Every year, almost 3.3 million dogs end up in shelters, according to the ASPCA.
October is National Adopt a Shelter Dog Month, and the Athens County Dog Shelter, 13222 State Route 13, Chauncey, is trying to find the dogs that live there loving forever homes. There are 18 dogs at the shelter, but there are many more being fostered.
Marishka Wile, a member of the Friends of the Shelter Dogs, volunteers once a week at the shelter but does a lot of work from home. She writes dog descriptions and sends them out to rescuers to try to help the dogs find a home.
“You are saving a life when you adopt or rescue a dog,” Wile said.
Friends of the Shelter Dogs is a nonprofit organization that helps the Athens County Dog Shelter. The organization helps with veterinary support and spayings and neuterings, as well as rescuing dogs by promoting them at the shelter.
Wile started volunteering after she rescued a dog herself named Petey. He was an American bulldog that was previously used as a fighting dog, and after spending time with him, Wile fell in love.
“I ended up loving this dog so much that I just wanted to help other dogs like him,” Wile said. “I found a whole community of people, and I found that I loved the volunteer work, so I’ve been here ever since.”
“We fortunately don’t have to euthanize because our group can rescue so many dogs,” Wile said.
The organization works with more than 150 sister organizations that reach out to all of Ohio, as well as Michigan and into Canada.
To Athens County Dog Warden Mary Beth Brown, every month is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month.
“There are so many wonderful dogs here,” Brown said. “They all have some really great personality traits.”
One of the dogs — a small, white pitbull mix named Albie — makes Brown laugh every day.
“I peak over the counter, and he’s laying on his back with his legs in the air sleeping,” Brown said with a laugh. “Or he will be sleeping on his bed with his head hanging off.”
Brown started working with animals after getting a degree in animal science. She has always loved animals since she was a child.
“I can help dogs, and I can help people,” Brown said.
So far this year, there have been more than 500 dogs that have gone through the shelter. Although about 25 percent of the dogs are purebred, there is no typical dog that comes into the shelter. It has housed great danes, pitbulls, French bulldogs and many other breeds.
When people adopt dogs, the dogs are already either spayed or neutered, have gone through heartworm treatment and have all of their shots up-to-date.
“It’s really a good deal — you pay $120 and you have all of the medical care,” Brown said.
Because the dogs have gone through enough trauma, not just anyone can walk into the shelter and adopt a dog. To adopt a dog, there have to be home visits, veterinarian calls, and references and application paperwork.
“There are miles and miles of applications, so when a dog is rescued so you know they are going to an excellent place,” Wile said.
Some of the issues that stop people from adopting dogs arise when they go to see them at the shelter. Because there are not always enough volunteers to take the dogs out, the dogs often have a lot of energy.
“Some of them are just really high-energy, and they are young dogs and they don’t get out enough,” Wile said. “They go crazy in their kennels and they scare people when the people walk by, which makes people not want to adopt them. … Really, all you have to do is slip them a cookie.”
Klaus, a 2-year-old pitbull mix, is very gentle when he takes treats from people who take him outside to play and get some fresh air.
Max Baumgartel, a junior studying specialized studies, has three dogs that were rescued: a rottweiler mix named Rowdy, a miniature dachshund named Annie and a black lab mix named Poppy.
“All of my dogs have been from shelters or from a foster, or we just found them,” Baumgartel said.
There is no reason to shop for a specific dog when there are already so many dogs in shelters, Baumgartel said.
“(Adopting) is just a morally right thing to do,” Baumgartel said. “Shelter dogs are as good or better than dogs that someone shopped for.”