Lots of people have family photos peppered throughout their homes as reminders of happy events and a showcase of candid glimpses into family history. The Emerson family is no different, except that many of their photos feature a different “breed” of extended family: lots and lots of dogs.
But these aren’t just any dogs -- these are animals that were given up on, lost, neglected, abandoned in high-kill shelters...almost forgotten.
Almost. Thanks to families like the Emersons, City Dogs Rescue has saved hundreds of dogs from the clutches of death, giving them a second chance at life, love and happiness in a “furever” home.
Over the past year, Megan Emerson, 38, her husband Toby, 36, and daughter Hailey,16, have fostered almost a dozen dogs for City Dogs Rescue, each of which have a special spot in the family’s living room photo collage and, of course, a special place in the family’s heart.
Megan found City Dogs Rescue on Facebook and their first foster Maya was adopted a week after she arrived at the Emersons. The entire family posts photos of their fosters on Facebook and many of their friends have adopted or shared their photos that end up getting them adopted.
“We love every single one of them!” Emerson says. “Every time we go by [the collage] we can remember them, their fun personalities, funny things they did and smile knowing how much we were able to help them.”
One particularly memorable experience fostering was with CDR alum Dana (now adopted by the Emersons and named Clover), a sweet beagle that was too terrified to even walk from doggie daycare to the car, according to Emerson.
“She was shaking like a leaf in the corner of the office and wouldn’t come out,” Emerson says. “My first thought was that she had been abused -- I had to pick her up and carry her to the car.”
Once at home, Emerson introduced the skittish pup to her beagle Kiwi and two became fast friends. “I knew we had to keep her,” Emerson adds. “She belonged with us.”
These days, Clover and Kiwi are inseparable, and their friendship has been instrumental in helping the once-painfully shy Clover come out of her shell. No longer does her tail seem permanently lodged between her legs in terror. No longer does she shake uncontrollably when unfamiliar people approach.
“She’s even learned to give kisses now!” Emerson says. “She’s absolutely part of our family.”
While the Emerson’s can’t keep all the dogs they foster -- though they would if they could, Emerson jokes -- every dog that gets adopted after the family fosters is proof that their contribution to CDR’s mission makes an impact.
“I cry every time one of them is adopted,” Emerson says. But they are tears of joy. “I’m happy because I know they’ve found a safe and happy home to live in forever. It makes us smile knowing how much we were able to help them.”
But without the commitment from foster families like the Emersons, City Dogs Rescue can’t continue its mission and the more than 300 dogs saved and adopted through the organization might not be around today. Some of the dogs the Emersons and other CDR families have fostered have been just minutes away from euthanasia before a foster was found allowing CDR to save them.
“It’s a harsh reality, but if people don’t foster, we can’t bring these dogs in,” Emerson says. “If you’ve got some space at your home and love in your heart, you can really provide a future that these dogs would otherwise not have.”
The Emersons are well on their way to fostering their next CDR pup, an activity the family doesn’t see slowing down anytime soon. With a big backyard at their Kensington, Md. home and their dogs Kiwi and Clover to show new fosters the ropes, Megan Emerson predicts the family’s living room collage of CDR fosters will get a lot more crowded.
Not only have the Emersons been amazing fosters for CDR, the family brings their foster dogs to local dog parks, dog-related events, and they let CDR foster dogs fill their truck for Pride 2013. Megan is currently an Alumni Assistant for the rescue as well.
“We hope to save as many dogs as possible and know that by fostering, we are actually saving two lives,” Emerson says. “The one of the dog we’re fostering and the dog that’s taking its place in the shelter, one step farther from their [euthanasia] date.”
Pretzel is adopted!
Many people have asked for an update on what has been happening at Cleveland County Animal Control since our Intake Coordinator, Patricia Kennedy, submitted a presentation to the County Commissioners with specific information about our unsuccessful attempts to rescue a sweet dog named Luna. After reviewing the presentation, County Commissioner Susan Allen reached out to us and has continued to be responsive to our concerns (even though she was traveling out of the country for a good part of the time). Based upon Commissioner Allen's review of the situation with Luna (and similar situations involving other rescues), the Commissioners determined that changes were needed at the shelter. Commissioner Allen expressed a sincere interest in having the shelter be more accessible to rescue and in reducing the shelter's euthanasia rate. One new change is that CCAC just hired Jennifer Coalson to serve as an internal rescue coordinator (previously, rescue efforts were coordinated through a local animal welfare group). CCAC is also implementing several safeguards to try to prevent breakdowns in communication from occurring. CCAC is requiring all rescue groups who wish to pull from the shelter to complete a FORM.
One of our Directors, Darren Binder, also spoke with Commissioner Allen today about the shelter's continued use of gassing. He recommended that Cleveland County consider looking into a grant from the The Humane Society of the United States to eliminate this method of killing (several other NC counties, including Sampson County, have accepted this grant). He then contacted the Humane Society's NC State Representative to encourage renewed discussion about this issue in light of the positive changes that appear to be occurring at the shelter. Please note that this is not to suggest that Cleveland County has committed in any way to cease using this method in the immediate future, but we believe it is at least a start.
In summary, we believe that there are positive changes occurring at the Cleveland County Animal Control. We also recognize that not everything will be fixed at once and there will unfortunately still be hiccups in the rescue process. Commissioner Allen has encouraged anyone with specific information about a particular animal issue to provide her with the all of relevant information (such as tag number, dates, etc.), but noted that general or duplicative emails are not helpful.
We thank Commissioner Allen for responding to our concerns and Patricia Kennedy for putting together a compelling presentation. We also thank local Cleveland County rescue volunteers, CDR supporters, and all of the other rescues who have worked hard to save the dogs and cats of Cleveland County. We also express our appreciation for the work of Chrissy Roberts and others at Take Action - Help Ban Gas Chambers for their continued advocacy on eliminating this inhumane killing method.
We will update with more information when we have it.
City Dogs Rescue & City Kitties volunteers.