2015-03-27 / Community

Southern dogs find homes in Maine

By Molly Lovell-Keely
Managing Editor

Patti Gay, left, and Arlene Verre met Lucky Pup Rescue volunteers in Kittery Saturday to pick up Nike, a 1-year-old hound from the south. (Molly Lovell-Keely photo) Patti Gay, left, and Arlene Verre met Lucky Pup Rescue volunteers in Kittery Saturday to pick up Nike, a 1-year-old hound from the south. (Molly Lovell-Keely photo) Thanks to Lucky Pup Rescue, 10 dogs from the south arrived in Maine Saturday a little cold, but otherwise they could have endured a completely different fate.

The rescue, which has more than 100 volunteers, receives dogs from Arkansas and Tennessee every two to four weeks via All Paws Transport Service LLC, a Mississippi-based transport service that helps rescue groups get their adopted dogs from the south to the northeast.

The dogs range in age from puppies to adults and go to foster homes until they’re adopted.

“It’s not always a big load like Saturday’s – sometimes it’s only two dogs,” said Sue Richardson, Lucky Pup president and volunteer. “They send a list of dogs becoming available and we make a judgment call based on foster homes we have open or we ask ourselves, ‘Do they really need to get out of the situation they’re in?’”

Winford Stidman, who runs All Paws Transport out of Mississippi, coaxes one of the passengers off the ramp. Stidman and his wife, Pepper, can transport up to 100 dogs at a time, stopping at various locations on their way to the northeast. 
(Molly Lovell-Keely photo) Winford Stidman, who runs All Paws Transport out of Mississippi, coaxes one of the passengers off the ramp. Stidman and his wife, Pepper, can transport up to 100 dogs at a time, stopping at various locations on their way to the northeast. (Molly Lovell-Keely photo) All Paws Transport can fit up to 100 dogs in a single trip. A Circle K truck stop in Kittery is the final destination before the vehicle turns around and makes its way back to the south. Driver and owner Winford Stidman said if his business didn’t exist, about half of the dogs would end up being killed.

Others, said Richardson, who is a Kennebunk resident, live outdoors and are forced to scavenge for food.

“People in the south don’t treat animals like we do up here. They don’t treat them like family members. They don’t dress them up and have professional photos taken of them,” she said. “They’re treated like lawn ornaments (in the south). They don’t live indoors or are contained in any way.”

Richardson said spaying and neutering isn’t common in the south like it is in the northeast.

“The culture is so different. I’ve gone down to Arkansas a couple times and have seen firsthand packs of dogs running on the side of the road, dogs scavenging from dumpsters or dogs trying to get through automatic doors at stores,” Richardson said.

“Here, if a dog is missing, there’s a poster up somewhere,” Richardson said, referring to volunteer organizations like Maine Lost Dog Recovery, which reunites lost dogs with their owners.

“In the south, if your dog goes missing, you go to the Kmart parking lot and get another one,” Richardson said, adding that it’s not uncommon to find people giving away dogs, especially black dogs and even black labs, in local parking lots.

“It’s that black dog syndrome,” she said.

A theory exists that black dogs are difficult to adopt out because of superstition and because they don’t photograph well.

It’s the reason why Lucky Pup makes an effort to take black dogs when choosing which dogs will get transported.

Richardson said Lucky Pup pays about $125 per dog taken to Maine. According to state law, a dog must be out of the shelter environment for two weeks before it can be transported over state lines. Each state has its own importation laws, and Richardson said Maine is middle of the road in terms of strictness.

“New Hampshire and Massachusetts are much more strict,” she said.

Lucky Pup likes to accept puppies because they’re easy to adopt out. The organization also makes an effort to get those puppies when they’re 3 and 4 months old – a critical socialization and learning period.

Lucky Pup also takes dogs, like Sally, a dog in this week’s transport, because of their heartbreaking stories.

Sally lived on the streets of Memphis, Tennessee for months, hanging around a mechanical plant, trying to go home with workers by hopping in their cars or chasing after them. Sally ended up being rescued by one of Lucky Pup’s rescue partners.

“They said it was her sassy attitude that kept her alive,” Richardson said.

Kittery resident Peter Welch was the foster parent who waited for Sally Saturday. He said he was a little nervous – he’s never had a dog – but very excited. His partner has had dogs but didn’t want to adopt one at this time. Welch said fostering was fair compromise.

“When I looked at the Lucky Pup website, the first dog I saw was named Hope. I took that as a sign,” Welch said.

Lucky Pup volunteers make a house visit to potential foster families and require two references – which they called, Welch said. Once approved, the rescue provides a crate, toys, leash and food, including a homemade chicken and rice blend that is easy on the dogs’ stomachs the first few days.

“It’s a win for everyone,” Welch said.

Though Sally is supposed to stay with Welch and his partner only until she finds a forever home, Richardson said Welch may soon be a member of the FFS – Failed Foster Society.

Richardson is a member of the FFS herself – three times over. In total, Richardson has fostered 40 dogs.

Portland residents Arlene Verre and Patti Gay waited Saturday to pick up Nike, a 1-year-old female hound. They had fostered other “Lucky pups,” including Autumn, a lab who stole their hearts after only two days – another foster failure, or “success,” as Richardson said they should be referred to.

Autumn died before Christmas and Verre and Gay decided to dip their toes into dog companionship once again by fostering.

The two said they’ll work with Nike – teach her to walk on a leash, stay off furniture and socialize her – they have many friends who enjoy being active with their canines.

“We’ll train her the way someone would like to receive her,” Verre said.

Volunteer and board member Kirstin Mininni, a Biddeford resident, said the rescue is in need of foster families. After all, more available foster families means more dogs can be rescued from the south.

“A foster home is a loving, warm, safe place for them to flourish and become the dogs they need to be,” she said.

Fostering is something that any family, no matter the composition, can do. Minini said it’s important for the organization’s rescue dogs to learn to live with children and/or other animals and said it’s helpful when the home’s resident dogs can teach a temporary addition how to exist in the home setting.

While most dogs adjust easily to their new lives, some experience separation anxiety. Fortunately, many Lucky Pup volunteers have been trained to work with such dogs.

Richardson said she doesn’t feel Lucky Pup is lacking anything by not having a physical location for its dogs to stay because foster homes give them the learning experience they’ll need to thrive in their forever homes. She does, however, wish the organization had a place where foster families could bring their dogs during the workday.

“I think it would increase the number of foster families we have. Families wouldn’t be stressed about leaving them alone,” she said.

Richardson said Lucky Pup is at the beginning of its eighth year receiving transport dogs. It took about an hour for Lucky Pup to receive 10 dogs Saturday, an experience that Richardson said is “amazing.”

“I still remember my first one – it was 19 degrees and we waited a really long time, but then suddenly the dogs arrived and none of that mattered. You would watch a big dog get off, then a little teeny tiny dog, someone who was scared, then you’d see one super excited to be there – there were dogs of all shapes and sizes,” she said. “It was amazing to think that these dogs might not have made it.”

Lucky Pup has worked with All Paws Transport for two years.

“The dogs are super healthy and they take great care of them on the way up,” Richardson said, adding that dogs are on the transport for 24 hours before arriving in Maine – less time than what other transports offer.

“That means less stress and symptoms of stress,” Richardson said, adding that usually within 24 hours of being in an indoor home, “and a warm couch to snuggle on,” the dogs have adjusted.

Richardson said Lucky Pup’s volunteers and foster families are the backbone of the rescue.

“We’ve added some great new people lately. It’s so amazing to be able to keep adding to our team and to save dogs – who through no fault of their own – would not have been able to survive,” she said.

Richardson said stories of happy and successful Lucky Pup alums keep her going.

Some have received Canine Good Citizen certificates or gone on to be therapy dogs. One, a pit bull, is even a service dog at the statehouse. Others aid veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and a dog at Wells Public Library is available for children to read to him.

Mininni said there’s something special about a rescue dog.

“Rescue dogs know they’ve been rescued,” she said. “They’re finally being taken in to be nurtured and cared for in the ways they always should have been.”

To learn more about becoming a foster family, visit www.luckypuprescue.org.

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