters. Their only way out is adoption—which often begins with fostering.
In Auburn, Kathi and Jeff Young have opened up their hearts and their home to more than 300 dogs, all of them arriving with a series of problems, injuries and rejections.
“It all started with Dolli," Jeff Young shares, as the black mixed breed cuddles into his side. "She was eight weeks old, a puppy. We took her in and then it was a foster failure." Foster failure: it's a term affixed to families like the Young's who fall in love with their foster dog and can't live without them. So, they adopt. Their canine brood quickly grew. Now they have six dogs and two foster dogs.
Dolli, Beauti, Sedona, Charli, Paris and Jaxson, are all mixed breed dogs, small, medium and large, and all are full-time residents. Patrick and Orinoco are the newcomers. They are being fostered by the Young's after being rescued from kill shelters in the south.
“Because the shelters are so overflowing, they euthanize for more room to bring more dogs in," Kathi Young explains, her voice choking up. "It doesn’t matter if they’re pregnant dogs, if they’re newborn puppies. It doesn’t matter.”
In fact, their new foster, Orinoco, was on canine death row in Florida, along with the 8 puppies she’d just birthed.
“Female dogs, when they’re pregnant they won’t let ‘em have the puppies. They’ll euthanize the mother while she’s still pregnant. “
Each has a story more heartbreaking than the next, which fueled the Young’s determination to make a little more space in their home.
“All they need is a lot of patience, a lot of love and Paris for instance, when she came you couldn’t even touch her she was so timid, she was afraid of everything, she was hiding under the tables, you couldn’t even touch her and now she is like the love.”
And their Auburn home is Paris' palace. All 8 dogs are a pack—a family of misfits—loved like children.
Jeff, who works at Bath Iron Works, says his co-workers ask him why he does it. "They say you're crazy! That's a lot of work.' Well, it’s a passion that my wife and I do and they’re our kids now. It takes a big part of our life now and we enjoy it.”
In the adjoining kitchen, Kathi hands out home-baked dog bone treats to each dog. "You all must sit first. Sit. Ok, a treat for you, Dolli, good girl. A treat for you, Charli, good boy," not finishing until each of the 8 has received his and her biscuit. When asked about why she rescues, she pauses and says "I think it may be the other way around. I think maybe they rescued us."
She looks down at beagle mix Orinoco, whose puppies were recently adopted, and adds, tears filling her eyes, “it’s very tragic to see them get euthanized. Especially when you look at these and see how nice they are. So that’s why we foster.”
Fostering a dog requires a commitment of anywhere from several days to months: the time depends upon the dog's physical and mental state and how long it will take to prepare the dog for adoption. The Young's work with the Lucky Puppy Rescue in Auburn (theluckypuppy.org), which has a shipment of 20 puppies arriving on Saturday, December 2nd. They have also fostered dogs through the Pixel Fund (thepixelfund.org) which is holding adoption events Saturday, December 2nd Bangor, Scarborough and Sanford.
There are plenty of dogs (and cats!) looking for temporary and permanent homes. Chances are very good you can find one that's perfect for you and your family, and who finds you and your family perfect for them!