Blog : A Journey Home

By John | Jun 29, 2015 | in

By Ken Johnson

NORTHWOOD - One snowy, slushy and rainy afternoon in late-March, Rob and Julia Moreau made the three hour trek from their North Adams, Massachusetts, home to Mary's Dogs Rescue & Adoption in Northwood, New Hampshire. Upon their arrival they were warmly met by Mary Doane, the owner of Mary's Dogs, who brought the Moreau's into a side room so that they could meet their new family member: Little Man, a corgi.

“We have three rescues," Julia Moreau said. “To me, most important is to help an animal. There are so many animals that need a good home and need a chance.”

The ASPCA estimates that 3.9 million dogs enter shelters nationwide yearly and that 31 percent of dogs that enter shelters nationwide are euthanized each year. Doane runs a rescue adoption for dogs in that she started in February 2011 due to the lack of support for dog adopters, vowing to start a community for them to connect with. Mary's Dog's seeks to find new permanent homes for dogs who have gone into shelters. Southern shelters are often overcrowded, raising the amount of dogs euthanized in that region. Doane works with several high-kill shelters in the south to help alleviate the overpopulation and reduce euthanizations.

“We are committed to a group of rescues in the south who we work with routinely,” Doane said. “We build relationships with particular [shelters].”

Doane networks with the rescue shelters, often finding dogs that are available for adoption these shelters' listings on Facebook.

“We find out about temperament, obviously, and fittedness for living in a family and we choose our dogs based on that, for the most part,” Doane said. “Occasionally we'll take a dog that we know is going to be really difficult to place, but we know ultimately will be a great dog and we want to commit to that dog.”

A true lover of dogs, Doane also operates Mary's Dogs Inn, which provides day and overnight care in a like home environment for dogs.

The Moreau's had made the journey that miserable Friday evening for their first meeting with Little Man, that Julia Moreau had wanted ever since her husband, Rob Moreau, had seen him about four days earlier on Mary's Dogs Facebook site. The Moreau's were already familiar with Mary's Dogs since they had previously adopted their second dog Broscoe, a terrier mix, from Mary's Dogs in 2012, after a recommendation from a friend. Rob and Julia Moreau communicated with Doane and her staff about Little Man and their interest in adopting him. When Little Man was first brought out so that the Moreau's could meet him, he was happy, joyful, sweet with great energy. He sat beside them and seemed to be very comfortable in their company.

“I kind of knew right then, he's somebody who we need to take home,” Julia Moreau said. “Our first initial meet and greet with him was very nice, it was a very good experience for us to meet him in that setting and to have Mary and her people close-by, but it was a good initial get together.”

Little Man's journey to the Moreau's started at Forgotten Tails Animal Rescue in Manning, South Carolina located less than 90 minutes away from Columbia. Forgotten Tails Animal Rescue is an all volunteer non-profit dog rescue operating in Clarendon County run by Ginny Turcotte.

Turcotte had saved Little Man from a high kill shelter, and contacted Doane about transferring him to New Hampshire.

Mary's Dogs and the rescue partners that they work with in the south have negotiated together a treatment protocol for the rescued dogs, before they begin the trip up north to meet their new family. The process generally takes around two to three weeks and ensures that the dog has received the proper vaccines and has been wormed. Once the dog is ready to enter his new home and begin his new life, a licensed transporter picks up the dog from the shelter and brings it to Mary's Dogs, where the dog enters a quarantine.

Little Man was “happy, and bouncy and grateful to be here,” when he got off the transport, Doane said. “He was very social.”

Doane said that State of New Hampshire law requires that the to-be-adopted dog spends 48 hours in quarantine, but she tends to keep them in quarantine for at least 72 hours. After arrival, volunteers will play with the newly arrived dogs to help them adjust after their long trip. Mary's Dogs will continue to worm the dogs. And their vet, Dr. Victoria Jardon, DVM, will pay them a visit in the quarantine, to do a health check.

Upon completion of the quarantine process, the dog will receive their New Hampshire health certificate and is ready to complete the final stage of their journey, going to their new family and home, which through a series of networking strategies Doane and her volunteers have done, is hopefully already established and ready.

Then, during an established adoption time, the new family comes in, meets their new family member, gets to meet the people who took care of their new loved one during the stay at Mary's Dogs, and finally brings the dog home.

The Moreau's stayed at Mary's Dogs with Little Man for nearly an hour chatting with Doane and the staff before the three then made the three hour trip home.

Doane said, adopting a rescue dog can be difficult, but very rewarding for the right family and obviously rewarding for the dog who has found a new loving home.

To find a right adopter for a dog, Doane has a dual screening process, with an application followed by a phone interview.

Often the history of a shelter dog is unknown, many are strays or have been surrendered by their original owners without explanation.

“When we bring a new dog into our home, we're taking basically a being that is leaving behind a family structure, possibly, who very well could be extremely confused, overwhelmed, speaks a different language, and plunking them down into a brand new environment that they have, in many cases, no idea how to negotiate and that takes some work,” said Doane.

The Moreau's only know a little about Little Man's past experiences. At seven, it is clear that Little Man has been through a lot. He's got some little scars on his body, showing his probable rough past life. According to Little Man's previous shelter, he most likely had to fight for food for much of his life.

“The one most wonderful part about this is he found Julia and Rob who were willing to do the work that it took to integrate him into their family with two dogs and that's the miraculous part,” Doane said.

For the first few weeks, Little Man stayed in his crate, not as punishment, but as a safe place so he could see the other members of his home interact, which then lead to short periods of time on a leash coming out to interact one-on-one with his new family. The interactions were short at first then longer over time. After two weeks, the leash was no longer necessary.

“We really just tuned into Little Man, just observing him and watching him to know what his comfort level is and from that point on things just got easier for him and now he is great,” Julia Moreau said. “He is no longer in his crate, we no longer use a leash, he's part of our day to day life with everybody and he's really come an amazingly long way but I don't think we could have done it without Mary's really good and firm suggestions and I think from this experience what we both can say, Rob and I, is that it just takes time.”

Doane stresses that adopters have to put themselves into the place of their newly arrived family member and think of how they would feel after the journey that has just occurred. Doane said that the experience is similar to the first day of school for kindergartners, who miss their mothers or haven't been away from home before.

“When a new dog comes into a home, it's really important to manage them one hundred percent and take it very slowly,” Doane said.

Doane recommends keeping the new arrival in one place originally, not immediately introducing them to the neighbors and neighborhood dogs, to allow them to acclimate to their new home first and to trust their new family by reinforcing them positively, so they can learn to trust. Building a relationship, showing the dog he is safe.

At Mary's Dogs, the adoption process is not over once you leave with your new loved one like many adoption services. Once you leave with your new family member, the check-in process, called “Journey Home” begins, so that Doane can make sure that everything is going well with the adoption.

The initial Journey Home correspondence goes out the night of the adoption, wanting to know how the initial entrance went, the good, the bad, if any questions have come up.

“We are certainly a rescue that offers to keep check ins with people,” Doane said.

The next Journey Home correspondence goes out three weeks after the adoption, asking how everything is going and welcoming pictures, so that Doane, her staff, and the southern rescue can see how everything is going. Additional correspondence goes out at the six month mark and then the final formal Journey Home correspondence goes out one year from the adoption. Although the formal check system ends after one year, Doane said she finds that the majority of adopters continue to check in with her for long after, sharing stories and pictures.

Julia Moreau said that the check in process was great, it is a new aspect since they had adopted Broscoe. “We were both very appreciative just to know that they are taking such great care in being available to any of the adoptive families coming through Mary's Dogs. That was really a nice aspect that they had put into place," she said. "It was very nice to just know they were there if we needed them for one reason or another. It was nice, I really appreciated it.”

Mary has also found several groups on Facebook, that have been started by adopters of her dogs, sharing pictures and stories with each other.

Not only is adopting a rescued dog a more sustainable way to find your new loved one, but Mary's Dogs is also committed to being green and sustainable in other aspects as well. Mary's Dogs is a Business Partner with the Green Alliance, a union of local businesses and consumer members working to educate the public on making more eco-friendly choices. Doane also encourages the use of sustainable and biologically appropriate pet food. Doane does group transports from the south to cut down on fuel use. She also recycles and utilizes rain barrels for yard maintenance.

“When welcoming a new rescue into your home time is crucial and so, so important,” Julia Moreau said. "We're very committed to our dogs and want them to be successful.”

For more information on Mary's Dogs, visit www.marysdogs.com.

To learn more about the Green Alliance, visit www.greenalliance.biz.